How Preachers Commit Suicide
Pastor Clifton Jones
Chapter One – You and Your Prayer Life
Chapter Two – You and Your Bible
Chapter Three – Your Worship
Chapter Four – You and Forgiving
Chapter Five – Your Discipline
Chapter Six – You and Your Physical Fitness
Chapter Seven – You and Disciplined Eating
Finally, from the pen of one of our well known pastors has come this timely message,
“How Ministers Commit Suicide”.
The subject of ministers is dear to the heart of Pastor Jones. His constant cry is “Lord, help the ministry.” Pastor Jones realizes that in order to help God’s people the leaders must be wholesome in lifestyle and committed to the cause of Jesus Christ.
This small book has been written to sound the alarm! Many leaders are trapped. They can be helped and set free by the information and inspiration to be found in these pages. God has anointed and equipped Pastor Jones for this ministry. He is a very competent preacher, teacher, evangelist and writer. But most of all, he loves God and loves God’s people.
Pastor Clifton Jones has traveled all across America with the message of salvation, victory, deliverance and hope. He feels that the urgency of the hour is to stir the hearts of God’s people to the need of returning to the importance of a life of prayer. The Lord has put his approval upon Pastor Jones ministry of calling his people back to prayer. It is a most compelling necessity. The return of the Lord is at hand!
—MAY FRANCES JONES
How Preachers Commit Suicide
You and Your Prayer Life
Throughout it’s history, the Church has suffered many attacks. False doctrine, physical and emotional abuse, governmental and social harassment have all made significant contributions to it’s persecution. The church braced itself for the battle, fought off Satan’s fiery darts bravely and with a sense of purpose. The church emerged into our modern day still holding high the banners of victory fortified with a fresh desire to fulfill it’s commission to win the world to Jesus Christ.
Today, however, the church is suffering it’s greatest challenge but not from the enemy without. The enemy is within! It’s spiritual suicide, and the ministers, the pace-setters, visionaries, leaders, examples and teachers are its biggest victims. Many ministers today are committing spiritual suicide (self-inflicted death). They are allowing their busy schedules and distractions of all description to keep them on their feet rather than on their knees. Unless the message is received and ways are mended, more and more ministers are going to meet with tragedy.
In this day many are busy working on P-R-E-A-C-H–I-N-G and so little time is devoted to the P-R-E-A-C-H-E-R that we have developed some GOOD PREACHING and some VERY DIS TASTEFUL PREACHERS. Only through personal devotion and holy living will we fortify our spiritual walls. In the name of the Lord Jesus, I plead with each of us to redeem the time! Let us better acquaint ourselves with our saviour. Spend more time with him through prayer and fellowship. It is a proven fact that there are many ministers with years of service that have no regular prayer schedule or fasting period. Therefore, the younger ministers, which are bound to follow the examples of their leaders, stand very little chance of rising above this pitfall. May this message be used of God to pierce your very soul and spirit and provoke you to rise up and walk faithfully with the Lord Jesus. Establish a time to pray and stick with it.
The ministry is a spiritual calling with spiritual responsibilities. Anyone who is engaged in such an awesome commitment needs to employ all available means to assure success. Prayer is the one most powerful resource given to us to assure our spiritual outcome. One may apply the best study habits and gain a wealth of information and book knowledge. But without a life of prayer, he has no wings with which to fly. After many years of applying our heads, it is about time for us to allow God to flow through our spirits. This can only be accomplished through prayer. It is to be decried that more ministers are impressed with the offerings, crowds, success as we measure it, than with a personal relationship with Jesus.
We are very vulnerable to the pitfalls of life when we do not have a real prayer life. Without a prayer life one cannot begin to be spiritual any more than one can swim in the sand. Prayer gives us access to the anointed presence of God’s mind and will. When his divine presence overshadows us we become another person. It is when we want what he wants that we begin to think, act, talk and live like him.
Prayer to a preacher is not optional neither should it be to any child of God. Jesus is our supreme example, and he gave first place to prayer.
1. He put prayer above sleep – Mark 1:35 “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.”
2. He put prayer above fellowship – Mark 6:46 “And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray.”
3. Prayer was more important than rest – Luke 6:12 “And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.”
4. He demonstrates that prayer exceeds the importance of teaching and healing – Luke 5:15,16 “But so much the more went there a fame abroad of him: and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities. And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.”
