By Luke Holmes
I stood there looking him right in the face. There he was, the man who had done me so much harm over my years in ministry.
I didn’t know what to say.
During the decades I’ve spent in vocational ministry, this man has undercut me, made me look foolish, and tried to trap me in too many sins to count. He told me he was sorry, but honestly it was hard to believe him.
He had told me that before, but had then gone out and done the same things all over again. After all he had done, how could I ever trust him again?
Every person in ministry—every Christian even—has a person like this in their life.
There are many stories of other people who set out to undermine pastors or their ministries. But the truth is, the greatest enemy to your ministry isn’t other people who are out to get you.
The greatest threat to your ministry is you and the choices you make.
A daily struggle
Following God is a choice, and every day I make too many choices that drive me away from Him. I look at the man in the mirror and tell him today will be different.
I promise myself today I’ll make the right choices, that I’ll keep my mouth shut, pray like I should, and follow God.
But each day I lay down at night wishing I could’ve done more.
All of us in vocational ministry have choices we wish we could make over again. Sometimes it’s just a poor choice. But more often than I want to admit, I react to issues at church in anger, fear, or pride.
Being a pastor isn’t a guarantee we won’t fall into sin. Every day we’re faced with a myriad of opportunities to choose Christ or choose ourselves.
This is a struggle for every Christian. In his letter to the Romans, Paul exclaims, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24).
Even Paul, one of the world’s greatest missionaries and an apostle of Christ, had to learn to live with disappointment over his choices and actions. If Paul struggled, you and I will also.
But the point of Romans 7 isn’t to beat yourself up. Paul teaches us to turn to Christ, who will never let us down. In the next verse Paul gives thanks to God through Jesus Christ for what He has done.
Pastors often take hits from all different sides; we accept that as part of the call to vocational ministry. But sometimes, we’re the ones who are hardest on ourselves.
The mistakes we make in ministry can have a way of haunting us. One of the most dangerous actions a pastor can take is to not let go of past mistakes.
We need to learn to trust in Christ to set us free from the body of death. That doesn’t just mean we can be free from the struggle of sin in the present. It also means we can be free from the weight of our past sins and mistakes.
In the next chapter of his epistle, Paul says there’s no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.
Learning to trust in Christ doesn’t mean we don’t work hard to put to death sin in our lives. Learning to trust in Christ means we accept the forgiveness Christ offers us.
The forgiveness of God covers my outright rebellion before Christ and the many ways I choose myself over God even today.
Pastor, when you look in the mirror don’t just see someone who has let you down. The person in the mirror wasn’t chosen by God because they always make the right choice and do the right thing.
We are jars of clay that hold an indescribable treasure in order that the glory might belong to God, not us.
Before the day is over that person in the mirror will undoubtedly sabotage you again. Stop trying to feign perfection; admit your need for Christ.
The blood of Christ isn’t only sufficient to save those your serve. The blood of Christ is enough to save you from yourself.
LUKE HOLMES (@lukeholmes) is husband to Sara, father to three young girls, and pastor at First Baptist Church Tishomingo, Oklahoma, since 2011. He’s a graduate of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and can be found online at LukeAHolmes.com.