What Do You Treasure? On Deception, the Heart, and Ministry

Before I entered full-time ministry, it truly was not a struggle to spend time with the Lord daily. That sounds crazy, I know, but it’s true. Even when I was working crazy hours on Capitol Hill and volunteering part-time with The Gathering, I still reached for my Bible and gave it my full attention at least once a day. I rarely missed a day. But this season has been different. Full-time vocational ministry is full of daily struggles and victories and is more spiritually challenging than anything I have experienced before. This dichotomy pushes me to spend time in the Word every day and to be more like Christ, so that I can be a more effective minister of the Gospel.

However, I often struggle to balance investing in others while also investing in myself and my own spiritual life. I also struggle to delegate and equip others rather than just doing everything myself and in my own power. Now, all too often, I am distracted by yet another need or task and have to remind myself frequently that I need to put my time with the Lord before everything else. He must be my first priority! My two years in vocational ministry have taught me that ministry absolutely must be driven by the overflow of Christ in my heart. If ministry is driven by my will, rather than by my love for Him, it is meaningless. Likewise, I have also learned that my passion for ministry must be exceeded by my passion for Christ Himself. Jesus is not only my motivation; He is my treasure.

Just as the man who found the treasure hidden in a field in Matthew 13 and sold everything he had to buy the field, I want to live my life in passionate pursuit of Christ, regardless of the cost.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
(Matthew 13:44-46 ESV)

While these verses reference the kingdom of God, the Lord has used them recently to show me much about my own heart. It is so easy to think that just because I’m pouring out my life in ministry, that Christ Himself is my treasure. When you sacrifice much for ministry, it’s easy to point to your clear prioritization of people as prioritization of the Lord Himself. Unfortunately, I’ve found that in the midst of rushing around to accomplish things and do ministry, it is simple to begin to treasure the ministry above Christ.

It’s a slow transformation.  One day you wake up and realize that your identity is completely wrapped up in your ministry – how successful you are, the ministry’s growth, and even how your leaders are doing spiritually themselves. Jeremiah 17:9 says “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

I’m thankful for the discipline of the Lord. I’m so grateful that He is willing to pursue and recapture my heart and redirect my attention back to Himself. I’m thankful that He is a jealous God and that He will not allow my heart to be satisfied outside of Himself. Don’t allow ministry, even great ministry, to replace Christ’s position in your heart. He, and He alone, is your treasure. Cherish your people. Treasure your God. Don’t allow the lines to be blurred. 

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A More Worthy Pursuit

A goal of mine used to be to read all of the U.S. Presidents and First Ladies’ autobiographies and any books they have authored (and it’s quite an extensive list). I love history and politics. I’ve always loved reading and I have many lists of books that I’d love to add to my library. Today I decided that a more important goal is reading all of these: http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/OnlineBooks/ByTitle/

I waste too much time. I find that I talk a lot about valuing the eternal more than I value the here and now. But sometimes that’s a bit more difficult to actually live out. It means we have to really take a magnifying glass to our choices. We have to recognize that where we spend our limited time and energy highlights what we truly value. I want to value my relationship with God more than I value music, novels, shopping, academic pursuits, friends, and even ministry. I want to be constantly ingesting and absorbing books, sermons, and Scripture that bring me closer to Christ.

I want to really value Christ and live my life in constant pursuit of Him. I don’t want there to be a day that goes by that I’m not made more like Him. He, and He alone, is a worthy pursuit.

So does that mean I need to stop watching shows on Hulu, stop frequenting Ann Taylor and Forever21, and sell all my books on politics? Not exactly. What it does mean is that I need to more closely monitor how I spend my time and realign my priorities when I realize that the things of this world are crowding out my pursuit of Christ.

Something God  has been speaking to me about throughout this last week is how easily distracted I am by life. And not just by the hard things of life, but by the pleasures of life as well. The primary take away from this Easter season was I don’t love my Lord as I should because I don’t give Him the time that I should. He’s also reminded me that all the things of this life are worthless compared to knowing Him. The Apostle Paul learned this lesson as well:

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:7-11

Would we say that a man loved a woman (or a woman loved a man) if they infrequently or sporadically spent time together, talked, or shared their lives? Unless there are extenuating circumstances that prevented communication for a time, most would consider that to be an incredibly unhealthy relationship. Couples in love delight to sacrifice other things to spend time with the one they love. After all, my boyfriend Josh is correct in his frequent assertion that “time spent is relationship built.”

So what relationship am I building? Am I growing in my knowledge of Christ and the power of his resurrection? The fellowship of sharing in his sufferings? Becoming like him in his death? Does everything I do reflect my love for him and time spent with him in his Word?

Wow. These are the things (growing, sharing, becoming) that are a worthy pursuit.