The UN-selfish Need for Self-care

In my last post, “Stranger In a Strange Land,” it would appear I despised every moment of being a pastor, but this is not the case. There were times of joy, times of seeing the Lord move in certain situations, and friendships made. There were also lessons learned that seminary did not prepare me for.

One of the lessons I have learned is the need for self-care. Typically “self” comes with negative connotations of selfishness or self-centeredness; however, there is the part of “self” that represents our personhood, that God created in His image. This part of our being ought to be taken care of.

Self-care is important, whether you are a pastor or not. It is not selfish to take necessary times to rest/relax, to say “No,” time to grieve losses, to spend with family and friends, and to spend in healthy, reflective solitude.

Our society, as well as church culture, views busyness as a virtue—a true mark of spirituality. Rest and relaxation are considered frivolous and lazy, as though God’s kingdom is dependent on us and will collapse if we dare take time to rest! I once read of a pastor who was going to take some time off. A lady quipped, “The devil never takes a day off.” The pastor wisely responded, “The devil is not my example to follow.”

Certainly the Bible condemns slothfulness and being unproductive. However, what does Jesus say? Religion often produces restless activity. Jesus bids the people:

All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” ~ Matthew 11:27-30 (ESV)

There are times Jesus sends us out to minister to others. However, He also calls us to rest.

The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. ~ Mark 6:30-31

Everything we do is to be in relationship with Christ:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. ~ John 15:4

Jesus does not call us to busyness, lighting the candles at both ends. He calls us to abide in Him. Our lives can only bear fruit by abiding in Him, otherwise we are simply spinning our wheels and wasting precious fuel.

There are many times it is not only okay, but one must say, “no.” There are individuals who will either suck the very life out of you, or else constantly have you on the go. Certainly there are occasions you must allow the lives of others to intrude (e.g., emergencies, hospitalization or loss of a loved one, someone talking about suicide, etc.). However, there are many non-emergencies that can wait until another day. For example, you get a call from a friend one night and they tell you their spouse was in an collision and is in intensive care. This is a time to drop everything to be with your friend in a crisis. Another day a friend calls because they have been having “bad dreams.” Depending on the situation, this might be appropriate to schedule time for coffee over the weekend. Still, someone might want you to get involved because their sibling is having marital problems. I would say in most cases, this would be an appropriate time to say, “no.”

Take time to grieve. Especially someone in a caretaking profession, one can be so busy trying to take care of others, he fails to take time to grieve his own losses. Instead, he stuffs his feelings and hurts somewhere within. In due time, however, (as I experienced the hard way) these will eventually cause a person to either explode or implode.

Take time to be with your family. Your spouse and children need to know you love them, and that they are valuable to you. When I was the senior pastor of a church, I was told by a lady that sometimes God will have a minister sacrifice his family for the sake of a church. This not true. No where in the New Testament is a person called to sacrifice his family for the sake of ministering to a church. As one pastor correctly advises other pastors, “If you save the whole world but lose your family in the process, you have lost it all.”

Finally, take the time for healthy solitude. Note, there is a difference between this an unhealthy isolation.  Healthy solitude is necessary time to get away from people, noise, and distractions in order to pray, reflect, and listen. Throughout the Gospels we read of Jesus numerous times going off by Himself early in the morning or in the evening to get alone with the Father. If Jesus felt the need to do this, we had better recognize our need!

I suppose there will be some who will not be convinced that self-care is not selfish. Let me ask, how will you be of any use if you are sick? When I was in the pit of my depression, I was of no use to anyone. It was not until I received help from others, then becoming more intentional about self-care, that I began of being more help to my family and others.

Take care of yourself. You are worth it, and your loved ones are worth it! By taking care of you, you can then be better at taking care of those you love and care about.

Stranger In a Strange Land (The Pastor and Depression)

Many Christians are familiar with the words “The world is not my home, I’m just a passing through.” The follower of Christ recognizes he is but a stranger in a strange land, and his customs are different than those of the “natives.”

