About the Author: I am Joshuah Ellis and I have been working, full time, with the Hub City church of Christ since June 1, 2016. I have never considered myself much of a writer. Perhaps that is why I like the blog format so much. For me, it feels like there is less pressure to be perfect with a blog as opposed to a more formal article In this blog, you will find personal stories, anecdotes, humor and maybe a bit of sarcasm, but the aim of each post will be the same: to encourage, inspire, and challenge the readers to dig deeper and work harder in their service to God. If you would like to offer feedback, leave a comment or contact me here.
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Hitting a Brick Wall
Several years back, I experienced burnout for the first time. I was sick of my job. Nothing I was doing seemed to be yielding any fruit. I didn’t feel that I was growing. I didn’t feel that any good was coming out of the effort that I was putting in and I became very frustrated. It seemed as if my lessons were going in one ear of the members where I preached and out the other. Why was I doing this? Why bother working on these lessons if they are not going to accomplish anything?
Unfortunately, as a byproduct of my mindset, I noticed myself becoming very frustrated with the membership of the church I was working with. My mind quickly moved from grace to criticism and decided to put down roots. Then, no effort on their part seemed good enough. My mind was made up and I hit a brick wall. After all, everything else to that point (at least in my mind) had failed. I am ashamed to admit it, but I had checked out.
I will venture a guess to say that I am not alone in this. As Christians, I wonder if we have all felt as if we have hit the proverbial brick wall in our service to God. Maybe we too have put forth effort in the Kingdom only to feel that it has translated to little or no real result. Unfortunately, that can really do a number on how we see other people. In my case, my mindset belonged to me exclusively. However, I projected my perspective, at least for a time, onto the people around me. Identifying this in ourselves is key, but what do we do afterward? How do we fix this?
The answer to this is simple. I wish I would have applied this to my situation much sooner than I did. The answer is love. See, God commands us to love (Matthew 23:37; John 13:34). The fact that this is a command for us tells us one very important thing: it is a choice. God doesn’t expect things from us that are out of our control. We are not told to feel a certain way by this command, but to behave a certain way. So how do you behave love? Paul gives us some insight into this in chapter 13 of his first letter to the Corinthians:
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
So if you find yourself feeling that you have exhausted your options and nothing seems to be working:
- I have invited my co-workers to worship and they refuse to come.
- The person I am supposed to be studying with keeps canceling on me.
- No one appreciates what I do for the church.
- I am kind to my peers and they are still hateful toward me.
Remember that when all else fails, love. Love by action and not by emotion. Take Paul’s advice and engage in behaviors you can control regardless of what others are doing. Be patient, kind, humble, polite, considerate, empathetic, encouraging, truthful, enduring, hopeful, and steadfast.
You can control that!
Finally, remember that our call is not to results, it is to faithfulness.
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Warning: This blog contains a fair amount of sarcasm. Reader discernment is advised.
It’s 2017 and people are still the same. You can’t really count on many people. Maybe there are one or two folks in your life whom you trust but that’s about it. I am sure that you, like so many, have been burned or taken advantage of in some way, let down by someone you thought was your friend; and there is no way that you are going to let that happen again.
In addition, you love the Lord and you want to serve Him as a faithful Christian. The solution to this conundrum? Become a self-sufficient Christian. After all, why shouldn’t you be able to get to heaven on your own? The following is a list of things you must do in order to become a fully self-sufficient Christian:
1. Shut out other Christians. You’ll still be willing to help them out when they need it, but the self-sufficient Christian cannot be so vulnerable as to rely on others when he is struggling. This really isn’t consistent with Paul’s admonition for Christians to bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), but at least you can “half-way” fulfill the law of Christ.
2. Get comfortable with weakness. Since you don’t want to have to rely on anyone, you are going to want to start acclimating yourself to a lot of struggles. This is simply the opportunity cost of self-sufficiency. Just because the wisest man to ever live wrote, by the inspiration of God, that we are weaker alone (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12), it doesn’t mean that it is not the right choice for you.
3. Weaken the Body of Christ. Self-sufficiency comes at a price, but so do a lot of valuable things. Since you are determined to be self-sufficient to the detriment of your own strength, you should be ok with the effect that has on the rest of the Body (Romans 12:5). After all, I’m sure someone else can pick up your slack.
4. Disregard God’s Wisdom. God created woman because he saw that it was not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). He commands us to assemble on the first day of the week so that we can admonish one another (Colossians 3:16). He teaches us that the church becomes stronger when we work together (Ephesians 4:16). Being a self-sufficient Christian means acknowledging that God’s design just doesn’t work for you.
Obviously, this blog is a testament to the fact that one cannot be a self-sufficient Christian and succeed spiritually, and no amount of “one man on a desert island” hypothetical arguments can change that. We have been designed to work together. This means that at times we offer help, and at times we accept help. It might not be the easiest thing to do; relying on other people, that is. However, those other people are who God himself has surrounded you with. So, one could reason that to refuse the help of another person is to refuse the help of God.
Remember, the devil wants you alone because then you are easier to pick off (1 Peter 5:8). Don’t make it that easy.
At this moment, I am sitting in my living room. Some of our close friends, and their son, are visiting and if you know anything about my friends and me, then you know there are at least three conversations happening simultaneously against the noisy backdrop of 4 kids wrestling in the floor. Needless to say, it’s a bit chaotic in my house right now. Still, I was able to take a moment, stop visiting, and make the choice to thank God for moments like this. In the chaos, I found calm and it was amazing.
