Pastors listen to other pastors. We listen to other people in ministry who are down in the trenches doing the hard work of leading others.
Jeremiah was one such person. And he was given a very tough ministry assignment. God let him know in advance that he would not pastor a megachurch.
Pastor Jeremiah has a good word that is timely for those of us leading the church in the 21st century.
This is what the Lord says…
Stand at the crossroads and look.
Ask for the ancient paths
Ask where the good way is and walk in it
And you will find rest for your souls
Jeremiah 6:16 (NIV)
STAND AT THE CROSSROADS
If you’re going to take the road that leads to spiritual health, you have to stand. Implicit in the word “stand” is that you have to “stop”. Stopping and standing go hand in hand.
This is a critical word for people with healthy souls.
Jesus regularly took time to stop, to be quiet, to spend time with his father. You can’t live life at warp speed without warping your soul. It is so easy to fill our lives with frantic activity only to lose our bearings in ministry and forget “why” we do what we do.
It’s healthy for us to regularly stand and look at our lives… and consider where we are headed. We are so pre-occupied with everybody else’s sanctification that we forget that our sanctification is still a work in progress.
You have to stop running long enough to make an informed decision about which road you will travel.
Proverbs 14:8 says “the wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways… but the folly of fools is deception”
Give thought to your ways. Are you living the life God intended for you? Or, are you so busy, you have little time to stop and reflect and consider the roads that are in front of you.
An old Chinese proverb says, “If you don’t change the direction your going, your likely to end up where you are headed.” Look ahead. If you stay on the road you’re traveling today, where are you going to end up?
Let me ask you a question… “if we could plot the trajectory of your soul, where does it end up?”
Maybe right now you’re at a ministry crossroads. Perhaps ministry and life haven’t turned out like you’d hoped. Maybe today you find yourself empty and drained from the demands of ministry.
There is hope. There is a different way . . . a better way. But you are at a crossroads and you have to make a decision about the path from this point forward.
ASK FOR THE ANCIENT PATHS…
The past is a friend. Many people have walked the road before us, and we can learn a lot from them. This isn’t about something new but rather something ancient. It’s about following the footsteps of those who’ve gone before us.
There are some disciplines and practices that people have used for generations to stay connected to Jesus… things like
fasting, solitude, reflection, scripture memory, Sabbath keeping, prayer, confession, personal worship. How are you doing at integrating these into your life?
Your highest calling is to love Jesus… not pastor a church.
Just a few chapters later in Jeremiah, we read these words… 9:23-24
23 This is what the Lord says:
“Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom,
or the powerful boast in their power,
or the rich boast in their riches.
24 But those who wish to boast
should boast in this alone:
that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord
who demonstrates unfailing love
and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth,
and that I delight in these things.
What if we really believed that? How would it change our ministries and our churches?
ASK WHERE THE GOOD WAY IS AND WALK IN IT.
It’s not the fast way. It’s not the busy way. It’s not the successful way. It’s not even the leadership way that Jeremiah tells us to ask for. It is the good way. God wants you to have a “good” life—a life that is emotionally healthy, relationally satisfying, and spiritually life-giving.
But it’s not enough to identify it, know it, teach it, or preach it. We must walk in it. There have been seasons in my life when I was so focused on “leading” that I neglected my own “living”. We must live well so that we can lead well. And the order is important. My leading must flow out of that which I am living.
Then, there is a surprising punch line to the verse.
AND YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.
I thought Jeremiah would complete the verse by saying “and you will find success for your ministry” or “you will prosper in all your ways”. But the goal of standing and asking for the good way and walking in it is that I would find rest for my soul.
This week I have been reflecting on the word “rest”. What does it mean to operate from a place of “rest”?
- relaxed trust
- low control
- calm in the midst of chaos
- not striving… not stressed
- not frantic
So many of us in ministry are in need of rest for our soul. Could it be that this is what I really need most and even most deeply long for? Could it be God’s first priority in my life is a connected and joyful and refreshed soul? Could it be true in my ministry that his “yoke is easy and [his] burden is light”? Could it be possible to find the kind of rest for my soul that leads me to say, genuinely, “Jesus is enough”?