Strangely, the sentiment “stranger in a strange land” can be just as applicable to many pastors in their churches. The loneliness and sense of isolation a pastor can experience can be overwhelming. When parishioners are wounded in spiritual battles, they can talk to their pastor (or should be able to). But when a pastor is wounded in battle, where can he go? Some will argue, “Well, he is to go to the Lord!” But this is to be said of the parishioners as well, is it not? Often,  when a parishioner is discouraged, weak, or falls, the attitude is, “to err is human.” When a pastor experiences these, it seems to be scandalous.

The life of a pastor is a strange thing. To him come attacks from all sides. He deals with the ridicule and persecution from the world. He fights through the bombardment of accusations and lies from the evil one. He faces attacks, slander, and resistance from those he is trying to lead—and some of the most vicious comes from those he and his family have ministered to. Lastly, but certainly not least, he receives  the stern rebukes from the Lord after foolish decisions or words.

For many pastors, genuine friends are few. Often people feel awkward and hindered when the pastor is around. Believe me, a pastor feels this awkwardness too. He can usually sense when others feel uncomfortable around him or if there is some animosity against him. The pastor is human. He desires—and needs—friendship too, but sometimes is denied this luxury. But what about other pastors? Again, pastors are human. The realm of pastors can remind one of days in high school. There can be pride and fellowship circles, and if one does not fit in that circle or cannot be used as a stepping stone, such a person can be left to struggle alone. This is neither a lie nor exaggeration. This includes many pastors of small churches, as well as pastors of larger churches who must continue certain facades.

What about finances? Many churches require a formal education of their pastors, and for many, an associate or bachelor degree from a respected Bible college is not enough. Even a masters degree is not enough to many churches. Rather, some churches require at least a Master of Divinity, if not a doctorate degree. Such an education is neither free, nor is it cheap. Yet, many churches do not pay adequately. Then consider how parishioners want to enjoy all their toys and providing nice things for their families; however, a pastor is considered “greedy for gain” when he wants nice things for his family. A pastor can put in 60+ hours a week (most people are unaware of all a pastor does), and must still be on call 24/7. This often goes unnoticed and unappreciated.

What about shattered hopes and broken dreams. I will venture to say most men who truly go into ministry with a true desire for people to come to know the Lord and for Christ to be glorified (this is not every minister’s desire) also go with a hope to see growth and revivals. This is neither vain hope or vain glory. However, what many pastors see are stubborn people quite content with their traditions, status quo, and sins. Try to touch these idols and a pastor can have hell to pay. But these are God’s people, right? Only God knows. What I do know is this: a pastor is taught (and teaches) God hears our prayers; that “love changes everything”; and the Word of the Lord will not return void. The pastor finds out the hard way that sometimes God says, “No.” Love does not change persons who do not want to change or give up their idols. Sometimes the Word of the Lord seems to be spoken into an abyss. These only chip at the original hopes and dreams. What shatters them, however, is to be slandered, attacked, and betrayed by persons who claim to be people of God.

I once read the following concerning today’s pastors:

  • 97% have been betrayed, falsely accused, or hurt by trusted friends.
  • 70% battle depression.
  • 80% feel discouraged.
  • 94% of pastors’ families feel the pressure of ministry.
  • 78% have no close friends.
  • 90% report working 55-75 hours per week.
  • Only 10% will retire from the pastorate.
  • 1,500 quit the pastorate every month.

Is it any wonder why there has been an increase in suicides amongst pastors over the last several years?

I had been a pastor (I still am, just not of a church). I know what I am talking about. I know the experience of loneliness, attacks, false accusations, and betrayals. I know what it is like to have my family wounded in the process. I would not wish any of what I have experienced on another. Yes, I know the hurt and anger. I know what it is like to resent the church. To this day I have little patience for those who sit on their high horses questioning the authenticity of a pastor’s calling who has not the stomach for church politics and betrayals. Such persons know nothing of what they so confidently allow to come vomiting out of their mouths. Truly, I did not expect ministry to be easy; however, my grave mistake was I thought my greatest antagonists would come from outside the church, not from within. Oh, how I was wrong.

I lot of water has passed under the bridge since I was in the pastorate. I have let go of the bitterness, but it took a lot of time to let go and to heal. As I write this, I do remember some of the hurts. I remember having to push aside my own losses, not taking the time to grieve, in order to minister to others. Only to later be kicked in the teeth.

Perhaps you are a pastor dealing with the junk I have been writing about. You are presently a “stranger in a strange land.” I do not  counsel you to leave or to stay. This is between you and the Lord. For me, I had to resign from the pastorate, otherwise my family would have been shattered into pieces. With this said, I will say: DO NOT SACRIFICE YOUR FAMILY FOR THE SAKE OF A CONGREGATION!!! Your priority is your family first, then the church, not vice versa. Your wife and children need you too. Do not forsake them. Yes, there are emergencies when the church needs you; however, there are many times you must either say “no” or “wait” to parishioners for the sake of your family.

Perhaps you are a pastor who is battling depression. Please know that you are not alone. Although you feel as if God is a billion miles away and has given up on you, He is ever near and loves you always.

Perhaps you are having suicidal thoughts, and thinking your family would be better off without you. NO!!! HEAVENS NO!!! Such lies are straight from the pits of hell! Oh, may God shine His light in your darkness! Oh, please, Lord!!!

Oh dear one, I know what it is like to encounter such despair. If you are facing such despair, talk to a trusted friend. Get help. There is no shame in this. If need be, feel free to email me at gpproclamation@yahoo.com. I cannot promise you a wealth of wisdom, but I have experienced the kind of darkness you are facing. As difficult as it might be to believe, know that you are loved and have incredible worth. God created you for a purpose. And remember this: you were called and saved by grace, these are sustained by grace, and will always be by grace!

Perhaps you are not a pastor. Praise God! It is a most honorable calling, but not a glorious one. Pray for your pastor. Honor him. Encourage him. Just as surely as every pastor will give account for how he lead and fed the flock, so surely will each parishioner give account for the way he slandered, discouraged, and wounded the very ones God had placed over him. It is a dangerous thing for a pastor to stray from the Word of God and teach otherwise. But it is just as dangerous for a parishioner to rebel against a pastor who IS teaching the Word of God faithfully! Do you think God will turn a blind eye to such stubbornness and insolence?

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. ~ 1 Timothy 5:17

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. ~ Hebrews 13:17

How does it benefit anyone to make a pastor’s work more difficult than it already is, or to silently “kill” the very one who seeks to minister to you and your family? If, indeed, your pastor is a godly man, albeit imperfect, but faithfully teaching God’s Word; and if you are constantly resisting him and making his work difficult; you might want to consider that you may be a weed in God’s garden. If this is the case, you need to repent. Otherwise, in due time, God will pluck you and cast you in the fire.

Appreciate the “Little” Things

There are times in life when things do not seem to go our way or in our favor. When the nights are long, the days are gray, and the winds keep chilling our souls, it becomes difficult carrying on. When one feels abandoned, forgotten, or betrayed by all, hope begins to appear as a flame on a matchstick soon to flicker out.

The Bible tells us:

Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. ~ Ephesians 5:20

When life seems to be against us, it can be difficult to maintain a sense of gratitude. One can become so consumed by negative and unpleasant circumstances. However, ingratitude and bitterness will certainly quickly drain a person of any remaining joy and peace he or she has.

What are you to do when you do not feel thankful, and life feels like a adversary? Take notice of simplistic things you tend to take for granted. Appreciate seemingly insignificant blessings, and you will find that they are truly more significant than you had realized. The following is a list of “little” blessings. They might seem insignificant, but imagine if these were taken away. This list is certainly not exhaustive, but I hope it is helpful:

A beautiful sunrise

An “I love you” from a loved one

A loyal friend

A hot cup of coffee or tea

A child’s giggles

The “kisses” and loyalty of a dog

The ability to read

Having a job

A warm smile from a stranger

Clean water

Your senses (hearing, seeing, etc.)

Clothes to wear

A warm shower

A place to live

A running vehicle

Sighting a deer

A moving song

Fresh air

Sound mind 

Salvation in Christ

We can focus on what we do not have (e.g., a bigger house, a nicer car, more money, dream job, spouse, popularity, etc.), but often it is the seemingly “little” things that truly give life significance. For example, one can be rich, but have not a single loyal friend, or else has to constantly be looking over his shoulders. One can have a big house, but never experience the warmth of a home. One could be stripped of sight, and never again see colors, animals, and nature. One could have the whole world, yet never experience the love and joy of Christ.

Showing gratitude for these seemingly “little” things will not take away the problems or hurts, I am sorry to say; however, this can shift your mind in a more positive direction, as well as give you some breaths when you feel like you are gasping. Furthermore, how can we truly appreciate the “bigger” things if we do not appreciate the beauty and wonder of “smaller” things so freely given?

The Importance of Nourishment

I think it is fair to say that most of us have an appetite throughout the day. Granted, some want to eat nearly every hour, whereas others might only be hungry a couple of times a day. The point is, a healthy body needs to be taking in nutrients. If a person has no desire for food and will not eat, then something is probably wrong.

Many of us have experienced being sick and having no appetite. How many of us have experienced similar discussions during such times?

“Do you want some soup? How about some juice?”

“No thank you. I’m not hungry.”

“You haven’t eaten anything all day. How about a piece of toast and a cup of broth?”

“Okay.”

An hour later a piece of toast with a bite or two missing is sitting on a plate, and next to it is a cold cup of broth.

Something similar happens with the spiritual part of our beings. When our souls are healthy, we should maintain an appetite for God’s Word. Peter writes:

Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. ~ 1 Peter 2:2-3

Another writer notes that a healthy, mature believer should be eating “solid food” not mere milk of elementary teachings.

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. ~ Hebrews 5:12-13

My wife could tell something was wrong with me when I was going deeper into depression. You see, I enjoyed reading and discussing God’s Word. I enjoyed, and excelled in, my studies in Bible college and Seminary. However, she noticed more and more I was disengaging in discussions of the Bible. Less and less I wanted to go to church or Bible studies. I did not want to pray. I did not want to do much of anything, really.

Whenever I did try to read, my mind seemed to go in multiple directions. I could not concentrate. What I did try to do each morning before leaving for work was still have my devotional times. However, I would simply read a verse or two, and the accompanying devotional. For me, this was sort of the equivalent of taking in some toast and juice. Ideally, it is preferable to be in a more healthy position to take in more spiritual nutrition, however.

Perhaps you are in a season where you are not “hungry” for the Word, as you had been. This does show something is wrong, spiritually: anxiety, depression, busyness, burnout, sin, or something else. I want to encourage you to remember the importance of nourishment. Certainly whole servings of fruit and vegetables is better for your body than mere sips of orange juice and broth. However, juice and broth are better than nothing at all. So too, digging into the Word is better than simply reading a verse and devotional. However, these are still better than no nourishment at all.

As you read, especially if your mind is going in different directions, do not try to know every part. Pay attention to key words, phrases, promises, or aspects of God’s character. Simply try to think about these periodically throughout the day. God will use these to nourish your soul back to better health.

You Are Not Alone

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Light in the Darkness for Weary Travelers

Depression is a strange terrain. Perhaps you are there now. For me, when I was in the depths of my depression, the feelings of loneliness bit like a frigid Minnesota winter night, although people could be all around me. Like the old Casper, the Friendly Ghost cartoons, I desired to connect with others but could not. At times, I felt as though I was literally invisible.

As such, crazy thoughts would begin to churn in my mind like clothes in a dryer, going round and round. “Why am I here? Does my life really matter? Would anyone really miss me if I was gone? Would anyone even notice?” Oh, believe me, there were plenty of seemingly legitimate reasons why my life did not matter, etc. I have known the sting of betrayal, and the wounds of being forsaken by some.

