What God Taught Me About Community When I Had No Friends

About a year ago I moved to a town where I had no friends other than my soon-to-be husband. Although we were thrilled to be living in the same town after almost two years of long distance, my whole concept of community was changing. Suddenly, “community” didn’t look like five 21 year old girls, five spoons, and a pazookie. Community didn’t look like living in the same building as two hundred other girls on a campus full of people who were approximately the same age as me and roughly in the same stage of life as me. I moved to a town where there are very few people my age and in the same stage of life as me.

In school, you can pretend to have community even if you don’t. The people around you are at least similar to you in some way. Then you graduate. You go to work, come home, and then what? There’s no club meetings… no events… no wandering down the hall to find someone to hang out with.

You have to work for community.

My friendships now don’t look the same as before. We don’t eat every meal together or hang out every weekend. They are moms and some of them are even old enough to be my mom! But you know what? They show up. They check in. They encourage and share wisdom.

College spoils you. It’s so great, but it spoils you! Friendships and community won’t look like that your whole life! And sometimes that is hard. But you find people who share in the important things – people who will help when needed and celebrate when needed!

Matching pajamas and pazookie nights are great, but community changes just as the seasons of life do. When I let go of what I think friendships should look like at this stage of life, God provided me with great friendships that spur me on toward what is good.

To all of you college peeps out there… soak it in. But make it about more than just fun. Find encouragers and supporters and people who push you closer to Christ. Those relationships last.

To graduates… trust the Lord to provide you with community… and then get involved in a church. You may have to let go of some expectations about what you think your friendships should look like and that’s okay. God knows our desires and our needs and He will provide. But also don’t forget that He is the ultimate companion and can provide all that you need. If it is taking a long time to find your community, be patient and lean into Him.

When I had no friends, God brought me a community more caring, wise, and encouraging than I’ve ever known! And I am so thankful.

– Jamie Roach

Why The Long Face?

It was late Saturday night, and I had woken up groggy and disoriented yet again. For a few nights in a row I was having experiences where I awoke from my sleep with the sensation that I was coming out of anesthesia. I knew where I was, but things felt hazy and cloudy, and my arms and legs felt weighted as if they were moving through water.

It had been five days since my jaw surgery, and I was getting over the hump of the discomfort, only to have my sleep continuously upended by these lingering side effects. The day had been a little rough, and I was just so done.

Jamie woke up to my groans, quickly coming to my side to see what was wrong. I told her, and started to tear up. All I wanted was to sleep.

Jamie, in her always on point wisdom, encouraged me to pray aloud while she went to the kitchen to get me some medicine.

I didn’t feel like praying, not gonna lie. Yes, all things considered, my suffering in the aftermath of my surgery was minor. My pain was not extreme, my battle not with death. But, in the moment, I was fighting despair.

So that’s where I found myself. Disoriented and uneasy in bed, encouraged by my wife to pray aloud.

As I stared up at the fan, I started to pray.

The words got louder and louder, my heart pouring out and echoing down the hall. The tears started flowing and things continued to escalate until I yelled loudly, “Look at what I’m doing for You, and this is what you did to me.”

As soon as the words left my mouth, things got quiet in the room and in my heart. You see, Scripture clearly teaches that our words come from the overflow of our hearts. Every thing we say displays some aspect of where our hearts are at.

Suffering tends to really reveal our hearts.

My suffering had revealed some things in my heart I didn’t really like.

I strive to serve God in all that I do. I strive to be obedient. I strive to point others to Jesus. I strive to show others the wonderful grace of God. I strive to extend the love of God to others. I strive to be a lifelong disciple of my risen Lord and Savior.

There’s nothing at all wrong with any of those desires of mine.

Yet my scream of anger at God showed that I certainly felt like I was entitled to a good life, one of prosperity and blessings. I scratch your back, you scratch mine. I tried to serve God faithfully, so it only made sense that He should bless me with favor.

