Look At It This Way
Ben Patterson is a friend of ours who has blessed us with his presence and his words, both spoken and written. One of Ben’s books was written in a series called The Pastor’s Soul. In this book, Deepening Your Conversation With God, Ben let’s us in on a conversation he had with a man about to retire from ministry. The man had been a mentor, friend and someone Ben worked under. In essence Ben asked the man what he would have done differently in his ministry. His answer came quickly, Ben says. “Don’t take it personally.”
Ben says his next question was, “Don’t take what personally?”
Here’s Ben’s description of the answer to that question:
He told me not to take it personally when things get tough in the church, when I am attacked or tired or depressed. Things like that go with the territory. We’re in a spiritual battle. When a soldier is shot at, he isn’t shocked. His feelings aren’t hurt. He doesn’t peer over his foxhole at his adversary and shout, “Was it something I said?” He expects it, he plans on it.
Ben goes on to point out that in Ephesians Paul took for granted that any one following Jesus would be in a struggle with spiritual forces. What is true in every other sphere of life is also true in ministry. Our armor is described in Ephesians 6. Then Paul says as we expect the struggle, that very expectation is an alert, a call to prayer (Ephesians 6: 16).
So when my husband or I am misunderstood, undervalued, unappreciated or gossiped about I don’t have to take it personally. When he or I am feeling down and almost out, when there is more gloom than joy in my heart, when there is friction in our home or in the ministry this is a call to prayer. The Adversary is out and roaming about and He is the real enemy. This calls for strength beyond my own. Our Champion is ready and wanting to supply what we need to go forward.
Now, as I see it, there is one caveat to this approach. As I answer the call to prayer it is often the case that our God and Father will point out where I have been wrong or reacted on my own with pride or retaliation or self-pity, or failed to listen to wise counsel. I may have set this skirmish in motion. The Adversary then will urge me to keep my eyes on myself and give up. Nothing would please this enemy more. But with my God’s help I can thank Him for His faithfulness in revealing to me my sin. Then I can repent from the heart and walk humbly with my God. His mercy is new every morning. Wow!
As someone has said, the battle is so much bigger than my personal humiliations.
So whatever is thrown at you in life and specifically in ministry, don’t take it personally. It is a call to prayer. Lord, teach us to pray!
Praying for you and asking you to pray for me
Carolyn Roper (Originally written for pastors’ wives.)