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Into the lion's den: Doing ministry when you feel inadequate

June 2019
By: Tonya Delnay

Mika BrandtWe can all identify with feelings of inadequacy and incapability: I'm not smart enough, don’t know my Bible well enough, am not rich or pretty enough ... simply not good enough. 

Then there’s failure. We try to be good enough, but we fail miserably. We fail each other and we fail God: by not abiding in Him, believing in Him, fearing Him, honoring Him, obeying Him, remembering Him, seeking Him, serving Him, and trusting Him.

Isn’t it good to know that, despite all this, God will never fail His people? He is never inadequate!

FAILURE STRIKES AT THE HEART OF WHO WE ARE

My own story is like that of so many others. I experienced failure in an area where I felt particularly strong, an area in which I had special expertise. When failure struck, it very nearly devastated me. I felt desperately inadequate.

When I became a Sexual Risk Avoidance Specialist for the Pregnancy Resource Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I knew I’d need to live what I was teaching. In addition to the training that was required for the position, I went through Linda Cochrane’s Bible study, The Path to Sexual Healing, because there were struggles lurking in my past that could hinder me in that ministry. Therefore, I felt I’d done what I needed to do and was fully prepared for what I knew God had called me to teach. 

I like to believe that God uses me through the ministry. Students seem to like me, and their feedback shows they respond to the message. I was also asked to go overseas to train others in abstinence education.

FAILURE STRIKES CLOSE TO HOME

My children were in middle and high school at that time. When they were born, my husband and I dedicated ourselves to teaching them right from wrong so they could avoid making the same poor decisions that I had. I had long believed the message of saving sex until marriage before taking the job. I was fully convinced it’s the safest and best choice for all. 

In our home, we talked about everything. My children heard the Willing to Wait message, absorbed it, and talked to others about it. When they graduated from high school and attended Bible colleges, I thought, “Hooray, we did it!” 

Now on their own, however, it wasn’t long before I noticed a rebellious spirit in their hearts. This broke my heart, yet no one looking at me would have known. I could still stand in front of students to present the abstinence message, but I adjusted it slightly to express what I wished my children had heard. I hoped it made a difference for those students, but I was also saddened to think it was too late for some of my adult children.

The hardest time for me was finding out that my daughter was drinking and singing karaoke in bars. Only God knows what else she was doing. This was a daughter who had previously joined me in the message and was a leader at church and camp!

I was scheduled to attend a training seminar for international ministry later that week, and I debated canceling. But I went, and God used His people there to help me. After a time of prayer, I shared with the group my struggles at home. I needed to hear I wasn’t alone in feeling disappointed over the choices of adult children. And I found that I needed to release them to God. He could more effectively convict them of sin and deal with each of them individually, as He had done for me. 

Going through this trial of failure and inadequacy was extremely painful for me. Should I go on teaching abstinence? Couldn’t somebody else do a better job of it? How could I return to the classroom? 

WHAT CAN DANIEL AND THE LION’S DEN TEACH ME ABOUT FEAR OF MY LION’S DEN?

Daniel 6, the story of Daniel and the lion’s den, became very helpful to me in this process. 

1. Daniel was a godly man who had no control over his circumstances. Even into his 80s, God kept putting him into prominent positions that he never sought. Yet Daniel had opponents who sought to learn his points of vulnerability and inability. 

We also have an Enemy who does this. He goes by many names:

  • Satan - adversary
  • Devil - one who slanders
  • Lucifer - Star of the Morning

Like Daniel’s opponents, he wants to take us down. Experience has shown there’s no one “too small of a fish for Satan.” 

Satan has been around since before creation. Job 38:7 says, “all the angels shouted for joy” as earth’s foundations were laid. He knows full well all the power and glory of God and was not always an evil angel. God counted him as righteous until unrighteousness was found in him, and now he is actively seeking to oppose God, His purposes and His people.

2. Daniel’s opponents aimed their attack at his spiritual practice of prayer three times a day. Our opponent’s aim, according to John 10:9-11, is “to steal, kill and destroy.” God wants us to have a rich and satisfying life―physically, intellectually, emotionally, socially and spiritually. Satan is out to steal, kill and destroy our body, our thoughts, our feelings, our relationships, and our obedience to God. Satan is more than just an opponent. He is our enemy! 

Thankfully, Satan can’t breach God’s boundaries and protection around us. There is not one thing he can do which will not promote God’s purposes for His glory and our good. But Satan is an angel with powers. He knows the common behaviors of people. In other words, what worked before may work again. Satan looks for a weak link and then pounces. He accuses us before God, and sometimes those accusations echo our own self-talk (1 John 2:1-2).

