Steve and I sat at the kitchen table on New Year’s Eve and reflected back on 2019. Honestly, it was one of the toughest – if not the toughest – years we’ve ever had in ministry. As we reflected back, we disciplined ourselves to make a list of the top ten blessings of the year. Blessings like the birth of a new granddaughter and finding out that twins are expected in 2020, speaking at many conferences and mission events, seeing what God is doing around the world, meeting new people, receiving new book contracts and actually finishing the book we were under contract to write. (Whew! I could write an entire blog post just on what it’s like to write a book with your spouse!)
However, authentically, it was a challenging year. It was a year in which we experienced more criticism and financial pressure than we have in a very long time. Here’s the thing: God often uses the fire of criticism combined with financial pressure to refine our character. In the fire, the Almighty burns off character traits and unhealthy patterns that will hinder his servants from being all He’s called them to be. In the fire we cry, kick, and scream, “God, I want out!” Yet, lovingly, God doesn’t answer that prayer. What He does promise is to be in the fire with us! (Deuteronomy 31:6). Unless you take a journey through the refiner’s fire, you’ll be lacking in what God longs to do through you. Remember, Moses spent 40 years in the desert being refined (Exodus 2). Elijah spent time in Zarephath, (which means “the place of refinement”) and in Beersheba (which means “the place of swearing”) so that God could develop his character (I Kings 17, 19). Jesus Himself spent time in the wilderness where Satan hammered him with temptation, not because Jesus’s character needed to be shaped, but because we need a Savior who understands the pressures we face (Matthew 4:1-11).
It is through the refiner’s fire that we learn to open our hands and let go. So what am I letting go of in 2020?
I’m letting go of my need for approval. In leadership, criticism is going to come – at times from all different directions. People aren’t always going to understand the decisions made. Through this year, I’ve learned to take those criticisms before the Lord and ask Him what He wants me to change. Sometimes, He has pointed out something specific. At other times, He has whispered, “Let it go and trust me with your reputation.” Honestly, it’s often easier to try to change something than to simply let it go. Yet, Jesus continues to invite me to join Him on the cross where His own reputation was nailed. He reminds me lovingly that the call to follow Him is a call to die – to my opinions, preferences and my rights to defend myself. Without death, there can be no resurrection.
I’m letting go of my need to be busy. Being busy becomes a false identity for many of us. Our Western culture tells us if you’re busy, you’re valuable. But here’s the thing – busyness becomes an addiction.For many years I’ve practiced solitude with Jesus. However, this past year, I became more convinced than ever that when the external pressure is the greatest, my internal soul needs more time with Jesus. If I’m not deeply rooted in Him, I am easily swayed by the opinions of others. My performer personality comes out and I try to keep others happy. That’s not where God wants my focus. He wants me focused on Him and His agenda for my life. I’ve had to say no to some things in order to prioritize better things. I’ve been reminded often by the Spirit of God that I need to respect my limits even when I’m disappointing others. Rest is essential for a healthy life. As a #3 on the Enneagram, the performer in me dies hard. I want to “be there” for people and “do much” for the kingdom. Jesus has reminded me often this past year to “be still” (Psalm 46:1).
I’m letting go of my need for security. Honestly, I like safety. But Jesus calls us to a life of faith. Faith requires risk and that’s where the rub comes. Jesus continually calls “come and trust me to provide.” I am so challenged by the faith of George Muller who ran an orphanage in Bristol, England (Look up his story – you’ll be encouraged). Muller spent hours on his knees, trusting God to provide what was needed to continue the work. In our quest for security, it’s easy to make impulsive decisions. Instead, God calls us to trust. This is so hard if you like security.
Friend, this year I’m letting go. I’m throwing myself at Jesus and trusting Him to take care of what I can’t. May I challenge you? What is it that Jesus is calling you to let go of? When you let go, you will find that He is more than enough!
How You Can Pray
Please pray as Steve heads to the Amazon to prepare for a trip on which he will take pastors.
Please pray as Steve and I launch Listen Well, Lead Better which will be released this week on January 7th! Pray that God will use the message of the book to challenge leaders everywhere to listen with the ears of Jesus.
How I Can Pray for You?
If you’re in ministry and the criticisms are coming from all directions, I’d like to pray for you. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org I’ll be happy to pray for you!