I recently read a blog post of “The 10 Ways to Fail as a Pastor.” Though many of the ways were expected and generally agreed with (adultery, failure to lead your own family, self-indulgent spending, etc), one in particular caught my attention: “[it would be a failure to] never have fun because I was too serious about my calling, my preaching, my writing, or my ministry responsibilities.”
I must confess; I did not seek clarification with the blogger’s intent before I posed the comment:
“If by fun you mean ‘joy,’ and too serious you mean ‘anxious,’ I might respectfully suggest a re-wording: “Never have joy because I was too anxious about my calling, my preaching, my writing, or my ministry responsibilities”
It would be “a failure to never have joy because I was too anxious about my calling, my preaching, my writing, my counseling, or my ministry responsibilities” It would be tragic to do ministry without a joy that leads us (and others) to worship the risen Savior.
When did not having enough fun become a tragic failure? Some would say in the last 100-150 years. Neal Postman’s title Amusing Ourselves to Death almost immediately came to mind as I considered our lust-affair with fun and amusement. Isn’t our problem that we don’t take our calling seriously enough?
What resources do I run to (and offer others) in order to do to battle with my fleshly pursuit of shallow happiness and self-obsessive lust for pleasure and avoidance of pain? Here are just a few.
1) David Powlison’s Innocent Pleasures (JBC, Fall 2005) continues for me to be an helpful reminder of what he calls a “you-deserve-a-break-today” tendency. Do we find rest and pleasure in a way that brings joy and worship or in a way that leaves an oily residue?
2) Desiring God by John Piper had a perspective shifting impact on me. See also his follow up book, When I Don’t Desire God: How to fight for joy. We all need our hedonistic tendencies re-directed toward that which brings true joy.
3) Timothy Keller’s The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness has become a popular and helpful booklet (based on his sermon http://sermons2.redeemer.com/sermons/blessed-self-forgetfulness). Our sense of need and satisfaction is being transformed in a supernaturally changed heart.
4) Psalm 37:4 (delight yourself in Him…); Psalm 4:7 (… have given me more joy…); Hebrews 12:2 (who for the joy set before him, endured the cross…). I could list countless verses. I have taken to circling the word joy (and its derivatives) in a special way as I read through the scriptures in order to remind me of the prominence of joy in the Scriptures. My concordance doesn’t list the word happy or happiness.
Serious Enough, Too Serious, or Not Serious Enough?
Are we serious enough, too serious, or not serious enough about our calling? I am sure that all of us would have to say the pendulum swing of ministry dedication has hit each of these tendencies at different times. God’s mercy to us is that we are quickly overwhelmed by carrying a load too big for us. Isn’t it wonderful to be able to say, “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” (Psalm 68:19, NIV84).
Though we are called to be burden bearers (Galatians 6:1-2), I find myself running to the Lord (Matthew 11:28-30) so that He is actually the one carrying the burden. I can tell when I have failed to believe by the degree of my restlessness. Our jobs were never meant to be the source of our joy or peace. No doubt, some of the anxiety comes from making more of our ministry than of the Lord, but that’s another topic.
Seriousness With, or Anxiety About?
I confuse and equate “seriousness” with “anxiety about.” I see often in new counseling trainees (and occasionally in myself) the tendency to become fearful and anxious about their counselees’ issues and situation. I love Paul’s encouragement and our hope:
“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained” (Philippians 3:14-15, ESV italics added).
God will reveal—especially when we will listen, and sometimes, even when we won’t.
Join the Conversation
What are your favorite resources to combat lusts and happiness-seeking in yourself or your counselees?