How Desperate are You for Change?

fish escape conceptI’ve been involved in healing ministry for the past 20 plus years. It’s been mainly spiritual and emotional, but also supernatural physical healing as well. I’ve learned a lot about healing and about people over those years. In regards to people, I’ve come to realize that we are all very stubborn and resistant to change. I say we, as I’m including myself, as well. We are resistant to change because change requires work, and we also tend to be mostly lazy.

I saw this time and again with people who said they wanted to be free from traumas and various bondages they were in. Yet they were often unwilling to let go of the sin, the lies they believed, or the grievances they had that gave place to the bondages. The effort required to renew their minds seemed overwhelming, so rather than pushing through, they chose to give up. In truth, we usually want a quick fix to get us out of our pain. It is also true that we make time for the things that are important to us. Those who did get healed and free were desperate enough to do whatever it took to get there.

Over the past few months, the Lord has been greatly impressing upon my heart the area of health and nutrition. I see it as an extension of the healing ministry I’ve been a part of; another facet of the diamond, so to speak. Scripture says our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139:14) and it is true! Science and the medical industry are continually learning new things about the incredible ways our bodies work and what they are capable of. In this early stage of my new journey, I am more in awe every day of God’s magnificent design, seen in the human body.

I am also learning that so much of our quality of life is determined by our diet. Stress and anxiety also play a big role in affecting our health. I see and hear so many people talk of how tired they are, or how sick they’ve been. They go on about this medicine they’re taking and the side effects they’re dealing with, how much weight they need to lose, chronic pain they’ve had, and a host of other issues. It’s sad to say the least. But the good news is, it doesn’t always have to be that way. We can help turn our health around by making better choices in how we eat, sleep, and exercise. learning new ways to alleviate as much stress and anxiety from our lives will also help.

Which brings us back to what I said at the beginning – we humans are mostly resistant to change because we are lazy and don’t want to do the work required. So we go on in our dysfunction, be it spiritual, emotional, or physical, and take on a victim identity. The really sad part is that we choose that because it is familiar and comfortable, even if it is slowly killing us! It is easier to blame everything and everyone, than to take responsibility for our health and our lives, and do something different.

I want to say that I know not everyone or every situation falls into this category. There are always exceptions to the rule. There are times when every possible option is explored and still there are no answers. I am in no way meaning to discount anyone’s suffering. We do live in a fallen world, and therefore, bad, unexplainable things, sometime happen to good people, people who are desperate for healing. No one but God has all the answers. I am speaking to, and hoping to challenge, those of us who can do something about our situation. We can change our diet, how we handle stress, how much we exercise, etc., if we really want to.

I don’t know your situation or where you stand, but for me, I am ready to make some changes. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. I am desperate enough to do whatever it takes – how about you?

Avoiding Burnout

Burnout is a topic that comes up often in conversations, especially when one is involved burnoutin ministry. I read and hear stories, almost daily it seems, of pastors and leaders who succumb to various sins, often because of burnout. These include sexual immorality, quitting the ministry, substance abuse, financial dishonesty, divorce, and even suicide. It not only affects the leader and his or her family; the ripples go out far and wide, affecting group/church members and their families.

Pressures from within and without often lead to this state of burnout. Outside pressures can include the needs, demands, and expectations of those within the group or congregation we lead. In addition, there are the needs of the family, which are often neglected because of the above. Personal needs, including time with God, are often last on the list of things to do. When given into, these pressures become a recipe for disaster and certain burnout.

Then there are the pressures within. Legitimate human needs, such as affirmation, validation, acceptance, and love can drive us unwittingly to perform and to prioritize people pleasing above pleasing God, taking care of ourselves, and our families. These needs can make it difficult to set healthy boundaries and say “no” to people when necessary. This behavior, over time, leads to resentment, anger, and bitterness because people cannot meet those needs, not even the ones who love us the most. This behavior, in turn, will lead to burnout.

So how can we avoid burnout? As in all matters of life, Jesus is our perfect role model. Though He was constantly surrounded by needy people, He was never driven to meet every need. He Himself clearly said, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (John 5:19) When ministry became hectic, He understood the need to rest. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, He said to them, “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”  (Mark 6:31) Jesus modeled our need to spend time with Him and the Father. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:16) He understood our need for affirmation, love, and acceptance. “As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now remain in My love.” (John 15:9)

Often, healing and deliverance are needed to bring the wholeness that enables us to resist these pressures, and thus, burnout. Issues such as unmet needs from childhood, lack of identity or purpose, absence of one or both parents, abuse, rejection, or abandonment by parents or others, etc., must be resolved – they don’t just go away. Whether we realize it or not, we live, and minister, out of these areas of wounding and the lies we believe as a result. Consequently, we reproduce what we are, for we can only give to others what we have within.

Burnout can be avoided if we receive healing and resolution to our own personal issues, learn to make quality time with God our first priority, and spending time with family above time spent in ministry. Learning to get enough rest, eat healthy, and exercise are also important to maintain our own physical, mental, and even spiritual strength. Though this may sound difficult for some, it is possible, by God’s grace. Jesus wants a whole, healthy bride, which must start with whole, healthy leaders.

Have you struggled with burnout? Did you overcome it, and if so, how? Please share your comments.

The Key to Jesus’ Success in Ministry

One of the most amazing and misunderstood realities of the Christian life to me, is prayer. Jesus prayingHaving been a part of various prayer ministries over the past twenty plus years, I’ve seen a lot— some good, some not so good.

It is interesting that prayer is the only thing the disciples asked Jesus to teach them about. Not how to do miracles, or how to raise the dead, heal the sick, or cast out demons; they wanted to know how to pray. They observed Jesus often withdrawing from the crowds to be alone with His Father, or getting up before dawn to seek His face. (Luke 5:16; Mark 1:35) They witnessed the miracles that flowed from Him effortlessly throughout His short ministry. The times He seemed to know what His opponents were thinking captured their attention. (Luke 5:22; 6:8) They became frustrated when He cast out a demon they were unable to. (Mark 9:17-29) His teachings, full of wisdom and authority, unlike the religious leaders, made them realize He had something they didn’t. (Matt. 7:29) Eventually, they put two and two together and rightly concluded; His secret must be His prayer life.

Jesus demonstrated perfectly what a life of prayer and submission to the Father should look like. Several times He declared, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (John 5:19) He received specific instructions during the times He spent alone with His Father, and then obeyed what He saw or was told. Those intimate times produced a union of heart, mind, and spirit between Father and Son which resulted in Jesus’ perfect obedience and a life of fruitfulness. He later illustrated this spiritual union using an analogy from the natural realm— the grapevine and its branches. (John 15:1-8) Just as He could do nothing apart from His Father, so He said we could do nothing apart from Him. (v. 5) He clearly demonstrated that intimacy through prayer was the key to His success in ministry.

God never changes and neither does His Word. What was true for Jesus 2,000 years ago is true for us today. We too, must spend intimate time with our Father so that we may receive specific instructions, and grace to obey Him. He has chosen us and desires that we bear much fruit for His glory. (John 15:16) But He wants us to do so from the place of intimacy, where fruitfulness flows effortlessly, with no straining or striving. He even warns us about the perils of relying solely on our giftings, rather than intimacy with Him. (Matt. 7:21-23) Our first calling is to know Him intimately, for when we do, everything else will fall into place.