Some Thoughts On Change

19 01 2012

I recently posted about finding myself in “Burnout City”, and the things that God revealed to me that got me there. If you didn’t get a chance to read that post, I would encourage you to read it here.  It will help you understand the context for what I will explain here.

When you are on the road to burn out, things need to change.  Jesus said, “for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” and if that is not how you are feeling about life, then something is wrong.  If something doesn’t change, you will burn out, and things will change, but not in a good way.  Spiritual, Physical and Emotional breakdowns are ugly, painful, and devastating.  That’s not the kind of change you want.

In the midst of my burnout, I was caught in a deadly cycle.  I knew I was stuck, but because I spent zero time listening to God as to “why”, I didn’t have a clue.  Because I didn’t know why, I didn’t know what to change…  and because I didn’t know what to change, I found myself doing the same old things, hoping that somehow I would shake out of my funk.  Because nothing changed, nothing changed, and I remained stuck… still not knowing why…and because of that… well, you get the picture.  It was only by God’s grace that I got out of that cycle.

When I finally began to seek God on the “why”, He revealed a host of things that needed to change in my life.  However, as we all know, change doesn’t come easy.  Along the way, I had to learn how to change, and how to make that change last.  Here are a few thoughts I learned along the way.

  • Change has to be intentional – It’s not enough just to change something because you’re stuck.  You need to make sure that the changes you are making will actually help you get un-stuck.  The key here is to “connect with God” to determine the “Why” to your being stuck.  Once you see the “Why” clearly, you can make purposeful, intentional changes that will help move you forward.
  • Your flesh will resist any meaningful change – Again, change isn’t easy… especially when you are changing habits or activities that you have given yourself to for years.  You have to know, going in, that there will be great resistance to any valuable change you desire to make.  It will take courage and strength to overcome!  “Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.”  Ephesians 6:10
  • For change to last, you have to change the “Causes”, not the “Symptoms” –  A mistake many people make is focusing on “symptoms” rather than “causes”.  When you do this, you will expend all your effort trying to change something that will never really change, unless the cause is dealt with.  You can take Tylenol to remove a headache, but if the cause is a brain tumor, it will only be a temporary fix.  For lasting change to take place in your life, you have to focus on “Causes”, and let the symptoms go.
  • You can’t do it alone – Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:  If one falls down, his friend can help him up.  But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!”  God has given us relationships to help make meaningful changes in our lives possible.  If there is something that needs to change in your life, then get a friend or two to hold you accountable to those changes.  If you’re serious about change, it will be a welcome and necessary step.
  • Don’t give up! – Here’s the reality.  You’re going to fall short at times.  However, don’t allow those lapses to be a justification for letting change go.  If I’m dieting and I give into the temptation of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, I can’t allow that one failure to derail the meaningful and important change I am trying to make.  I must understand what went wrong (why were Ben and Jerry invited into my house to begin with?), consider what the causes were (poor shopping habits?), and recommit to living out the change God is leading me to make.  If you quit, change will never, ever happen.
  • Depend upon Christ – Ultimately, no meaningful or lasting change happens without God doing an incredible and radical work of transformation.  When things need to change in our lives, we must depend upon Christ, and His strength and power, more than our wisdom, our plans, or our greatest efforts.  Philippians 4:13 says “I can do all things, through Christ, who gives me strength.”  It is Christ who gives us the strength to live out the change we so desperately need in life.

God’s Transforming Power + Our Best Effort = Meaningful Change

When you combine God’s Power with your very best efforts, meaningful change is the end results.  We can’t just think that transformation will take place while we sit on the couch, and we can’t just believe that we can change ourselves.  It takes both God’s power and our best efforts to see the changes we desire come to fruition.  It’s in our efforts that God’s power is released.

So what kind of changes need to take place in your life?  Be intentional, be strong, be wise, be accountable, be diligent, and be dependent.  If I can change, so can you!  If you need help or prayer for things that need to change in your life, I would love to help if I can.  I am praying that God uses this to help you take those important steps!

Burn On!

Burn On… Not Out

18 01 2012

Six months ago I was in a bad, bad place.  No, it wasn’t a casino or a strip club.  It wasn’t a bar or a brothel.

