Questions (6 of 6)

Crucifix in sacristy window, Chartres Cathedral

I’m living with lot of questions lately. Burning, existential, spiritual questions. They keep bugging me and just have to be answered.

I suspect that part of the problem is that I don’t always really want to know the answers. But at the same time, I do want to know. It’s pretty obvious that I’m never going to be satisfied—or at peace—until I see what I need to see, and then act on the truth God reveals.

• What does it mean for me to be faithful to God?

• What does it mean for me to pick up my cross daily?

• What does God truly want me to give of myself and my resources in light of the gross inequities and great suffering for so many throughout the world?

I’m not looking for trite answers here. I already know what the Bible says about each of these questions. I’m trying to pierce the fog of self-deception and cultural blindness to see the truth about how I’m living out my faith (or not), what’s truly in my heart, and what Christ sees in me and in the world. I’m trying to be more open to hear how God wants to answer these questions for me.

I don’t have an axe to grind, and I’m not reacting. I want the Gospel I preach to others to revolutionize my own life in all of the ways that Jesus intended. And I want to better serve Christ and his kingdom, and not keep tripping so much over my own stubborn, self-centered, self-serving tendencies.

I feel calm when facing these questions, on one hand; and yet increasingly desperate, on the other. Not desperate so much out of anxiety or fear, but out of a growing sense of the enormous need in the world and my minuscule capacity to do much about it. I’d like to do more, and I’d like to be more.

And so, in my growing desperation, I’m becoming more and more aware that I have to make some choices—maybe some radical choices—if the future is going to be any different than the past. I’m talking about making changes in how I respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit in absolutely every context of my life, and in how I give of myself and my resources to others on a regular basis.

For example, I’m increasingly dissatisfied with my trying to have the best of both worlds. I have spent most of my life both attempting to enjoy a meaningful relationship with God and to minister effectively to others, while simultaneously living to please myself as much as possible. And it’s not working. Or at least, I’m not at all satisfied.

Some days, I feel overwhelmed by all these questions. At other times, when I am more grounded, I can let go of what is way outside of my control or understanding. When I feel well connected to God, I can rest in his grace and focus on what is within my power to do.

However, at the same, the Spirit is still calling for changes. I’m beginning to see that the question is not, “How much can I do for Christ and his kingdom, given that I will continue to serve myself as well as possible?” The question has increasingly become, “What could I do—or, better, what would God do through me—if only I would let go of my self-serving choices and behavior?”

The more I keep asking these questions, and am not be afraid of what the Holy Spirit might show me, the more I see that God is actually starting to answer them. He’s using the process of asking the same things over and over to change me in ways I resist, but like. Greater clarity and conviction are emerging little by little—not always with words or concepts, but I can feel the shifts, and I can see that I’m changing for the better.

I’m a bit uncomfortable with this process. I’m not in control, and I’m a little (a lot?) worried sometimes about where all this might go. At the same time, it feels right.

What questions are you living with right now? I’d really like to know how the Holy Spirit is bugging you…and changing you through the process.

A Prayer “Loving God, thank you for the questions that lead me to better places. Please draw me more fully into Jesus’ life and death. Please help me to not lose heart as I have to face the utter darkness, despair, and desperation of the cross. Give me courage and strength to die to myself, and lead me by your power to resurrection in every area of my life possible. May your good will be done.”

I’m writing from Chartres, France. When these words are posted, I will be teaching the The Spirit-Led Leader course at the Ukraine Evangelical Theological Seminary in Kiev. Please pray for Jill’s complete healing from her pulmonary embolism (see post “To Live or To Die”), and for my teaching and coaching of seminarians and pastors this spring ( Thank you. May this Easter week be a time both of dying to self and of experiencing resurrection for you.


Filed under Prayer, Reflections from Chartres

8 responses to “Questions (6 of 6)

  1. Cory, pastor

    Tim, this is . . . wow, this is good stuff. Thank you for writing again.

    I think I’m being bugged by questions too, but I’m a bit further behind in the process. You’re already beginning to face up to them seriously. I’m not sure that I am.

