What is your reference point for success in ministry?

What Is Your Reference Point for Success in Ministry?

In the dark, in the car, hands on the steering wheel, I sighed in frustration.
“I can’t do this anymore,” I said out loud, startling myself with the fierceness of my tone over the sound of the car’s heater.

On that frigid January night, I was brittle with fatigue and hollow with disappointment. I had been pouring energy, preparation, and something I imagined would pass for love into a group of women who, it seemed to me, did not appreciate my efforts at all. 

Years later, I’m embarrassed to admit to the self-pity and resentment that rode home with me on that long ago miserable, wintry night. I had succumbed to the deathly trap of focusing on people, needing their approval and their appreciation to feel that my ministry was valued and that I was worthy as a person. 

Dependence on human approval is like chasing after the wind. Exactly how many people have to approve of me before I can feel secure?

God warned his people Israel through the prophet Jeremiah that when we look to our fellow humans as our first and most important support, the loudest voices in our hearts, we are entering a barren desert:

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land’” 
(Jeremiah 17:5-6 ESV). 

I was feeling like a parched dwarf juniper with roots sunk into dry sand! Today, I’m sharing my story of leaving the desert behind over at Living by Design where you’ll find folks whose ministry is to give without cost from the spring of living waters. 

Thanks for joining me there,

When frail humans begin to depend upon other frail humans for what only God can provide, the only possible outcome is disappointment.

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42 thoughts on “What Is Your Reference Point for Success in Ministry?”

  1. It’s interesting–I was just pondering approval from a little different angle earlier today, thinking of a possible future blog post! I don’t know if that will come together, but I appreciate the warning sounded here. It can start off so innocently–just wanting to be assured God is using us, we’re on the right track, etc. But we don’t need to seek visible signs that He is using the message He gave us–we need to leave that with Him. And when we *need* that affirmation, we need to readjust our focus to doing all for His glory, not our own.


  2. As a blogger I find it’s easy to get wrapped up in stats–always wanting more hits, comments, and followers. Time and again I’ve had to remind myself that numbers don’t matter; obedience and submission to my Heavenly Father is what counts. I do want my heart to be safe, my identity centered on my status as God’s beloved daughter–not on human affirmation. Thank you, Michele!


  3. Michelle,
    A long time ago, I learned not to care what other people think of what I do and say…All that matters is that I feel I am doing the right tings for me and for my family…Great post!! Thanks so much for stopping by!!


  4. Great food for thought. I keep coming back to re-read this. I try not to dwell on how others have disappointed me, but I tend to get hung up on how I may have disappointed others. This in turn has me carefully considering my choices before I make commitments, which I suppose may be the lesson the Lord intended for me to learn to begin with. Thank you for sharing!


  5. Michele, one of my love languages is words of affirmation, so I can totally relate to the slippery slope of basing our worth and usefulness on the praise and approval of others. As you point out, God’s opinion of us is the only one that truly matters. (As a side note, this post reminded me of a class I taught at church several years ago that started out great guns and then dwindled down to a handful of women by the time it was over. I feel a bit of chagrin even to mention it, but one of those women who stuck with me until the end was my mom, and my memories of teaching that class with her in it not long before her Alzheimer’s diagnosis are priceless to me now.)


  6. I remember being in a similar self-pity state feeling unappreciated for all the work I put into an event, and feeling like I should be more successful! Actually, that maybe even God should have blessed it more! I’m glad God helped me understand it is for His purpose and service, and not to fret but be obedient. I still can fall into the traps of how I think it should go, and appreciate your words here to help me stay in His presence with all my activities.


  7. What a great reminder that our approval only needs to come from the Giver of our gifts. So often, I look at my growth, or lack of growth and lack of subscribers and feedback and wonder, what am I doing wrong? But if God lays something on my heart, then that is what I should be writing or sharing. Thanks for a great reminder. Michele.


  8. It’s so difficult to break free of wanting the approval of our fellow human creatures. We know we’re to do all for the Creator, but keep looking sideways instead of up….


  9. Great post, Michele. Such a good reminder to keep our focus on Him and to be on guard against the little foxes that want to steal our attention. I appreciate you sharing so authentically.


  10. Thank you for sharing at #OverTheMoon. We appreciate your shares. They have been Tweeted Pinned. Have a lovely week. I hope to see you at next week’s party too! Please stay safe and healthy. Come party with us at Over The Moon! Catapult your content Over The Moon! @marilyn_lesniak @EclecticRedBarn


  11. Thanks Michele, it is so hard sometimes to know our own heart or attitude. We need to rely on the Lord to sort that one out as well. We will feature your post in the next Blogger’s Pit Stop.


  12. It’s so easy to get sucked into the need to have approval from others isn’t it? I often have to remind myself to stop looking for the things that only God can provide in other people. #MischiefandMemories


  13. I’ve come to this realisation recently, constantly trying to ensure things are perfect for certain people who really don’t care about my efforts or welfare, I actually feel unburden since making a decision to distance myself. Thank you for linking with #pocolo and hope to see you back soon


  14. I think our low points are crucial to finding positivity through change so, although they are tough, they are also vital to our faith and wellbeing! Thanks for linking up with #MischiefAnd Memories


  15. So sorry to hear that you had that moment Michele. I’m sure it only latest for the briefest of moments as you have such strong faith. It’s can be easy to forget what approval matters the most when you care so much and invest a lot of time in something. Thank you for joining us for #mischiefandmemories


  16. Wow, Michele, this is really some serious food for thought! “Dependence on human approval is like chasing after the wind.” How true is that? Thanks for linking with me and for sharing another very important message in this half crazy world!



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