I’m not trying to be snarky or a wise guy, but I am going to be frank. Ya, we are promised our daily bread and even at that, it’s what we “need”, not what we would like. I’ve heard plenty of people lean over the counter at Burger King say “ya, I ‘need’ a Whopper”. We kind of throw the word “need” around a little loosely. Believe me when I tell you, I can directly relate to what many are coping with in today’s corporate world. We as Americans and business people continue to try and reconcile the “American Dream” with being Christians. Like it or not, they are irreconcilable. Paul writes: “ESV Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” I think this really kind of cuts to the chase.
I would never say and frankly I don’t think Paul would either, to stop striving, to not follow the lead of the Holy Spirit. Does the Holy Spirit lead us to strive and succeed in any aspect of life? Yes, He does. But if we look at the people most intimately involved with Jesus, with the Holy Spirit (yesterday was Pentecost), we, as Americans, would look at these men and not call any of them a “success”. All things being even, we’d probably think of them as fanatical hippies and dismiss them as unrealistic and certainly not worthy of being role models or any kind of mentors. What would you say your “emotional needs” are? I think I know, believe me, I know the drill, by now in my career I should have had an MBA and was the CFO of a mid-cap company, nothing huge maybe $500 million cap. But at the same time, I’ve realized that it seems a little like Paul who was all set to go to Asia and he has a vision to go to Greece. We will never know, but it seems that had to change the course of history. For whatever reason God chose Europe to be evangelized and the part of the world Paul would have gone to is probably the most contentious part of the world. In that same sense, the Holy Spirit can move us in the opposite direction we intended. Jesus promised us life and life more abundant (John 10:10). Do we have life “more abundant” in Christ? Yes? Just by virtue of Him being our Lord we have abundant life. Is that “abundant life” necessarily in this life, that is do we realize the complete abundance of life in Christ in the world? No. When? In the resurrection, when we will be restored to our bodies, to the world as it was meant to be. Not a world fallen in sin and death, but an eternal world that is restored in Christ’s return to where the Father had intended the world to be.
We as men, as Americans, as people in a time and place that even two generations ago would have been unimaginable. Do we have emotional “needs”? Yes, they are fulfilled in the peace, joy and provision of the Lord. Brother I know where you’re at. I wanted the esteem, the recognition, the prestige. Let’s face it, no matter how high we go there is always higher. I was just watching an episode of Frasier. He is receiving a “Life-time Achievement” award and realizes, maybe he’s at the pinnacle of his life, “what to do with the rest of my life.” We have expectations of our own, of our spouse, children, the rest of our family, our peers, on and on. I know the drill, I’ve known the drill in corporations, in the military and yes, believe it or not, I’m kind of going through that right now in the church. I’ve only been ordained, not even four years, and I’ve got those thoughts rolling around in my head, more, bigger, faster. Frankly, I feel that I’m under spiritual attack and I think that those who are resting in Christ are going to be under even more attack. There are many stories of saints overtly tempted by Satan with many kinds of earthly desires. For we Christians, we will be tempted and challenged in Christ. Peter tells us: “ESV 1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” Something strange is not happening to you, whether it’s your own ego, your spouse, dad, kids, peers, ad infinitum, what matters is what is in Jesus.
Now you may not like the following, but I will say this, you’re a guy. Guys are supposed to go out and slay the biggest animal to eat, have the biggest fanciest cave, be the most accomplished among our peers, but it’s not about us, it’s about Him and what He has for our life. Thirty years ago when I started with Chase Manhattan I would have laughed in your face if you had told me that I would be a Lutheran pastor in York, Pa. (I’m from the Boston area). I was, at best, a nominal/cultural Christian. Frankly I really wouldn’t have probably understood what you were talking about and wouldn’t really have cared that much. The Holy Spirit took me in hand and there’s been a lot of events in my life that could have only been Him and He puts me where He wants me. Do I think this is it? Frankly no, but it could be and at this point in the game, I doubt I would be surprised either way.
Now the not so gentle part. I see you getting “tunnel-visioned”, I certainly understand why. Many reading this are guys, probably about the same age, we’ve done a lot and we were expecting the American dream, which means a senior level job, seven figure salary, (at least mid-six), a fat retirement account, at least one nice car for everyone in the household (read Mercedes level), of course one doesn’t summer where one winters, does one? At our age that’s beginning to slip away, in fact in our age group we stand a very good chance of not retiring or continuing to work to some degree until we’re called to be in His presence. We’re tempted to dump it on God and say “hey, that wasn’t supposed to be the deal”. As an American? Ya probably. As a Christian? No we have to be open to the Spirit’s leading. Even if you did have all the ego gratification and material gratification, would that mean that the Spirit wouldn’t be pushing on you? Those in the Acts church gave everything they had in common with their brothers and sisters. Have you really taken it in prayer to the Father? Have you really asked Him what is His will? Are you afraid of the answer? Do you think He is going to tell you to sell everything, learn some unknown language and move to some exotic place? I doubt it, but maybe He’s moving you to take your skills, any/all of them, to apply them for others, maybe in His church, maybe for some other deserving civic group? We all get way too caught up in our careers and more and more material/ego gratification and we tend to shut out the Holy Spirit and what He is guiding you to. Take some serious time in prayer, take some time in Bible study, in journaling. Write down what the Spirit is really putting on your heart, be open to Him and His leading and try to put aside your pre-conceived notions. God told us His ways are not our ways. What He is trying to do in you is probably something that would never have occurred to you and maybe you have cut yourself to any leading other than your own. I do understand, we all go through that regardless of our position. But yes frankly I think middle-aged, professionally trained men are especially susceptible. Look for His guiding, in 35 odd years He has led me to places I would have never expected and He truly has always provided, maybe not to what I wanted or expected, but certainly to what I needed, I really can say that I have never wanted and quite often have received more then I expected.
If you are not a part of a church body I would definitely encourage you to be, you are certainly welcome at First St Johns. If you are at a church sit down with your pastor and discuss further with him. You are definitely not unusual, this is a struggle we all have, may God richly bless you and help you to see His will, when we are in His will we will know joy, peace and prosperity, even while the things around us may not seem that way. We are starting a Men’s Group at First St Johns, maybe associating with Christian men in a small group setting might help you to get a better perspective, help you to feel less isolated. And our Coffee Break Bible Study meets at the church 140 W King St in York, Pa. 10am Wednesday mornings, park right behind the church and go in the back door.
Pastor Jim Driskell