We all know about warning lights – we come across them every day, whether it’s a flashing light telling us not to cross the road or an engine light warning us something isn’t right under the bonnet of our car.
There are also warning lights in our spiritual lives. If we don’t take heed to them there will be consequences not only for ourselves, but also those we lead. These warning lights were brought to my attention at a recent retreat with fellow-pastors led by Rowland Forman. I covered three of them in my last post: Pride, Prayerlessness and Oversensitivity. Today I will cover three more.
WARNING LIGHT #4: JOYLESSNESS
“The recurring refrain in the book of Ecclesiastes argues that enjoyment of life is a gift from God. Charles Swindoll picks up that them in the opening line of his book Laugh Again. He says, “I know of no greater need today than the need for joy. Unexplainable, contagious joy. Outrageous joy (p.19)” Do you hate the very things in ministry (like preaching the Word) that you cone loved? Were you once full of vitality but are now dull and drab?”
Two questions were posed to us:
- To what extent has ministry robbed you of joy? Why?
- What steps do you need to take to experience “unexplainable, contagious, outrageous joy?
This might be a timing word for you. Perhaps you are missing that thrill, that inner delight you once experienced when you first knew you were a child of God. Now all you feel is weariness and heaviness of heart. That’s a warning light for you. The yoke of Jesus is not heavy, but light. Ministry done in his strength is not a burden, but a delight. Something needs correcting.
This is the prayer I wrote after contemplating these things:
“Lord Jesus, fill my heart with your joy, so that I might be an example of a truly joyful Christian – loving life, laughing with others (as well as myself!) Help me see the lighter side of life. Keep me from being overwhelmed with sorrow and grief in living in a fallen, broken and sad world.”
WARNING LIGHT #5: FATIGUE
“I once read about an amazing plant called, “Iverillea Sonorae.” Apparently, it can exist for indefinite periods without attention. Once was placed in a display case in the New York Botanical Garden for seven years without water and soil. Even the plant had its limits. In the eighth year it died. Too many of us are like that plant.”
He then shares an experience in his own life:
“I’ve experienced two near flameouts in ministry – one just before God threw me a lifeline and the two and a half years He gave me at Dallas Seminary. In both cases, I became worn-out to the point I could no longer care. The thing that frightens me is that to my Christian friends, I appeared successful, productive and sanctimoniously busy.”
Here were the questions for us:
- How often do you use the word, “tired” in the last few months to describe how you feel?
- To what extent are you currently on overload?
Well this one really hit home for me. I feel tired most days. The low-fuel light blinks on my spiritual and emotional dashboard fairly regularly. My wife continues to alert me to this matter and I continue to ignore her! So, what is it that causes me to push so hard?
Here was my prayer:
“Lord, you know I have a propensity to over-work. I am like a machine, going a t full throttle, sometimes over-heating or running out of fuel. Every machine needs maintenance and rest. Otherwise it blows up or seizes and must be thrown away and replaced. Help me to slow down Lord Jesus, to regularly rest and be replenished.”
WARNING LIGHT #6: DISILLUSIONMENT
Do you hear yourself say things like, “I love the church; it’s the people I can’t stand”? I’ve heard pastors say that. I myself have even been guilty. It might sound humorous, but it reveals a darker cynicism in our hearts. That statement, when you think about it, is tragic.
Rowland shared with us the story in 1 Kings 19 about Elijah’s disillusionment with his situation. He was fed up with life, his ministry and even with God. At one point he sits under a tree and prays that he might die (1 Kings 19:4).
I think that must have been a warning light on Elijah’s spiritual dashboard. What about you? To what extent is this warning light appearing on your dash?
Here’s my prayer in response:
“Lord Jesus, I know that whenever I am feeling disillusioned, that is a warning sign that ministry has become all about me. I have taken my eyes off you. It also means I am trying to do ministry in my own strength and not in the strength that you supply. Help me to see I that on my own I am utterly inadequate, and that all efforts to further the gospel and the kingdom devoid of your Spirit and power are in vain. Help me also to go at a pace that I can truly handle, and not one that is impossible and will end up in exhaustion and defeat. Amen.”
In my next (and final) post we will look at three more warning lights: insensitivity, immorality and impatience.
(You can read Part 1 of this series here)