Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Don’t Settle for the Status Quo

Leslie Basham: While serving in ministry, Nancy Leigh DeMoss sometimes feels like she doesn’t have anything left to give.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I find myself, at times, really resenting the very people the Lord has called me to love and serve. 

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, June 18, 2014.

When you serve others, do you ever find that you’ve stopped doing it out of love? There’s a danger in resenting those who we’re called to serve.

Nancy will provide perspective on that topic as she continues in a series called, “Potential Pitfalls of Ministry.” Nancy delivered this message at a Revive Our Hearts conference designed for women’s ministry leaders.

Whether you’re officially in ministry or not, I think you’ll get a lot out of this message.  Everyone is a leader to someone, and we all need to learn to serve with a loving heart.

If you missed any of the programs this week, you can hear Nancy’s first four points in this message by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com. She’ll pick back up with another pitfall of ministry.

Nancy: Number five, another pitfall is: Leaving the Pathway of Humility. It’s the pitfall of pride. We become so easily, in ministry, self-absorbed, self-centered, enamored with ourselves, concerned about, “How does this impact me?”

It reminds me of King Saul in the Old Testament. Do you remember when he was first anointed king, he was a big tall man, but had such a sense of inadequacy and need, but he began to get “I” trouble, to see himself as big and God as little. 

It happens. We get to the point that we are no longer little in our eyes. Do you remember  when someone approached you and said, "We in you a heart for God. We wonder if you would take this area of responsibility."

And you are going, "Who, me? Me, lead a Bible class? Are you kidding? I, I, I can't talk. I can't teach. I can't lead."

But you prayed about it, and God gave you faith, and you stepped out into the deep. Now it is twelve years later, and you've realized that you have some gifts in this area. You've gotten good at this. People respect you; they look up to you; they line up for appointments with you. They are sending you emails asking for help with this and that.

Are you still little in your own eyes, or have you gotten big in your own eyes? We start to believe our own press. We secretly relish hearing our name mentioned, and we want to be sure that we get the credit we deserve for our accomplishments.

I can only talk to you about this because I know what it is to have those thoughts in my own heart. We’re proud of what we know, proud of what we’ve done, proud of our reputation as a ministry. No longer surprised that God would use us. We become blind to our own needs—everybody else can see them, but we can’t. We’re not soliciting counsel and input from others, which is one of the primary marks of a wise person in Proverbs is that they solicit counsel.

When was the last time you went to someone who knows you well and said, “Are there any blind spots in my life that others may be seeing but I’m not?” The founder of our ministry, who’s now with the Lord, used to say, “The last guy to know that he’s got a rip in his jacket is the guy who’s got it on.”

Are you teachable when people do come and try and correct you, challenge you? Do you have a servant’s heart? Lack of a servant’s heart is an evidence of pride, love of the praise of men, easily offended if not recognized, appreciated, and thanked. Are you elated by praise? If you are, you will be deflated by criticism.

Professionalism—that’s another symptom of pride. The larger the ministry, the larger the organization, the great the tendency to become professionals rather than humble servants. We have an image to maintain, a reputation to live up to, and people look up to us. So it gets harder to be transparent, to be vulnerable, to be honest about our needs.

Let me tell you another area where pride comes out in ministries, and I want to just challenge you as women’s ministry leaders in your local church to be really, really careful about criticizing other leaders . . . . criticizing your pastor, criticizing the elders, criticizing the staff. Let’s just all start by agreeing that they are human and flawed like we are, right? Some of them maybe more so than others.

I’m not saying they don’t have issues, but when we’re proud, we don’t give others room to fail. We don’t give others room to be in a place of growth, in a process. If you find yourself talking to others in the church or in your family about the faults of those that you serve with, or under, then that’s a symptom of a proud heart. You’ve left the pathway of humility.

Now, you can talk to God about it. Become an intercessor rather than a critic. William Gurnell, again, let me quote him, said,

Knowing your strength lies wholly in God, and not in yourself, remain humble, even when God is blessing and using you most. [I would just say, especially when God is blessing and using you most.] God’s favor is neither the work of your own hands nor the price of your own worth. How can you boast about what you did not buy? If you would embezzle God’s strength, and credit it to your own account [you take credit for what God is doing in and through you] He will soon call an audit, and take back what was His all along.

Searching words, yes?

Here are the questions:

  • “Am I walking in humility?”
  • “Am I amazed that God would use me?”
  • “Do I have a teachable spirit; do I have a servant’s heart?”
  • “Am I committed to make those around me a success?”
  • “Do I esteem all others as better than myself?”

