Subtitle: “Four dashboard lights to signal that your identity is misplace.” This week we continue with our focus on where we derive our primary identity from…our ministry or from Christ.
I am taking several weeks to “camp out” on this particular point (Number 3 in this series) because out of the 12 points I will be sharing, this is one of (if not the) most important lesson to learn and live. And yet I think it is one of the slipperiest of all. Once we think we understand it, believe it and are living it, we can so easily fall back into deriving our identity from what we do (our ministry), rather than from who we are in Christ (God’s beloved child).
Number 3: Your identity is defined by your relationship with Jesus…not by your ministry!
You may be asking yourself: “How do I know if I am deriving my primary identity and value from my ministry rather than Jesus?”
Last week, I mentioned that I would share with you FOUR signs that give us a clue that we are deriving our primary identity and value from our ministry instead of Jesus.
I have found over the years that I can easily misinterpret where I’m deriving my identity if I don’t have some clear, objective concepts to measure myself by. I like to refer to these “clear, objective signs” as lights on the “dashboard of my life.”
When those dashboard lights come on, it usually means there is something wrong under the hood that needs to be checked or fixed.
I want to suggest FOUR “dashboard lights” that signal to us that our identity is misplaced. Four signals that tell us that our identity is tied to what we do in ministry rather than in our relationship with Christ. I will share the first two this week and the last two next week.
First Dashboard Light:
My emotional health is tied to the apparent success (or failure) of my ministry!
When my ministry is going well, I’m feeling well. When my ministry is not going so well, I’m feeling emotionally down with a noticeable lack of joy. My emotions are up when the attendance, giving and excitement are up. When the elders and staff are happy and things seem to be moving in a positive, healthy direction, my emotions mirror my circumstances…happy, joyful and motivated.
On the other hand, my emotions are down when those “tangibles” (attendance, giving, ministry excitement) are down.
Obviously, this is a very unhealthy way to live (as well as unbiblical)! It’s a roller coaster existence.
As pastors (and as God’s children) we need to be reminded of the fact that no matter what happens to our ministry we are still totally and completely loved and accepted by God, never to be rejected (Romans 8:31-39; Ephesians 1:3-14)! We are still as valuable to God, even if our ministry falls apart and doesn’t produce the “growth” that we had hoped for. No matter what happens to our ministry, God promises to take care of us and provide for all of our needs (Philippians 4:10-19; Matthew 6:25-34). That’s the truth that we must daily remind ourselves of and stand upon!
Let me clarify, lest I be misunderstood: I am not saying that when bad things happen in our ministry we don’t feel negative emotions – sadness, hurt, disappointment, etc. Those are natural and all part of being human. Jesus experienced these types of emotions (John 11:33-38; Luke 12:50; John 12:27; Matthew 26:37), as well as the Apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 1:8-11; 4:7-12).
What I am saying is that when we learn to derive our core identity from our relationship with Jesus, not from our position as pastor, we will live a much more emotionally stable, enjoyable and God-honoring lifestyle.
Second Dashboard Light:
I have a hard time rejoicing in someone else’s ministry success (especially if it is a ministry near me that threatens my ministry).
People who have their identity tied tightly to their relationship with Christ develop the ability to “rejoice with those who rejoice.”
The longer I live, the more convinced I become that one of the greatest marks of spiritual maturity is the ability to genuinely rejoice with those whom God is blessing (or has blessed).
I’m convinced that it is far easier for us as Christians to “weep with those who weep” than it is for us to “rejoice with those who rejoice” (Romans 12:15). Why? One word: jealousy. Insecure people find a “secret inner joy” when someone else is going through a hard time. Why? Because it makes them feel better about themselves.
People who are secure in who they are, who are genuinely deriving their identity from Jesus as their supreme treasure, are able to genuinely rejoice with those whom God is blessing!
When my identity is tied to my ministry (rather than Jesus), and someone else is doing better than me, I feel threatened. It makes me feel like a failure, and what ends up happening is that I don’t genuinely rejoice with those ministries and churches that God is blessing. I may even find myself inappropriately criticizing that particular ministry (or pastor).
When Jesus is your life, when He is your supreme treasure…everything else in life falls into proper perspective. The danger and temptation that we all face is adding something besides God as our supreme treasure.
Next week we will look at “Dashboard Lights #3 and #4.”
Until then, keep Jesus as your supreme treasure and your greatest passion – always above and beyond your ministry! Jesus will not take second place to anyone or anything!
“For to me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)
“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” (Colossians 1:15-18 NIV)