Ministerial Temptations

FEATURES: Ministerial Temptations

"The temptation to recline. The temptation to shine. The temptation to whine."

Minister, Greater New Tork Conference

David Christie in his book The Service of Christ, page 66, lists the three outstanding temptations to which the Christian minister is exposed:

"The temptation to recline. 

The temptation to shine. 

The temptation to whine."

Surely every worker for God has the burning desire to accomplish as much as possible in the short time remaining before Jesus comes. And he has doubtless given frequent study to finding ways and means of making the very best use of his time and strength. The Spirit of prophecy tells us that God will judge us not so much according to the amount of work accomplished but rather by the spirit in which it was carried out. Yet, if we as workers for Him are really constrained by the love of Christ, it will be our constant de sire to increase our efficiency, ever seeking how best to redeem the time.

Considering the time-robbing desire to recline, fatigue is perhaps the most frequently given excuse, i We hear repeatedly that the work of the minister is not an easy but a very exacting task, and to a certain extent this is true, as is also every other work men engage in. The needless repetition of this, however, is a most dangerous thing. For "as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he"; and if the minister thinks long enough that he ought to be tired, before he knows it he will be!

Josephine Lowman, in her syndicated column "Why Grow Old?" recently raised the question, "Is Your Day-End Fatigue Emotional or Physical?" She says in part:

"Many women and men complain of being tired who have no reason to be. ... Probably more than half of the time your feeling of exhaustion is mental or emotional rather than physical. You can check yourself in this matter by studying yourself a bit. . . . Weariness and tensions are often the results of a mental viewpoint or emotional frustration. You may be just plain bored with your round of ... tasks, day after day. . . . Try to discover this in yourself. . . . Get a new viewpoint yourself. This is entirely possible and you will find that tired feeling disappearing." New York Post, April 9,1951.

"Get a new viewpoint." We may be ashamed to admit it, but it is true nevertheless that fatigue caused by "emotional frustration" in a minister is a symptom of waning spiritual life. Boredom is the result of lack of interest in a given task.

Recently I came across some thoughts Fulton Sheen presents on this subject. Needless to say, we cannot agree with most of his theology, but he "hit the nail squarely on the head" in his book Moods and Truths. In the chapter entitled "The Thrill of Monotony" he cites the example of a little child, who, as everyone knows, is full of life. If you tell him a story, he'll want to hear the same one again; if you build him a house of playing blocks and knock it down, he'll want it built up again only to be knocked down once more. The writer goes on to show (and we say it reverently) that God, the Fountain of life, also loves what men call monotony. The countless heavenly bodies move in their appointed paths continuously, the seasons repeat themselves annually, and the living things of this earth have been designed to multiply over and over each after his kind. When the Lord Jesus walked on this earth His work of healing, preaching, and teaching might also have given the appearance of drudgery and monotony the one thing modern man can least tolerate. But He said, "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." John 4:34. Meat, or food, gives strength and pleasure, two things our modern civilization has come to seek apart from their work, but Jesus found both of them in it. What was the Saviour's secret? The joy of the Lord was His strength (Neh. 8:10), and it is a purpose that lends joy to any task.

The Joy of Ministerial Service

To make this practical, suppose I have two sermons to prepare one for an audience of fifty, another for an audience of five hundred. Which of the two will I find easier to work out? The one for the larger audience, no doubt, but why should there exist this difference? There certainly are no physical reasons for it. To be frank, is it not a lack of faith in my God-given task? If we really and truly believe that God is present where there are only two or three gathered together in His name, then we will not have the size of our audience in mind but the glory of the Lord; and the man who is really God-conscious will cease being self-conscious.

Sometime ago research was conducted among the workers of a certain factory. Although all the employees were doing the same kind of work, those who had something enjoyable to look forward to in the evening were less tired than those who did not. Obviously, the fatigue was largely in the mind. The next time we are led to believe that a rest is just the thing we need, it might be well to search our hearts and to ascertain on our knees whether, to use George Whitefield's phrases, we are actually weary "in the work," which must be expected at times, or whether we are not weary "of the work." Medical authorities claim that if fatigue is not cured after a complete rest of twenty-four hours, one should get a medical checkup; and if this does not reveal any organic disturbances, the fatigue is emotional, and in the case of the Christian worker, due to spiritual reasons.

