Recently I’ve had occasion to think again about what I believe to be one of the primary pastoral tasks. As I’ve thought about it more deeply, I believe it may be something that all Christians who are eager to share their faith might consider. I believe this pastoral task is that it is more important to bless others than it is to fix them. That is not to discount the amount of “fixing” that all of us need. Rather, it is to remember what is our task as well as what is the work of the Holy Spirit in everyone’s life (including ours).
I believe many pastors are drawn to ministry because we have a desire to help others; we have a passion to share the gospel with others so that those persons can also experience the good news that we know. But sometimes our ideas of how to do that may get in the way of the work of the Holy Spirit in other people’s lives. I believe we need to let the convicting work of the Holy Spirit do the fixing in the lives of others.
Paul was a person of strong convictions. And he was not afraid to share those convictions with others. Nevertheless, he wrote to the Philippians in 3:15-16 these words: “So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision — you’ll see it yet!” (The Message)
Paul acknowledges that not all Christians who are striving to know the perfect will of God are in agreement. He confesses that all of us are on the way; none in this life have yet arrived. But he leaves it to God to “clear their vision” rather than taking it upon himself to do so, even though in earlier times (cf. Acts 8-9) Paul, as Saul, did his best to fix people.
I think too often we may talk about everyone being made in the image of God, when what we would secretly like is for more of those others to be made in our own image! But that is not our job. Our job is to lead people to a relationship with Jesus Christ, not define what that relationship will look like in exact detail for them.
One of the ways we can do that is to encourage others to practice spiritual disciplines. Yet at the same time we cannot pretend to know which disciplines will necessarily work best for them. Nor can we prescribe exactly how they ought to practice those disciplines. Rather, our emphasis and encouragement should be on that they practice them. For it is in practicing spiritual disciplines that we gain a better understanding of who God is and what God wants us to do and be.
We must also remember that blessing others is not the same as affirming all they do! Like Paul, we may still have a sense of who is “focused on that goal” and who is wavering. Yet all are in need of encouragement. And the best way to do this is to bless them, leaving the fixing to God. I don’t know about you, but I have a much higher degree of confidence in God’s ability to fix things than in my own!
GOD’S BLESSINGS TO YOU!