I recently had the privilege of meeting with young leaders to discuss and pray about the struggles and barriers they face in their ministries. A common barrier that emerged was anger and resentment toward God. At first, most were unaware and/or unwilling to admit it, yet for all of us – if this anger is in our hearts, it will have a significant impact on our ability to receive from God and effectively minister to others. This is true whether we are in full time ministry, serving at our congregation, or just helping or comforting a friend.
The most common cause of anger for these young leaders, and for so many of us, is that we focus on ministry activities before and many times instead of on intimacy with God Himself. Many of us do not have daily quiet times, and we feel that God’s primary interest in us is in our “work for Him.”
However, Yeshua did not die for us to “work for Him,” He died for us to have intimate relationship with Him! When we wake up in the morning, our purpose is not what we have to get done that day. For me, it is not my to-do list; it is not the teaching I have scheduled for that day. Our purpose, God’s primary desire for us, is to KNOW Him, to experience intimacy with Him.
We grow in intimacy with God through the following: 1) Being aware of anything that blocks intimacy with Him – unforgiveness, fear and stress, self-condemnation, anger, blame, performance, etc. – and being committed to deal with it regardless of the circumstances or how justified we are; 2) Offering our lives as a burnt offering sacrifice to Him — choosing His thoughts, words, and actions, rather than following our own thoughts, emotions and sin nature; 3) Committing to a daily morning quiet time with Him. That is, time to pray, confess, forgive, hear from Him, to “see what He sees,” to be in His Word; 4) Focusing our thoughts all throughout the day on the goodness of God, His love for us, how much He values and delights in us, how intensely He desires us — knowing this is the only thing we can depend on that will never change. Only this “one thing or one focus” is needed throughout the day, and the rest will fall into place.
Our ministries must flow out of intimacy with Him, or else we end up operating in our own strength, our own flesh and after a period of time — we find ourselves angry with God because He feels distant, we feel used and burnt out, or we view Him as a taskmaster only caring about what we can do for Him. In my own quiet time, the Lord has said, “I don’t care if you ever do one more thing for me. What I care about most is being with you, intimacy with you!” Recently I was feeling burnt out, exhausted, stressed, and distant from God. While reading Matthew 11:28 in my daily quiet time, I realized that I’d been blaming God for expecting more from me than I could possibly accomplish. I was feeling crushed, ready to break into pieces. Yeshua’s words of “my burden for you is light,” broke through all the lies in my heart like a bolt of lightening.
If you’re feeling that His burden is too heavy, then you’re believing a lie about Him (e.g., He just wants you to work for Him, He loves you more the harder you work, it’s His will for you to be burnt out and stressed, He sees you as your father or other authority figure did) or you’re believing a lie about yourself (e.g., you can and have to do everything, you have to hold all things together, everything is your responsibility, you’re on your own and God’s just watching).
So the next time you’re feeling distant from God, overwhelmed, burnt out, or frustrated in any aspect of ministry, ask yourself the following: Am I having a daily quiet time with the Lord getting filled with His Spirit and Truth? Am I focusing my thoughts throughout the day on who He is, His love for me, how He sees me? Am I believing a lie about who I am? Am I believing a lie about who God is? About how He sees me? About where He is in the picture of my situation? Am I allowing barriers such as unforgiveness, fear or stress to block intimacy with Him?
Intimacy with God has to come first. It’s what Yeshua died for. It’s our primary purpose in life. All ministry must flow from intimacy first, otherwise it’s US we are reflecting to the world around us, and not HIM.