When others look at us, who do they see? Do they see a parent, construction worker, teacher, or spouse? What about those of us who are Christians, do those who look at us see a genuine follower of Christ, or do they pass us by seeing no distinction at all? let others see Christ Jesus living in you! Check out the video below.
Sometimes, finding the motivation we need to keep going can be hard to find, especially on a bad day, but it's there if you're a follower of Christ! You just need a little push to get you going. In this video, you'll hear from the Apostle Paul, who offers some encouraging words to the church at Corinth. Like the people in Corinth, we all need a little encouragement, and we just need to be reminded of God's love and His promises.
A few nights ago I was relaxing and watching a little television before bed, and during one of the many commercials I started going through my emails and one, in particular, caught my attention. The headline which jumped off the page read, "Four Months After Giving Birth, Pastor’s Wife Commits Suicide," (you can read the article here). Every time I get an opportunity to share the ministry of Christ-Centered Solutions, I take a few minutes and tell other believers how much stress and strain pastors and their families are under today. There is so much stress that the number of pastors leaving the ministry for reasons other than retirement is mind-boggling. Consider these numbers, "1,500 ministers leave the ministry every month in America, 90% will leave before the age of retirement, and 94% of pastoral families state they feel the pressures of ministry. These are the latest numbers we have from the Fuller Institute and Barna Research 2019, (click here to see the full list).
I know firsthand the struggles of being a pastor, and not only do I know the struggles well but so do my wife and our two sons. A pastor's wife and children are not immune from the difficulties, hurts, pain, and heartache of ministry life. Corner my wife Teresa and ask her about the stress of being a pastor's wife and you no doubt will get an ear full. Of course from a pastor's point of view, I know of the pain many pastors attempt to bury, trying to hide it from themselves and others. And when the stress and struggles become too much to bear, it's easy for suicidal thoughts to slip into our thinking.
Don't get me wrong, there are many, many blessings of being called by God to serve as a pastor in the local church. Throughout our years in the pastorate, Teresa and I can easily recall the names of former members who made our time with them very joyful (Hebrew 13:17). But the reality is that pastors and their families will often suffer in silence, or better yet, secret because of the need to feel almost perfect before their congregants, and sometimes before other pastors (Article: The Curse of Competition). Now, it isn't uncommon for pastors to entertain thoughts of perfectionism, but all too often some members and church leaders help solidify the idea.
Back to the article on Paige Hilken for just a moment. I'm not stating that Paige committed suicide due to some ministry issue she or her husband were experiencing in the church. Clearly, the article points to several health-related issues including her mental health struggles with postpartum depression. My point is that pastors, pastor wives, and their children routinely believe they have no place to turn, or no one they can share their pain with and expect all to remain confidential. Ministry life can be very lonely, and more often than not it's lonely because of deep-seated fears about being removed from the ministry altogether.
If you get nothing else from my rambling here, please get this, pastors and their families need more than a livable wage and our prayers. Pastors and their families need our understanding when they appear frail, they need our friendship, a compassionate heart, and a non-condemning ear to listen. These ministers of grace who devote their lives to loving God's people well are hurting, and I don't want another one to commit suicide or walk away from the ministry because the pain is too great. We need them to walk with us, and they need us to do the same for them. We are our brother's and sister's keepers (1 Peter 3:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:9).
If you agree with me that our pastors and their families need our support, would you please commit to helping me and the ministry of Christ-Centered Solutions. We need you to join with us to be a blessing to our pastors and their wives by providing the confidential support they need. Please consider becoming a monthly Ministry Partner with us. Even if you can't become a monthly Ministry Partner at this time you can help by sharing this blog with your pastor, a deacon, or another church leader, and encourage them to contact me about visiting your church to tell other Christians about the ministry of Christ-Centered Solutions.
You can email by clicking here if you'd like to contact me about coming to your church, ministry, or business.
You can also reach me by phone in South Carolina by calling our main office at (843) 829-0970, or in North Carolina at our Wilmington office (910) 399-6714
Lastly, if you or a friend are considering suicide please call Christ-Centered Solutions or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
Blessings dear friend,
Several years ago, when my mother-in-law was still alive and living in her home, Teresa and I would try to visit on a regular basis. On these visits we could not help but notice an old yellow dog chained to a stake in the neighbor’s backyard. The old boy did not look malnourished, he always appeared to have water, but he was an angry dog. Teresa and I both felt so sorry for the dog. Day and night he stayed chained to that stake, with a doghouse made from some unpainted plywood next to the stake, and a maple tree a few feet away to provide some shade in the summer and shelter in the winter, he was never free of that chain.
His owner wasn’t breaking any laws, but in my mind, he walked a narrow line (personally, I see no reason in having a dog if that is one's idea of having a pet). On each visit I considered calling the SPCA but what would I tell them that would change the fate of that old dog.
The dog had a vicious bark anytime someone other than his owner came near to him. There were times I would be out back, and I wanted to approach him hoping to comfort him in some way, but I could never get close enough to do so. He was just angry and agitated anytime I approached.
As I thought about his life of confinement, I suppose there was a sense of safety in his bonds. Truthfully, his enslavement and his master were the only things he knew of this world. He had learned to live with his chains and the changing seasons under the maple tree.