Number six, here’s another pitfall: Settling for the Status Quo. What do we mean by that? It’s coming to the place where we walk by sight, instead of by faith. Where we “rest on our laurels.” We’re satisfied with what God has done in the past and not believing Him for God-sized things today and in the future. We’re just content to keep the machinery going.

My dad, I don’t know how many times when we were growing up, would quote this—it’s not original with him—he would say, “Attempt something so impossible that unless God is in it, it’s doomed to failure.”

What are you attempting in your church ministry, wherever God has you serving, that if God’s not in it, there isn’t any way it’s going to happen. Where are you stretching out by faith? I love the story in Joshua 14 of Caleb, who at eighty-five years of age says, “Find me a nice retirement home.” No way! The man says, “I want another mountain to conquer. I want more territory for the glory of God.”

I can remember as a younger woman asking the Lord, “Lord, I want to be like Caleb. Would You let me serve You until I’m eighty-five years old?” Now, I will confess that once I hit fifty I wasn’t quite as eager to pray about getting to eighty-five. I’m not sure why that is, I guess I just live a little more tired these days.

I am looking forward to what’s beyond this life, but I want—however long or short it is—if God will give me the eighty-five, I want to be walking by faith! I don’t want to just settle in to be content with the status quo.

  • “Am I exercising faith in the power of God?”
  • “Am I seeking God for fresh vision and opportunities?”
  • “What am I believing God for that only He can do?”

I can tell you that when we started Revive Our Hearts, I was in my early forties and brim full of vision and faith, scared but knowing that God was bigger, and ready to launch out into the deep with Him. Now we’ve been in the deep awhile, and I find as I get older, when I get challenged to step out further into the deep, I find myself wanting to pull back some.

I find myself not wanting to be as adventurous, not wanting to be as courageous, not wanting to look foolish for stepping out into the deep. In fact, when we talked about doing this conference, that was “deep” for me. We’d never done anything like this before, and honestly—our team will tell you—it took me quite a while to say, “Let’s go for it,” because I was kind of wanting to measure things. “Are we sure can do this? Are we sure we can pull it off? Do we have the resources financially and the strength and the ability to do this?”

Yes, we need to count the cost, but when it comes down to it, when God is saying, “Let’s move forward,” I want to be willing to move forward and to say, “Yes, Lord, we’ll walk by faith.”

Three more. Number seven pitfall is: Serving Without Love. You know the two greatest commandments, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength,” and the second, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If those are the two greatest commandments, what would be the two greatest sins? Could it be that the two greatest sins are to love God with less than all of my being, and not to love others as I love myself?

Love for God, love for the people that we serve with, love for one another within our ministries. I know within our team, we work together, we’ve had team members who’ve been with us for years, and they’re so faithful. It’s easy to take each other for granted or to start to not assume the best about each other, to hold each other to impossible perfectionistic standards, to not love the people we’re serving with.

First Corinthians 13, that’s a great measurement, isn’t it? Do I have the kind of love for those on my women’s ministry team, for those on our team, your church staff? Do you love them in a way that meets that 1 Corinthians 13 love? And then love for those that we’re serving. There’s probably no one here like this other than me, but I’ll just be honest and tell you, difficult people annoy me.

I'm going to take a risk here, when I say "high maintenance woman," do you know who I mean? Do you have some of those in your church? HMW—high maintenance women? Now, you've probably never done this, but there are times when I’ve thought, I don’t have anything left to give. I see that high maintenance woman coming, and I find myself, at times, really resenting the very people the Lord has called me to love and serve.

What is ministry if we don’t love the Lord and those with whom we serve, and those we’re called to serve? What is it? It’s nothing. It’s a loss, it’s a waste, it’s a failure . . . zero, zilch, nada . . . it’s worse than that . . . it’s making a lot of noise, doing a lot of stuff.

Now I'll just tell you this: I don't have a lot of love for HMW's (that's a new term, HMW, high maintenance women). So where do we get that love? There are some days when my love for Christ really wanes, too, and so you can’t work it up. That’s when we go in humility to Christ and to His cross and say, “O Lord, I am selfish. I love me more than I love anything or anyone else, and I don’t have the energy, the capacity, the strength to give and love and serve, but I know You do.

Would you fill me with your Spirit? Would you love these HMW's through me? Would you love these people on our staff, the people—maybe it’s the person you report to, who doesn’t really have a heart for women’s ministry like you wish they would, maybe you find yourself being critical and not treating with respect and encouragement and grace the leadership that God has placed in your church. You've become a thorn in their flesh. Maybe you've become an HMW to your pastor. Ask God to give you His love.

  • “Is my service motivated by genuine love for God and others?”
  • “Am I an encourager, a cheerleader for my fellow staff.”
  • “Do I pray for, support and lift up the hands of those entrusted with the leadership of the church or the ministry where I serve?”

