Exhausted from a series of preaching, I retreated to the silence of my hotel room. As I crashed into bed, I looked back to how I got here—preaching in a country more than five thousand miles from home.
For the past several months, I had thrown myself into a never-ending cycle of jumping from one country to another, to a point where my life fit into a suitcase. My identity was now synonymous with travel, photography, filming, and preaching. Fatigue would occasionally creep in, but I kept going, thinking that everything would be worth it. But as I lay on the hotel bed, just moments after preaching a sermon that I believed brought a lot of hearts to Jesus, a nagging question ate at my own heart—Why do I still feel empty?
I was lost
With everything I had sacrificed for ministry, I expected to at least feel fulfilled. People say that you have to do what you love to have fulfillment. But the more places I traveled to, the more photos I took, the more videos I filmed, and the more sermons I gave, the more empty I felt.
People say that you have to do what you love to have fulfillment. But the more places I traveled to, the more photos I took, the more videos I filmed, and the more sermons I gave, the more empty I felt.
“That’s a great photo, as always,” people would say, or, “We were so blessed by your sermon!” But God reminded me of Revelation 2:4: “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first” (NIV). This is when it hit me. Travel, photography, filming, preaching—none of these was my first love; Jesus is, and always will be.
My first love
I was so focused on doing the work that I forgot what really mattered. It’s easy to get lost in the romance and glamour of service. Many times, I did things—a photo here, a sermon there—just because it was what people expected of me. But no amount of ministry will give a person fulfillment and peace—only Jesus will.
During this time, a commentary on Revelation’s letter to the church at Ephesus really spoke to me: “God calls upon this church to make a change. They had a name to live, but their works were destitute of the love of Jesus. Oh, how many have fallen because they trusted in their profession for salvation! How many are lost by their effort to keep up a name! If one has the reputation of being a successful evangelist, a gifted preacher, a man of prayer, a man of faith, a man of special devotion, there is positive danger that he will make shipwreck of faith when tried by the little tests that God suffers to come. Often his great effort will be to maintain his reputation.”1
All I was doing was maintaining a reputation!
When Paul fell to the ground and was blinded by a bright light that questioned everything he had done, he didn’t say “Lord, where do You want me to go?” or “What do You want me to do?” His response was, “Who are You, Lord?” Paul’s first calling—our first calling—is not to serve but to have a relationship with Jesus.
I still do the things I love, using the gifts God has blessed me with. It’s exhausting and, many times, stressful. But when I get lost in the many distractions that the ministry brings, Jesus reminds me to find Him. And it’s during these quiet moments when I spend time with Him that I am fulfilled and at peace.
- Ellen G. White, “Ellen G. White Comments—Revelation,” in The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, ed. Francis D. Nichol, vol. 7 of the Commentary Reference Series (Washington, DC: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1957), 958.