I felt like screaming when persons would say things like, “I know how you feel,” because they did not know. They had no idea what I was feeling. I knew some meant well, but their words were like salt in an opened wound. I felt as though I was existing in the realm of the dead—not dead, but not living either.

When I was in the depths of my depression, I felt as though I was in a deep pit, surrounded by darkness.  I could not climb out of it. I felt forsaken by people and by God. During this time I experienced a lot of confusion, fear, and anger. Honestly, I just wanted the Lord to kill me and take me home. “I came. I tried. I failed. Kill me now, Lord.”

How does a person get to such a place? There is no single reason for depression. Perhaps you can relate to the feelings of the prophet Elijah:

And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers …. I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” ~ 1 Kings 19:4, 14 (ESV)

Perhaps you are experiencing depression right now. I am not going to criticize you or accuse you of lacking faith. I am not going to tell you I know how you feel, because I do not. I only know how I felt, and it was a hellish experience that I do not wish upon anyone. What I will say is this: I know the loneliness can  be crushing, like a ten ton boulder. Perhaps you are surrounded by a deep darkness. May the words from the prophet Micah be of hope for you:

I may be sitting in the dark, but the Lord is my light…. I know that I will see him making things right for me and leading me to the light. ~ Micah 7-8 (CEV)

You might be sitting in a “dark night of the soul,” but the light of the Lord has not been extinguished. At a coming hour His radiance will be bursting at dawn. Perhaps God seems but a flickering star a billion miles away—even so, His presence surrounds you, whether you “feel” it or not. And know that you are loved and needed. By your parents, your spouse, your child(ren), your pet(s).

While you might feel alone in this experience, know that there are others experiencing something similar. Elijah felt as though he was alone, but God tells the prophet of seven thousand others, like himself, had not bowed their knees to Baal (see 1 Kings 19:18).

I know the feelings are horrible. You might feel embarrassed for feeling this way, but you are simply feeling your humanity in a fallen world. I know this blog is not a cure for depression; however, I hope you will know that you are not alone. I might not be by your side, but please know I am with you in spirit. Know that God is sending people to you, though even strangers they might be, to give a warm smile. This might seem insignificant, but many of these persons are struggling with similar feelings. Most importantly, God is with you. His presence is not dependent on your faith or feelings. Continue to talk to Him, regardless if He seems absent (He is not). Continue to pour your heart to Him. In due time, as He did with Micah, he will lead you to the light.

I hope God will use this blog to give you strength to fight through another day; and regardless of your feelings, you are not alone.

The Necessity of You

This blog is just as much for the pastor and missionary as it is for the layperson. I ask you honestly, was not the prophet Jeremiah an utter failure, a disgrace to the ministry? Is he not certainly one we can look down on, shaking our heads? Is he not one whom God clearly did not really use? After all, he did not have many, if any, converts. He did not spark any revivals or great awakenings. His message only upset people. Although two books in the Old Testament are written by him, are either of them anyone’s favorite? He certainly would not be “hired” by most churches today.

As a person, he does not seem to have the wisdom of Daniel, the strength of David, the zeal of Paul, or the leadership qualities of Moses or Nehemiah. Was Jeremiah not a sissy-boy, always crying? Would he not have been an embarrassment to the likes of Joshua?

Now, I hope you realize I am totally being facetious. What foolishness to think Jeremiah was not a man of God whom He used mightily. Although miracles and revivals did not accompany Jeremiah’s ministry, what made him great was his obedience to God. Yet, do we not play such non-sensical comparison games in churches? Admittedly, laypersons and pastors alike are guilty of this. This pastor has a big church, God must really be using him, while the preacher down the road ministers to a congregation of twenty-five persons. Obviously, God is not using him, right? Or that person has an M. Div. degree and is a great teacher, but this person is only a greeter. Honestly, is not the common (mis)perception that the latter person is not as used by God, and the former is more spiritual? The chances are great that you and I are quite guilty of such nonsense.

