When People Let Us Down

Discouraged

This relates to my last post that ended with the encouragement for our service to be done for God:

  • 1 Corinthians 10:31 Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
  • Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.

This is the solution when we feel like people let us down. We weren’t doing it for them. We were doing it for God.

A husband says, “I work hard. I provide for my wife. I love her, but it seems like she doesn’t appreciate it.” Remember you’re doing it for the Lord.

A wife starts to feel like, “I support my husband. I love him. I submit to him. I honor him. But he doesn’t put forth as much effort with me.” Remember you’re doing it for the Lord.

If you’re a husband, you should love and cherish your wife not because she’s perfect or deserves it, but because you love God and that’s what He wants. If you’re a wife, you submit to and honor your husband, not because he’ll always make the right decisions, but because you love God and that’s what pleases Him.

At work you’re diligent and you do your best, but you’re always passed over for promotions. Maybe you see others slough off or act dishonestly, maybe it’s even from those in positions over you. Remember, you’re doing your best work for the Lord. You want to be a good witness. You hope others will see Christ through you.

You have a friend and you’ve spent hours listening to the person’s problems, always making yourself available without ever being asked how you’re doing, how you’re feeling, if you need prayer. You give and give and you’re finally going through something, but your friend doesn’t have time for you. Remember you were doing it for the Lord.

I saved this example for last because it can be the most painful; it’s almost impossible not to take it personally, blame yourself, but I’ve seen it happen to wonderful parents…

You’ve invested so much in your children. Not just hours like in a friendship, but years of putting your child ahead of yourself, training, educating, instructing, mentoring, praying every night for your child to love and fear God. Then the child gets older and rebels. My encouragement: remember you were doing it for the Lord, and He is El Roi, The God Who Sees, and your service has pleased Him. Raise your children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, not because they’ll always make the best decisions, but because you love God.

If your service is for the Lord, you’re going to save yourself from two dangerous threats:

  1. Discouragement: if your service is for man instead of God, it will hurt when you don’t receive the recognition and gratitude you think you deserve. When you feel like your love and effort isn’t reciprocated, you’ll be frustrated or bitter or both.
  2. Pride: if your service is for man instead of God, you become susceptible to pride because it will matter that people felt like you did a great job. The compliments will become very meaningful. You’ll start to believe the praise.

If your service is for the Lord though, you’ll be spared from these threats and you’ll have the satisfaction knowing you’re pleasing the Lord and doing what He wants.

Let me encourage you with these two biblical examples…

In 2 Corinthians 11:22-29 Paul listed the physical, emotional and spiritual suffering he experienced as a servant of the Gospel and it sounds like more than one man could handle. He came to the end of his life and in one of the saddest verses in the New Testament he said, “Only Luke is with me” (2 Tim 4:11). That’s it. Only Luke. Hundreds, if not thousands of people Paul had served and helped in his service for the Gospel and he goes on to say, “No one stood with me, but all forsook me.” (2 Tim 4:16). And then listen to this: “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me” (2 Tim 4:17). When Paul felt like he didn’t have anyone else, he knew he had the Lord, and the Lord helped him through his most difficult times when everyone else had let him down.

Think about Jesus’ example: He spent years helping people to the greatest extent His physical body allowed. When He found Himself on trial, many of the same people He helped yelled, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” (Luke 23:21). When Jesus was arrested, with the exception of John, all the disciples fled and denied knowing Him. When Jesus looked down from the cross, John was the only one He saw along with His mother. We’re all going to experience people letting us down, but we have in Jesus a Savior who in the words of Hebrews 2:17 “had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest.” When we feel let down by others, we can go to Him and know He hears us and has experienced the same.

Quit Being A Baby

I can’t tell you how often what I’m preaching on is what I need preached to me. Last Sunday’s sermon had a real focus on trials, where the theme could’ve been: God uses trials for our good (Rom 5:3, 4; 2 Cor 4:17; Jam 1:2-4; 1 Pet 1:6, 7). That’s what I need to be hearing. I should probably listen to my own sermon and take notes. Seriously. The trials I’m facing mostly relate to feeling like I’m letting people down, not able to please everyone, not  able to keep up with everyone, not able to get everything done, etc. as opposed to physical or financial trials.

