EVERY LEADERS BIGGEST STRUGGLE AND HOW TO FIGHT IT
If nothing else will distract a leader, discouragement will.
And if nothing else will discourage a leader, comparing himself with others will.
Envy is the great disabler. And sometimes it disables me. Here I am, constantly going for God while the stress and the pressure of ministry seems never to go away. When I dwell on this, I’m in a turmoil that feels like it just won’t end.
I found comfort in my encounter with Psalm 73 a couple of weeks ago. The psalmist confesses his own envy. In his case, he’s looking at the lives of godless men and women who seem to be on Easy Street despite their sin. But in spite of his devotion to God, all he faces day after day are “new punishments” (vv. 2-14).
“My feet had almost slipped,” he admits. “I had nearly lost my foothold” (v. 2). What saved him? Entering the “sanctuary of God” (v. 17).
And I realized that comparing myself with others will always undo me. The things of this world are temporary, “but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (vv. 25, 26).
Empowering the Enemy
Church leaders, like any Christian, may be tempted to envy the apparent successes of the world. But church leaders are especially vulnerable to another kind of envy: comparing ourselves to the seeming success of other leaders.
Here’s what Christian ministers usually ask when they meet other pastors: “How’s your church doing?” The answer they always expect includes numbers. The numbers they hear are always either smaller or larger than their own numbers. And the temptation is to respond with either pride in the first case or envy in the second.
It’s so easy for the pastor to develop an addiction to growth that replaces a devotion to Jesus. Don Wilson told me, “When you’re addicted to growth, there’s no number that is enough.” Achieving the next level never delivers what you thought it would.
Envy empowers the enemy. When you live in a state of envy, you’re allowing the enemy to keep you on the hamster wheel of dissatisfaction and disappointment and discouragement.
Our church has just begun using a resource developed by Mark Moore and slated for release later this year. Titled Core 52, it’s a yearlong look at key passages and concepts that, taken together, will equip the Christian with a firm foundation for faith and witness. I’m sure I’ll be referring to it again in future blog posts.
The first chapter challenges us to think about Creation, and Moore makes a point that helps me cope with envy. He reminds us that it’s beautiful and important that Jesus is a part of the Creation story (John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:15, 16), because Jesus came to reconcile this world to God. The eternity he promises begins in the here and now; we need not wait till Heaven to experience God’s goodness and glory. Focusing on Jesus helps me concentrate on partnering with him to see this world reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:17-19). As he works through me, I experience victory today, not just a dissatisfied longing for eternity someday.
Keeping our eyes on Jesus helps us see the big picture. “We’re created for good works in Christ” (Ephesians 2:10), Moore writes. “It’s not a quick fix nor an easy solution.”
But it is the only solution that works, especially when the problem is envy.
When in your life or ministry does envy threaten you most? What tool have you used to undo envy and get on with your work for God?