Desperately (and frustratingly), I attempted to keep each student on the straight and narrow. At the same time, Iwas also trying to be their mentor, counselor, and friend. The students looked to me for everything and to be honest, it made me feel special. When the burnout set in, I could no longer sustain it and had to step back from doing what I once loved. By looking back, I recognize that the burnout stemmed from pointing the students to myself as their leader, when I should have been pointing them to Christ.
In my struggle to find my place as leader, I wish I took a deeper dive into this week's reading. In 1 Corinthians, we find the Corinthian church struggling with a series of issues from division to sexual immorality. Paul, being the spiritual father and leader he was to the Corinthians, found it imperative to write a letter warning them. One thing he addressed was how leaders should be viewed within the church. At the time, the Corinthians exalted Paul and Apollos as their leaders. So much so, that it caused division between them. They would pride themselves on who they were most loyal to. In 1 Corinthians 3:4, we see some would boastfully profess, “I follow Paul” while others would proudly declare, “I follow Apollos.”
Paul did not take pride in them fighting in such a way. He recognized that without God he and Apollos were nothing. In 1 Corinthians 3:5, Paul states, “What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task.” He made it very clear that he and Apollos were merely vessels used by God. He further reiterated this by using a planting metaphor. While Paul planted the seed of the gospel and Apollos watered it, it is only through God that there is growth. In 1 Corinthians 3:7 Paul continues by saying, “so neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who makes things grow.”
Paul’s response to the Corinthians is humbling and unfortunately lost on society today. It is so easy to exalt others and oneself in the name of God. Social media has only highlighted this issue further. How often is it that we see pastors or Bible teachers with multitudes of followers hanging on to their every word? Instead of looking to God’s word in times of trouble, we find ourselves looking to our favorite pastor.
Not only do we see this on social media, but we can also see this in our very own lives. Has there ever been a time where you desperately wanted to lead someone to Christ, but found yourself leading in your own strength or capacity? Have you ever found yourself leading from a place of your own selfish ambition? While serving others is a wonderful thing, we must not forget our purpose in it all. Our purpose in everything we do is to point the lost and hurting back to Jesus, and Jesus alone.
What does this look like? Now as I serve, my prayer specifically is, “God thank you for giving me the ability to be a vessel used by you. As I serve, help me be obedient to you alone. I ask that you go before me, giving me the words to say and the steps to take as I serve my brothers and sisters in Christ.” I also examine my motives. Am I acting in obedience to God, or my own selfish ambition?
When searching for answers, are you looking to God or your favorite Bible teacher? More importantly, when leading others are you pointing them to Christ or yourself? Like Paul, let us humble ourselves by realizing that neither we nor our favorite pastor is God. We never can be. However, He has given us the wonderful privilege as believers to be used by Him for His good works!
Memory Verse: “So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” 1 Corinthians 3:7
I was devastated. How could such a beautiful moment take such a drastic turn? Momentarily, I gave in to what felt like such a traumatic experience but shortly afterwards, I was reminded of God’s word. I will never forget the verses I meditated on leading up to childbirth such as James 1:2, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” When the Holy Spirit brought this to my remembrance, I felt joy in knowing that even in the trials I was facing, I would persevere because God’s word promises our trial will produce something beautiful in us. The more I held on to God’s word, not only was I healing physically but also spiritually.
Did you know that if you allow God’s word to take root inside of you, you too can experience joy in the midst of tough circumstances?
We read in Psalm 119, “Trouble and distress have come upon me, but your commands give me delight” (Ps. 119:143). In this passage, we see the fruit of joy and perseverance from the psalmist as they express the love they have for God’s word in inspite of tough times. Interestingly enough, Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. And in this chapter, we see just how much the psalmist has allowed God’s word to take root on the inside of him or her. More importantly, the psalmist doesn’t ignore the troubles they are experiencing but in spite of them finds joy in God’s commands.
In the Bible, we see several examples of the importance of the word of God. We also find that if we cling to his commands, it can produce good fruit in our lives as it did for the psalmist. For example in Luke 8, Jesus tells the parable of the sower to a large crowd. As the seed was scattered, it was only the seed that fell on good soil that produced a crop. He further explains the parable to the disciples by revealing this seed represents God’s word. Luke 8:15 states, “‘but the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop”.
In times of trouble, find joy in the word of God and hold tight to his commands, knowing He will produce, in your life, the fruit of perseverance. I will be the first to admit I haven’t always done this. It is very tempting to get distracted by the weight of life. So much so, that we forget all God has commanded us in his word. However, as believers we too must find delight in his commands in spite of hard circumstances. Joy comes from the assurance of God’s presence even in the midst of hard circumstances.
I encourage you to take inventory of your life. As you take inventory, think about a tough moment you are currently experiencing. We all experience them. Now, I challenge you to take it to God’s word. What does His word say about it? Allow that Word to transform how you see your circumstance. As you spend this time with him, you will find a joy that will resonate through any trial.
Memory Verse: “Trouble and distress have come upon me, but your commands give me delight.”
Devotionals by Author
All Abby McDonald Angi Morrison Anne Say Audra Powers Breanna Faith Spearman Brenna Kurz Brittany Marlow Caroline Hultgren Courtney Filippin Dana Schaefer Danielle Biddy Debbie Burns Heather Kenny Jannetta Cox Jessica Parker Jess Ridgeway Joan Lavori Katelyn Wilson Katie Gibson Kelly Orlowski Kerri Barfield Keryn Stokes Kristen Williamson Laura Pendley Lindsay McNeely Lonette Baity Martha Rudolph Nancy Ehlinger Renee Robinson Saretta Wells Tara McGill Taylor Watkins Tierney Nashleanas Wendy Gerdes