I was in “Burnout” City.  And I didn’t even know it.

When I discovered I was there, I discovered that it is much more common than I wanted to admit.  I began to see the signs everywhere, in my own life and in the lives of those around me.  Because of this, I felt it was important to share my journey to “Burnout City” with you, in hopes that you can avoid finding yourselves there.  If you are already there, hopefully you’ll be able to glean some wisdom and get back on track… back on the Road to Refreshing.

“Repent… that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” Acts 3:19

I had heard about “burnout” from other pastors and leaders, but I truly believed that I was immune to such a thing.  I am a positive guy.  I am not prone to extremes.  I don’t really get depressed or down.  I was convinced that burnout was something that happened to other, much weaker people, but not to me.Image

However, as ministry continued,  I knew something wasn’t right.  Although I would have never called it burnout, I was very aware that I was stuck.  I felt as if all of my energy and efforts produced no forward momentum.  No matter what I did, it seemed nothing was moving forward.  I had no vision for the future, I was paralyzed by menial decisions, I was caught up in meaningless pursuits… I was a leadership mess.  My excitement about what I was doing was at an all time low.  I found myself drifting in the sea of “routine”.  Same thing, different day.  Over and over and over.

In the midst of all of this, I came across a book called “Leading On Empty” by Wayne Cordeiro (which I highly recommend).  In it, the author, a Pastor himself, shared his own story of “burnout”, and his pathway out of it.  What he experienced was so much like what I was going through, it scared me.  And what scared me even more was the reality of what could happen if I continued down this path.

If things didn’t change, I would not be in ministry in very near future. 

For the next two weeks, I intentionally began to seek God on this matter.  I secluded myself and began to ask Him to help me see what had happened, and how to get back on track.  It didn’t take long to recognize how it happened.  Here is what God revealed to me about my “Road to Burnout City”:

  • I Neglected Personal Time In God’s Word – It didn’t happen over night, but slowly, my personal time in God’s Word deteriorated.  Instead of daily times listening to God speak directly to me and my heart condition, my time with God was primarily centered around preparing for a message or speaking opportunity.
  • I Became Self-Sufficient – I have always struggled with consistent times of prayer, but during this stretch, Prayer was almost non-existent.  I rarely asked God to do anything… except to bless some event we were doing.  I was living an almost completely self-sufficient life, needing very little from God.
  • I Neglected My Physical Condition – I stopped working out or exercising and I placed little restraint on my eating habits.  I justified my lack of exercise thinking I was to busy doing the work of ministry.  When you add a horrific diet, I started to gain weight and feel poorly.  By the time I made it home at the end of the day, I had little energy to engage my wife and kids in meaningful ways.  I found myself drawn to mindless activities that required little to no effort or energy (internet, news, TV…)
  • I Took No Time Away – I understood the spiritual principle of “getting away”, but I never made it a priority.  And when I did get away, I was not intentional about re-connecting with God… rather I viewed it as more of a “break” from Him.  Ultimately, I was missing the very reason I needed to get “away” to begin with.
  • I Didn’t Understand What “Refreshed” Me – There are certain activities that “refresh” us, and because I had never considered what those things were for me, I was never intentional about engaging in them.  No refreshing leads to living less than fresh.

That was basically what the “Road to Burnout” looked like for me.  I would venture to say that if you are feeling “Burnt out”, that many of the above things are true of you as well.  It seldom happens overnight, but very slowly, our intensity on the things that matter the most starts to wain, and if we wander down that path long enough, we find ourselves on the outskirts of “Burnout City”.

If your there, it’s not too late to turn around.  The first step for me was to get away and get with God.  It might be the first step for you too.  As soon as possible, I would encourage you to grab your Bible and journal, and take an hour or two (maybe more) to allow God to reveal to you what your “road” looks like.  It might be different, or it might be similar, but when you see it, you will be able to start making the necessary changes to get off the Road your on, and back onto the Road of Refreshing.

In the next couple of days, I’ll post more on what it looked like to get back on the Road to Refreshing, and what specific changes I had to make to stay there.

Burn on, my friends!  Burn On!