Overcoming the Grumbles
It doesn't happen overnight. I call it "the grumbles" — a gradual seeping in of negative thoughts, until one day you wake up and realize that you don't even like the church, let alone love it as Jesus commands. Your vision of the flock God has entrusted to you has become clouded over with discouragement and frustration.
This happened to me. It was not a pretty season in my life, but in God's faithfulness and grace, He took me on a journey of sweet conviction and a change of vision to fall deeper in love with Him and His church.
I had been serving in a variety of leadership roles in our church for six years. I began to notice that people's differences and quirks loomed larger in my thoughts than God's joy and delight for them. I didn't like how I felt, yet I knew I couldn't change it on my own. I turned to God and prayed for help.
In His faithfulness, He led me to 1 Peter 5:2-4: "Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers — not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away."
Through this passage, God reminded me of the calling on all of us in leadership to be strong and gentle shepherds like Him. Specifically, He calls us to look up, look out, and look within.
"Be shepherds of God's flock... as God wants you to be." Notice in this verse to whom the flock belongs. If our vision is clouded by negative thoughts, it's possible we have lost sight of His throne. God calls us to first look up and seek His heart for His flock. He calls us to love His church, not because of their behavior, but because of our love for Him.
When Jesus returned after His death and resurrection, He restored Peter, who had denied Him, by asking three times, "Peter, do you love Me?"
Peter quickly said, "Yes, Lord." And each time Jesus told him to feed His sheep. As I studied this, I began to hear, "Julia, do you love Me?"
"Yes, Lord," I responded.
"Then feed my sheep — out of My love for you and your love for Me."
Oh, His tender conviction. As my eyes turned to Him and I experienced His love, I could feel my heart softening toward the church. When we are discouraged with any relationship, we need to start by looking up and seeking His face and His heart.
"...not greedy for money, but eager to serve." Jesus demonstrated to all of us an important, humble message about serving the flock. The last thing He did for His disciples before He was crucified was wash their feet, knowing not one would stand with Him. As we look out at the flock God has given to us, we can pray a simple request, "Lord, show me how to wash their feet."
As we pray, God begins to lead us, not by having us work harder, but by guiding our actions in ways that touch hearts. Sometimes it's a kind word, sometimes it's a hug or a smile, sometimes it's a straightforward truth, and sometimes it's literally washing someone's feet. But again, as the Great Shepherd leads us on how to shepherd our flock, we begin to feel joy as we respond to His instructions. As I responded to Jesus' directions, He continued to soften my heart and open my eyes to see the flock as He does.
"...being examples to the flock." Lastly, we ask, "Lord, am I someone the sheep would even want to follow?" With this question comes humility as we remember our own need for God's grace and His faithfulness on our own journey. In my case, God showed me areas of unforgiveness. And as I confessed them, He melted away the rest of the hardness in my heart. Praise Him!
As we look up, look out, and look within, God's grace showers over us, and He fills us with a love for His flock that begins to erase "the grumbles" — for that day. Then we begin the next day by saying again:
"Lord, I look up. I love You. Fill me today with Your love."
"Lord, I look out. Show me how to wash their feet and help me see Your ways.""Lord, help me be the example You ask me to be, reflecting Your glory by walking as the woman You created me to be." Ministry can be hard. But God is faithful and, as we cling to Him, He will show us how to love. We also can't forget God's promise at the end of the passage in 1 Peter, "And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away." Now that's a treasure worth remembering!