In the quiet stillness after my outburst, I felt God lovingly but firmly reminding me of what is true about Him. He doesn’t need me. If I wasn’t a family pastor in Vernon, someone else would be brought in and fill the same role.

Talk about oof.

What followed was the reminder from God of all the bazillion good gifts He had given me. A wonderful wife, parents who pray for and care for me, a brother and sister-in-law that let me have a fun weekend stay at their place before my surgery, a church family that has been continuously so amazing towards me (they’ve brought me meals and mowed my lawn), friends, a wonderfully talented surgeon, in-laws that let me stay with them when I got out of the hospital. The list goes on and on, and that’s centered around simply this past week or two.

Big oof.

Suffering causes us to lose sight of all of the light of God’s good and gracious gifts to us.

God continued to speak through His Word to me. He reminded me of His control over the situation. He reminded me that in the darkest of moments, He is still at work and still cares for His people like me (this has been slammed into my face since I’ve been studying Job for my blog and teaching Judges to the youth on Sundays).

All of this happened in my heart so fast.

Jamie came back in the room, helped me take some medicine, and soon I was back to sleep.

I wanted to share this experience with you for a handful of reasons.

First, I want to hopefully take away some of the stigma associated with acknowledging a hard day. It’s easy for us to compare our suffering to that of others, feeling like we can’t share that it’s been tough on us in fear of sounding pathetic or wimpy. If you’re struggling through something in your life right now, I genuinely pray that you have a faith community around you that can uplift you and that you can be open with. Stop the facades people, we need to be more real with others about our suffering and struggles.

Secondly, I want to remind us all that is in those dark nights (in my case literally) that we can ask the Lord to reveal the content of our hearts to us. Hear me, suffering is NOT always the result of sin. We don’t live in a black and white world like that. But, suffering can be used by God to reveal some sinful attitudes, motives, desires, etc. Just as He did with me.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. – Psalm 139:23-24

Lastly, I want to encourage you that our God reigns. Every single day, He has walked with me through this. Some days are harder than others, but He has brought stability. As I’ve been studying Job, I’ve been so encouraged by the following verse. Job cries out in all his emotions to the Lord all throughout the book. He despairs of his very life. Yet, in the midst of despair, He has a confidence in God. He is able to make the following declaration.

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. – Job 19:25

Living in 2019, we are able to say the same. Our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, lives.

Whatever you’re going through, you’ll get through it.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Don’t Lose Heart

Don’t lose heart.

Stories of perseverance and endurance strike a cord with me. Overcoming odds, rising up from the ashes, enduring through loss, all of these types of narratives and stories do something to our hearts. It’s why we click on the Facebook articles about three-legged dogs, geek out when the Avengers save the day, and watch videos where underprivileged students rise above their station and get accepted into Ivy League schools.

It’s why the movie Miracle brings me to shed a tear or two.

Now, my life story will never be catalogued in film or novel, but I know that it’s one of perseverance and endurance.

I know this, because I am a follower of Jesus.

To actively and intentionally follow Jesus in our world, one must have perseverance and endurance. It is not an easy task to follow the Crucified King.

This semester was bookended by a couple difficult weeks. Back in January, I wrote down a prayer request in my journal that God would simply give me the strength to keep moving forward. While I applied it to my role as a vocational minister, it is a prayer I believe that we could all relate to.

As I continue to read through 2 Corinthians, I’m struck by the raw feelings of affliction that Paul and Timothy were experiencing. I’m obviously not stating that my trials have been to the degree of what these first century missionaries experienced on account of Jesus, but I find their transparency refreshing. The Bible never sugarcoats the difficulty of following Jesus,.

Look at this passage from 2 Corinthians 4.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; – 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

Is that relatable to you?

Have you ever felt afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, or struck down?

Maybe you’re living paycheck to paycheck, waiting for your house to be sold so you can stop paying two mortgages.

Maybe you’ve strived your whole life to follow Jesus faithfully, but your teens or adult children or spouse want nothing to do with that way of life.

