Denying the Faith

Many committed christians today feel a great calling to serve in ministry in some form; either vocationally or as a volunteer. The feeling can be so intense that it overwhelms every aspect of your life. This is Biblical. Jeremiah, after attempting to silence himself and stop serving God said this:

But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.
Jeremiah 20:9 (NIV)

It should be a comfort to us that even the prophets of the Old Testament felt what we feel today. Even in the New Testament Paul wrote this to Timothy:

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
2 Timothy 1:6 (NIV)

As Christian leaders then, we should remember that the calling of God is like a fire inside of us. It comes with divine gifts. And we need to ensure the fire continues to burn.

But I’m not writing here to discuss how to shift into your calling. I’m here to tell you how you could be at great risk of denying your faith and being worse than an unbeliever. You see, sometimes those of us who are called to God’s purposes have a serious weakness hiding within us. We become so obsessed with fulfilling the calling that we forget who is actually in control and who is the one who will lead you into it. We take our calling into our own hands and lose the peace and contentment we should have in the present. By taking control we end up walking in disobedience. As a result we allow that fire inside of us to burn up even the good things in our life. What does this look like? Let me tell you a story about a person I met (names, locations, and details will be changed or omitted for privacy concerns).

I once met a guy named John who decided to pursue his life dream. He felt this dream is what he was supposed to do in his life and so obviously was very passionate about it. The passion was so intense that he was willing to sacrifice anything to achieve it. The problem was that in order to realize his dream, he had to practically destroy the family finances, leave his spouse, Tonya, behind to fend for herself for many years, and subject their children to a poor education. To top it off, Tonya would be financially supporting the dream back home. Several years later, John tells me and my wife of the struggle he is having. John has no money. He is struggling to actually achieve his dream. The kids are being taken care of by various low quality child care workers rather than Tonya. He hasn’t seen Tonya since last year and doesn’t know when he will see her. Tonya actually can’t afford her own home because she is financially supporting herself, the kids, and the dream. Because of this, she has lived with different men who have rented out rooms in their homes. They share the house, the kitchen, and the bathroom. Last but not least, Tonya was practically caught in the act of infidelity and was not repentant (as you might guess). A marriage destroyed. Kids with a broken home. All of this destruction due to taking control and rushing to fulfill a dream on his own time rather than God’s time. John expected to receive consolation by hearing us condemn Tonya’s actions. Instead, he heard, “No John. This is your fault.”

John was given some advice on putting his family before himself. I will be praying for John and his family. That he would feel the conviction to make a positive change and that his family can still be restored. I also hope that the gravity of John’s situation would help each and every one of us reflect on how we are living out our calling. Are you letting God direct your steps or fulfilling God’s purpose on your own terms? If you are the latter or aren’t sure, then I challenge you to read the following passages with an open heart:

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
1 Timothy 5:8 (ESV)

He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?
1 Timothy 3:4-5 (ESV)

Most of us in modern society don’t live in a situation where our family is forcing us to choose them over our faith. So what reason is there to sacrifice those relationships on the altar of our ministry? Be on your guard then. Do not allow selfish ambition to drive you into disobedience. That’s a sure fire way to destroy God’s blessings in your life and disqualify you from God’s plans.

Many people become confused, thinking that their relationship with God only amounts to how much they are doing for Him (i.e. ministry). They believe that if they aren’t working for God in a church or christian organization, they don’t have a relationship with God. This belief is wrong and dangerous. It can cause us to commit the same errors that John committed in the story I just gave. Our relationship with God is private, is separate, and is based on a genuine search for Him with all our heart because He is worthy of it all. If we want to serve God in ministry, we should understand what we read in 1st Timothy: Family is your first ministry. It comes before all other ministry and the only other relationship that takes a higher priority is your relationship with God. God gave your family to you. Don’t deny them what they need from you. Cherish them. Surrender to God’s word and stop trying to push your way into God’s plans. Wait for God. He is in control and He will not let you miss it. When the time is right, when you are fully equipped, your ministry will begin.

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