If I’m being completely honest with myself, I have had two fears that have propelled much of my drive, but have simultaneously caused a lot of inconsistency and doubt in my life. I’ve had these two fears in the back of my mind for years. I can attribute much of my success and achievements to these fears; as well as some of my procrastination and hesitancy. The struggle is real, but I’m not sure if I want the struggle to go away. What do I fear the most?
The fear of settling
First, I fear reaching middle-age and having not accomplished much of anything in this world. I fear mediocrity. I fear complacency. I understand the comfort of many people’s interpretation of the American Dream: the ability to live a nice, quiet, middle-class life with a wife and 2.5 kids living in a nice home with a nice job, able to retire at a decent age to live out my life in peaceful mediocrity. That dream terrifies me. I know God has put big dreams in my heart, but as I’ve pursued my dreams I realize that even though I see the opportunities to have them come to fruition are there, it’s hard work. Thomas Edison said that “opportunity is missed by most because it is dressed in overalls and looks like hard work.”
I remember being a young boy and seeing starry eyed people with big dreams excitingly pursue them. As I’ve grown older I’ve also witness them get beat up in the hustle, and out of weariness give up and settle. As I’ve been in the battle myself I’ve felt the temptation to give up as well. How comfortable it would be to just give in and be normal! However, the terrifying idea of living a life of complacency has always caused me to push through, just one more day.
As I’m writing this I am turning 31 years old this year. I feel young (and by most people’s standards I am still very young) and I have tons of energy and drive in me. But, my 20’s are done and gone and it seems like they went by in a flash. I still feel like I’m in my 20’s, but I’m not! As I’ve been pondering that fact, this first fear has been more prevalent in my thinking. It pushes me to work when others are resting. It pushes me to learn and grow when others are playing and being entertained. However, this is just one of my fears.
The fear of wasting
My second (and more prevalent) fear is much more weighty. It’s the fear of reaching middle-age and accomplishing much in the eyes of the world – making a name for myself, building empires, winning friends, influencing people, traveling the world, living the dream… but accomplishing nothing of real eternal significance. A far greater tragedy than living a life of settling is the tragedy of living a life of greatness from the world’s viewpoint, but squandering it in the light of eternity. To “waste” something is to “employ uselessly or without adequate return”.
God’s word says,
“we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).
This is an incredible, yet terrifying truth when you think about it. First, it assumes that we were created for a purpose that transcends us. If God created us “to do good works” and if these works were “prepared in advance for us to do” then that means that we don’t get to determine what those good works are! Our job is to simply discover what those works are, and live them out. Second, it assumes not only is the purpose of our life set by God and not by us, it also assumes that since we are “God’s handiwork” then we are then held accountable by God to do these works He created us for. God has blessed me with life and everything in it. If I do not employ an “adequate return” on this gift of life I’ve been blessed with, then I have wasted it all.
Where these two fears intersect in my life personally stems from what I believe God has called me to. Keep in mind this is what I believe (which means I could be wrong) that God has called me to do (which means that even if I’m right, it doesn’t mean God has called anyone else to this). I’m just sharing my heart. Through lots of prayer, meditation on God’s word, and spending time in His presence I believe that God has called me to do four things with my life: discipleship, church planting, evangelism and world mission. Perhaps in another post I will explain each of these categories from my interpretation of them, but suffice it to say for now that God has called me to serve the church in those four areas. In other words, God has called me to be a minister of the church.
As a minister, the way I see it, there are at least two biblical ways to fund your ministry and provide a decent living and income for you and your family:
1) Receive financial support from the church; “church work” is your sole vocation
“For scripture says, ‘do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the gran,’ and ‘the worker deserves his wages.'” (1 Timothy 5:18)
2) Work in a trade as your vocation while simultaneously serving the church (bi-vocational ministry)
“…We worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.” (1 Thessalonians 2:9)
How this relates to my fears
The dreams God has put in my heart for making an eternal impact in this world before I die require millions of dollars. Again, this is for me specifically (it requires ZERO dollars to preach the gospel to someone, making an eternal impact in someone’s life). I’m talking about what I believe God has called me to do. I also believe that God has not called me to do it on the church’s dime, but rather through the means of entrepreneurship. This is why I own businesses. This is why I’m willing work like a Hebrew slave. This is why I’m driven in my vocation.
However, as I’ve pursued success in entrepreneurship I have realized how exhausting it can be. I have hardly any mental capacity to think theologically as I once did, and have had to put practical church ministry on the back burner. In this current season of my life God is growing me as an entrepreneur which at present requires too much thought, energy, and time to serve the church well, as I once have.
This scares me! My heart is wanting to serve like I used to, study theology like I used to, attend functions like I used to, plan outreaches and go on missions trips and lead classes and disciple men like I used to. However, the pursuit of success as an entrepreneur is consuming all of that time and thought that I once was able to give in service to the church. Though I believe this call to successful entrepreneurship is from God and to be used as a means for the call He has on my life to pursue radical service to the church, I still have those two lingering fears. What if I reach middle-age and I don’t achieve the success I believe is required to fulfill what God has called me to do? Would I have wasted all these years chasing the wind? Or, what if I do achieve the success (and even surpass it), yet in the process my heart gets cold and I abandon the pursuit of radical service to God’s church?
So, what do I do about these fears? I believe I need to do three things… First, I feel these are healthy fears to have, so long as they’re subjected to what God says. In other words, I need to take every thought captive, know where it’s coming from, and discern what God’s answer is to that thought (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Second, I need to continue in my resolve.
“A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:8)
A diligent man, however, sees a commitment through even when the feelings in which that commitment was made have left. I need to stay the course, understanding that faith is never 100% (if it was, then it wouldn’t be faith!).
Third, I need to learn that I can experience God in every season of my life. God is omnipresent – He is everywhere. He is not only in the prayer closet and in front of the pulpit, He’s also at my cluttered desk and in the conference room. I need to be conscious of God’s presence throughout the day, and aware of the opportunities He puts in front of me to be used wherever and whenever He wants to use me.
Now that I’ve been transparent with you, whoever’s reading this, here’s what my prayer for myself has been… Feel free to join me, or send a prayer up for me as well.
Lord, you know my heart and understand my fears – even better than I do. My desire is to serve you and to serve your people and make a lasting impact in this world by making a lasting impact for eternity. I believe that you’ve given me direction on how to do this – but I need daily reminders that I’m doing the right thing. I need you to confirm your word to me, and give me assurance and direction in the midst of carrying out what I believe you have called me to.
I also pray that in the midst of the busyness of life and all its demands you would help me see the doors of opportunity that are all around me to serve you and your people every day. I pray that you would help my perspective change to realize that ministry is every day – not just what I know you put on my heart for the future.
I pray that in my pursuit of success in business you would keep me. Stir a fresh fire in my heart and don’t let my passion for you grow cold. Don’t allow me to lose myself – who I know you’ve called me to be. Give me energy and strength and perseverance to run my race well.
Lord, the only thing I care about in this world is to know that when I reach the end of my life I can say with confidence “I have run my race. I’ve completed the good works you’ve prepared for me in advance”. I want more than anything to hear you say to me, “well done!” Help me hear those words, Lord. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen!