By Rick WARREN
God wants us to be free. In fact, this is a major theme throughout Scripture.
Because Jesus died and rose again, we can have freedom from the prisons that hold us back. Paul writes in John 8:36, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (NIV).
Here are three ways Jesus wants to give you freedom in your ministry.
1. Freedom from pretending
As pastors, we often worry people will see the real us. People tend to expect perfection from us, and we put on masks to hide who we really are. Social media makes this even worse, pressuring us to appear like we have it all together.
Some of you have been pretending for so long that you don’t even know who the real you is.
One of the reasons we pretend is because we want to please people—our families, our church, or our communities. But Proverbs 29:25 tells us the problem with doing this, “Being afraid of people can get you into trouble” (NCV).
None of us can please everyone. Even God can’t do that. (Somebody is praying for rain today; someone else is praying for sunshine.) Only a fool would attempt to do what God can’t do.
For others, the temptation is perfectionism. We believe we must be perfect to be loved.
The antidote to both people-pleasing and perfectionism is to switch our focus to what God thinks. The Bible tells us, “I have gained perfect freedom by following your teachings” (Psalm 119:45 CEV). Only when we recognize that God loves us unconditionally, and we commit to living for him instead of the approval of others will we find real freedom from the prison of pretending.
2. Freedom from unforgiveness
When we can’t forgive someone, it’ll hold back our ministry. Unforgiveness becomes a prison that keeps us stuck.
We’ll never get all that God wants for us and our ministry when we’re shackled to unforgiveness.
We preach about this. We counsel people to forgive others. But forgiveness can still be difficult to live out.
Here’s why forgiveness is so important for our ministry.
— Because God has forgiven us. We will never need to forgive anybody else more than God has already forgiven us. When we come to Christ, all our sins are wiped away. God has no record of our sins in Heaven if we’ve accepted Christ in our life.
Since God offers us that kind of forgiveness, we should freely offer it to others.
— Because resentment makes us miserable. Holding onto unforgiveness doesn’t just hurt the other person. It hurts us. In fact, it hurts us more.
— Because we’ll need more forgiveness in the future. We’ll make mistakes in the future. We’ll sin. We’ll fail. We’ll fall. We will need the forgiveness of God and others later. But Jesus taught, “If you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your offenses” (Matthew 6:15 CSB).
3. Freedom from the prison of fear
We may call it worry or anxiety, but fear is a prison. It never allows us to have the limitless life God wants for us.
I’m sure you’ve seen this in your ministry. People get hurt, and they refuse to let others in. They are afraid it will just lead to more pain.
But pastor, whom have you locked out of your life because of fear? Perhaps you are afraid to dedicate yourself to your congregation because you were hurt so much at your last church. Maybe God has called you personally or your church corporately into a new opportunity of ministry, but you’re scared of what might happen if you fully follow God.
To unlock the prison of fear, remember God loves you.
No matter what happens in the future, he’ll never stop. His love is unconditional.
Also, don’t forget that God has a plan for you, your family, and your ministry. Not everything that happens to you is good. But Romans 8:28 tells us, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV). God specializes in bringing good out of bad!
I pray you’ll find the freedom to pursue everything that God has planned for you and your ministry.