Summary: This message is intended to encourage ministers who are afraid of losing what is good or who are burdened by what is bad.
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.(Philippians 3:10-14)
In this letter to the Philippians, Paul states that he would be willing to let go of his Hebrew pedigree to gain a greater knowledge of Jesus. This text resonates with me because I have spent over 30 years in the Diaconate, and I have seen many ministers who could not ‘let it go’. I have worked with male and female ministers, young, middle-aged and retirement-aged ministers. I have worked with senior pastors, associate pastors and interim pastors. Whether Caucasian, African-American, Northerners, Southerners, terminal degrees or no degrees, academic preachers and devotional preachers. All different yet all the same – wanting to hold on to whatever was their strong suit or unable to let go of being hurt. So for all of the ministers out there – for all you do – these words are for you: “Can You Let It Go?”
Consider these events:
1. Abraham was challenged to let go of the familiar to embrace an unseen land and a legacy;
2. Abraham was challenged to let go of his first born son only to be later challenged to let go of his second son as a sacrifice;
3. Jesus let Lazarus go the grave to later demonstrate that He was the resurrection;
4. Jesus let go of His eternal glory, took on our sin and was forsaken on the cross.
In your vocation as a minister, there will be Palm Sundays and Good Fridays; some days you will be hailed and some days you will be nailed. Your Palm Sundays are filled with friendship, affirmation and evidence of your calling. You are in your comfort zone and every step in your career has brought you to this place of grace. You are having a mountain top experience and have said ‘Lord it is good for me to be here’. You are on good terms with your spouse, children, family pet and the traffic lights. But in the midst of this bliss – Can You Let It Go?
Your Good Fridays are filled with trials and tribulations. And because you have a gift of nurturing others, you sometimes wind up using that gift to nurture your own pain. You remember, rehearse and recycle the betrayal, the treachery, the hurt, the anguish, the disillusionment, the torment, and the agony. You carry so much resentment that you grind your teeth in your sleep. You want to do unto others as they have done unto you and then some; you interpret ‘vengeance is mine’ as a promise from God for you to fulfill and not a statement by God. You are mad at others, yourself (especially as you struggle with the guilt of your weaknesses and wickedness) and even God. But even though you are unjustifiably injured – Can You Let It Go?
The unvarnished but loving truth I am sharing with you is that part of your profession and personal walk with Christ will require you to ‘let it go’. If you carefully study the 23rd Psalm, you will see that your journey has several stopping places. Hence you cannot embrace a station as a destination – let it go. Whether it is green pastures, still waters or shadowy valleys, the promise is the presence and provision of Christ – nothing more and nothing less. Faith in God means letting go of my comfort zone and letting go of my need to seek revenge. You can read scriptures, fast, pray, go on a retreat, go to a convention, buy a colleague’s books and tapes, change the inflection of your voice and learn to sight-read Greek. But after you have mastered the mechanics of ministry, at some point you must still let it go. Until you make the decision to let it go, you will be only seen as a faithful servant who preaches a faith that s/he really does not believe. You will never be at peace until you let it go. You will be so afraid of losing what is right and avenging what was wrong that you will not be all that God called you to be. Being filled with the Spirit means that there is no room for anything else.