by Trish Rife
Most people that leave a church don’t do so for doctrinal reasons; otherwise, they likely would’ve never joined in the first place. Most people leave due to feeling unseen, forsaken, unimportant, or invisible. I completely understand those feelings, although I don’t allow myself to wallow in them for very long. It’s so easy for our flesh to get the better of us. The Bible talks about “the sin which so easily besets us,” which, regardless of the specific sin, can always be traced back to our flesh. Sin is always a carnal issue.
I’ve had someone recently tell me she’s leaving her church due to not being happy. My mind immediately confirmed what I already knew to be true: she’s never been plugged in.
If we aren’t willing to plug in and get busy in our church, it’ll never be “our” church; it’ll be “just a place” where we go on Sundays and, occasionally, Wednesdays. I say “occasionally” because most people that won’t plug in aren’t faithful to all of the services. It’s easy to get sideways and find ourselves unhappy when we haven’t invested in our local church. If we get sideways with others, it confirms that we haven’t invested enough in them, particularly in the area of prayer. It’s difficult to be unkind to someone that we’ve got a burden for.
Ma’am, do you have areas in which you minister to others? Have you invested in your church? Let’s get down to the issue: have you invested in GOD? We aren’t truly invested in God unless we’re invested in others. Jesus lived for others. Jesus died with others in mind. Jesus was selfless and completely forsook His own feelings, all in the quest to meet others’ needs.
What we want in life isn’t important in the big scheme of things. I recently found myself writing a card to a dear church lady and apologized for the delay in my writing. You see, I had allowed myself to get focused on my own needs for a little too long and, to be perfectly transparent, I wasn’t feeling up to encouraging others; I felt worn down, wondering if anyone considered that I carry a burden of my dad having gone through cancer treatment and most not even aware that three places have reappeared. Most don’t know because only two or three have ever asked. I wonder how many of my friends even know his name without having to look it up, hoping it’s somewhere on my Facebook page. I was kind of wondering where all of the other encouragers were. I’m just being honest.
While we all have areas in our lives that can drain us of ourselves, it’s important not to stay there too long. If we wait for others to come along and encourage us or plead with us to be at church, we might be waiting much longer than we bargain for. There’s only so many times that a person will likely call to ask how you’ve been / where you’ve been / how you’re doing, etc. Even though many of these feelings of abandonment are so real to us that we allow them to keep us out of church, it’s our obligation to bring our thoughts into captivity and to lead our emotions, rather than allowing our emotions to rule and reign. If I let my emotions take charge, I would’ve been out of church a long time ago! Why? Because church is full of sinners.
I’ve walked out of our door on a Wednesday night with tears rolling down my cheeks – literally – knowing that I’d have to soon face the person who cut me to my quick, because they’d be at church. Did I feel like going? No! Did I? Yes. I forced myself to do right, because I know right is always right to do. I’ve also learned that whenever the devil tries to discourage me from going, that seems to be the service that serves the biggest benefit and gives me the lesson that redirects my thought life to what’s truly important – Jesus… and others. I have always left those services with a smile on my face and happy that I went. Satan will use anything and anyone he can to accomplish his will, especially ourselves. The biggest enemy any of us face in the flesh is the one that we come eyeball to eyeball with each and every morning when we look in the mirror.
The ministry is about OTHERS; it’s not about us. I’ve heard it said that there are millions and millions of stars and planets in the universe and they all revolve around one point, and that point is not you. And it’s not me.
It’s time we get some spiritual fortitude about us and display a little character in our walk with God. It’s time we ask ourselves why we go to church in the first place, and for Whom. I’ll save you a little time – if you go to church so others can minister to you, you’re going to leave quite empty. The church’s purpose is for “the perfecting of the saints.” But this perfection isn’t so we’re perfected for ourselves; it’s so we’re perfected for the sake of others.
My friend confided where she was considering “checking out” as far as her next church. It doesn’t even have “church” in the name. It’s a “center.” Its music is carnal and extremely worldly. Their dress standard is far below Biblical standards. They have a woman’s group where my friend can feel as though she’s being ministered to….by a female “pastor.” When I questioned her about them having a female “pastor,” her reply was, “I need to find out if they let her teach behind the pulpit or not.” What?!
If we haven’t noticed, we’re in the last days. People are falling away by the droves, mostly by discontent brought on by itching ears and having a “me, me, ME” mentality. We should follow Biblical guidelines and do our best to “restore such an one” but we shouldn’t coddle when people are being drawn to such heretical places. They need us to be friend enough to let them know they’re about to fall into an even deeper ditch. Proverbs 27:6 says “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”
If a woman is pleading for God to give her a godly man, she should desire to be a godly lady first. If God gave such a woman to a godly man, she would flush his spirituality down the toilet. Men need women of character and a high caliber, just like we need those types of men as our husbands. No man wants an unhappy wife or one that is discontent. Perhaps the reason God doesn’t provide husbands to certain women – and I’m just speculating – might be an effort to protect the man. Maybe He’s hoping we’ll stop looking at ourselves long enough to look at others. We can’t be a godly wife unless we’re willing to put others ahead of us; our husbands must come first! God should be first, husband second, family next, and everything else after that. We must prefer one another!
If you want to be truly happy, encourage yourself in the Lord, refuse to wallow in self-pity and self-justification for your feelings, and look away from the mirror and look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Serving others is the only way any of us as Christians will ever obtain happiness. Joy comes from God, but happiness is in the power of our own hand. If we aren’t happy, we’re without excuse.
Others, Lord, yes, others; let this my motto be.
by Trish Rife