Maybe you or a family member are facing an unexpected illness that is debilitating you and stripping you of hope.

Maybe you have asked God for healing and He hasn’t answered.

Maybe you have tried to be a godly influence in your workplace, but you still aren’t any closer to seeing your friends come to give their allegiance to Jesus.

Take heart, my brother or sister in Christ.

God allows affliction, confusion, and persecution to come into our lives. But we are not totally crushed, we are not forsaken, we are not destroyed.

Keep moving forward.

Look with me at verses fourteen and sixteen.

…knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. . . So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. – 2 Corinthians 4:14, 16

Now I must say, if your ultimate hope is in this world and what this world can provide for you, this verse isn’t going to do much for you.

This passage from Paul is proclaiming that we will be raised up with Christ and brought into the Presence of God. That is our hope. Sure, our bodies will ache and continue to fall apart as we age, but our inner self is being renewed day by day by the Spirit at work in our hearts and lives.

So we do not lose heart.

That phrase showed up in the first verse of this chapter as well.

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. – 2 Corinthians 4:1

What kept Paul and Timothy going in the midst of tremendous affliction was two-fold: the promise that God would raise them up upon their last day, and that they had a ministry from God to fulfill.

Don’t check out yet.

You may be thinking, I’m not a missionary, I’m not a pastor, I’m not on staff at a church.

Regardless, God has given you a ministry to perform and fulfill. You are called to love God and neighbor.

As a pastor, I want to lovingly remind you that it is not my job to be the hands and feet of Christ to your neighbor, co-worker, family member, or friend. It’s not my job. It’s your job. Now, I hope that I can empower and equip and encourage and mobilize, but it is your role to spread the light of Christ that I talked about in my last blog (Searchlights). I love you, but it’s on you.

You have been given a ministry.

Now, I would be misleading if I claimed that I do this perfectly. Those of you who attend the church I serve at here in Vernon, TX, certainly know that. I have a predisposition towards wit and laughter and fun (I call it joy, but to each their own), but there are assuredly days where I show up on a Sunday morning and you wouldn’t see joy on my face or in my attitude.

Earlier today I was journaling about this very thing. If I’m being honest, there are plenty of moments where my motivation to keep going in the midst of affliction is not based on my ministry at all. But it’s my prayer that God would keep those in my path at the forefront of my mind, to give me the strength to keep going.

Following Jesus is hard.

That’s why not many choose to do so.

But if you’re with me on the narrow path, it’s my prayer that you would remember that God is at work, and that He hasn’t forsaken you.

This year I’ve been trying to memorize Colossians 1:29.

It says this.

To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me. – Colossians 1:29

I persevere and I endure.

By the power of Christ in me.

By daily reliance on Him.

Don’t lose heart.

You have an eternal hope and an earthly ministry.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Searchlights

A long time ago when I was but a child, while at the beach in North Carolina, my family went on a walk. It was pretty late in the evening, and only the stars and our little flashlights lit the way for us. My sister decided to run on ahead (with permission) to make it back to the beach house where us and our extended family were staying. We continued our walk at a leisurely pace, but when we arrived back at the beach house, we couldn’t find her.

We all responded to this in different ways. Some of us shrugged it off, assured that she would come back around to the house. Others of us lost it, balling and freaking out (okay, this might have been me), thinking of the worst case scenarios. As the minutes ticked by, uncles and cousins and siblings continued making the trek out to the beach to yell her name and to try and find her.

We didn’t just turn on a Brian Reagan comedy special and go about our night. Rather, we continued praying and seeking.

We eventually called the non-emergency number for the police, who informed us that some Coast Guard helicopters were flying over our stretch of the beach, and that they would use their spotlights to try and locate her. In other circumstances, this would have been totally dope.

At long last, my Uncle Jay ended up being the MVP, locating her huddled up next to a sand dune a little bit down the shore from our house. She was safe. She had been found.

