A gnawing sense of Inadequacy is a daunting shroud that weighs upon a pastor’s ministry either paralyzing him into inaction or firing up nervous feet that send him running away from the pain and people he should be running toward. “If only I could be more self-confident,” a pastor whispers to himself.
No. Psalm 23 reminds us that self-confidence is not what we need; God-confidence is what we need—confidence in “the Lord … with me … forever.” Psalm 23 reminds us that our Shepherd Lord gives us everything we need in any situation when we lean into him. His rod and staff, they comfort us. If we need wisdom, God will give it. If we need courage, God will give it. If we need compassion, God will give it. If we need words, God will give them. It is important that we pastors prepare ourselves and equip ourselves for the broad and demanding nature of our work, but no pastor can be prepared for everything. We don’t have to be—because we are not alone when we enter these situations. Our Shepherd Lord is with us. Experience breeds confidence. Pastoral seasoning breeds confidence. Training breeds confidence. But nothing breeds more confidence in me than knowing my Shepherd Lord is leading me, is with me, and will be faithful to me all the way to the end as I depend on him.
In fact, this dependence on our Shepherd Lord can keep us from trying to play God, from trying to fix people or manage their lives in our feeble wisdom. I have done my worst work when I have tried to fix people: “Listen to me. Do this. Don’t do that.” Some people get helped, but most folks get frustrated because they either cannot or will not follow the counsel, and I get frustrated because they don’t take my “wise” advice. (I sometimes wonder how many people I’ve messed up along the way.) I do my best work when I point them not to myself but to the one true Shepherd Lord and his wisdom and resources. If I can get their hands into the hand of Jesus, if I can get them wrestling their issues out in prayer and Scripture, he can lead them to green pastures, still waters, down righteous paths, and through the dark valley to a better place and a brighter day. He can restore their soul. He can get them all the way home. I can’t. The Lord can.
Early in my ministry, an older minister told me that I would be called upon to enter a lot of situations that are way over my head, situations where I would not know what to do. He said, “You don’t have to know what to do, but you need to act like you do.” This is a “fake it till you make it” approach to pastoral care. It worked pretty well for me early in my ministry. But it did not take too many years for me to realize I do not always have to know what to do, because Jesus knows what to do. I have to know Jesus. I have to trust my Shepherd Lord. And when I find my confidence in him rather than in myself, he has a way of showing up and doing his thing in spite of my shortcomings. That is my great hope as a 23rd pastor.
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