Number eight: Losing Perspective. This is where we lose sight of the big picture, and it’s so dangerous. I think we do this in two ways. Number one: We forget how big God is, and that leads to discouragement, because the problems mount bigger and bigger and they seem bigger than God. We lose heart. We think, What’s the use? The enemy is so great. This whole church is full of HMW's. Nobody cares about women’s ministry, or Satan has got just such a toehold.

We forget how big God is, which is why praise is so important. We keep reminding ourselves how big God is. I love this quote, love it, love it, love it. It’s by G. Campbell Morgan; I need it all the time. He says, “The supreme need in every hour of difficulty and distress is for a fresh vision of God. Seeing Him, all else takes on proper perspective and proportion.”

"Turn your eyes upon Jesus, and the things of this earth (all those HMW's) will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace." Listen, they are not high maintenance for God.

Have you forgotten how big God is? Do you remember that story in 2 Kings chapter 6 where Elisha’s house was surrounded by the Syrian army, and the servant looked out the window and all he could see were the enemy’s troops, and they were surrounded. He was desperate, “What are we going to do?”

And Elisha prayed, “O God, open his eyes so he can see what’s really out there.” Those enemy troops were out there, but when the man had eyes of faith to see the supernatural realm, what did he see? He saw that the hills were filled with chariots and horses of fire; the angelic heavenly hosts were all there, surrounding the enemy. They had been there all along, but the servant just hadn’t seen them until his eyes were opened.

No matter how many HMW's there are in your ministry, no matter how many obstacles, no matter how many frustrations and struggles and problems and challenges, God is bigger. He is bigger; He is greater; He is able. Don’t forget how big God is. If you do, you’ll become discouraged. You’ll get caught up in the little daily frustrations and annoyances, organizational issues. Ask God to give you eyes of faith, to see spiritual realities.

Oswald Chambers said it this way, “Our circumstances are the means of manifesting how wonderfully perfect and extraordinarily pure the Son of God is.” 

Not only do we forget how big God is, but we forget how little we are. That leads to pride, self-sufficiency. Oh ladies, we’ve got to remember that we have this surpassing treasure of the life of Christ in earthen vessels . . . clay pots. That’s all we are. The surpassing treasure is not us, it’s Christ, and in our weakness and in our frailty and in our littleness—do you just feel so little sometimes?—I feel it so much of the time. I think, Lord, what You’re doing, and what You’re asking us to do—who is adequate for these things? The answer is, “No one but Jesus.”

I say, “Okay, Lord, I’m a clay pot.” It’s not the instrument, it’s not the servant. If we forget how little we are, we lose perspective.

  • "Does my life demonstrate a conviction that God is omnipotent and sovereign?" 
  • "Do you need a perspective adjustment?"

And number nine, here’s another pitfall: Seeking Comfort and Convenience. This expresses itself in some different ways. I think one way is that we grow weary in well-doing. We get weary of the battle, weary of the race. If you are not energized and fueled and enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit of God, you will get weary in well-doing. You will get discouraged; you will give up; you will want more comfort, more convenience.

We become more vulnerable, I’m convinced, to this pitfall the longer we’re in ministry. We begin to think subtly, “Look how much I’ve sacrificed, look how much I’ve given up, look how many late nights"—I honestly had this thought in the middle of the night, last night. “Do these women know that, for one thing, at 11:30 last night I realized I did not have my notes for this message with me?” I brought the wrong file, so I was up reconstructing. Feel sorry for me, okay? I'm being an HMW, right?

There are times when you’re thinking, Everybody else that I’m serving has gone to bed, they’re getting a good night’s sleep . . . they don’t have to do this on Saturday night . . . but look at what . . . And we begin to think, I deserve a break today. I can feel free to sin . . . not any great big sins, but just  . . . give me comfort. Food! I think we hit a nerve there.

We want to coast; we want to let down our guard; we’ve done so much. Second Samuel chapter 11 is a really, really important chapter. David stayed home in the palace at the time that kings go out to battle, and he got in trouble. He was in his fifties, probably, after years of serving the Lord, and loving God, and writing psalms and all kinds of things like that. Don’t think it can’t happen to you!

It’s one of the biggest reasons for moral failure among people in ministry, because they get discouraged, or they get to thinking that they deserve a break. They want comfort; they want convenience; they want pleasure, and it happens in a progression, with little things first, perhaps, and then in bigger areas . . . wanting to coast.

The battle didn’t need David, but David needed the battle. As I get older, I find myself thinking, “I’d just like to have a more normal life, and not have to be so stretched and pulled with so many demands.” God apparently knows I need those demands in my life, to protect me, to keep me leaning hard on Him.

