Influence

 the shape of leadership

Five Things That Can Steal Your Intimacy With God

Keep your identity rooted in your relationship

Dean Deguara on July 10, 2018

I’ve noticed an alarming trend in the Church. Many leaders and pastors are walking away from ministry — and some are leaving the faith entirely. On the surface, it seems they are suffering an identity crisis. Yet I believe what they’re really experiencing is an intimacy crisis.

This intimacy crisis arises from a lack of intimate fellowship with God, and from an emphasis on leadership development that doesn’t include the power of the Holy Spirit. I know that sounds super-spiritual, but I think it needs to be said. Without the Spirit’s involvement, we are in danger of producing leaders who know how to lead well but don’t know God well at all.

I’m not discounting the importance of identity. Knowing ourselves is vital, and there are hundreds of books about our identity as believers and discovering who we are as leaders. However, few books today address the importance of cultivating intimacy in our relationship with God as leaders, pastors and ministers.

When we lose our intimacy with God, that is when we lose our identity, not vice versa. When I know God, I know who I am as a husband, father, leader and pastor. When I become disconnected from intimacy, my identity — who I am — comes under attack and I open my life and leadership to the ploys of the enemy. Here are five common ones:

Lies

The devil is a good liar, which explains why so many people fall into deception. John 8:44 says, “He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

If the devil attempted to deceive Jesus, he will lie to you and me. Lying is natural for our enemy, so it’s not the easiest thing to detect. He will bring negative thoughts to your mind: You’re not a good parent. You’re not a good spouse. You’re not a good leader. You’re not a good pastor.

Such thoughts come at low points in our lives and leadership. Many times, the enemy’s lies bombard us following our mistakes, failures and disappointments.

Over time, we can become more acquainted with the enemy’s lies about us than God’s truth about us. When we believe these lies, it further erodes our intimacy with God, and our identity comes under full assault.

Over time, we can become more acquainted with the enemy’s lies about us than God’s truth about us.

Limits

Our fears create limits. Some would say you need more faith to overcome your fears, but the Bible says something different: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).

The fears that limit us are inhibitors that keep faith fenced in. Love, when fully developed, is a motivator that knows no bounds.

This is the kind of love the apostle Paul had in mind when he prayed that the Ephesians, “rooted and established in love” would “have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:17-18).

Labels

Labels are things we hide behind. I had to deal with a label that I wrongly attached to myself. In 2004, we closed the doors of the church we attempted to plant. That failure led to the toughest two-year period of my life.

I shied away from wanting to be the leader God called me to be, so I labeled myself “the backseat leader.” It sounded cool, and I started a blog around the whole idea, branding myself that way.

The problem was, God didn’t label me a backseat leader; I did. I had taken on a false identity and hid behind a false humility. False humility is a form of pride that likes to hide and play it safe. Through a series of conversations with a trusted counselor, I tore that label off my life — and you should, too.

Loads

Many of us drag around heavy loads of insecurities and past hurts. You become aware of the contents of this baggage when you encounter certain individuals or situations that stir up anxiety, doubt and bad memories.

The enemy wants us to become so bogged down with emotional dead weights that we can’t move forward for Jesus. If you’re carrying such a burden, you can be sure it isn’t from God. After all, Jesus said, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). Release your heavy loads to Him, and accept the peace He offers.

Losses

Losses come to us in many ways, but can be painful and paralyzing. It may be a decision you made or didn’t make, a decision someone else made for you, a friend who betrayed you, or a church that fired you. Whatever the case may be, it has caused you to say, “I’ll never do that again.”

I remember saying that phrase to myself after the church plant failure. I was out of the ministry for two years and was lost in my loss. Fortunately, I had a few friends in my life who told me, “You have to do it again!”

The key was choosing to find my way out of my personal pain by saying “yes” to God again.

God desires for us to lead from a place of intimacy. Let’s close the door on the enemy of lies, limits, labels, loads and losses by cultivating intimate fellowship with Christ.

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