I wonder if sometimes, as Christians, we struggle with finding peace in the middle of our busy lives. It is so easy to get caught up in everything we have to do that perhaps we find it difficult to just stop for a moment and be in the moment. So this blog is dedicated to some of the things that we can do in order to help us find peace, and more importantly, find God when our lives are accelerating full speed ahead.
1. Stop. I know it sounds simple and a bit obvious, but how many times do we just stop? The psalmist writes for us to be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10). Think of that as a command: be still. When we do that, we can be confident that it is a choice. We have the ability to stop. To be still. To acknowledge God in the craziest moments of our lives. Do you do this? Do you take the time, in the middle of the big moments in your life, to just stop, take it all in and then give praise to your God for the blessings He has poured into your life?
2. Step away. Luke recorded that it was a frequent occurrence that Jesus Himself would step away from the hustle and bustle of His ministry to go off somewhere and pray alone (Luke 5:16). Was Jesus checking out of His life? Was He fleeing His responsibilities? Was He being selfish? Of course not! Jesus was taking advantage of the opportunities He had to step away for His own well-being? Do you do this? Do you ever take a few moments and step away from the crazy to ensure that you are at your best and therefore more adequately prepared to bring the best of you to the situations with which you deal in your life? If not, maybe it is something you could try.
3. Breathe. Again, I know how simple this sounds and until I went to grad school, the thought of someone telling me to breathe was infuriating. Now that I understand better how intentional deep breathing works, I get it…and I do it frequently. Here is why: when you breather deeply and slowly, you are forcing more oxygen into your bloodstream. Oxygen make you feel relaxed. Think of how you breather right before you fall asleep. Deeply and slowly. You can actually duplicate that state of relaxation at almost any point during the day. Breathe deeply to calm yourself and then take advantage of that relaxed state of mind by thanking God for some of the many blessings He has given you. Do you do this? If not, would you try it.
This might be a bit basic, but it is just too easy to get so caught up in our lives that we forget the One who gives life. Don’t make this mistake. Try these suggestions out and see if helps you find calm in the midst of a chaotic life.
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You’ve felt it, haven’t you? You wake up on Sunday morning and realize that for the past several weeks (or even months) you are not excited to go to worship. Maybe the singing hasn’t been that great in your opinion. Maybe the sermons have seemed dull and uninspiring. Maybe you aren’t feeling very connected to the other members. Whatever the reason, it just feels like going to worship is work and you are tired of it.
Before we go on, it is important to see that there are two very important aspects to this scenario. First, there is the mental/emotional aspect, or the way that you are thinking or feeling about going to worship and engaging. Then, there is the behavioral aspect. This represents the actions you are taking, or what you are doing regardless of how you feel about it. A good way to understand these two elements is by thinking about a time when you went to work/school when you didn’t really want to. You behaved a certain way regardless of your feelings. The opposite situation would be one in which you really wanted a snack, but didn’t get up to get one because you were already sat down or in bed. The point here is that sometimes our feelings and actions don’t always match up and the goal here is to make them match up. However, it is often easier to change our behavior than it is to change our feelings. Sometimes, it is possible to change our behavior in such a way that begins to change our feelings. So, the following are a few behavior changes we can make that can help change the way you feel about worship.
1. Engage. This is behavioral, not mental. Engage means that when you show up to worship, you make the decision to be present. Sing to the best of your ability. Listen intently to the lesson. Shake hands after worship. Make conversation with the other members even if you’re not feeling it. Often, when we are feeling lethargic about worship, we show up and wait for something/someone to make us feel better, which doesn’t always happen. When we choose to take ownership of our involvement we begin to take the first steps beck toward that excitement we once had rather than putting it on something out of our control.
2. Study your Bible. I know it sounds basic and cliché, but it is really true. We know that the Word of God is powerful. However, the mental aspect here is significant as well. When we read for fun, work or school. That information is fresh on our minds. It influences our thinking patterns and even our conversation. I read something the other day for my Economic Psych class and within an hour I was chatting up my very patient wife about loss aversion and prospect theory. These are things I never cared about before but they were influencing my conversation. What we put into our minds alters our behavior. Put God’s Word in your mind, and it might change more than you realize.
3. Set yourself up to win. I wrote a blog a few weeks back about preparing for a smooth Sunday morning. Check that out here if you like. The reason for good preparation is that it can change how you behave and feel. For example, I have my exit exam for my Master’s program coming up and it’s a big one. I am horrible at studying and wasn’t making adequate time for it. Why? Because, it’s not fun. So I put my study guide book next to my bed. Just by making that small change and preparing differently, I am now studying more frequently. It’s still not fun, but it is getting easier. Simple behavioral changes like that can make a big difference in our behavior, which can in turn begin to change our feelings.
I am going to leave it there for today. Now, you have 3 small manageable changes that you can make if you are not feeling super excited about worship. Remember though, these items are not the solution; they are simply tools you can use to jump-start your way back to that conviction you once had. Remember, please, weakness does not make you bad. It just makes you human. Identify your weaknesses so that you can know what you need to work on.
If there is something that you do to get yourself back on track when you’re feeling unmotivated, leave it in the comments below.