Viewing Jesus’ attitude toward prayer, we can better see why we have come up on the short end of the stick too often. The average one of us does not pray enough to keep our own fire alive; not to mention helping someone else catch on fire. Much of our preaching today is without eyes to lead blind men out of their darkness. To possess divine light one’s candle must be lit by the Lord. Psalms 18:28 “For thou wilt light my candle: The Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.”
Sometimes we cheat by listening to others, reading their material and neglecting our personal privilege and responsibility to approach his throne. This produces a copy cat ministry. The results of which are devastating and have given rise to chronic weakness throughout the body of Christ. Until we become serious enough to see prayerlessness as sin, we will never see the need of developing our prayer life.
The first lesson for us to learn is that we do not know how to pray. I appreciate the spirit of Jesus’ disciple “Lord teach us to pray”. Luke 11:1 – “And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” One of the greatest misconceptions in the spirit-filled church is the notion that having the Holy Spirit alone completely equips the believer with everything needed for a successful, victorious and productive life. There is no substitute, however, for seeking the Lord in prayer, studying his word for direction and periodically examining yourself with an eye toward improvement.
Let’s examine some principals that will improve the quality of your prayer life.
1. For your own growth and discipline you need to set a prayer time and stick with it. The more time you put into prayer the more it will grow. The key to growing a prayer life is INVOLVEMENT. Consequently, not setting a specific prayer time assures a continuation of inconsistent prayer. ACTS 3:1 “Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.” There are two major accomplishments made in setting a time to pray:
A. It helps you to express your sincere commitment to pray.
B. It disciplines your body to obey the Spirit’s desire.
2. Prayer time is where Divinity equips humanity to involve itself in the supernatural. To omit prayer is to place yourself on the arm of flesh where all dreams become nightmares. Brothers and sisters and preachers if we are going to save ourselves and others, let us not just read about prayer, preach about prayer, teach and talk about prayer. Let’s pray!
One of the things I feel has been a mainstay of my spiritual life is rising early to pray. It seems to me that early morning and late night provide easier entrance into the presence of God than at other times. I love to express it by stating that these are hours when the representatives of evil are less active. As a result, we can flow with greater ease into God’s presence. During my frequent travels, I miss that 5 A.M. prayer meeting above all. Not that I cease to pray when I am not on the home turf. But it is not possible, in every place I visit, to pray with the same free-ness.
However, It seems that early morning prayer was a secret known by all serious seekers of God throughout the Bible. In Genesis 28:16-18 Jacob found the early morning a good time for a Divine visitation. The parents of Samuel found that an early morning meeting with Jehovah set the tone for the day. In I Samuel 1:19, King Hezekiah discovered that after meeting God early, you can meet anyone else later. Job, one of the oldest characters in the Bible also took advantage of the early morning to meet with the master. JOB 1:5.
David assured the Lord that he would hear from him in the morning. PSALMS 5:3, 57:8, Last and most importantly Jesus forsook his rest and took advantage of rising early to pray. “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.” Fellow ministers let these examples inspire you to begin, if you haven’t already, to rise early. Get your prayer time in before you fill your day with other commitments. In other words, before you get too busy doing the work of the Lord, let us find out what he wants us to do!
Here is precisely where many preachers, indeed people of God in general, are committing suicide. We are spending more time telling men about God than we are telling God about men. We can only touch the lives of men as our lives are touched by God him self. Your body will not agree to rising early for prayer. But, your soul will prosper by it. I am convinced that adopting a disciplined devotion to early morning prayer will save our souls, save our ministries, save our reputations and our vision for God’s kingdom. It will bring anointing into our ministry, inspiration to our souls and it will instill honesty in our spirits. It will make the work of God a privilege rather than a business.
It is important to note that praying will not stop trouble from rising, but it will surely keep you from falling. It is important to note that we are living in an age of tremendous immorality. Many ministers are loosing their anointing due to sexual mis-conduct, financial mis-conduct, eye and ear pleasure, in other words, lustful gratification. Prayer will undergird your life by becoming your built in alarm. Prayer will actually alert you to danger before rather than after it happens. It will give you the power to prevent it from happening.