    For me the questions go something like this. I handle an enormous amount of responsibility and doing of stuff every day and every week, and when I get to the end of the day I hope that somewhere in the doing of all of it I did, in fact, pastor somebody. But did I? And do I really want to know the answer? Because if the answer was no, would I be willing to change? Would I rather sit in self-pity and false contrition and do nothing? Will I make the daily and weekly choice to get outside the walls? In the midst of ministry exhaustion (it has been the pre-Easter press after all)—and parenting exhaustion too—how much of me is “working for the weekend”? And finally, if my church grew by leaps and bounds, but none of the growth came from new believers, would I care enough to do something about it?

  2. Tim,
    After almost 40 years in ministry, my question is: am I really willing to follow God’s career plans for me – when they aren’t my own?
    Do I really believe He loves me AND yet let a church turn me out? And if His plans for me now don’t fit my own…
    Will I love Him still? Do I really believe He loves me?
    Like you said, I preach the correct answer, but can I walk this unknown path myself?

  3. Pingback: Some Healthy Spiritual Questions For Leaders « Thoughts On The Church & Leadership

  4. Canon Emmanuel

    Dear Tim,
    Thank for sharingthes practical questions. I found myself having the same questions im spirtual and pastoral ministry.My parayer is that God my continue to shape me in way He himself wants me to be because my daily question is How can I serve God better than I am serving Him.
    Have a blessed Holy Week and Easter experience.
    Canon Emmanuel

  5. Cory, pastor

    Tim . . . as I reflect on my questions, I see that a lot of them go something like, “If X happened (or if I became aware of X), then would I Y?” It’s hypothetical. And the upshot is that my fear about my response to Y prevents me from looking squarely at X—including if X is even real. So in other words, what happens when the questions swirl around is that I shut down and don’t really want to go there. But in the long run that’s unproductive. It’s also impractical, because I’m jumping ahead.

    And here’s another question or group of questions that connect to this. Seeing as I’m asking whether I’m really, truly pastoring people, what evidence of my effectiveness am I really looking for? And in fact, am I really looking for evidence of effectiveness, or am I actually looking for fame, for example? Who am I looking to to measure my effectiveness?

    One thing that definitely connects to all this is fear of shame. This is a new opportunity for me to affirm my glory in Christ alone and detach kingdom effectiveness from personal worth.

    Sheesh, this is getting deeper than I thought. On the one hand I’m not entirely comfortable with putting this in public, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m not the only reader who goes through this. I’m blessed by Jim’s comments, for example.

  6. Andrew

    What a wonderfully well asked and vulnerable series of questions!

    A similar question I continue to challenge myself with is, “What if Jesus really meant what He said?” – or – “How would I live my life If I truly believed Jesus meant what He said?” Because what He says is “sell everything and follow me”. Of course we know from Luke 18 that the rich man walked away and he was left sad… or as we are describing in this conversation he was ‘dissatisfied’.

    So often I do the same! I follow the commandments, I’m a ‘good christian’ but then I wonder why I still sometimes walk away sad and dissatisfied just like the rich man in the story.

    There is only one joy that overcomes this dissatisfaction, and it’s described in many other parts of the bible. In the parable of the hidden treasure, out of uncontrollable JOY he gets rid of everything because he has found the treasure.

    Or what about when Zacchaeus, out of great JOY, paid back four times everyone he cheated and gave half of everything else back to God. Jesus responds by saying “Today salvation has come on this place”.

    Reading these scriptures has one of two effects on us. So often we hold something back from God and try to claim it as our own. The effect is, just like the rich man, we deny picking up our cross and therefore deny Jesus and walk away sad. However, if we can truly living in such a way that gives a resounding YES to the original question, that we believe Jesus truly meant what He said, then we come away with great joy!

    It’s true… if we lose our life for His sake we will save it! Let’s press on in action.

  7. ‘I’m trying to pierce the fog of self-deception and cultural blindness to see the truth about how I’m living out my faith (or not)…I’m trying to be more open to hear how God wants to answer these questions for me.”

    My thoughts exactly.

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