Don’t Be a Victim of Your Intellect
I learned I could lead with my strength or be led by the Spirit
It wasn't until I began attending my new church that I realized much of my ministry life has been directed by my own ideas and capabilities and not by total reliance on God. I have always endeavored to "do good" or to "lift a helping hand." While my motivations were inspired by my love for God and people, I often signed up for ministries and assignments based on my desire to help out or because someone asked me. I was a people pleaser, so instead of seeking the will of God for my life, I did what was expected of me. I often allowed my bleeding heart to say yes without counting the cost. What did that lead to? It led to a burned-out lady who was tired, frustrated, undependable, and exhausted.
All of this continued for years until I met Pastor Lyons. At first I was really excited to hear his teaching. I could so resonate with the topics and I was so excited to hear good biblical teaching; that was until the messages started stepping on my toes. We have all had those moments when we've felt that the preacher was just preaching right to us. At my church, the messages feel like I just had surgery; I know I will be better for it in the future, but when I walk out the door I am in pain (and the praise and worship didn't provide enough anesthesia to numb the pain). I feel I have been sliced, diced, and exposed at the same time. One night after Bible study, I walked out feeling overwhelmed. I said to the pastor and to myself, "I quit...it's too much...I can't do this."
In a few days, I came to my senses and thought, "Exactly...that is exactly the point. I can't do this. I can't do this on my own. I need God. I need the Holy Spirit working in and through me." I was trying to do things in my own strength, but that's not God's design. I'm sure my pastor thought I was crazy. Was I really having a meltdown at church over the Bible study lesson? Yes. Yes, I was. However, I needed that moment. I needed to realize that I'd been operating in my own strength, power, and intellect. Certainly there were times when I called on the Lord and asked for his help, but I must also admit that there were times when I didn't even consult him. Sure, I was committing to positive or "godly" things to do, but was I doing what God wanted me to do? Was I walking in the will of God? Was I obeying God or was I obeying man?
When I planned a program, spoke on a topic, joined a ministry, did I even stop to ask God? I certainly asked many other people. One day Pastor Lyons told me that I needed to be careful not to be a victim of my intellect. Excuse me, Pastor? It was the most corrective but timely word I think I've ever heard. People have told me not to overthink things and to use my heart instead of my head. While I know listening to my heart is very important, my analytical mind will not allow me to follow my heart only. However, when I heard the words "don't be a victim of your intellect," I felt it was an indictment. It was an indictment that I needed to take seriously. I had to process it slowly. I had to search my mind and my heart: What is he talking about? This isn't me. Or was it? Step by step, God started showing me how my first instinct is to do things according to what I know. He revealed to me that I operated with the gifts and talents he's given me, but I sometimes fail to consult with him, the "champion who initiates and perfects our faith" (Hebrews 12:2).
God told the disciples to wait for power from heaven (Luke 24:49). He told them to wait to be empowered by the Holy Spirit to continue their work for the Lord. I believe God is teaching me the same thing: Wait, Carmille. God wants me to look to him for direction and empowerment. He wants me to recognize that I can't serve in ministry in my own strength. When I serve in my own strength, I get tired. I also feel weak and ineffective. However, God keeps reminding me that his "power works best in weakness." I have learned to shout along with the Apostle Paul, "Now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me...For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). I am strong because God is working through me. I am strong because I am totally relying on God. I am strong because I don't have to worry about my plans being successful. I can be confident because I'm relying not on my intellect, but on the Spirit of God.
Since I've had this epiphany, I feel so much better. I feel as though a weight has been lifted off me. I don't feel the pressure I once did. I don't feel obligated to say yes every time someone asks me to do something that I have the ability to do. If I don't feel led by God to do it, I've learned to say no. I feel liberated. I don't agonize over serving with every ministry who offers an invitation or I don't feel guilty when I feel my season with a ministry has concluded and I decide to move on. With this new mindset, I serve with the motive only to please God and not to please people. For example, recently I've been invited to serve in several ministries and organizational boards. While I have a servant's heart and believe they are all great organizations and ministries, I'm not automatically saying yes. I am waiting. I am praying. I am learning to take care of me, and most importantly, I'm listening for the voice of God. I will no longer rely on my abilities, but I will be led by the Spirit of God.
Carmille Akande is a licensed minister, attorney, speaker, writer, and blogger based in Dayton, Ohio. She has a heart for outreach and discipleship ministries and blogs at carmilleakande.com.