Here’s part of an e-mail someone sent me this past week: “I have no doubt you will look back on this season as a time of great learning if you can but learn what the Lord would have you learn.” It was good for me to hear these words. At least part of what I believe God wants me to learn relates to my need to toughen up. I don’t mean that relationally, like being less sensitive to people (I should actually probably be more sensitive). I mean toughening up like…not feeling sorry for myself. Not being a baby. I think that’s what God wants me to learn. There’s a verse I was really meditating on this past week, and I’d like to share it, but first here’s the context…

Jeremiah the prophet had one of the most miserable ministries in Scripture; when you’re known as The Weeping Prophet, you know things are bad. He was regularly mocked, beaten, imprisoned, and rejected. In one candid moment of discouragement after learning the members of his hometown were plotting his murder, Jeremiah poured out his heart to God, questioning what God was doing…and wasn’t doing. What you would EXPECT God to do is encourage the beleaguered prophet with one of those verses like Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous hand. We love verses like this. We cling to them and memorize them. When we’re struggling we picture God saying verses like this to us. That’s not what God told Jeremiah though. Instead he said, “If you have run with footmen and they have tired you out, then how can you compete with horses? If you fall down in a land of peace, how will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?” (Jer 12:5). Not only did God not comfort him, He actually rebuked him; He said, “If you can’t handle it now, how are you going to handle it when things get even worse?” God doesn’t always want to stroke us and make us feel better. Sometimes He wants to rebuke us and tell us to toughen up, and I think that’s what He wants me to learn.

cry-baby

Toughen Up

Last week I wrote about my experiences coaching two wrestling classes during Friday School: one class consisted of older kids (mostly teenagers) and the other class consisted of younger kids (Davin Cooper, Brooks Ordway, my sons Ricky and Johnny, etc.). I had to accept the fact that coaching – and I’m using that term loosely – the younger boys mostly consisted of me watching them run at each other, run away from each other, jump in the air, kick each other, climb on the pews, climb on each other, yell, cry, roll around with no concern whatsoever for whether they’re on their backs, etc. Basically, it looked way more like WWF than wrestling, and please don’t tell me WWF is wrestling. It was bad enough this past week having to put up with Landon Cooper, Joe Garrett and Ruth Zumstein trying to convince me that fishing is a sport. Although considering sailing, trampoline and dressage (aka horse ballet) are Olympic sports maybe fishing will be added too giving their arguments credibility.

Anyway, if you listen to me coach the younger boys it sounds like, “Stop…don’t…watch out…be careful…no you can’t do that…let go of his hair…don’t put your finger in his eye…don’t jump off the pew on him…yes, I know Johnny bit you which is why I told you to stay away from him.” One week I had so many boys hurt and crying that I sat them all down and said, “I know wrestling hurts sometimes, but wrestling is like riding a bike: if you ride a bike, sometimes you’re going to fall and get hurt. The only way to make sure you don’t get hurt is to not get on a bike, and the only way to make sure you don’t get bit is to not wrestle Johnny.” I came home and told Katie all this and she said two words to me: “That’s ministry.” I said, “You’ve been bit in ministry?” Just kidding, but…

In Paul’s second letter to Timothy he prepared the young pastor for ministry by repeatedly telling him about the suffering he personally experienced while encouraging Timothy to expect the same (1:8, 12, 2:3, 9, 4:5). While Timothy was a pastor, the reality is if you’re going to serve the Lord in any capacity – not just in the church, but in your workplace, neighborhood, school, home, etc. – you’re going to be hurt sometimes. The only way to make sure you never get hurt is to never serve God. When the kids would get hurt in wrestling, I would offer them some encouragement that I preach to myself sometimes and would share with others as well: “This is actually good for you; it’s toughening you up!”

wrestling

Building Walls During VBS

Whenever people come together to accomplish something for the Lord but face opposition, if there’s a book of the Bible they should read for encouragement it’s Nehemiah. You’ve got the Jews returning from exile trying to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem but facing resistance on all sides. That’s sort of what it felt like this week, but instead of rebuilding walls, WCC was conducting VBS, and instead of facing Sanballat and Tobiah it was sewage. Tuesday is when it all started…

I was sitting in my office feeling thankful VBS was going so well when someone burst in: “You have to come to the nursery…it’s flooded!” While I’m in the nursery trying to figure out where the water is coming from someone else says, “The boys’ bathroom is flooded.” A third person arrives, “There’s water all over the floor of the girls’ bathroom” and finally to make the parallel with Job 1:13-19 complete a fourth person arrives, “The floor in the kitchen is flooded…and I alone have escaped to tell you!” I know you’re on the edge of your seats wondering how I’d handle such a disastrous situation, but I’m not a pastor for nothing…I knew what to do: call Dave Zumstein. He came over and in about three seconds said, “The sewer is backed up.” It took all Tuesday night, but we fixed the problem….until Wednesday evening, when we fixed the problem again…and then Thursday night we fixed it again.