My entire extended family did what they could to differing degrees (I was pretty useless) to find my sister and bring her home. We were not content to just enjoy the rest of the evening, claiming that 8 out of 9 cousins being safe was a pretty good percentage.

Your community has lost people that need to be found. Your community has people that are shrouded in darkness, who need the hope-bringing light that Jesus offers. Let us not ever grow content to continue entertaining ourselves (with witty pastors rather than comedians) while we know that there’s someone out there that needs to come home.

Look with me at Scripture. Yes, it’s another passage out of 2 Corinthians (it’s been my jam lately).

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shown in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. – 2 Corinthians 4:3-6

There are two types of people in the world.

There are those who are being blinded from the light of the gospel by the enemy of our souls, Satan.

And there are those who have had God shine light into our hearts. What is this light? This light is the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. This light is Jesus.

Now, let’s be brutally honest with ourselves for a second, those of us who have the light of Jesus in us.

Are we just chilling in our beach house?

Are we simply having a good time, being entertained, being fed, being with our faith family, soaking it all in? Or are we taking the light we have out onto the shore, searching for our lost friends and family members?

I’m often not.

I believe in the local church. 100%. I am finding myself more and more alone in this point of view with people my age, but it’s what I believe all the same. The local church is the method through which God reaches our communities.

That being said, our local churches can miss the mark when they’re only ever about those who are already in the family of Jesus.

I’m young, and I’m blunt, and that’s not always a good thing.

Because I’m young, I’ll let an older pastor say it his way.

Josh Howerton, a pastor in Rockwall that I am dying to be friends with, said that we as the church should do whatever it takes, barring sin, to reach the lost in our communities.

Whatever it takes.

That’s my heart. In my short time in ministry, just three years, I’ve seen tragedies and seen churches focused too much on themselves. I see my heart focused too much on itself. All too often.

My heart wants comfort. My heart wants the status quo. My heart wants easy. My heart wants to watch Brian Reagan in the beach house while eating seventeen bowls of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

But the truth is, we would not have found my sister if we simply turned on all the lights in our beach house and said come find us.

We would not have found my sister if we simply kept ourselves distracted by entertainment on the TVs or by arguing and bickering about who had claim to what food in the fridge or what room in the house.

We would not have found my sister if we told ourselves that we shouldn’t go, because it’s uncomfortable or scary or we just have never done things like that before.

No, we found my sister by lighting that shoreline up.

We did whatever it took to find her.

We did whatever it took to bring her home.

As the people of God, we have been given a gift. The light of God through Jesus that has pierced our hearts. God removed the veil that the enemy had put over our eyes.

Let us flood our communities with searchlights.

It’s time to bring the lost home.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

 

The Face Of Comfort

God has strengthened and comforted me lately. In the midst of tragedy and dark days, He has carried me like a father carries His son. He has shown me that when I am dependent upon Him, deliverance will come, in one way or another (The God Of All Comfort).

God is a comforter.

It’s not just something He does, it’s part of the essence of who He is.

But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus – 2 Corinthians 7:6

God comforts the downcast.

God comforts me.

This comfort is not something that leads me into complacency. In fact, the comfort of God on my life is the very thing that drives me forward as a follower of Jesus. Or, according to 2 Corinthians, it should be.

Let’s look at the basis for this assertion real quick.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

God comforts me and you in our affliction. That’s beautiful.

But there’s a call in this. We are comforted in affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction

In my 2 Corinthians journal (if you don’t have any of the ESV Scripture Journals, you’re missing out), I wrote to the side “God’s comfort of me should lead me to comfort others.” Now I’m probably not winning any awards for deep and poetic rhetoric, but that’s the unavoidable truth of this passage. It’s what has been in the back of my mind all week.

I live in a city that is full of people who are in need of comfort and strength, both inside and outside our churches.

The same is true for where you live.

If I’m receiving comfort of God while refusing to extend that same comfort to those around me, I’m missing the point.