There’s a danger of riding the spiritual coattails of others, becoming careless, lacking vigilance, letting your guard down because we want comfort and convenience. 

One old-time writer said it this way, "Let us press on in patient self-denial. Accept the hardship. Shrink not the loss. Our portion lies beyond the hour trial; our crown beyond the cross."

I love that prayer of David Livingstone’s—I’ve prayed it many times over the years, “Lord, send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me. Sever every tie but the tie that binds me to Thy service and Thy heart.”

Ladies, the servant is not greater than his or her master, and our Master walked a blood-stained road. “Must I be carried to the skies on flow’ry beds of ease, while others fought to win the prize and sailed through bloody seas?” There’s a time coming for comfort, there’s a time coming for the end of the battle, but that time is not now.

Ask yourself these questions,

  • “If the church or the ministry where I serve were no more virile than my walk with God, what would be the condition of the ministry?”
  • “Am I self-seeking, or self-denying?”
  • Have I surrendered all my rights to myself, to my personal desires, comfort, and convenience?”

Let me close where we started this session by saying, "Ministry is an awesome privilege, but it is also an awesome stewardship and a huge responsibility." We have to press on day after day after day as those who will one day give an account. But also, as one day those who will receive a great reward. Don't lose sight of that.

There's a great little picture of that little nugget buried in Ezra chapter 8. I just want to draw your attention there. As Ezra was getting ready to leave Babylon and take a group of exiles back to Jerusalem, he called for a select group of men—twelve of them priests.

In verse 24, he handed over to their keeping all the gold and the silver and the precious vessels that had been donated to the temple in Jerusalem.

Now, they had a journey of 900 miles ahead of them. He put these precious gifts into their hands, and then he said to them, "You are holy unto the Lord, and the vessels are holy, and the silver and the gold are a freewill offering to the Lord God of your fathers. Watch them and keep them until you weigh them before the chief priests . . . in the chambers in the house of the Lord" (vv. 28–29).

You're given this treasure. You're told to hold on to it, to watch it, to guard it, to keep it. Because, one day you're going to have to give an account when you get to the end of your journey.

In verse 31 the Scripture says, "Then we departed from the river Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go to Jerusalem. The hand of our God was on us, and he delievered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambushes by the way. . . . On the fourth day [after they arrived in Jerusalem] within the house of our God, the silver and the gold and the vessels were weighed into the hands of [and it names the priests] . . . the whole was counted and weighed, and the weight of everything was recorded" (vv. 31, 33–34).

I think that's a helpful picture of the fact that God has put into our hands and incredible treasure—the gospel, the ministry of the gospel, the people whose lives we serve. People who need the gospel are that treasure, that stewardship. It has been weighed into our hands as precious treasure.

On our journey, as was true of the Jews in Ezra's day, there are ambushes along the way. There are enemies; there is opposition. If we do not have the hand of our God upon us, we will not make it—but we do have the hand of our God upon us, as they did.

He is accompanying us, going with us and alongside us and in front of us and behind us to deal with the enemies along the way. They are His to deal with, not yours. Soon, relatively speaking, we'll be at that heavenly temple in the presence of our Great High Priest.

Oh, can you imagine the joy when we are able to hand Him those treasures—those lives He entrusted to our care , the incredible message of the gospel. We can give Him all those treasures and we can say, "It's all here. It's all accounted for. You kept me. You helped me keep it. Now I'm giving it all back to You. It's all by Your grace. It's all accounted for. It's all, all, all for You."

Don't you think that at that moment every hard day, every tear that was shed, every obstacle that you faced, every burden that you bore here on earth will seem like dust, feathers, nothing, in light of that exceeding, eternal, great reward that we will share in His presence?

So my prayer for you is that God will keep His hand on you, and keep you faithful all the way to the finish line.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been encouraging you to keep serving faithfully in the role God has given you.

Nancy first delivered that message to a group of women’s ministry leaders at Revive '11, a Revive Our Hearts conference.

As a ministry, we’re limited in what we can do. That’s why we’re committed to helping leaders in your church and community who are on the front lines of ministry.  

That’s why we hope to see as many women’s ministry leaders as possible at the True Woman '14 conference. Before the conference starts on October 9, these leaders are invited to a half-day gathering to meet one another and share ideas. Nancy Leigh DeMoss and our friend Leslie Bennett will speak. 

It’s a time to be better encouraged, energized, and equipped for ministry. Space is limited and filling up fast. Visit ReviveOurHearts.com to get more information on joining us October 9. 

A typical church includes a lot of people hiding a lot of pain. Nancy Rach knows this, because for years, she covered the pain of past abuse. She’ll show you how to be honest about the hurt and find healing in Christ. She’ll be here tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture was taken from the English Standard Version.

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