Making An Impact, or Not!

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A Jelly Fish for God? Read on!

Not too long ago, the most important thing to me was my personal contribution to the Kingdom of God. I’ve literally been “in ministry” since I was a young boy. To me, as the son of a preacher man and a mother who served in the local church with creativity and a keen sense of leadership – serving God was what it meant to be a Christian. By the time I was a teen-ager was I traveling to minister in churches besides my own and by my mid-twenties I’d been to over ten countries on mission trips ministering to children and equipping leaders. From the time I got up in the morning until I collapsed in bed at night, I lived to serve God. As I look back, I still am so thankful for all the amazing opportunities that God brought into my life, but I also feel the burden of stress and the deep exhaustion that was my daily experience. And the loneliness. I have learned the hard way that “Impact” is not the purpose of my faith. It is a result of following and serving God, but it is not why God called me into relationship with Him. I was so busy serving God that I did not have the time, nor often even the inclination, to truly invest in knowing God. And I was starving my soul. I suppose, by God’s grace, there will still be “Kingdom Impact” in my future as I follow and serve the Lord, but I truly am not concerned with that any more. I have discovered the deep satisfaction of simply pursuing God, rather than pursuing his pleasure. Where as I once said to God by my life, “see all that I am doing for You?”, I now simply say, “Hey, God its me.” The problem is that “me” is not as impressive as all the things I can DO, but I’ve learned that “me” is all God wants, and it is all He died for anyway.

I wish I could say I came to this realization one morning during my devotions. But that would assume I did “devotions” or that when I did I took time to listen to God while I was busy reading and studying the Bible to teach from it, or praying for and about all the things I was doing for God. No, it took me coming to the end of myself and experiencing a complete break down in some pretty critical areas of my life until I finally saw myself for the utter and complete failure that I was. Not a failure in ministry per se, but a failure in my soul. Flat on my face, defeated by my own self-destructive drive to change the world and impact the Kingdom, I finally was forced to stop. In that oasis of inactivity I finally listened, and discovered God really wasn’t as impressed with me and all my “ministry” as I had assumed. Quite to the contrary, He was quite disappointed in me, and the secret loneliness I pretended wasn’t there, was His attempt to draw me to what He created me to be – simply a child of His. The problem was not that I had two full time ministries, though I’m sure that didn’t help, the problem was that my purpose in life was defined by what I did for God, rather than by walking with God.

In this past year I have been deeply impacted by hearing Phil Vischer, the creator of VeggieTales, as he has spoken at several conferences I’ve been at. He has been very open and vulnerable about his own drive for “impact” that cost him his ministry, Big Idea. A man we all assumed must have been on top of the world as his “impact” sky-rocketed, was struggling deeply with his identity and purpose and it was causing physical as well as spiritual sickness. He too reached a crisis point in his life where God finally got his attention. I hesitate to repeat too much of his journey, as that is his personal story, but I encourage you to hear him speak and get his book, Me, Myself and Bob. But I do want to share something he explained this past weekend at a children’s ministry conference aptly titled, INSIDE-OUT. He explained why he named his new company “Jellyfish.” As quoted on his website,

“Why? Because jellyfish can’t choose their own course. They can’t locomote. They can go up a little, they can go down a little. But overall, they’re completely dependent on the current to carry them wherever they’re supposed to be. For a jellyfish to make a 20-year plan would be ridiculous. An act of ultimate hubris. And so it is with us. Rather than crafting their little plans and laboring to force things to go “their way,” Phil and his new cohorts at Jellyfish are committed to seeking and following God’s direction, each and every day – committed to staying in the “current” of God’s will, and letting Him carry them where they need to be. No long range plans, unless they come directly from God.”

Let me encourage you to read his Jellyfish Story for yourself on his website. I see so much of my own journey in his.

So what does God have for me in the future? To be quite honest, I’m not really that concerned about it. But I do know what He has for me today. To walk with Him. To listen to Him. To obey Him. To follow Him. And along the way, He’ll show me what He wants me to do for Him today, and maybe tomorrow. But not much more. After all, He didn’t save me so I could make an “impact” on the world, He saved me so I could be His child. And He doesn’t really need my help anyway. Anything I do for Him is only to give me an opportunity to work with Him and watch what He wants to do in my life as well as in the world. He is quite capable of accomplishing His goals with or without me. But He’d rather me choose to live life with Him, rather than work my soul to death trying to do stuff for Him.

I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know what today offers, another opportunity to walk with God. And that is plenty to fill my soul and put a bounce in my step.

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4 Comments:

  1. I really appreciate you sharing your journey. You continually remind me of what I know, but get “too busy” to practice -God simply wants me to be His child, to delight in being in His presence.
    Thanks, Karl!
    Laura

  2. I appreciate what your are saying Karl, and I do know a little of the journey you’ve been on so I understand where you are coming from. But don’t you think it’s possible to do both: make an impact and choosing to “live life with Him.” Yes, Christ died to bring each of us into a right relationship with him, but I think it’s more than that. He died to bring healing to not just individuals but the whole world. As Christ-followers, shouldn’t we be a part of bringing that healing? Yes, we can go overboard doing that, and I understand that is what you are warning against. But we can also swing too far in the opposite direction and become monastic. I know that you aren’t advocating that. But I just wanted to point out that atonement (what Jesus did on the cross) is not just about “me and Jesus”; it’s more than just getting me to heaven; it’s about bringing healing to a broken world (people and planet). I just think that sometimes we have too narrow a view of atonement. Just some thoughts.

    I do want to say, though, that I am excited to see what God has been doing in your life and your family. I agree that what we need to do is focus on following God rather than on what we can do for God.

  3. I completely agree, Henry. The point isn’t a selfish “me and Jesus” that stops focusing on others, the key is STARTING with Jesus and letting HIM direct your steps (Prov. 16:9) and He WILL point you toward others!

  4. Hey there, new reader here. Actually, I stumbled upon this blog a while ago and have enjoyed reading the content from time to time. Great post here. Thank you for your transparency. We can fill our lives with many unhealthy things in order to maintain and manage the level of busyness, but God rewards those who earnestly seek him.
    Stay on the path.

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