Rachel Dotzler – Student Pastor, Mesa campus So…what has God been teaching me these past few months? I got to go on a retreat for work a couple months ago and lead a devotional regarding this question with some wonderful and incredible people in high leadership. I chose to be vulnerable with them so I am going to be vulnerable with you. I shared the words below with them back in April. I pray this will meet you where you are.
The problem with this question, what has God been teaching me, is that I don’t really have an answer. I guess it would have to be that God is a little quiet right now. There are seasons in my life that I cannot answer this question because I am in a season of thirst. I am a Pastor, shouldn’t I always be in tune with what God is doing in my life? Maybe. There are days I am telling my students to read this verse or look up some scripture regarding questions they have and there are days that I am a pure hypocrite because I have not done what I am encouraging them to do. I love ministry, I do. However, there are days that it seems I love ministry more than I love God. Those two things seem to collide and I get confused which is which. As I am writing these words, I fear that in some ways ministry has become an idol and God gets left in the dust. It sounds absurd, but can you do ministry without God? Yeah, absolutely. Will you succeed? No, absolutely not. What is success? Is success in numbers? Sure, to a point. But if your ministry is succeeding in numbers and your leaders and students are all spiritually unhealthy, is it then still a success? I would say not.
Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter. – Francis Chan
Fear does something interesting to me, a fire burns inside me when I fear because I want to conquer it! It drives me to be better and it forces me to rely on God more. Fear is an opportunity to me. When I fear, I see success ahead. It may take some time to get there, but it is ahead.
A new fear of mine is in fact succeeding at something that doesn’t really matter in this life. The key will be to figure out what indeed doesn’t matter. I don’t want to be a successful leader in my ministry if my heart is not succeeding in Jesus. I desire nothing more or nothing less than being a Pastor for students. I thank God for this heart of joy he gave me when I work with teenagers. My prayer is that I will be 65 years old and still a youth pastor, but we will see about that! When I see student’s hearts changed by God, I am ecstatic because that changes everything in this world. I find myself living for those moments, some days that’s what keeps me afloat. This is when I realize my ministry has become an idol. I am not necessarily saying it’s a pride issue, or not recognizing that God is the one changing hearts, the struggle for me is living for moments that will bring you closer to God, instead of living for the God that make those moments happen.
In one of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books, The Silver Chair, Aslan and Jill had this conversation:
I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill. “Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion. “Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.” “There is no other stream,” said the Lion.
This reminded me of when Jesus is talking to the Samaritan woman and in John 4:13-14 He says, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
I have to stop and ask this question to myself and to you. What stream of water are we drinking from? Are we drinking from the temporary stream that comes only when it rains? Are we trying to drink from the stream that is dried up most of the time? Or perhaps it’s the stream that only tastes good in certain seasons. I am reminded today that the stream we should all be drinking from is the eternal stream that never gets warm, never dries up, and is never seasonal.
Succeed and love Jesus first, then no matter what, you will succeed in life the way that God desires you to succeed. What are the idols holding you back from a successful life with Jesus? Whatever they are, loosen your grip on them and seek Jesus first.
So what has God been teaching me? In this case, He is a little quiet, but in the silence and in the quietness, He is still teaching me, I just need to step back from being engrossed in “His work” and actually pay attention to the “Worker.” I don’t want to succeed in ministry, I want to succeed in Jesus.