Keeping yourself from harm

I was living the glorious Pentecostal life! My weekly schedule was door-to-door witnessing and evangelistic evening services nearly every day as we traveled across the country winning souls for Jesus.  It was awesome!  But after 2 years of this schedule Paula was ready to walk out of our marriage.  When she saw how happy I was and how unhappy she was, she concluded she was the problem, not the ministry. The ministry was doing great while our young marriage was a mess. We were 24 and Randy was 1 year old. 

For years I was perplexed! How could serving God in such an awesome, pure-hearted way lead to a marriage vs ministry showdown?  How could doing the work of God lead to something so contrary to the will of God? My motive was right! My heart was pure. Yet my young marriage was on the rocks. By the grace of God and through my wife’s incredible patience our marriage was spared.  

Luke 4:9-12 says, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’  And Jesus answered and said to him,It has been said, You shall not tempt the Lord your God.”

Health Marker: The incredible love of God wants to keep me from unnecessary marriage, family, and personal harm as I serve Him wholeheartedly in the ministry. 

Satan told Jesus, “If You’re really God’s Son, do something foolish. Jump of this building! Your Father promises to catch You!” The devil told Jesus to throw Himself off of the five story Temple to the stone pavement below.  Rather than downplaying the promises of God’s miraculous care Jesus basically said, “If God told me to jump, I’d jump. But God didn’t tell me to do something, that on the surface, is so foolish. So I’m not going to tempt Him with this action.”

We all know the pastorate has inherent challenges and hardships. Serving Jesus is not for the faint of heart or circumstance cowards.  Jesus Himself was going to experience many incredible pains and hurts in His brief life but throwing Himself off the Temple was not going to be one of them. Pastors too will experience many hardships serving Jesus. That’s part of the package. But how many of us have made foolish or ill-conceived ministry decisions that affected our marriage and kids adversely, assuming “God’s got our back”.  Only to have those decisions lead to lifelong marriage and family handicaps.

We “throw” ourselves into the pastorate without thinking through the consequences it has on our family and personal health. And when our life begins to crumble around us, like mine, we wonder where God was!

In my situation, God did in fact call me into the ministry. And He did call me to count the cost and win the lost. But He didn’t tell me to “jump!”  By that I mean He didn’t tell me to disregard wisdom and common sensewhen it comes to further sacrificesto my marriage and kids, putting them in harm’s way unnecessarily. 

But what about the stories and testimonials of great pastors making unusual personal family sacrifices for the sake of the ministry? And why did God give His angels charge over THEM, to keep THEM’? My answer? God probably told them to jump and gave them Psalm 91:11-12.

I read that if someone fell from a 5 story building they have a 50% chance of surviving the fall.  But those who survive are going to have lifelong handicaps.  This sounds a whole lot like many of us pastors, the ones who survived a foolish jump.

A healthy pastor is one who, in the midst of an already incredibly stressful vocation, will never presume that every ministry opportunity that presents itself is what the Lord is calling us to do. Particularly when it effects our health the health and wellbeing of our marriage and children. Make sure it’s Him calling you to further risk.  The ministry schedule I described in my story WAS awesome, if I was single.   

Here are some helpful hints to consider, helping you from jumping mindlessly into ministry assignments:

  1. Let God restore your soul by protecting your weekly Sabbath.
  2. Realize a quiet date night with your wife is probably the most spiritual thing you can do for your church.
  3. There is a vast interchangeable supply of church members but you only get one set of kids. Give your kids priority in your schedule.