When you look at 2 Corinthians 7:6, it’s cool to see that Titus got to be the face of comfort in the lives of Paul and Timothy. God comforted them via Titus.

God is the source of comfort, but you and I can be the face of it.

So, what types of people can we comfort?

Those Inside The Family of God Who Are In Trials 

I pull out my phone, start to type out a message, but then quickly put it away. This happens again and again. Circumstances are weighing heavy on my heart, but taking the plunge to ask for prayer is decidedly difficult, even with trusted friends in my faith community.

We live in a church culture that sometimes makes it difficult to simply say “I’m in need.” As followers of Jesus who have been comforted by God however, we should strive to make our faith community one where people can be real honest about the battles they are facing. One of the enemy’s greatest tricks is convincing our brothers and sisters in Christ that the church is where you should pretend to have it all together.

I have a friend who texts me every once in a while with a simple “How can I be praying for you and your family?”. That simple text reminds me that there are men and women praying for me and my family. The more we can do that for others, the better.

What can you do to extend comfort and strength to those in your church who need it?

And remember, Paul and Timothy felt at the point of death itself (1:8), so it’s not weakness to admit you need help too.

Those Inside The Family of God Who Are In Sin

This is probably the group of people where I struggle with this the most. I see things in black and white, not much grey. But there are innumerable people in our churches who need strength and comfort in the midst of battling sorrow for their sin.

For the unrepentant habitual lifestyle of sin, there are hard words that need to be spoken.

But for the struggling mother, father, husband, wife, worker, friend, or neighbor who acknowledges their sin and desires to change, what they need is not a reprimand, but a word of comfort and strength.

so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. – 2 Corinthians 2:7

Paul is here addressing someone in the church at Corinth who had sinned, causing pain to many. Although I don’t know all the details of this situation (I love that there’s always more to study in the Bible), I find it interesting that Paul commands them to comfort him.

Our churches are full of sinners.

Sinners who see their sin but don’t see grace need to be strengthened and comforted.

Those Outside The Family of God Who Need Hope 

Lastly, we should be comforters of those outside our walls that need hope to keep moving forward. Our world offers innumerable distractions and false gods to occupy the hopeless mind, but ultimately what every person needs is Jesus.

For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing – 2 Corinthians 2:15

What a weird term.

I am the aroma of Christ among those who are perishing (without hope).

So the extremely weird question we gotta ask is do people smell Christ when they’re around us?

I’ve sat in so many budget meetings and committee meetings and staff meetings in my short life, and while there is a place for them, arguments about money and preferences and plans fall short when it comes to spreading hope.

Side note: this verse doesn’t say that your pastor or your church or your men’s ministry is the aroma of Christ for your lost neighbors.

Nope.

It’s supposed to be you!

In the wake of so many tragic situations in my city, I can’t help but ask myself regularly how I can continue imperfectly bringing hope to a world that needs it.

God can comfort and strengthen you.

He does that so that you can comfort and strengthen others.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

The God Of All Comfort

I got home from work last Monday, and all I wanted to do was climb into bed and fall asleep. I had the same feeling on Tuesday. The enemy was reminding me of all the darkness in this world, as tragedy after tragedy assaulted the place that I call home. When tragedy strikes, when I’m faced with darkness, I tend to give the enemy a foothold and dwell on the tragedies that have happened in my life. I was in a tough place. I didn’t look forward to the next days and weeks with anticipation. Instead I looked to them with dread. What would happen next? What tragedy would strike? What problem would I be faced with? How would I be able to keep preaching the hope and joy that are found in Christ, despite deep darkness and real pain?

Thankfully, I have an amazing wife.

She gave me space to feel, to hurt, to shed some tears, and to rest.

Yet she made sure that I didn’t create space away from God. She made sure that I didn’t dwell on the enemy, she made sure I stayed active and thankful to God for the gifts He has given me.

