Over the past several months, I have had numerous conversations with pastors, ministers, and key denominational leaders in various leadership positions. These are men and women I highly respect and admire for their calling, their efforts to expand the Kingdom of God, and their passion to make Jesus’ name great.
But there is also something that worries me and brings me pause. Many of these amazing Christian leaders are serving from a place of fear.
There is a place within their hearts that are always cautious, afraid, anxious, and nervous about what people will think, what people will say, how people will respond. This fear makes them second-guess everything they do and never feel as if their work before the Lord is satisfactory.
I have personally struggled with this type of fear (especially when I was on full-time church staff). Honestly, it is strange to be afraid of the people you are trying to serve. Are shepherds afraid of what their sheep will think about them? I sincerely doubt it.
Yet when this fear sits in, there is no confidence and contentment in knowing you are doing the best you can with the resources you have, even though that is exactly what you are doing. Instead you feel like you are constantly on edge waiting for the next criticism, the next complaint, the next condescending letter to come in. You feel like you are always looking over your shoulder for someone to stab you in the back. It is a terrible, gripping feeling.
As I reflect on these conversations and my own experience with this fear, my heart and soul goes to the Word of Life. I think about the VBS theme verse for last year: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7) Great words from the Apostle Paul to a young man with a big responsibility of leadership. But even beyond this sometimes over-used verse, I think about Paul’s words to the Galatians about himself.
He writes: “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ?” (Galatians 1:10)
Could it be that when we continually bow down and seek the approval of man, we no longer, therefore, serve Christ? Are these two approvals, that of people and that of Jesus, in opposition to one another.
I have found the approval of man to be so fleeting. One minute you are everyone’s hero; the next you are everyone’s enemy. But Jesus is not so fickle. He is not so easily swayed.
He knows your heart, more than just your actions. He knows your intentions and motivations, more than just the results. Jesus sees your effort, even when things don’t come together rightly. Shouldn’t He be the only one we seek approval from?
In the end when we’ve finished this race called life, no person from any church or any event is going to judge our service to the King, only Jesus will. Maybe that knowledge will give us the kind of courage to serve not from a place of fear, but from a place of unflinching faith.