Roots or Branches?

Just as dangerous as the desire to recline is the desire to shine. One of the most subtle ways in which this temptation sneaks up on one is through the urge to have "too many irons in the fire" in other words, to dabble with things which give the illusion that one is doing the Lord's work, but in reality one is spending his time only in much "pious loafing," as Dr. W. Graham Scroggie fittingly calls it. One presents the air of being busy, but is really accomplishing nothing for the Lord. We read in Deuteronomy 12:13, 14: "Take heed to thy self that thou offer not thy burnt offerings in every place that thou seest: but in the place which the Lord shall choose in one of thy tribes, there thou shalt offer thy burnt offerings, and there thou shalt do all that I command thee." And surely the place "which the Lord shall choose" can be none other than the vineyard of the Lord! Leslie Stokes, an English Baptist minister, tells the story of two trees that were growing old and making preparations for any storm that might arise. When the hurricane did come one of the trees remained upright, and the other one almost toppled over. According to the story, the weaker giant asked the stronger one the secret of his strength, and the answer was, "while you were adding branches I was strengthening my roots." We preach about the wise and the foolish virgins, and here we have a parable about the wise and the foolish tree. It is good" to ask ourselves: To which group do I belong?

We know that yielding in one point makes it easier to yield again, and this is also true in the case of the three great temptations that face the Christian minister. With the temptation to recline and to shine comes the equally blighting temptation to whine. Now there are two principal reasons for ministerial whining: Some men whine because there is too much to do; others whine because they would love to do all there is to do, but do not find the time or energy for it. We believe the second group is in the vast majority, and that is a good thing, but there is a danger connected with it too. Because there is so much to do, one begins to drive oneself intemperately. Now, it is a very healthy thing indeed if one drives himself instead of be ing pushed by others if one has a self- starter. This can be overdone to such an extent, however, that one defeats the very purpose behind it, accomplishing actually less in the long run. When Luther said that he found it necessary to pray the most when he was the most busy, he was not trying to coin some bright paradoxical saying but was uttering a great spiritual truth. If we neglect our times for devotion, we will actually get less done than if we take the necessary time for it. In the one case we will be driven by nervous energy, which is definitely detrimental to one's physical and spiritual health; in the other case the life-giving Spirit of God will be leading us and imparting its limitless resources.

Avoiding Work Tensions

The Lord Jesus was constantly at work, but because He took time to commune with His Father in heaven, He never showed the pressure under which He was laboring. Few things cause people to lose confidence in a minister faster than if they note that the pressure of his work is getting the best of him and he is losing his poise and composure. Those who are truly laboring under a divine compulsion will also maintain a Christlike composure.

Some authorities feel that the reason why the secret of the atom was first unlocked by the allied scientists during World War II, and not by the scientists of the enemy, is that the former worked for the love of the righteous cause in which they believed, whereas the latter were driven by a nervous fear. Factually, of course, this statement cannot be proved, but a noted American psychologist, Dr. Wiggam, states, "Anxious efforts to learn reduce ability to learn." New York Daily Mirror, April 10, 1951. Nervous, anxious efforts in any field of endeavor, but especially in the ministry, reduce the results.

One can never cease to marvel at the statement in Luke 4:14 that Jesus, after the great forty days' conflict in the wilderness, returned, not exhausted, but "in the power of the Spirit." Surely He had been feasting on the hidden manna, and its limitless resources are available to us today. The secret of obtaining this hidden manna is beautifully described in The Desire of Ages, page 827:

"All who consecrate soul, body, and spirit to God, will be constantly receiving a new endowment of physical and mental power. The inexhaustible sup plies of heaven are at their command. Christ gives them the breath of His own spirit, the life of His own life. The Holy Spirit puts forth its highest energies to work in heart and mind. The grace of God enlarges and multiplies their faculties, and every perfection of the divine nature ccmes to their assistance in the work of saving souls. Through co-operation with Christ they are complete in Him, and in their human weakness they are enabled to do the deeds of Omnipotence." (Italics supplied.)



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Minister, Greater New Tork Conference

November 1951

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