"As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, While they continually say to me, 'Where is your God?' When I remember these things, I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go with the multitude; I went with them to the house of God, With the voice of joy and praise, With a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast. Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance."
I must confess something. I have been in a desert. I have been in this desert for a long time. Eight years ago, I left the full-time ministry to go back to work because our church couldn't continue supporting me and paying our bills at the same time. But, I began wandering into the desert before then. Partly through life circumstances, partly (mostly?) through my own sinfulness, I began a slow but steady walk away from the "streams of living water" to try to drink from "broken cisterns". As God said through the prophet Jeremiah, it is an astonishing thing. But, it is true.
No, I didn't cheat on my wife, or abandon the faith, or anything like that. But, is pastoring without passion any less of a sin? Is preaching without praying any better than not preaching at all? I tend to doubt it.
I think every pastor goes into the ministry with a great desire for the glory of God. We all long to see people come to know the Lord, grow in their faith, and extend the kingdom. But, sometimes, we get weary. Things don't go as we had hoped. The church we are pastoring doesn't grow, but shrinks. People who we have loved and served turn on us and, worse yet, turn on God.
And the human response is to wander into the desert. To stop caring as much. To stop praying as much. To begin to go through the motions, hoping to just survive. Some of that describes what I have been going through. Oh, I love the people in my church. I always have. I have wept over them and prepared messages for them and taught them. But, while I was doing that, I was not weeping over my own soul or studying God's Word in order to know God myself. In short, I was dry. I was thirsty, but not going to the Fountain. I was just flopping in the sand. And my ministry was not in the power of the Spirit, but in the half-hearted effort of a sinful man.
Well, something has happened to me over the last six months. It is hard to describe, but I can tell you that I am not who I have been for the last eight years. No, I am not perfect. In fact, I am far from it. But, I have a new-found hope and trust in God. I long for Him like I never have before. I want others to have this same longing I do. I can say, without a doubt, that I am now ministering from an overflow of the work of God on my life and not just from my own strength.
Does this mean that everything is going to go perfectly? Did it for David? Will the church I pastor suddenly grow by leaps and bounds? Will we see thousands getting saved, families reconciled, sin fought against? Maybe some of that will happen. Maybe it won't. I have been praying for a revival first in my heart and then in the hearts of our people. But, the answer to that prayer isn't up to me, it's up to God. For now, I am happy to be out of the desert and, once again, drinking from the fountain of living waters. And I pray that I may be able to serve God's people from the overflow of what I am drinking.