When you give prayer the proper place in your life, it will give you tenderness of heart and a sensitive spirit. It is this kind of tenderness that is needed to give us compassion for the souls of men and a burden for human needs. A sensitive spirit born out of prayer makes us aware of both good and evil. Because ministers work so closely with people of the opposite sex, it is imperative that they remain prayerful. Or else, our flesh (human nature) will deceive us into false feelings of misguided affection. Anyone who is not prayerful will be blinded to the seduction of the devil.
Many servants of the Lord have fallen victim to this evil. Be sure there is someone somewhere whose chemistry is compatible with yours. Therefore, it is in your best interest to remain spiritually strong.
Everyone loses when ministers fail. It is embarrassing to the spirit of Jesus Christ; it is frustrating and destructive to the minister’s family. It causes some saints to feel disillusioned, that maybe it’s not possible to live a life of victory. “If he/she couldn’t live it how can I?” I want to go on record saying that a prayerless person has no more business in the ministry than a pig has any business running the health department.
It is prayerlessness that produces men of greed, covetousness and worldliness. It is prayerlessness that produces weak and carnal minded leaders. Many of good preachers are hindered to the degree that they are unable to cry aloud for fear that they will be ex posed. Anytime we allow ourselves to fall to a spiritual level that won’t permit us to speak the word of God without fear or favor, we are as dead men.
I hope no one will get the idea that I belong to that narrow sin crowd. The ones that believe sexual sin and one or two more are the only sins there are. No! My point is that when one is not prayerful, the door to all kinds of sins will swing open. My strong contention is that prayerlessness is the first step in sin’s direction. Jesus said, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matt. 26:41 Failing to pray causes our spirit to decline to the level of our flesh. There fore, when a weak spirit and the flesh get together, the end result is sin. James 1:15 – “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin.” True praying will deliver a man from sinning, and sinning will hinder a man from praying. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” Psalms 66:18
Oh! May we repent before the throne of God and beg his forgiveness for our carelessness toward prayer, our coldness in prayer and our absence from prayer. In spite of our feebleness in prayer, we have not ceased to preach. Without the anointing, our much learning has equipped us with much material to preach but no power to convict, convince or convert. I am certain that much of our preaching has very little lasting results. Why? It takes anointing to destroy the yoke.
Someone may ask “What is anointing?” Well, it is somewhat difficult to define. Yet, it is easy to recognize when it is present or absent. When it is present, yokes are destroyed, life is generated, freshness prevails, and all manner of good things happen. Need less to say, when it is not present, it is like an April snow on a fruit crop. It produces more death than life. The absence of anointing produces routine, cut and dry services. Dear fellow ministers just as we can sense the absence of anointing, so can the members in the pews. They may not say much, but frequent absenteeism should tell you something. I am convinced that when the pew in creases its demand for more anointed preaching, by crying out to God, we will find ourselves feeling unclothed before our congregations. If we don’t arise to the challenge of seeking God through prayer; if we don’t seek to have his mighty anointing operating in our lives, our ministries will kill rather than make alive.
A word of Caution, when we obtain this divine equipment, let us glorify him for allowing that fresh oil to lubricate our messages so that he can be heard. Abused anointing leads to suicide! We should remember we are only the vessels that he anoints to glorify his name. It is like a football game. As you know, there are 22 players. Notwithstanding, only one player can handle the ball at a time. If the man with the ball feels that he is the most important one on the field, let him throw the ball away and keep running. No one goes after him. They want the ball. Likewise, in the ministry there have been many people who have been anointed, received great recognition and unlimited invitations. However, the blessings the congregation receives comes from the anointing and not from the personality. Make the mistake of thinking that the blessing comes from you, loose that freshness and sensitivity to the spirit and rely instead on your own strength. The result will be that man and Satan will let you return to obscurity. If man puts you up, man will set you down.
Anointing is not something you can learn, Yet, through prayer, you can invite it upon your life. I have often said we could afford to be less learned and more anointed. Fellow ministers, in spite of what the crowd may say, we need to fortify our lives with prayer. Or else we will minister to the physical and emotional parts of men without ever invading their spirits. Only anointed preaching can reach and meet the eternal needs of the soul.
Please understand I am not saying one cannot preach at all without praying. I am saying, however, that it will lack the soul awakening anointing that reveals the mind and the purpose of God. Just like a carpenter would not think of building without a plumb line, level, square and ruler, neither should a preacher think of preaching without prayer.