She encouraged me to get into God’s Word, even when I didn’t feel like it. She encouraged me to actually commune with God, rather than just check things off a list. Thank God for her.

I have opened up my Bible this past week, reading various books. I have found comfort in a surprising place. Deuteronomy.

There are chapters upon chapters of laws in the book of Deuteronomy. They are absolutely important, but they’re not exactly the place where you might would think to find a solvent for an aching soul.

The prelude to these laws is in fact a place of great comfort to me however.

You see, in the first several chapters of Deuteronomy we hear the words of Moses to the people of God, as he recounts for them all the wondrous things that God has done for them. All the ways that He has intervened on their behalf up until this point of the Bible story. It was in reading these things that God had done for His people that my mind began to be filled with all the ways that God has worked in my life as well.

One particular image leapt off the page at me, and I’ve used it to guide my prayers this past week.

So I said to you: Don’t be terrified or afraid of them (them being great massive giants in the promised land)! The Lord your God who goes before you will fight for you, just as you saw him do for you in Egypt. And you saw in the wilderness how the Lord your God carried you as a man carries his son all along the way you traveled until you reached this place. – Deuteronomy 1:29-31

Side note. This passage at the beginning of Deuteronomy is Moses talking to the people of God about the previous generation and how they failed to listen to his words. The previous generation didn’t take these words of Moses to heart, instead rebelling against God, leading to their destruction and wanderings in the wilderness. 

That last phrase is what God used to speak to me in this season.

God carried His people out of Egypt, through the wilderness, like a loving father carries his son.

Years ago, my family got a bit lost on a hike at a state park here in Texas. My younger brother Matthew was really little at the time, and the heat was beginning to take a toll on him. My dad scooped him up and carried him until we made it back to the parking lot. That’s what loving fathers do. My dad would have been wicked if he had no regard for my brother’s exhaustion.

Our Heavenly Father carries us.

In times of complete exhaustion mentally, physically, and emotionally, God is there for you and for me.

The phrase “God helps those who help themselves” is ludicrous and found nowhere in the Bible. It’s plain stupid.

Rather, God helps those who know they need Him.

This week I needed God. I needed Him to carry me. I needed Him to lift me up. I was spent.

As I sought truth in His Word and His face in prayer, I found the comfort I needed to keep moving forward.

Let’s look at one more passage real quick.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort . . . . For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. – 2 Corinthians 1:3, 8-11

Pastor Jason Meyer sees an alliteration in these verses that I believe will help us all.

Here’s the process.

Desperation. Dependence. Deliverance. Doxology.

Paul and Timothy make clear in verse eight that they were burdened beyond their strength (which reminds us that the phrase “God won’t give you more than you can handle” is also a lie that’s not found in the Scriptures). They were desperate.

Paul and Timothy’s sufferings led them to rely not on themselves, but God. We see this in verse nine. They became dependent on God to comfort them and to rescue them.

God is a God of comfort. All comfort. All mercies. God rescued Paul and Timothy from their difficulties. That’s not just part of what God does, it’s who He is. It’s in His character.

Where did this deliverance lead Paul and Timothy? It led them to praise. It led them to thanksgiving in verse eleven.

This word comfort meant “to strengthen” in Paul’s day. God did not put a blanket around them and give them a nice warm tea. He gave them strength to keep fighting, to keep going.

God has carried me this past week. He has kept me going. I can’t help but praise Him publicly for this.

I don’t know where you find yourself today.

Maybe you’re where I was last week, trying to cling to any semblance of light.

Maybe you’re in such a dark place that you can’t remember the last time you awoke with enthusiasm.

Maybe you’ve had year after year of brutal battering.

Know this.

God is your Father.

He is carrying you.

God is a source of comfort. Know amount of Pizza Hut pizza, Blue Bloods, NBA basketball, or friendships were going to lift me up last week. It had to be Him.

If you’re desperate, tell Him you are dependent on Him. He will bring deliverance, and this will lead to praise.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

The Vice of Ambition

Make a name for yourself.

