Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Obedience X – Washout

What is “washout”?

Well, have you ever seen a pastor totally forget where he was in the middle of his sermon, pause for what seemed like an uncomfortable eternity, ask his deacon to take over, walk out the back door and never come back?

That is “washout.”

In youth ministry, I was told all the time that if I made it more than 2 years that I would have beaten the national average. Apparently, the average time a person serves as a youth pastor was only 2 years. (That numbers are not verified, and I don’t think I agreed with them at the time either. I despise being pigeon-holed!)

But I DID see washout happen quite a bit. A fellow-youth pastor, single for years, one day simply disappeared from his ministry. He turned up in Louisiana almost 2 years later with a wife and 2 kids. He was cool, but you could sense something was ‘off’, just a bit.

How do so many ministers become so burned out so fast?
Didn’t God say that “the joy of the Lord is” our strength?
Didn’t He say that He would never leave us or forsake us?
What happened to the fact that “it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives within me”? Wouldn’t that mean that He would keep us from burning out?

In the pursuit of questions like these and more, I did come to one particular conclusion: either A) the Bible is wrong and God is a liar, or B) there is something wrong with me.

What do you think is the obvious answer to that question?

There is definitely something wrong with me. It may be in my theology. It may be that I am doing something wrong. But, regardless, the problem is moi.

In pursuit of a solution to this, I felt impressed in my spirit that it was an obedience issue.

“WHAT?!” I exclaimed internally.

“God, how could that be?! Ministers are doing so much for you.

“They are being so diligent in bringing new people into church. They are praying and fasting. They are preaching 4 nights a week. They are attending house calls, prayer meetings, and networking with area pastors. They are financing the church, managing the staff, planning the sermons and sprinkling holy water on anything that moves!”

“That is not what I have asked of them,” was all the answer I got.

“What do You mean? They are sacrificing so much!” and that is where I suddenly stopped myself. I knew immediately that was the problem.

But He still reminded me of that fateful scripture.

“I want obedience MORE than sacrifice.”

I knew in my heart of hearts that even though ministers are running to and fro performing for the Lord, they are usually too busy to actually HEAR from the Lord what it is that He wants them to do.

For certain this is what I fell victim to. I was all too familiar with doing 27 hours worth of work in a 24 hour day for the ministry to go home and feel exhausted. And it wasn’t just being exhausted. It was drained without joy.

Enter the “washout.” Our strength is gone. Our delight in doing the tasks is gone. The truth is that in the midst of our work we became task-oriented and not God-oriented.

When we are doing what God has asked of us, it may be difficult. We may be asked to put our tasks to the side and simply fellowship with Him.

We may be asked to work until our fingers bleed and our eyes bug out, but at the end of the day there is a joy in obedience. There is a satisfaction and a knowing that we were doing the right things.

Though trials and tribulations may come, when we know that we know that we know that we are being obedient to something specifically that He has asked us to do, we are filled with strength beyond ourselves.

It is rare that ministers stop long enough to ask, “God, do you even want me to do this?” But it may just be worth it. Think about it: if God wanted more sermons, couldn’t He just raise up more preachers on His own? Is God able to have the rocks cry out? Of course He is able to do that.

More than wanting you to go and just DO things for Him, He wants you to hear from Him first. When we are tapped into the voice of God, and are hearing clearly, when we are carefully heeding His instructions in our lives no matter where it may take us, we will be more than supplied with strength beyond ourselves.

When we are obedient, He will make a way where there is no way. “Wash-out” will be blotted out, and the life of victory that He promises will surely flow through us!

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