In First Peter 5:8, the apostle advises elders and young men in the church, saying, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” 

Lions once roamed the Middle East, including Israel. They hunt day and night. Lions are silent in their hunt, and only roar after they’ve caught their prey. In Job 1:7, before God permitted Satan to disrupt Job’s life, Satan reported, he’d “been patrolling the earth, watching everything going on.” He’s still watching us today. As Christians, we’re in Satan’s sight, but not his control! 

3. Daniel’s opponents convinced the king to sign an irrevocable law and our opponent is also convincing. According to Revelation 12:3-9 Satan took one-third of the angels with him, but two-thirds stayed with God! More angels serve and glorify God than Satan! He and his followers are outnumbered 2 to 1 by God’s holy angels!

Satan convinced Eve God wasn’t telling the whole truth. Maybe we think we would have stood up to Satan better than Eve, but he has convinced us about every sin we’ve ever committed! 

A sticky note on a mirror at my house says, “Absolutely nothing can keep me from doing what God has placed on my heart to do! Not education, status in society, political affiliation or appearance. NONE have an impact on His call for my life.” In other words, I won’t let Satan convince me I am not adequate for the job God has given me, including my role as a wife and mom! 

4. Before the attack, Daniel prepared himself. Daniel 6:10 says, “…he went home and knelt down as usual…with its windows open.... He prayed three times a day, just like he had always done, giving thanks to his God.” His opponents believed prayer this often was the rule of his religion. They didn’t understand prayer as the key to a profound relationship. Daniel was, no doubt, in conversation with God at all times, continually giving thanks no matter his circumstances!

We too need to prepare for our battles. When I realized Satan is a real threat to me and my family, I studied Ephesians 6:10-18. Paul shared his wisdom to the Ephesian Christians. Here’s my paraphrase:

Be (present tense) strong with the explosive strength and might that only comes from the Lord, the authority to whom you yield and submit. Be (present tense) fully dressed with God’s weaponry. It’s all at your disposal so you’ll be able to stand firm against Satan’s plans and the third of the angels he convinced to follow him. This is important! Be (present tense) fully dressed with God’s weaponry so you can resist the enemy. After the battle, you will still be standing. Defend yourself. Put on (present tense) the vital truth! Everything we believe is based on the truth of God’s love for us, the truth of who Jesus is and what He accomplished for us, the truth of the Holy Spirit’s involvement in our lives, and the truth revealed in God’s Word. Put on (present tense) the righteousness of Christ that was given to us when we are in a relationship with Him. Put on (present tense) the peace that comes from being in a right relationship with God that is because of Christ. Out in front hold up (present tense) what you may not have yet seen but what you know to be true so your faith will stop the attacks of Satan. Put on (present tense) salvation so everyone can see how you were saved from death and given life through Jesus Christ. Take (present tense) God’s word. Read it, learn it and speak it. Pray continually (present tense). Stay alert (present tense) and be persistent (present tense) in your prayers for all God’s family.

Daniel was fully armed for what he was about to encounter and ready to be used to glorify God to his pagan king. The king was “deeply troubled” by the predicament in which he found himself, but Daniel remained calm. We don’t know what that night in the lion’s den was like for Daniel. I like to imagine that the Lion of Judah Himself shut the lion’s mouths! He gave Daniel the peace that only God can give. I think Daniel slept peacefully there in the lion’s den as he’d slept every other night at home. When morning came, no scratch was found on him. The enemies took Daniel's place in the lion’s den, and the king glorified God. 

5. God was faithful to Daniel and is faithful to us. If the Enemy is attacking you right now, you may be in tough circumstances with some tough consequences, but He allows them so He can be glorified someday. 

God only allows in what will bring Him the glory. When we fail, God expects us to confess our sin and share our story. Our testimony helps another avoid the same sin or encourages others who have also sinned to confess. God then gets the glory!

THE REST OF MY STORY

When I returned from the weekend training seminar, I tearfully told my daughter that I was letting her go. I would be there for her but would not rescue her from whatever was ahead. The consequences to her choices would be from God, not me. After all, He loves her more than I can. 

Then I prayed, and prayed, and prayed! I clung to the promises that God would be with those He loved and hear the prayers of those who loved Him, such as James 5:19-20: “My dear brothers and sisters if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.” 

When the prodigal son “came to his senses” he went home (Luke 15:17). It was years before my prodigal daughter came to her senses and returned home, but she did return home! If you’re praying for someone like her, don’t give up! 

God did not fail me. He was not inadequate. 

So have courage. Those times, when you feel scared, like you’re walking into a lion’s den, remember Daniel and who the real lion is. And start praying, because “the lion of the tribe of Judah has won the victory!” (Revelation 5:5)


Tonya Delnay is a Sexual Risk Avoidance Specialist with Pregnancy Resource Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Before that, she directed the Alpha Women's Center in Wayland, MI.



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