This is the driving force behind so many of our lives. It’s been the driving force behind mine.

We are told to strive to do great things, to achieve great things, to become great in the eyes of others.

We hear this in the world, and we hear this in our churches.

In other words, we are encouraged to have ambition.

The dictionary definition of ambition is a strong desire to do or to achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work.

I have grown up believing at times that I would be great, that I would make a name for myself if I try hard enough and never give up. Occasionally, people would say this type of thing to me, encouraging me to be the best I can be. They fanned into flame the ambition in my heart. Their intentions were pure and heartfelt, I’m not implying anything different.

That being said, ambition, namely selfish ambition, has negatively affected my life in a whole lot of ways.

Real talk.

I had to delete Twitter and Instagram earlier in 2019 because they became a place of great envy and jealousy over how many likes I was receiving. This is as preposterously stupid as it sounds, and so I got rid of the issue (side-note, purging social media has been the most freeing thing).

My ambition lead to jealousy and envy.

My ambition also leads to pride, as I reflect upon how great I am.

My ambition leads to discouragement when the days are long and hard, and my easy life of grand success seems far out of reach.

My ambition leads to selfishness, as I prioritize the things that build up my dreams.

My ambition is the root of countless sin struggles that I fight.

All of this to say, why is it that we have made ambition something to be prized in our church culture? Did you know that it was only recently that we made it something of value? In fact, according to church history, ambition was a vice.

What I am not talking about is the drive and desire to work, and to work hard. God wired that into our beings. The pre-fall creation was a place where Adam and Eve worked.

Instead, I am talking about a desire to make a name for ourselves. The truth is, it’s incredibly hard to have ambition without it becoming a place in our hearts where we want glory instead of giving said glory to the Lord. That’s why the church considered it a dangerous vice for so long.

In his book Upside Down Spirituality, Chad Bird talks about ambition in this way:

Ambition, in other words, is self-seeking. It is not directed outwardly, in service to others, but inwardly, in service to ourselves. It’s the passion to rise above others for the sake of our egos, to accomplish goals so as to polish our image, to view ourselves as more important than others, to crave the limelight, to be the star of the show. The ambitious person will work long hours, sacrifice much, and strive for excellence, all so that he or she will appear extraordinary in the eyes of others.

That’s why ambition is dangerous. Look at the motivations that Bird unpacks. I see myself in all of them. My ambition is most often all about me: my ego, my image, my value, my limelight. It’s why I used to post photos of my burgeoning youth group. It’s why I used social media in the first place. My drive to achieve is so that people remember my name, not God’s.

How wicked is that?

Bird goes on to say this:

We don’t want our narcissistic labor to be sin; we want it to be righteousness. So we rename it ambition. A socially acceptable, even socially applaudable, quality.

Ouch.

Now again, what he is condemning is selfish ambition. He is condemning how prone we are to renaming our pride ambition. Not all of us struggle with this. Some of us are able to chase after big dreams all for God’s glory. I’m not there yet. God is still bringing about sanctification in that part of my heart. I still want people to know me, instead of Jesus.

If however this post has put up a mirror before you and you now clearly see your sinful ambitions, let me encourage you with the gospel.

You and I fall short.

Woefully short.

Some of us will battle our selfish ambition for the rest of our days.

Yet we worship a Savior who was the antithesis of selfishly ambitious. He came in humility. He came willing to die. He wasn’t lazy or lethargic. Rather, He pursued the inauguration of the Kingdom of God with all that He had. To the point of death.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:5-11 

He made himself nothing on our behalf.

It makes me ask myself if I’m willing to make myself nothing on His behalf.

Am I okay if no one knows my name?

Am I okay if I’m seen as an average man in an average town doing average things for the glory of my God?

Do some soul searching.

Ask yourself why you have the dreams and desires that you have.

Repent of sinful motivations and find rest in the grace of our Savior.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach