To Pastors: Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Self

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    (Photo: Paul Tripp)
By Paul Tripp, CP Guest Columnist
October 28, 2012|10:13 am

Pastor, many things nip away at your attention and schedule. You know many people who love you and have a wonderful plan for your life. You know that many conflicting motivations, thoughts, and desires give shape to your life and ministry. Sometimes you lose sight of why you're doing what you're doing. So this question is vital: do you live with singleness of focus? Is your life and ministry shaped, structured, and directed by the pursuit of one glorious, fulfilling, heart-satisfying thing?

We don't live by instinct. Our lives are directed by the thoughts and motives of our hearts. We're always interpreting, and we're always desiring. We live in perpetual pursuit of something. We're always evaluating our progress toward that thing we think will give us life. We're always in the service of some kind of dream. Maybe this is the best way to say it: in every moment of life and ministry, you and I are living for something.

Creator and Creation

Scriptures like Psalm 27 and Matthew 6:19-33 remind us that everything a human could live for falls into two categories. The first category is the creator category. When I'm living and ministering for something in the creator category, I'm living for what can be found only in God. It means my life is shaped and directed by my resting in the pursuit of his grace, glory, goodness, and plan on earth. Another name for this category is the kingdom of God.

The second category is the creation category. When I'm living and ministering in the creation category, I'm seeking to find my identity, meaning, and purpose in something that's been created. So I look to my ministry, gifts, success, experiences, friends, possessions, congregation, or a position to satisfy my heart. Another name for this is the kingdom of self.

What does all of this have to do with pastoral focus? Only when I hook my life to the glory and grace of God and derive my identity from him can I truly live and minister with singleness of focus for the long run. Only God has the power to satisfy my heart. I was made for him. I was made to acknowledge his presence, rest in his love, and pledge allegiance to his purposes. Only then will my soul find satisfaction and my heart find rest.

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On the other hand, when I seek to satisfy my heart by pursuing a seemingly endless catalog of God-replacements, my heart will be anything but satisfied. So I'll abandon one dissatisfying creation dream for another, only to have that one leave me empty as well. I'll run from my friends to my ministry or possessions in the frantic but impossible pursuit of what can be found only in the Lord. My life will be characterized by fickleness rather than singleness of focus, because I was created to be satisfied in God alone.

Pastor, is your life and ministry shaped by one great desire, a desire for the Lord? Or does your ministry reflect a constantly changing; resulting from asking the creation to offer what only the Creator can give? Your heart will rest only when he's the one thing that gives your life focus.

One thing have I asked of the LORD,

that will I seek after:

that I may dwell in the house of the LORD

all the days of my life,

to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD

and to inquire in his temple.

(Psalm 27:4)

Paul David Tripp is the president of Paul Tripp Ministries, a nonprofit organization that is "connecting the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life." Paul is also a professor of pastoral life and care at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas (TX) and the executive director of the Center for Pastoral Life and Care in Fort Worth (TX). Paul has written many books on Christian living that are read and distributed internationally. His newest book, "Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry" will be released in the fall. For more information about Paul and his ministry, visit

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