Anonymous asked: For the past 2 years I’ve been in a stagnant spiritual state. I always feel exhausted in my walk with God. And more and more I’m starting to lose the enthusiasm and life I had before. How do you find rest in your spiritual walk? I’ve tried reading my bible more often, and thinking things through but I just can’t find a place to regenerate.
Unka Glen answered: You’re not alone, I get lots of questions just like this one. So let’s look at one big key to getting out of this stagnation.
Many people stagnate in their walk because they fail to realize that they’re simply not getting real ministry in their lives. So let’s define ministry. Assuming (as we do) that the Holy Spirit is drawing all people to Himself, then ministry is about removing the obstacles that hinder that forward progress. That is, telling them the Good News that sets them free to be closer with the Lord.
Most often this obstacle or pitfall that holds us back is simply a lie that we’ve bought into. This lie is at usually at the center of a complex of unhealthy thoughts, unhealthy relationships, and unhealthy actions. Ministry obviously isn’t about pointing out that lie.
Telling us that we’re in a pit does nothing to help. Telling us we need to get out of the pit does not help. Telling us we never should have been walking where the pitfalls are, does not help. We need to know how, exactly, to get out of the pit.
We need to be set free.
Jesus said he was sent to proclaim freedom for the prisoners (Luke 4:18), Paul said that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Cor. 3:17), and he even said (in Gal.5:1) that “it’s for freedom that we were set free” (just in case you got confused about what to do with freedom once you got it).
Okay, all that is simple. Once you get your insight, once you hear those words that break down the lie, you’re ready to take things to the Lord and plant seeds of truth where those lies have been uprooted. But here’s the thing: as you can see from my description, if you were being ministered to all along, it would be pretty much impossible to stagnate.
You may think you’re getting ministered to when in fact you aren’t. So let’s look at some things that we mistake for ministry:
The Xtreme Radical Passion Crazy Conference Concert. You know the kind of event I’m talking about. Those events can be great for hearing some music that you may like, and having a very emotionally uplifting time, and all of that can be good, if you already know how to get out of the pit, and you just need a little encouragement to power you on your way.
But encouragement and exhortation, as important as they are, cannot be a substitute for actual ministry. There is no nourishment there, and there isn’t meant to be any. It’s like eating cotton candy, it tastes good, it’s fun, and it kinda makes you smile to eat something that’s pink and looks like an old lady’s hairdo. Ultimately, what is life without a little cotton candy now and again?
But you can’t live on cotton candy. You need real spiritual nutrition. And the truth is, the smaller the venue, the more likely you are to receive good minsitry. As a very good pastor recently said to me, “if I don’t know my people’s struggles, how can I minister to them?”
People who know your struggles, and who know the Word, and know how to put the two together can give you the help you seek. That can happen at a conference, or any large group setting, but odds are you’re much more likely to get good ministry out of a good mentor you can talk to face-to-face.
Your Positive Best Life of Thinking Positive Now! Again, you know the books I’m talking about. Positive thinking is powerful, and it’s an essential part of a good walk, but it isn’t ministry. One of my favorite things to do is to wait until we’re deep into a sticky and life-threatening situation (which does come up occasionally in our urban ministry), and then I jokingly say, “the important thing in this moment is to think positive!”
When the Titanic plows into the iceberg in the night, we don’t need positive thinking, we need to know how to get off the flippin’ sinking ship. Right. Now. Thinking positive is for afterwards. If you know what’s ministry and what isn’t, then you can make sure you get the information that will set you free, and then the encouragement you need to keep going with that solution.
Kiss Goodbye Whatever Makes You Feel Good, Because It’s an Idol. If I put guilt on you, and then you stop doing the thing I made you feel guilty over, for some people, that seems like great spiritual progress. It’s not. It’s just playing games. If all we achieved is me manipulating you to denying yourself pleasures that God may actually want for you, (albeit in a certain limited and controlled way) then you’re not closer to God, you’re closer to resenting God.
Moreover, the guilt itself will have driven you further from God, with you feeling less and less worthy of God’s love. This process of putting people into the bondage of guilt, is essentially the opposite of ministry. You can’t trade the bondage of sin for the bondage of guilt and call that progress. You know it’s ministry when you are set free.
Paul criticizes the Corinthians in 2 Cor. 11:20, by saying “You even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you”. And to the Galatians who were being manipulated into making a big deal out of circumcision “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.” (Gal. 5:7-8).
There are sermons and songs and even good conversations over coffee that can set you free. Those things that truly minister to you can require a bit of digging to find, but that stuff is out there to be found. Recognize real ministry when you see it, and settle for nothing less.