If a prayerless preacher was put on trial, he or she would be- found guilty of enthroning themselves and dethroning the Most High. The resulting sentence would be a shipwrecked life and spiritual suicide. I admit that a horse can be used as a mode of transportation but, in this age, except for recreation, horseback riding is outdated. Preaching without a corresponding prayer life does happen, but it lacks divine power.
Oh! How congregations have suffered since “Mother Prayer Meeting” has been sick and unable to attend on a regular basis. The anointing has become almost a stranger. Preaching and teaching is dull and lifeless. Repentance has been replaced with shallow commitments. Courage, boldness, dedication, compassion, vision, honesty and such like are now very rare commodities in the church. We must not point to our busy schedules or fast growing congregations alone as indications of spiritual success. What we need are pastors who have really found that secret place of prayer. Pastors who have learned to cast all their cares upon him. I Peter 5:7. Pastors who don’t worry about anything: instead pray about everything…” Philippians. 4:6 LIV.
Most of our churches are like “Child Care Centers” full of helpless babies waiting for someone to do something for them. Many ministers seem to be happy keeping them as babies so that they won’t have to grow up either. In other words, we have not created an atmosphere of prayer that will grow real, mature saints. No minister or missionary, deacon or brother or sister can lead the way into prayer with the same results or authority as the pastor can. May we weep before the altar until a fire is rekindled in our prayer closet. If we do not repent of our prayerlessness, we will never be delivered from this blinding, deceiving and crippling sin.
As a whole, no one rejects the idea of knowing more about Jesus. The problem is that many people are unwilling or are not interested enough to invest the time and effort in prayer required to produce the desired relationship with the Lord. And quite frequently, this reluctance to pray is brought on by sin. Just like Adam stayed away from the meeting place when he knew he had failed, so do men stay away from prayer when they give heed to their failing flesh. As tropical fruit cannot live in a cold climate, neither can the desire to pray live in a sinning heart. A return of prayer power in our lives requires a return of our life to the place of right standing with God. Allow me to add this note of warning. When we receive divine enabling, we must remember from whence it has come and how it was obtained. Whatever it took to get it is required to keep it.
You and Your Bible
All serious pray-ers must also be devoted Bible students. First of all use the word of God for your own food. Let it speak to you; hide it in your heart. It is alive. It is a light. Not only will it shine on your situation, it will act like a surgeon and perform on you a divine cutting or transplant or whatever else is needed.
Dear preachers never use the Bible as a book just to preach from. It is first and foremost a book to live by. The more of God’s word you get in you, the more of God’s awareness you will have in you. God and his word are one. It is impossible to over emphasize the necessity of possessing the word and letting the word possess us. For many are preaching fancy thoughts of philosophy but with no Bible basis. I am convinced many of our leading preachers are strangers to a real relationship with Jesus! This lack of relationship is reflected in our daily living and can only be remedied through the word and prayer.
Allow me to share a personal note. I endeavor to read systematically through the Bible yearly. I am on my 22nd time of reading through the Bible. If I am going to be a Bible liver, Bible and preacher, I must first be a Bible student. Read it, study it, live it, and then preach and teach it. I do not spend all of my bible reading time looking for something to preach about. I just get pregnant with the word and let God deliver me.
We must allow Psalms 1:2 “And in his law doth he meditate day and night.” to become our personal statement of commitment. For the more we chew on the word and meditate on the word the more it increases our faith. It is a real blessing for your ears to hear your mouth repeat what God’s word says. Our faith is fed by the word of God. Therefore, we need to keep a steady diet of the word so that we can develop a life of Biblical faith.
In I Timothy 4:15, Paul assures Timothy that if he would meditate upon the things of God, give heed and live in line with God’s word, he would profit by saving himself and them that hear him. In order for us to be profitable and a spiritual success, we must be word lovers. We must possess a “Mary-like” spirit. In Luke 10 we watch two sisters, Mary and Martha, relate to Jesus. Jesus is teaching in their home. Martha feels that serving Jesus is more important than listening to him. Mary, after all, sits at his feet to receive every word. Martha’s spirit is most often reflected in today’s church world. This kind of attitude says serve the Lord so that you can express your love. On the other hand, the spirit of Mary is saying get to know the Lord so that you can develop your love and release him in your service.