Many of us are also guilty of this at a personal level. “I am not a great speaker.” “I have never been on a mission trip.” “I do not have a formal theological education.” Or such comments can also come from a condescending standpoint. When I was enrolled at a certain Bible college, there was an underlying attitude of some that the less of a theological education one has, the less God can really use such a person. What hogwash!

Many of us would agree the church in Corinth was a messed up bunch. Yet, ironically, is this not the very church Paul rebuked for such stinking-thinking so common today?

“What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? ~ 1 Corinthians 1:12-13, ESV

Later, Paul writes:

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ…. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty…. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way. ~ 1 Corinthians 12:12, 21-23, 29-31

Would Paul not rebuke us today? Many of us have our favorite preachers (“I follow John Piper,” “I follow John MacArthur,” “I follow Charles Swindoll,” or “I follow Max Lucado”), as if they are some sort of rock stars. We go to conferences and we treat the preachers we have not heard of like unsigned opening acts (hey, Paul would rebuke me, too).

At a personal level, how often have many of us been guilty of comparing ourselves with others? If we are not careful, we might begin criticizing ourselves (or others) as though we (or they) have less significance or purpose. “I’m not an eye, I’m worthless!” “I’m just a foot, the body doesn’t need me.” Be honest, have not many of us questioned our worth and significance because we are not this or that, as compared to this or that person? Or else looked down on another because of something we do not like about them (as though we are somehow better)?

What does Paul tell us? He notes that God does not give everyone the same gifts; rather, He gives each a specific place and function. None is the better, none is the worse. Furthermore, each is necessary. While we have not yet discussed it, Paul writes that there is something even greater than our gifts and functions. In chapter 13 he explains that this something greater is love.

Permit me to shift gears for a moment. There are some preachers and authors who give us pep talks about being “earth shakers” and “world changers.” Although they mean well, these are not only unrealistic, but also misleading. Unrealistic, because most of us are simply “ordinary” individuals. This is not an insult, but only to say that we are not superheroes or greatly influential. Misleading, because Jesus has not called us to be “earth shakers” or “world changers.” (What?!?!?!) But what does He say?

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. ~ John 15:4-5

What does Jesus tell us to do? He does not tell us to do anything but to abide in Him. Why? Because apart from Him we can do nothing. So notice, appearances can be deceiving. There are times when things appear a lot is happening, when nothing is truly happening for God’s kingdom. Strangely, there are times when it seems nothing is happening, when there is a lot going on. All is dependent on whether or not persons are abiding in Christ.

This brings us back to 1 Corinthians 13. We tend to put a lot of stock in the external—the glitter, noise, bustling, and excitement. We enjoy the extraordinary. But Paul says if he has the gift of tongues—to the point of speaking the language of angels—but has not love, he is just making noise. If he gives everything to the point of including his life but has not love, he has not really given anything at all.

So, what is my point? Do not let mere externals or spiritual gifts determine your sense of worth. Our worth is solely based and secured in Christ. Furthermore, do not be active for the sake of being active. Busy-ness does not equal being “spiritual.” Rather, abide in Christ and He will bring true life to you, and then you will bear fruit. Also, genuinely love God and others. Great speakers and entertainers abound, but how many people in our lives genuinely love without any expectations in return? Abide in Christ and genuinely love, and you can be certain your life is bearing real fruit—even when it might not seem like it. This is what made Jeremiah a great man of God. By and large, truly, he would be rejected by many churches and persons today. Yet, here was a man who remained obedient when the going got tough, and a man who poured his heart out for the sake of others. God, indeed, was with Jeremiah—and his legacy continues onward today. Gifts and activities do not create significance. The real issue is whether or not we are abiding in Christ, obeying God’s Word (which goes hand in hand with abiding), and truly loving others. These are what determine true success. If you are doing these, then you can be certain God is using you in mighty ways, regardless what your eyes—or other’s eyes—see (or do not see)!