Is God bigger to you than people, challenges, circumstances and even past failures? II Peter 1:3 (HCSB) says: “His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” God is bigger, but if you are not careful, you can easily get trapped into being distracted by focusing on the wrong things. Think of Isa. 43:7 which says: “Bring My sons from far away, and My daughters from the ends of the earth — everyone called by My name and created for My glory. I have formed him; indeed, I have made him.” You were created to bring God glory.
In People-Pleasing Pastors, Charles Stone gives excellent instruction on how to avoid the pitfalls of approval-motivated leadership. He lists eight F’s of chronic anxiety:
• Fight: emotionally reacting and becoming defensive (how we usually describe emotionality).
• Flee: emotionally or physically cutting off from others in anxious situations.
• Freeze: not knowing what to do, thus not taking a position; offering no opinion and/or staying neutral when you should take a position.
• Fuse: losing your identity by glomming on to others’ wants and desires, compromising convictions, seeking unity at all costs and/or trying to be one big, happy family.”
• Fixate: easily getting triangled into unhealthy relationships and conflict. Fix: overperforming to fix somebody else’s problems or doing for others what they should do for themselves.
• Flounder: becoming passive, underperforming or giving up.
• Feed, Fornicate, Finances: inappropriately yielding to the base impulses by turning to food, illicit sex/pornography or inappropriate use of money. The temptations are intensified when you serve in a very visible leadership role. You will be tempted by appetite, approval and ambition that can drive you to compromise and allow the enemy to cause you to discredit yourself.
Another excellent resource is the book When People Are Big and God is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency and the Fear of Man by Edward T. Welch. All too often, the bigger problem for us is not self-esteem but rather being self-centered. The focus can easily become your own personal advancement and self-promotion. Is your God bigger than you, bigger than what you want and bigger than your dreams and desires? Is God bigger than other people around you, whether that is seeking their approval or the fear of their disapproval? John the Baptist stated it well: “He must increase, and I must decrease.”
What happens when you are big and God is small? This poses the question of how do we exalt God and humble ourselves? God’s Word is clear — He honors humility and despises pride! You would certainly agree that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble, but do you only give that mental assent? Sure, you want Him to increase, but maybe you also want to increase — at least to be thanked and appreciated properly. You certainly want God in control of your life, but you also want to do what you want to do how you want to do it. You are for Him increasing, but you wouldn’t mind increasing also.
When God is bigger than you, you see Him for who He is and yourself for who you are not. You also are more interested in what He thinks over other people’s opinions. In Gal. 1:10 Paul clearly states the challenge: “For am I now trying to win the favor of people, or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ.” Great advice I received years ago was that no one should have to stand alone for God, but everyone should be willing to do so if necessary. The reality is that if God is bigger than you, your only choice is to decide whether you will obey Him or not.
Listen to the words of Jesus in John 17:4: “I have glorified You on the earth by completing the work You gave Me to do.” Your first priority is to give Him glory in every area of your life. Jesus glorified the Father by “completing” the work He was sent to accomplish. Will you be able to say the same when you have finished running the race? Will you be able to say that you completed everything He created you for and asked you to do? You must speak the truth in love, regardless of how it makes others feel and regardless of how their responses make you feel. Reacting emotionally can greatly limit God’s clearly stated direction in His Word.
When God is bigger than you, then you realize your need to stay in His Word because that is the only way you will be fully fueled and have the spiritual strength to endure. When your God is bigger than you, then you will obey Him without hesitation, knowing that God has a plan and you trust His plan. When God is bigger than you, then you will live in harmony with the Holy Spirit, striving to never quench or grieve Him. When God is bigger than you, you will always seek to glorify Him in everything you do and how you do it. When God is bigger than you, you will remain faithful to the task He has given you, knowing that your labor is not in vain.