Have you ever felt under appreciated? Do you ever feel God has forgotten you? Ever feel like others took advantage of you
This message may be for you.
I’ve learned through hard lessons that a stretched heart never returns exactly the same.
The Bible says, “Above all else, guard your heart.” I think part of the reason is that once the heart stretches, it’s changed. Forever.
Let’s say you had a dream. You pursued it with passion. It didn’t work out. You failed. But, in the process you stretched your heart for something new. You’ll have to find yet another dream to fill the void you created by stretching.
You thought you had the job. You were beginning to get excited about it. You even looked at houses in the area. You didn’t get the job. Your heart stretched. You will have to refuel your passion where you are now or you’ll be miserable. Your heart was stretched.
You felt a call to ministry at some point in your life, but you ignored it. Or something happened. You’re not serving right now and your heart is empty. Your stretched heart has never been the same.
And, it works in other ways too. You looked at things online you shouldn’t have seen. Now you want more. And more. You can’t seem to find satisfaction. You stretched your heart.
My advice is to find something to fill the new space you have created. You can’t just “get over it”.
You have to fill the void left behind because of the stretching. That may require prayer, discipline, accountability, practice or even counseling. Maybe all of them.
But your stretched heart is too important to ignore.
“Above all else…guard your heart“. (Proverbs 4:23)
My zeal wears me out, for my enemies ignore your words. Psalm 119:139
The Psalmist who wrote this verse was excited about God! So excited, in fact, that he apparently wore himself out with service! There were so many enemies of God, that kept the Psalmist so busy! Oh that we would be found so faithful!
That reminds me…
I am marveled by ants. I know what you may be thinking, “What an awkward transition and how can anyone make a Biblical illustration with a bunch of ants?” Bear with me. Ants are fascinating.
Several years ago, when we still lived in the house where we raised our boys, if the weather was nice, I would sit on my back patio, drink my coffee, and read my Bible in the morning. For a period of months, I was captivated with a trail of ants that began on one side of my patio, and ended on the other side…a distance of about 30 feet. The ants marched in a straight line, two ants going one direction, two going the opposite direction. They were spaced no more than an ant’s distance apart from each other. All total, there were hundreds of ants on my patio at any given time.
Now, I have to be honest. When I first discovered there were ants on my patio each morning, I was not very excited. I tried spraying them with ant killer. I tried washing them away with the garden hose. I tried stomping on them. I even got creative by trying to place obstacles in their way. (Perhaps you can tell I was starting to have fun with this project.)
My attempt to rid the patio of ants went on for over a week. Guess what? THE ANTS WERE STILL THERE! Oh, they would disappear for awhile. I was very good at getting rid of them temporarily. I felt successful everytime I tried, but before I knew it, the line of ants was back again…bigger, stronger, more determined than ever. I actually decided I kinda liked those ants. They became my ants!
As I have watched the life of an ant, and spent time in my morning devotion, it occurred to me that just as they are diligent in their labor, so should I be in mine. Just as the Psalmist was diligent in serving God, I should be in my work. He pursued God’s enemies as the ants pursued my patio, as I should pursue God’s call on my life.
If I am called to serve a mighty God, I should serve Him mightily!
Even when I’m distracted.
Even when obstacles get in the way.
Even when the work is harder than I think I can do.
If I am asked to work for a God who is steadfast in His love for me, then I should work for Him steadfastly!
My ants taught me a lot about following God.
What are you learning about God these days?
While He was praying in private and His disciples were with Him, He asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am? ” They answered, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, that one of the ancient prophets has come back.” “But you,” He asked them, “who do you say that I am? ” Peter answered, “God’s Messiah! ” (Luke 9:18-20)
I am not sure Jesus cared what others were saying at this point. It was an introduction to a more important question. He was getting all the options on the table. I’m not even sure we heard all of the ones they listed.
But the real issue was, “Who do YOU say I am?”
In the end, as far as you should be concerned, that’s all that matters. Answering that question isn’t a group activity. It’s not a team consensus. It’s not subject to public opinion or popularity of the culture of the day.
But, it’s the most important question you’ll ever answer…
Who do you say the “I AM” is?
I might have discovered a secret to the success of Jesus’ disciples.
And therefore my own ministry.
I never caught it until recently.
Read these verses and see if you see what I saw:
They were to wear sandals, but not put on an extra shirt.
So they went out and preached that people should repent. (Mark 6:9, 12 )
Remember what happened?
And they were driving out many demons,anointing many sick people with olive oil, and healing them. (Mark 6:13)
Did you catch what made them successful? Don’t miss it?
You get it. If I want people to respond.
If I want to see success in ministry.
If I want them to repent.
Maybe I need to wear sandals.
Maybe it’s not happening as much as I wish it would because I’m not wearing the right shoes.
I should wear sandals every Sunday morning. With my jeans or with my suit.
Sandals…the missing ingredient.
And, of course, I’m being funny. Or trying to be.
Okay, not funny, but I’m making a point.
Jesus gave very specific instructions, but they weren’t unusual to the disciples. Just specific. The people seeing the disciples wouldn’t have thought they were dressed strange either.
Jesus’ clothing instructions were within the context of the day.
It’s a reminder to me.
The way we do ministry changes. The clothes we wear. The songs we sing.
I don’t wear sandals. To preach. Catch me Monday through Saturday, or an hour after the last service, and you’ll find me in Biblical attire.
I dress in the context of the day. To the people I’m trying to reach. Styles change.
And, of course, there are other implications of this. Not just shoes. Context changes.
Here’s the point I’m making. If we are not careful, we begin to think our practices, the ones we’ve done so long, or the one we prefer, are Biblical, when really they are contextual.
And, context changes.
But the fact that people need to repent doesn’t.
And, so we minister within the context of the day, and preach truth.
Jesus modeled that for us.
(My California pastor friends are confused. You can ignore this post and enjoy your sandals.)