I think something similar happens to some in the world in which we live. I’ve seen such spiritual and mental enslavement in my many years of ministry, and frankly, I can think of seasons in my life when I too have felt the coldness of chains binding me, metaphorically of course.
There are times in life when trials and tribulations have us so tied up inwardly that we lash out at all who approach seeking to help free us. Perhaps we rail against such individuals because the idea of someone coming near is a belief that the one approaching brings only more pain and sorrow into our lives. Yet, like that old dog, maybe it is that we have just become comfortable in a state of bondage, and we believe life will never be better than it is presently.
Throughout my pastoral ministry, and even in my ministry with Christ-Centered Solutions now, I see individuals who are bound, enslaved in their sins, and unwilling to take the steps necessary to break free. Then there are others who walk into my office and realize they have believed the lies which have held them captive for years, but now they want nothing more than to be free. Isn’t that how we were before our conversion, that is, those of us who have surrendered to Christ?
In Romans 7:24 the Apostle Paul spoke of his own struggles by asking the question, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Then in verse 25 of chapter 7 and into chapter 8 he shares the solution to the bondage of sin and the lies she spins – it is in and through Christ Who frees the believer. I love his words in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” There is no judgment that can be brought against the one who is IN Christ, for He has set you free!
One of the greatest privileges as a pastor, and as a Biblical counselor is to share the Gospel of Christ with those who are lost and who then surrender to Him as Savior and Lord. The second greatest privilege is reminding believers their identity is in Christ, the One to whom they belong, and the One Who provides their freedom for all eternity.
I beg you to pray for CCS and me, I also beg you to pray about supporting the ministry of CCS on a monthly basis with an offering of any amount. Those who are in bondage need your help. Please visit www.christcenteredsolutions.org to make a tax deductible donation, to learn more about the ministry, or schedule an appointment.
P.S. On one of my last visits to my mothers-in-law’s home, and after her passing, I did call the SPCA, but to what good it did for the dog I couldn’t tell you.
I'd like to share a thought with you on trying to understand or process the afflictions and struggles we face in life, and to do so from a Biblical perspective. For the Christian, having a Biblical worldview is most important, it is literally how we are to interpret the world in which we live. It’s also important when it comes to how we interpret the Scriptures. Let’s look at a portion of Psalm 119.
In this Psalm, the Psalmist says something a bit odd, odd that is if one has a worldly mindset.
Psalm 119:65-72 (ESV) You have dealt well with your servant, O LORD, according to your word. Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments. Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. You are good and do good; teach me your statutes. The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts; their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your law. It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
Did you catch what the Psalmist said? – “It is good for me that I was afflicted…” Another translation renders the first part of verse 71 as, “My suffering was good for me, …” I’ll tell you, folks, that’s NOT how most people in America, or anywhere else I’ve traveled in the world thinks about afflictions.
How in this world can physical, emotional, or spiritual affliction ever be good for us?
First, let us clarify a couple of things. One, the word “afflicted” here is used twice within the passage and is the Hebrew word “ʿānâ” and it literally means to be “oppressed.” It’s a word we hear used a lot today in our culture, and just a thought here, it is a word that's overused in my opinion. Yet, I digress. The word “afflicted” in the passage is used in the sense of being humbled, i.e., a state of oppression that humbles one.
Second, our afflictions (sufferings) are often self-inflicted, but they can also as we read earlier be SENT by God, and most definitely USED by Him. In verse 67 of this Psalm, the Psalmist wrote, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.” Our afflictions, that is our struggles and sufferings have a way of either drawing us close to God or pushing us farther away from Him. They also have the ability to bring joy or bitterness. The Scriptures contain a plethora of examples for us to see how this plays out. Think for a moment about those in the Old Testament like Joseph who the more he suffered the more he trusted God. And then we see individuals such as Cain who is just angry and bitter. His supposed suffering was mild in comparison to Joseph, yet his anger and bitterness lead to the killing of his brother.
We also have examples in the New Testament. Take Paul and Steven, these servants of Christ suffered greatly but maintained a sense of great joy in their troubles. On the other side, we have those who ran from Christ and His Gospel when tough times came. Men like Demas and Alexander, two men whom you’ve probably never heard of because most preachers tend not to focus on them, why should we?
The point? You are not alone in your affliction and sufferings, even though it may often feel that way. Let’s go back to the Psalmist’s statement of being afflicted by God and that it was good. It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. Pain is often one of the best teachers in life, it is in our pain that we turn to find relief, and for many of us, we turned to Christ to aid us in our afflictions. Also, it is Christ Jesus Who truly understands afflictions better than anyone to ever walk the face of this earth, He was destined to suffer on the believer’s behalf (Isaiah 53:5-10). It is the writer of Hebrews who tells us that Christ Jesus understands our afflictions because He took them upon himself when He came in His first advent.
One last thought. Our afflictions can be good for others. It is in times of suffering that the heart of a believer can be softened, and it is in that tenderness that others are benefited. Suffering helps us as human beings to identify with those who are currently living through trials and heartache. Hear this and know that the believer is to comfort others just as he/she has been comforted.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (ESV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
I was able to spend some time with a great pastor and friend the other day, and during our visit, we talked about a variety of issues impacting the Church today, Hurricane Florence, COVID-19, and building struggles in the SBC. We also discussed the ministry of Christ-Centered Solutions. Check out my conversation with Rev. Joey Canady of Hampstead Baptist Church.
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