On my recent ministry trip to Zambia my host Bishop Jericho Sikwiilala asked me to make a few comments about the American dream. His hope is to awaken an entrepreneurial ambition in the Zambian people and create jobs to counter the 80% unemployment rate that leaves many Zambians in a place of drudgery and despair. I started by asking if anyone had heard of the Russian or China dream? I named several other nations and the response was no. But they had all heard of the American dream. Its known world wide as the land of opportunity and has been experienced by millions of people who over the years came to America and found the freedom to pursue their dreams. I told the curious Zambians that America is far from perfect and that we’ve made plenty of mistakes, but despite our negatives its indisputable that America serves as an example of what people can do when they are given the opportunity to pursue their dreams and aspirations.
I also addressed some of the pitfalls we fall into because of our entrepreneurial drive. The need to succeed is strong and can produce a performance mentality that ties our identity to our accomplishments. Heaven help us if we fail or fall short as for many of us it has lead to despair, discouragement, stress, ulcers, etc. Of course the answer is not avoiding goals and deadlines or striving for excellence. Didn’t Jesus teach us through numerous parables to be productive stewards? And of course we can’t overlook the command to be fruitful in John 15.
So the question isn’t about whether we are to be productive but how to go about it? How can we be hard working and productive while at the same time be stress free and at peace?
I know the struggle all to well. I spent years trying to build a mega church which was my standard for success. When I couldn’t accomplish my goal I hit the wall and was emotionally spent, angry and frustrated with God and myself. It wasn’t pretty. I still loved the Lord, my wife and family, but I was done with ministry as I knew it. I took a sales job and stayed involved with some occasional itinerant work. I had no desire to be full-time like I had been the past 25 years of my life. It was during this time that the Lord began to deepen my understanding of two key truths.
First, it was about His unconditional love. Funny, I had taught the love of God for years but now I was learning how high, deep and wide His love goes! He exposed what is referred to as an orphan spirit which is grounded in rejection, failure and abandonment. Instead of living like a helpless victim of “failure” who was despondent and full of regrets I began to see that my value and worth is determined by who I am in Him, not because of what I do for Him. Yes, I serve the Lord but I’m first and foremost a Son!
The second truth is found in Matthew 11:28-30, Come to me, all you that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you will find rest for your souls for My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
As I meditated and prayed through these verses the Spirit exposed the underlying lies and strongholds that distorted my view of the Father. My performance mentality had caused me to falsely see Him as a harsh task master demanding things from me I couldn’t deliver. And of course the devil was happy to pile on! I repented from this thinking and replaced it with a healthy view of a good and loving Father that is totally for me. I find now that I can more easily live from a place of rest by yoking, (uniting my thoughts and actions), to Him. Practically what this means is I don’t carry assignments, attitudes or beliefs that aren’t from Him. Like Bill Johnson says, “ I can’t afford to have a thought in my head that isn’t from Him!” I’m getting better at recognizing the difference between the fear and guilt that used to motivate me compared to the leading of Holy Spirit. So now I’m more grounded in the love of God so that I can operate from a place of rest!
Rest is the stress free way to operate in the Kingdom. It allows us to quiet our hearts so we can more readily hear the leading of the Holy Spirit. The wisdom He provides enables us to find real time, life solutions to our struggles and problems. Simply put, I hear Holy Spirit better when I’m at rest! Come to Jesus and your reward will be rest!