A valuable skill to learn is that of setting personal pastoral goals. We may think of pastoral goals as something that our church pastor or community leaders have for us as a group or for me as an individual. Indeed, some pastors do have clear goals for the members of their parish or community, and those goals help them to better lead the flock under their care. Yes, we can and should cooperate with those who have some spiritual authority over us (see Ephesians 4:11-14), but the Bible calls Christians to also take personal responsibility, to exert personal effort, to set before themselves the goal of Jesus Christ, to think things through with their renewed minds, to put off the old man, to put on the new man, to live as servants of God, and to bear fruit for our Master.
2 Peter 1:5-8 Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these things are yours and abound, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Most of the “pastoral” goals I have for myself are long-term goals. They flow from God’s word and from His call on my life to be a member of the Work of Christ Community. But it has also been helpful for me to spend some time in prayer as I enter new phases of life, to ask the Lord for His guidance; to ask “what goal do you have for me in this new situation,” and “what specific things can I do to help accomplish that goal?” Most recently I sought the Lord for a clear goal as I became senior coordinator of the Work of Christ, then again as Jan and I went through the challenge of her cancer treatment. It was a blessing to hear the Lord and to have a bit of His mind as I approached these new situations.
Today, we are all facing a new situation: a deadly virus and physical distancing. We are about a month into this and it is clear that our lives will be impacted for several months more. For some of us, this is a time of greater togetherness as schools are closed and children are home. For others of us it is a more lonely time. We can’t go where we want to go, we can’t do what we want to do, we can’t be with whoever we want—no matter what the Mama’s & Papas say (it’s a 60’s music reference). So here is a question, what does God have for you in the new situation?
Perhaps this is a good time for you to work on having a daily personal prayer time, or spending quality time in God’s word. This may be a time for being more loving and service-oriented with those in your own home. Perhaps this is a time to deal with fear: fears about disease, fears about our finances, fears about our jobs. There may be friends or relatives that you can support through phone calls or personal service. This may be a good time to work on not complaining, not even about the restrictions. The possibilities are endless, but the Lord may have something unique, just for you in this unique time.
Every so often, I receive an email from a brother who sign off, “”Never let a good crisis go to waste.” He attributes the phrase to Winston Churchill, but it’s not clear that Churchill ever said it. Even so, it should make us think. We are right now in the midst of a crisis. Some day this crisis will come to an end, and when it does, will we be closer to Christ; will we be more like Jesus in any way; will we be closer to our loved ones; will we be more steadfast in doing the things we have committed ourselves to do; will we have served our neighbors; will we have victory over our fears; will we have learned to rejoice and not complain?
Here is my suggestion: take some time in prayer and ask the Lord what He has for you in this time. Then listen. Listen when you pray, and keep listening afterwards. You may hear a word from the Lord, you may have a growing conviction, you may simply have a good idea. Guidance doesn’t need to “feel” spiritual in order to be from the Lord.
Isaiah 2:3 Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.
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