Every now and then I like to give a little air time to some up and coming youth workers and writers. (If that is you, let me know when you would like some space as well) Austin is an incredibly godly young man who is sold out to Jesus and his students. I have had the pleasure of watching him develop into quite the youth worker. I hope you enjoy his post as much as I did.
Thanksgiving....the time we celebrate everything we have been blessed with. The time we gather around the table with friends and family and gorge ourselves. The time when we are asked to share something we are thankful for, but if I'm honest I was unthankful this Thanksgiving.
Let's just say my life has not been picture perfect recently......well, it's really been horrible. Some of it is self-inflicted and some of it just circumstantial. I have been beaten down in every area of my life. Family, relationships, and ministry just to name a few. My wife and I have not had enough time to focus and grow our relationship. Our house was torn apart for an exterminator to rid our house of bed bugs. My grandma's health is shaky at best. I seem to be making all the wrong decisions to help student’s lives change; instead my decisions have led to frustration and spiritual exhaustion in myself and others. These are just a few from the laundry list. Call me Job.
Okay, maybe I'm a little tough on myself in some areas. Regardless, this is not a season to be thankful for......is it? It sure doesn't feel that way. Every part of my flesh does not want to be thankful. I want to scream in frustration, and I have. However, I have learned and relearned of some of the biggest, toughest, and life-changing lessons in the midst of all this. I needed this terrible season, I needed to feel like Job.
I am the hands and feet of Jesus, not Jesus
This is a truth that almost every youth worker knows is true, but we all have trouble accepting it. We invest in others. Proclaim the gospel. Speak the truth in love. Yet, we see no life change. We beat ourselves up because we want to change the world one person at a time.......but we don't transform hearts, The Holy Spirit does. I needed to be reminded of my role, because when I put myself in Jesus' shoes I fail every time. When I put myself in the role of a servant....all the pressure is off. I don't need to change lives and I don't need to take on others burdens; I just need to invest in others, proclaim the gospel, and speak the truth in love.
Your priorities shape your life
My priorities were way out of wack. I was spending way too much time invested in the church, and because of that everything fell to pieces. Even the very thing I was spending so much time doing. I needed to reprioritize my life. I needed to put God back on the throne instead of the church. God and my personal relationship with him is priority numero uno, my relationship with my wife needs to be second, and the role of youth director behind both of those. When I finally reprioritized my life, I received the breath of fresh air that I had been longing for. That breath turned into the best week of my life.
Arrogance leads to destruction
For some reason, I decided to think that I was in control of my life and that I could handle every problem all on my own. The truth is I had put myself on the throne of my life and had kicked King Jesus off of it. I didn't intentionally do this; I subconsciously believed that I was more than capable to dictate my life. I made quick decisions without consulting the King, and although those decisions didn't turn out terrible.....they were decided out of arrogance and insult to the King. I should have asked for guidance from the King. I should have allowed Jesus to remain on His throne.
It is so easy to get caught up in the fog of life and ministry. It is in that fog of confusion where we are attacked, our priorities shift, and we become arrogant enough to think we are the King. We are not the King, we are the people.....and there is a lot of peace in that. It's not until we play the role of the people where we can be thankful.
My name is Austin Penn, and I am not the King, I am a citizen of the kingdom. I am so thankful for the lessons I have learned and relearned, and I am so thankful to be a servant of this great kingdom.
Austin Penn is the Director of Student Ministries at Countryside Covenant Church in McPherson, Kansas. Austin is a graduate of Central Christian College with a Bachelor’s Degree in student ministry. While at Central, Austin played for the baseball team, was the Student Body Chaplain and met his beautiful wife Stevie. He is passionate about young people, and he longs to see them come to know and love Jesus!