The other night in my small group, we watched a message from Craig Groeschel that hit me in my heart. It penetrated deeply. It hurt. I laughed at the many similarities between what he said and my own life…but inside I was thoroughly disturbed. (It is no coincidence, I am sure, that at the beginning of the message and throughout, he prayed that God would disturb those listening. Thank you very much, Mr. Groeschel.)
He made a lot of good points. He said many, many notable things, and I wrote down a lot of quotes from his message. One thing he said, though, has been on my mind ever since.
He mentioned how he always used to get nervous before He spoke at a conference or in a worship setting or anywhere. He said his nerves would explode into all kinds of physical symptoms, and that it is still something he deals with to some extent today. He said, though, that he has realized where the bulk of his anxiety about speaking originates.
He – like many of us – is more concerned with what people think than with what God will think.
When he addressed that, I felt like God was shaking me by the shoulders. That was real to me. That was something I understood all too well.
The day before I spoke the last time at my church, I had a very, very bad day. When I make reference to that day now, my husband shudders. I laugh about it some now, but the memory still gives me chills.
I spent the day in tears. Although I had pages and pages of notes for my message, I was convinced that I had nothing to say. I was not happy with the direction everything was going. I felt like I had no major point – no connecting point that threaded throughout – no climactic moment. I felt like it was all rambling. I thought of all the sermon-writing pointers I’ve picked up here and there, and I felt like I was going against each and every one of them.
I called my husband in tears. He did his best to help me, but the truth was that the battle raging inside me was not for anyone else but me. I drove around for awhile, trying to clear my head, but all I could think was, “I’m going to look like a fool. They’re all going to be disappointed. They are expecting something…and I have nothing. I’m going to look like an idiot. I’m going to look so stupid. I’m going to look ridiculous.” On and on.
(In case you were wondering, thoughts like that are not in any way conducive to writing a message. I’m pretty good at counter-productivity.)
Panic. Sheer terror. I prayed and cried…cried and prayed…panicked and cried and prayed…. It really was not pretty. By the end of the day, I had relinquished the whole thing to God (finally), trusting Him as best as I could that the message I had was what He wanted me to say. (My major concern then, though, was that I was going to be red, splotchy, and puffy onstage – with a migraine – from all of the sobbing. It was a very real concern.)
I hadn’t thought much about that day since then…until community group the other night. Those words resonated in my ears…in my mind…in my heart. I heard the words over and over, and I still am. The truth is that my panic leading up to my last speaking engagement was largely due to excessive concern over what my church community would think about me. Yes, I am certain that some of what I was feeling was due to spiritual attack. The enemy’s attack on spiritual leaders is real and violent. However, what I felt that day was different. It had its roots in something else.
I’ve had to ask myself honestly, “What concerns me more: what other people think, or what God thinks?” That is a very hard question to ask yourself, but I think it’s one we all have to ask ourselves at one time or another.
Whatever you do, work at it with all of your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. (Colossians 3:23)
Work hard, but not just to please your masters when they are watching. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. (Ephesians 6:6)
The question, ultimately, is not simply one of who we want to please. Ultimately, the question is of who it is that we work for. In the workplace, it is our boss that we want to see our good performance. Who is our boss? Who are we working to please? Whose pat on the back are we striving for?
His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ (Matthew 25:23)
If we are working for the Lord, we are giving Him authority over us. We are giving Him the right to say what is good and what is not. We are giving Him the power to declare what kind of job we are really doing. If we are working for people, though….we will never succeed. We will never, ever please everyone, and we will always feel like we are failing.
Working for God can save us from the rat race. It can save us from the desperate search for accolade and praise. It can lift us up from the meaningless pursuit of congratulations, raising us into a life of worship through work.
If we want to live balanced lives, we must have a realistic picture in our minds of why and for whom we are working. As long as we are placing emphasis on public opinion or our reputation, we’ll always be imbalanced. Again: if we are focusing on God, our work and our efforts there will be centered and balanced. If we are looking elsewhere, we are likely to fall.
In work, as in all other things, we have to maintain a focal point. We have to keep Christ at the center of our thoughts or we will default back to the standards of public expectation. How can we keep Jesus in the center of our consciousness at all times?
Listen to worship music as you work. Pray every day that God would grab your attention as you work. Ask Him to be glorified in the works of your hands. Pray without ceasing: “Come, Holy Spirit.”
The important thing is that in all you do – whether staying at home with small children or working in a corporate setting or speaking at your church – your focus is on the One who has called you to work in the first place. If you focus on working for Him, it will feel less like work and more like a calling. That’s something we can all appreciate.
“I hope my words and thoughts please you. Lord, you are my Rock, the one who saves me.” (Psalm 19:14)