It is not possible to properly teach the life giving principles of God’s word if you don’t know and practice them yourself. “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” (Joshua 1:8). To live in agreement with God’s word, we must be faithful readers of God’s word. “The entrance of thy word giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.” (Psalms 119:130). As this light is received, we are expected by God to live in that light. The more we live in agreement with the light, the more light we receive. See Proverbs 4:18.
Reading the word alone, however, is not enough, we must take heed to observe and do the things written therein. The Holy Bible inspires holy living in the hearts of true believers.
Psalms 119:9,11. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word. . . .O let me not wander from thy commandments
Psalms 119:105 The Word is our lamp and light.
Hebrews 4:12 It is a living Word (alive and full of power AMP.)
Consequently, to neglect to pray and read God’s word is to remain in the camp of the ignorant and the uninspired. It is not enough to know the 23rd Psalm and other very familiar passages. We must know the central character and focus of the Bible personally. This knowledge can only come by regularly searching the scriptures. Please note that my main emphasis is placed upon scripture searching for personal inspiration, information and knowledge of God and his will, Because, in so doing your faith is kept alive. Then and only then are you able to effectively lead others to a whole-meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” (Joshua 1:8). To live in agreement with God’s word, we must be faithful readers of God’s word. “The entrance of thy word giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.” (Psalms 119:130). As this light is received, we are expected by God to live in that light. The more we live in agreement with the light, the more light we receive. See Proverbs 4:18.
Reading the word alone, however, is not enough, we must take heed to observe and do the things written therein. The Holy Bible inspires holy living in the hearts of true believers.
Psalms 119:9,11. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word. . . .O let me not wander from thy commandments
Psalms 119:105 The Word is our lamp and light,
Hebrews 4:12 It is a living Word (alive and full of power AMP.)
Consequently, to neglect to pray and read God’s word is to remain in the camp of the ignorant and the uninspired. It is not enough to know the 23rd Psalm and other very familiar passages. We must know the central character and focus of the Bible personally. This knowledge can only come by regularly searching the scriptures. Please note that my main emphasis is placed upon scripture searching for personal inspiration, information and knowledge of God and his will, Because, in so doing your faith is kept alive. Then and only then are you able to effectively lead others to a whole some relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ,
Oh Lord! Help us to stop raising and promoting Bible-less preachers
It has been my observation that many ministers, especially pastors, are some very unspiritual worshippers. We are more like spectators than participators. Any church, though, that is going to grow must first learn to flow in the spirit. I believe that the pastor is charged with the responsibility and is the best qualified person to lead the way into the presence of God’s throne.
No one can truly say he has worshipped until the spirit of the living God overshadows his spirit. See John 4:24. It is this over shadowing which produces an outflow of adoration, praise and appreciation. No one in the congregation should be more sensitive to the mind of the spirit in worship than the pastor. Too often, we have allowed ourselves to reproduce (copy) what we’ve seen done elsewhere or we try to function based on how we feel it should go. We must, instead, consult, seek out and crave to know the mind of the spirit.
True worship is not automatic. Having good musicians, choirs and fiery song leaders does not guarantee real worship either. If the musicians and the choir and the song leaders are not sensitive to the moving of the spirit, what you’ll have are performances and not worship. Nothing is more tragic than “flesh on parade” church services. Musicians who hold us captive with their powerful amplifiers trying to prove that they can play; choirs that hold mini- concerts because they know they can sing, and song leaders who wear us out with “What do you know about…” songs because it worked last week. What we end up with is irritating noise and confusion. True worship should minister to God and man.
An atmosphere conducive to true worship must be created. Just as we seek to be open to the voice of the Lord when it comes to ministering the word, so too must we become open to the spirit in our services concerning worship. In so doing, we will be assured of freshness rather than stagnation. We must break free from the bondage of the “Order of Services” section of our church bulletins. Many times I’ve gotten up from prayer at the beginning of service and started preaching. I know, according to tradition, you are supposed to sing a few songs, have testimony service, the choir sings and then you preach. I do not believe we can maintain freshness of spirit by simply repeating our schedule of services. I have even been found guilty of not preaching at all during a particular service. Yet, souls get saved and the spirit of rejoicing prevails. We must allow the Lord to be free to move among us as he pleases. What blessings have we missed and what burdens do we still carry because we have tried to put God in a box?
