A couple weeks ago I taught on a topic that had “Dave, this is for you…” written all over it. To be honest, that happens a lot when I teach. But on that particular Sunday it was especially true.
In church ministry, our “year” typically begins in September and winds down when school ends for summer. This past church year was a difficult one for me. In part due to a sickness that put me on my couch for a good month, with a slow recovery in the months that followed. Added to my physical issues, the year was also very draining emotionally. It was filled with seemingly non-stop challenges, demands, initiatives, and expectations. So I’ve really been looking forward to some time away this summer.
The talk I needed so desperately focused on a declaration Jesus made to His disciples one morning after a day of very successful yet demanding ministry. Jesus’ popularity was on the rise. Everyone was looking for Him. The crowds kept increasing because everyone wanted what others’ had experienced – exceptional teaching, miraculous healing, and freedom from demon possession. Jesus’ ministry had gone viral, and everyone wanted a piece of it and of Him.
A Different Kind of Looking Up
Isn’t that the dream of every entrepreneurial business person, church planter, or product launch? Instant success. The best sellers list. Fame, fortune, and favor with God and man.
Jesus’ list was shorter. He simply wanted to please God. That’s why after that crazy busy, really long day of demanding ministry, He got up early instead of sleeping-in. It was a habit of His and it didn’t change just because He was probably exhausted from the previous day. Jesus had a before sunrise appointment with His heavenly Father. He needed a time of solitude and prayer with His life-planner to go over His work and calendar.
Because things were getting off to such a great start in His ministry, you’d think after His morning time with God He would have jumped back into the work that had been started the day before, in order to keep the momentum going. But when Jesus’ disciples came looking for Him so He could do just that,
He said, Let’s go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That’s why I have come. (Mark 1:38)
When Change Is A Good Thing
Whaaat?! Go somewhere else? What was Jesus saying? Simply this: “Guys, I know things are going great here. And we could easily have even more success if we stay and keep at it. But we need to leave here, and continue our teaching and healing ministry, somewhere else.”
During His time alone with God that morning, Jesus had learned that God wanted Him to stop doing something (His current ministry in that particular place), continue doing something (preaching and miracles), and start doing something (a ministry in a new city).
As the year comes to a close and we head into summer, could it be that we too could all benefit by asking ourselves these three questions? I know I can!
- Lord, what do you want me to STOP doing?
- Lord, what do you want me to KEEP doing?
- Lord, what do you want me to START doing?
Is there something in your life that God would want you to stop doing? It may be something that you know you shouldn’t be doing! But it could also be something good that God is telling you it’s time to let go of. Jesus left the adoring crowds at Capernaum so He could help other people throughout Galilee. He stopped doing something good, in order to do something else.
What things in your life do you know God wants you to keep doing? Things that you know you must do, no matter what, because God has called you to do them. It may be for a season, or it may be for a lifetime. For Jesus that was to preach the Gospel.
Is there something new that God is leading you to start doing? It could be intentionally carving out more time for family and friends. Or starting a new ministry or job. Or adding a new practice into your life that will benefit you spiritually or physically. For Jesus that meant beginning a new ministry with people He didn’t know yet.
This Could Be A Summer Highlight
With all of the pressures, demands, and busyness of life that we face, questions like these three – asked in a time of solitude and prayer and reflection – could be one of the best things we could do this summer. That’s why I’m taking some time away to do just that.
A couple weeks before I gave this talk, Bernice and I had a brief conversation with a college student at a neighborhood Starbucks. She told us about her hope to become a permanent resident in Santa Barbara after she finished College at Westmont. Having gone to the same Santa Barbara college, Bernice and I shared our “we too wished we could have lived in Santa Barbara” story.
Related Talk: Three Questions to Ask Yourself This Summer
Fifteen years ago, a church in Santa Barbara asked me to consider becoming their next Lead Pastor. We thought it was our dream come true! But we knew God had to give us the green light, so we told them we needed to take 24 hours to pray and seek God’s confirmation. At the end of that 24 hours both Bernice and I had independently come to the conclusion that God didn’t want us to go to Santa Barbara. Even though we had given Him every opportunity to say yes! We just knew the Lord had another place for us. So we ended up saying no to Santa Barbara so we could say yes to another place. And that other place ended up being one of the best ministry experiences of our lives.
That’s the kind of thing that can happen when you get away and ask the Lord to show you what He wants you to stop doing, keep doing, and start doing. When you ask Him those three questions, His answers might surprise you, but they will move you in the direction He wants you to go.
by Dave Gudgel
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