Last Sunday I preached on the spiritual battle that takes place around us and that’s basically what the kids learned throughout VBS (the theme was Kingdom Chronicles). I’m not going to lie about this week: digging up a parking lot every night until a few hours within kids arriving for VBS isn’t how I wanted things to go; however, there was something cool about the whole situation: it really felt like there was a battle being fought to keep VBS from happening. When the kids left each day it was like we were in the middle of a fight to make sure they were able to return the next day. Nehemiah said, “When Sanballat, Tobiah and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall, and that there were no breaks in it…they thought to do me harm” (Neh 6:1-2). They heard the work was going well…they heard it wasn’t interrupted…they heard there were no breaks in the wall, so they tried to mess it up. Nehemiah had a fantastic response for them: “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it because of you?” (Neh 6:3). Don’t let the opposition make you cease.

nehemiah-building-jerusalem

Frustration in Ministry

Frustration in ministryRhea recently got the training wheels off her bike. She loves to come over to my office and have me watch her ride around in the parking lot. When I was growing up we always looked for exciting places to ride like hills, valleys, puddles, etc. For a while the leadership has been discussing fixing the church parking lots, but I found a great benefit to its current condition: it provides great terrain for kids’ bike riding!

I was watching Rhea race around – because in her mind the faster she goes the more impressed I’ll be – and she wrecked and scraped her knee. The rest of the day she dramatically limped around and when she overheard us talking about Beach Camp over a month away she said, “I hope I’ll be okay by then.” To her it was a pretty serious accident! We told her the only way she’d be able to completely avoid getting hurt in the future would be to completely stop riding her bike.

My counsel to Rhea made me think the same could be said of ministry: the only way to make sure you never get hurt is to make sure you never serve. Sadly this is the approach some people have taken. Whenever you’re involved in ministry whether it’s VBS, camp, a Bible study, party, play, home fellowship, etc. there’s potential for frustration and hurt usually from…

  1. People letting you down: they don’t do what they say they’re going to do…or they don’t do what you ask them to do…or they don’t show up on time…or maybe they don’t show up at all…or they don’t pay on time…or they cancel last minute…or they do things their way instead of the way you want…and the list goes on…and on.
  2. People criticizing: they don’t like the time, place, music, length, schedule, activities, and if you’d done it the way they wanted others would be unhappy.

Here’s what we need to focus on to prevent frustration:

  1. For every person that lets you down or criticizes, there are a number of others serving and working hard to see the ministry go well, being blessed by your effort, appreciating what you’re doing, growing as a result of your service.
  2. Most importantly: Colossians 3:17 & 23 Whatever you do, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for man. If we’re honest, when we’re frustrated it comes from having taken our focus off the Lord and putting it on the people around us. The reality is if our service is done for the Lord, His approval, and the blessing of serving Him, that should be enough to turn any amount of frustration into encouragement.

Discouragement in confrontation

My daily Bible reading has me in Ezekiel and John. I’d like to share something with you that I’ve always enjoyed from the previous book: God called Ezekiel to be a spiritual watchman (3:16-19 & 33:1-9), an individual that paralleled a literal man standing on the wall warning the city of approaching danger. We saw a watchman in action recently in 2 Sam 18:24-27 with the man who saw Ahimaaz and the Cushite running (and another example is in 2 Kin 9:17-20 when the man watched the “furious driving” of King Jehu [you can also get the idea of a watchman from these verses: Jer 4:5, 6:1, Hos 8:1, Amos 3:6 and Hab 2:1]).

I think familiarity with watchmen can really save us from discouragement and frustration in our spiritual lives when we remember they were only responsible with delivering the message; what the people did with the message wasn’t their responsibility. Eze 33:7-9“So you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you shall surely die!’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul (also in 3:16-19).

Do you ever get frustrated with people when they don’t respond the way you want? Maybe I’m the only one :). I think it shows a real maturity to be able to deliver a message and remain calm and composed when it’s not received well and a real immaturity (that I’ve shown on too many occasions) to get flustered and upset when we feel like people aren’t listening to us. If you want to do a little extra reading and see an awesome Watchman in action, read Jerermiah 28 about a showdown between Jeremiah and a lame, false prophet named Hananiah. Jeremiah shared his part and everyone blew him off, but he remained calm and simply left. The good news is God has only called us to share the Good news; He hasn’t made us the Holy Spirit in people’s lives. Remembering this can save us from unneeded frustration.