Is your ministry your identity?
Noah Ho // August 30, 2020, 11:57 am
Growing up, I stepped into leadership too quickly which hampered my relationship with God.
I was not grounded in the Bible, lacked prayer and indeed a love for God. However, I quickly accepted and took “a step of faith” to be a leader in one of the ministries.
Somehow, subtly and unknowingly, I was brought into a state where I believed what set me apart from the rest was the fact that I was a leader. I even thought that my spiritual life was in a better state than others – and that was why I was chosen as a spiritual leader!
Quickly going from member to leader grew the pride within me which I didn’t even know I had. I was too insensitive to sin to realise that.
THE PITFALL OF PRIDE
Looking back, I can see myself in 1 Timothy 3:6, “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.”
In context, 1 Timothy 3 is about the qualifications of an elder, but I also think it relates to being put into leadership too quickly as well.
As I became increasingly blinded by pride, I had forgotten that the privilege of being in ministry and serving was because of God’s work in my life.
I should have known that it is God who gives me the capacity for what I can do for the ministry. As 1 Corinthians 3:7 reminds us, “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”
Self-image was very important to me even before I was put into a leadership position, so it grew even more as a leader.
I felt that as a spiritual leader, I could not be vulnerable. I was afraid of how it would all turn out if they knew about my struggles, worried that I would be looked at differently.
That was when I started putting up walls, because I thought a leader was someone who needed to portray himself as being spiritually “on point” in his walk with God.
I had completely forgotten that God’s power is made perfect in weakness! There was behavioural modification in my life, but no genuine inward transformation of my heart.
ASHAMED AND AFRAID
Opening up and being transparent with my life was something I was ashamed and afraid to do.
I was caught up with how others looked at me and not how God looked at me. My identity was founded upon whether I did my job right, and I looked to the approval of others around me to validate my love for God and the idea that I was doing well spiritually.
I never considered that my weaknesses were key to my usefulness in my service towards Christ. I forgot how to be weak, because I masked my weaknesses to show others that I was doing well spiritually when in fact I was not.
I knew how to act like a Christian and talk the talk, but not walk the talk.
My whole identity and worth were earned by who I was towards the Christians around me, how they looked up to me and valued the hard work I put in for the ministry.
Ministry became a competition, a race towards the spotlight or platform to be that spiritual leader everyone looks up to.
PUTTING DOWN MY PRIDE
But God led me out of this flawed perspective when I was finally willing to surrender my life to Him and walk in obedience.
Being willing to surrender was a huge struggle for me, but I remember reading and meditating on the gospel in Romans 5, when my heart overflowed with gratitude towards Jesus who loved me and gave His life for me (Galatians 2:20).
This gratitude caused me to rise above my fears and run into the loving arms of Jesus, who promised that His yoke is easy and burden light.
As I laid down my insecurities and my sins before God, peace and joy invaded my soul like never before. For the first time, I knew I had tasted the love of God through gospel-centred obedience.
It was not behaviour modification that I was trying to pursue any longer – my heart’s desires had changed to want to honour God in all that I do.
I had found healing to my unhappy soul in God.
MAKING A CHANGE
I still struggle with pride today, but my focus has shifted and I know where my identity and dependence lie in.
Now my concern is not with what others might think of me – but how God views my life.
The struggle to protect my reputation began to fade when I found my contentment in God, allowing Him to be the judge and defender of my life.
Humility took away the desire to appear as other than what I actually am. How we appear to God accounts for everything, how we appear to others matters infinitely less.
We need humility if we want our love for God and for others to grow.
For too long, I felt the need to mask what I feel or that I couldn’t be transparent with my sins since I had the mentality that people would not look up to me as a leader if they truly knew me.
But when my eyes were open to what God was convicting me of, I was delivered from the burden of pretence – of needing to keep up a good image in front of others.
I saw that being transparent with my struggles isn’t a sign of weakness. So I’ve now learnt to be transparent with the people in my ministry and to personally confess my sins to them.
I thank God for giving me eyes to see the truth: if I was stripped bare of my work and service, I would have lost all my self-worth because my identity was never in Christ to begin with.
The love that God poured into my heart that day helped me to break loose of the pride, fear and shame I was holding on to and cling to Him instead.
His love humbled me to recognise my sin and brought me back to ministry for the right reasons, knowing who I am in Christ.
I still don’t have it all together today, and I daily need God’s grace to guide me through life so I don’t fall into the trap of chasing the approval of man.
But having understood God’s love for me, my love for Him is growing – as well the love for others! We need humility if we want our love for God and for others to grow.
THINK + TALK
- Recall a time when you were proud.
- How did God humble you?
- What does the Bible say about pride and humility?
- What does living out humility look like for you?