by César De León Ph.D LMFT, Ministerial Director for the North Pacific Union Conference
Have you ever felt like a disingenuous person? Like a phony? On the exterior you appear, speak, and behave, “as if” . . . Have you found yourself doing the “right things”, accomplishing the mission . . . going through the exterior motions. . . while your interior world is disengaged with the exterior actions? Have you ever experienced the soul dissonance when what you say, believe, and proclaim is not necessary in accordance with your true state of being?
Some of us will never feel inclined to compare our lives and ministry to the life and ministry of John the Baptist; after all, he was a giant of faith who received a special mission for a special time. He would prepare the way for the coming Messiah. John was faithful to the mission he was given. He refused to allow the culture and customs of his time to taint the understanding of his calling or the nature of his character. John preached his heart out and revealed the true condition of the spiritual life of the people of his time, even to the point of condemning the sins of the aristocratic society, including the king, and then calling everyone to repentance. His was a time when people were hoping for and awaiting a military liberator that would overthrow the political leaders and give Israel their rightful place as “chosen ones”. John showed up preaching and talking about purity and holiness; not necessarily a popular message for his time. Yet, John the baptizer was faithful to God’s mission and vision. He gave testimony to the world: “Jesus is the Lamb of God that takes the sins of the world away.” He personally witnessed the descending of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus, empowering Him for His mission as the Messiah.
But one day he ends up in jail and then it hits him. Did I misunderstand my calling? Did I make some incorrect assumptions? Did I end up being faithful to what I thought I was supposed to do, yet, possibly got confused along the way? Was I mistaken all along? Is Jesus who I thought he was? And suddenly, John experienced the debilitating disorientation of wondering whether he had been an impostor, a false messenger with a false message. How horrific! After so many years of sacrificial ministry, labor, and dedication. All for nothing?
Have you ever felt like John in your ministry? Have you sat in the prison of your own disorientation and wondered if you’d taken a wrong turn somewhere? I have; actually on more than one occasion, I have felt like an impostor. I have played the pastor role, abided by SDA traditions and beliefs, done what was expected of me, spoken pastor lingo, and yet, I’ve not always been sure that I have been who I thought I was supposed to be, or that I have done what I was supposed to do with my life.
So John sends representatives to Jesus, to ask a question, “Are you the One we were waiting for or shall we wait for another?” (Luke 7:19). The possibility that he had run the wrong race was heavy on his mind. He wanted to know whether he had mistaken Jesus, for the true Messiah. Had all his work been in vain? His messengers spent a full day with the Master. They saw the Messianic mission being fulfilled. The blind saw, the lame walked, the demon possessed were freed, and the good news gospel was preached to the poor. They came back to John and excitingly reported the supernatural incidents they had just witnessed. At last, John’s confused soul found peace. He received the desperately needed confirmation that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. That meant he was not an impostor. He had not preached his message in vain. He was confirmed that everything he had done had been authentic. He had run his race and finished his work. He was now ready for the next chapter of his life. . . the end of his time.
If you are anything like me, you may need confirmation along the way in your ministerial journey, because our enemy has many ways to make us feel like impostors. He confuses us with his lies, telling us that we are disingenuous, that we are just lying to ourselves, pretending. Then, the Spirit shows up and breaks into our cell of doubt, confusion, and questions. “Have I been doing what I was supposed to do with my life?” “Was ministry my calling?” The Spirit then begins to work in us and through us and we see the blind opening their eyes as they are exposed to the transformational Good News Gospel for the first time. The lame and faithless now walk and do the works of God and we see the faces of the captives who have been set free. Our doubts are dissipated; the confusion is gone. No more questions. We know in Whom we have believed! We know who He is and we also know who we are in Him. We are Gospel Workers called to announce the virtues of Him who called us from darkness into His marvelous light (2 Pet. 2:9); even while our culture loves the darkness and resists the Light.
Be of good cheer colleagues, you are Creator Jehovah’s servant! You have been called! Like Saul of Tarsus, not because we deserve to be ambassadors of the King of Kings, but because the God of glory loves to give the best to those who deserve the least.