All true worshippers remove self and place The Lord on the throne of their hearts. see Psalms 22:3 King Jehoshaphat seemed to understand this divine principle in II Chronicles 20:21,21, being greatly outnumbered by his enemies nothing less than the help of the Lord could deliver him. In order to ignite the divine power, he organized a real praise service accompanied with spirited singing. The outcome in a very real sense was predictable: The Lord took over. “And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the Lord, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the Lord; for his mercy endureth for ever. And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten.”
Chapter Four You and Forgiving
We have covered many things so far. But, it is important to remember our theme: “How Preachers Commit Suicide”. Much time and effort is spent searching the word for statements of consolation and assurance. For instance, no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper, .. .As I was with Moses so shall I be with you, .. .neither is there any that can deliver you out of my hand, etc. It should be observed though that these assurances address the threats against our lives from without. We should, however, spend as much time on the threat which dwells within: Spiritual Suicide which is self-inflicted death. Prayerless-ness, Praiseless-ness and Bibleless-ness are all certified killers.
There is though another killer, the carbon-monoxide of the soul, UN-FORGIVENESS. Carbon monoxide is called the silent killer. It is gas just like life giving oxygen. The more you breath it in, the more it gets a hold on you. It takes the blood 250 times longer to release carbon monoxide than it does oxygen. The result is slow but sure suffocation.
Unforgiveness is a spirit just like love and compassion. The more you breath it in, the more it gets a hold on you. It becomes bitterness and resentment and ultimately hatred. The result is slow but sure death. When a minister becomes spiritually out of touch, they are subject to all kinds of spiritual failure. As a leader of people, many of our attacks come from the very ones we are ministering to. Therefore, every leader must be quick to repent and quick to forgive. It must be in your spirit. For as sure as you serve, someone is going to accidentally or intentionally try to arouse your feathers. Remember, nothing hinders your prayers like an unforgiving spirit. “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” Mark 11:25.
Holding grudges produces a bitter and resentful spirit which disqualifies us from being able to offer up spiritual blessings. You man recall that it was the people that got to Moses and caused him to miss the promise land. Today many leaders are in trouble with the Lord because someone has disagreed or questioned them. Bitterness sprang up and from that day until this one they have nursed that grudge. Consider these passages from the word. He brews 12:14,15 LIV.
“Try to stay out of all quarrels and seek to live a clean and holy life, for one who is not holy will not see the Lord. Look after each other so that not one of you will fail to find God’s best blessings. Watch out that no bitterness takes root among you, for as it springs up it causes deep trouble, hurting many in their spiritual lives.” “Be ye angry and sin not: Let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the Devil.” Ephesians 4:26,27
When we allow hurt feeling to control us, we will use the pulpit as a shield to hide behind, and as a weapon so that we can release our frustrations. No matter how critical people become of you and your work, you must maintain self-control. Your commission from the Lord is to minister to the real needs of people. The ones you like and like you and the ones that don’t.
Please remember that regardless of how hard you try or how much good you do, there will be times when there seems to be little or no appreciation for what you are doing or have done. Yes, they will talk, judge, disrespect and disobey. No matter what they do don’t let anyone’s wrong reaction get into your heart and rule you and render you powerless to help. Dealing with hurt feelings and critical speech requires real spiritual maturity. Prayerless people can never hope to be spiritual adults.
Satan’s plot is to keep a breach between the minister and the people. So that the minister will be unable to meet the needs of the people, and the people will be unable to hear the minister. The one thing none of us can afford to become is spiritually disqualified. Therefore, be quick to repent and quick to forgive. Failure to do so is to commit the highest order of suicide
Discipline is a must to anyone who is trying to reach worth while goals. We were not born with submissive spirits. Therefore, we must train our bodies to serve our spirits. The lack of discipline has led to the suicide of many servants of the Lord. I don’t say that holiness and discipline are the same. I will say that the more disciplined one is, the easier it will be to live a holy life. The wise man wrote: “A man without self-control is as defenseless as a city with broken down walls” Proverbs 25:28 LIV. “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.” Proverbs 16:32
In Bible Times, walls were used as a major part of the defense and protection of the city. If the walls, then, were damaged, broken down or destroyed, the enemy would have easy access into the city. The child of God must, figuratively, build walls of protection for the soul. These walls must include the north wall of prayer and faith, the east wall of praise and worship, the west wall of Bible study and the south wall of proper spiritual attitude. The strength of any wall is not in just the brick or block used, but also in the quality of the mortar used to bind the bricks together. The mortar of the spirit is discipline.
In Ezekiel 13:10-12 LIV. The Lord sends a strong rebuke to the children of Israel: “My people build a flimsy wall and these prophets praise them for it and cover it with whitewash! (untempered mortar – KJV) Tell these evil builders that their wall will fall…and when the wall falls, the people will cry out, “Why didn’t you tell us that it wasn’t good enough? Why did you whitewash it and cover up its faults?” There is nothing worse than thinking your safe when your not. The wall had been built, but it couldn’t with stand the attack because the mortar was flimsy. If discipline is the mortar for our spiritual walls, then prayer without discipline is prayless-ness, praise, Bible study, faith and a good spiritual attitude without discipline is like have protection that will not protect.
The life of an undisciplined person is a life where the enemy can come in at will. It is sad but true; many of today’s ministers from top to bottom have very weak convictions about personal holiness and are very sentimental toward sin. When I say sin, I am not just talking about Adultery, drinking, smoking, and gambling. I mean sins of the spirit also. Bitterness, hatred, greed, covetous ness, dishonesty, lust, pride and jealousy are sins too. When we are not disciplined all we can do is watch these things come to us without having the control to say stop.
Paul the great apostle was disciplined. “…I fight to win. I’m not just shadow boxing or playing around. Like an athlete, I punish my body, treating it roughly, training it to do what it should…” 1 Corinthians 9:26,27 LIV. It is unfortunate that we can see and understand the need for discipline and training when it concerns sports, but cannot convert this principle to our saved lives.
Many of us often neglect some of the tools that will aid us in disciplining the body. For instance, fasting is a mighty force for bringing the flesh (human desires and appetites) under subjection to the spirit. My experience has been while on an extended fast, you talk less, think clearer and get less involved in routine unimportant activities. The hardest part of fasting is the WAIT. This brothers and sisters is the very thing that the flesh hates. I want it now is the cry of the flesh. To fast is to say to yourself you can’t have it until a specified time. You must make known to your body that your spirit is calling the shots. Failure to do so is to place a large stick in the hand of your enemy and say hit me.
Allow me to share some of the fasting methods we use in our local church. In January, 1969, I was inspired to lead the congregation into a month of fasting. We began with one meal daily the first week, then a meal every other day, and finally, we fasted three and four days at a time. We continue this program for the entire month. It now is a regular part of our yearly schedule. In addition to our month of fasting, we add other weeks where we eat one meal per day but exclude meats, sweets, bread, coffee, tea and pop or sodas. We have discovered that it takes more will power to eat less than it does to eat nothing at all. This may be called a partial fast similar to the Daniel and his friends’ fast.
When we fast our spirits and bodies profit. No one has ever been known to eat their way into a closer walk with the Lord. Ezekiel 16:49 “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and the abundance of idleness…” Eating has caused the death, both spiritually and naturally of many souls.
You and Your Physical Fitness
Being a much traveled preacher and teacher, I am convinced that being in shape physically is a tremendous aid to your spiritual output. You may be greatly anointed with a message from heaven but be physically unable to completely deliver it. The way many of us choose to deliver the message is quite taxing on the body. When we are physically out of shape, it becomes more than taxing, it becomes dangerous to our health. Having ministered out of shape and in good condition, I am convinced that being in shape makes a world of difference.
I am certain that the Lord himself inspired me to become alert to my physical needs. As a result, I now try to walk on a regular basis, play basketball frequently, and I do push-ups and sit-ups. This too help me teach my body discipline. I made the statement that it takes more will power to eat less than it does to eat nothing. Likewise, it takes more discipline to walk than it does to run. Running is faster, and you can hurry up and get it over with. But walking takes longer. It does though get the job done and produces the same results.
Earlier in my life, I had no exercise program. I gained many excess pounds, had an elevated blood pressure and was drained after each preaching engagement. Now, after having started a regular walking program, I maintain a perfect blood pressure reading, have lost many unneeded pounds, I can play two or three full court basketball games with the teenagers and preach twenty or more times a month and still feel great.
I hope that you will get the message. Spending time exercising the natural man gives the spiritual man a much higher output. Walking relaxes you, and it is a good way to relieve your anxieties, strengthen your heart and burn unnecessary calories. Please know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with feeling good about what you are doing. My fellow brothers and sisters enroll your selves in a simple exercise program that you can stick with. If you are one of those persons who must have company, go to the nearest park or track where you will find others exercising. This will help you feel that you are not alone in this most needed venture. Do not over exert yourself the first time Out. You will get discouraged and loose heart. Set a distance and pace with which you can comply. Remember, if your doctor told you it would lengthen your life, you, no doubt, would do it. So why not get started now before you’re told.
Don’t get side tracked by those who feel that physical fitness is a waste of time. If you really want to know what wastes time, check out the hours spent before the T.V. watching useless pro grams. That is wasting time!
You and Disciplined Eating
As a child, I used to hear the elder people say “You’re going to dig your grave with your teeth”. How little did I know then the powerful truth in those words. I am convinced that church folks are some of the most undisciplined eaters in the world. After we get saved, we feel that our deliverance from many vices gives us a green light to eat ourselves into poor health and an early grave. I remember people saying the Lord has given me a good appetite now that I’m saved.
Many of us are habitual eaters. That is we eat for the sake of eating; not because we are hungry. Seldom do we allow our stomachs to remain empty long enough to get hungry. Especially those who feel that three meals plus a few snacks in between is the proper way to eat. The average church go-er feels that one of the first stops to make after returning home is the refrigerator. That is those who are still into cooking. The rest of us have our favorite fast food joint or choice restaurant where we dine more than sufficiently on a regular basis.
Habitual overeating creates many physical problems. The average person isn’t physically active enough to burn off the number of calories they take in eating in this manner. Some time ago a fellow Mississippian reminded me that in the farming days of old, an overweight farmer was a rare sight. After walking behind that mule and plow, along with other chores, any excess calories would be burned up. Usually, their heavy meal would be eaten in the middle of the day and not late night like most of us do today.
The eating pattern most of us conform to is as follows: break fast late, maybe a snack three hours later, and dinner about 5PM. In 4 1/2 hours, we are back from church ready to heat and eat again. This pattern is so common and well excepted that it seems odd not following along. We need to realize, though, that when we eat real late our poor heart is required to work the night shift. Rather than slow down for a rest while we are sleeping, it has to keep on working hard all night long. The next morning you wake up sluggish and sometimes tired. Your heart, meanwhile is saying I wish I didn’t have to work the night shift.
Brothers and sisters do your body a favor and start eating ac cording to your work load. You do not need a farmer’s or coal miner’s diet in order to pick up two or three books. I know that it is not easy to break long standing pleasurable habits. However, the sooner you get started the better off you’ll be. You may find that the ideal time to make your dietary adjustments is after having completed an extended fast.
Let me recommend that instead of three meals with unlimited snacks try one solid meal with plenty of fruit, nuts and juices. If this doesn’t work for you, and you feel that you need two meals, then make up the difference by walking or running four or five miles.
I took it upon myself to rid my diet of some of the things I felt were little or no value to my health. Things like coffee, tea, pops or sodas, excess sweets, pork, red meat (occasionally), potato chips, and candy bars between meals. I took the advice of most health advocates and space my meals about 4 to 6 hours apart. This allows your system to digest the food and rest before starting again. Overeating causes your body parts to become overworked and invites all sorts of health problems. Be good to yourself and eat properly. In so doing, you will bless yourself and become a more productive and longer lasting blessing to the body of Christ.
Turn Yourselves and Live
In conclusion, it is my earnest prayer that something you have read in this book has stirred your passion for the abundant life available in Christ Jesus. Our generation has access to the widest and most complete array of resources in the history of the church. We have radio, television, telephones, print media, audio visual techniques, efficient means of transportation, computers, graphics and books of every description. Yet, it seems to me that the apostles and the early church did much more with much less.
The keys to success are not style or method, its not the presentation or that which can purchased with money. Real success, spiritual success comes from a intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. This relationship will only come as a result of prayer, worship, being in right standing with God, maintaining the proper attitude when dealing with people and in being disciplined enough to keep it up. Then and only then, will you avoid self inflicted death – suicide! Then and only then, will you enjoy the abundant life.