3 Ways to Stay Sane This Easter Season
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Few times in the year present more pressure and stress for pastors than the week before Easter. The demands feel so overwhelming that we often lose our own center in Jesus during our celebration of the most important moment in history. So allow me to offer to you, in a few words, three reminders that may help you relax in Jesus as Easter approaches.

1. Do the Will of Jesus

Success is first and foremost doing what God has asked us to do, doing it his way, and in his timing.

Years ago, when I was first wrestling with redefining success, I imagined what it might be like to come before God’s throne at the end of my earthly life and say, “Here, God, is what I have done for you. We had 500 new people on Good Friday and Easter!” Then he would respond, “Pete, I love you, but that was not what I gave you to do. I didn’t ask you to neglect your family for the last three weeks and push your volunteers beyond their limits.”

Think with me for a moment about some of God’s faithful and, hence, most successful leaders:

  • Jesus said of John the Baptist, “Among those born of women there is no one greater than John” (Luke 7:28). Yet, if we were to create a bar chart on the size of John’s ministry over time, it would demonstrate a peak followed by a steady and precipitous decline.
  • The prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah both served God with passion and obedience, but they were mostly written off by an unresponsive remnant—definitely not what anyone likely considered success.
  • Jesus didn’t wring his hands and question his preaching strategy when “many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him” (John 6:66). He remained content, knowing he was in the Father’s will. He had a larger perspective of what God was doing.

It’s hard to see how any of the names on this list would be considered successful in most leadership circles today. Yet the Bible makes it clear that God approved of their ministries. We may well be growing our ministries but nevertheless failing.

Success is first and foremost doing what God has asked us to do, doing it his way, and in his timing.

Embracing God’s definition of success for New Life Church over the years was initially difficult for me to accept. It slowed me down, and I suddenly felt like I didn’t look as good as the leaders of other more successful ministries to which I compared myself.

It meant that New Life had one objective: to become what God had called us to become, and to do what God had called us to do—regardless of where any of that might lead us. It meant that all the previous markers—increased attendance, bigger and better programs, a larger budget—had to take a backseat to this one.

I encourage you to pause and reflect for a moment. What might change in your context if you were to define success this Easter season not by the numbers but as radically doing God’s will? What external markers might become less important? What internal markers might become more important?

What fears or anxieties are you aware of as you even consider such questions?

Believe me, I understand how disorienting these questions might be. But I also know how freeing it is to live and lead from the center of God’s definition of success.

2. Stay in Loving Union with Jesus

It is possible to build a great Easter experience for our people, relying only on our gifts, talents, and experience. We can serve Christ in our own energy and wisdom. We can expand the ministry without thinking much of Jesus or relying on him in the process. We can preach truths we don’t live.

I was in my early years as a Christian when I first came to grips with the sad truth that God appeared to use prominent Christian leaders whose relationship with Jesus was either nonexistent or seriously under-developed. It was a discovery that left me confused and disoriented. Yet, after decades in ministry, I am no longer so confused. Why? Because I have experienced to some degree what it’s like to be one of those leaders. I have prepared and preached sermons without thinking about or spending time with Jesus. I know the experience of doing good things that helped a lot of people while being too busy or caught up in my own whirlwind of leadership worries to be intimately connected to Jesus.

Consider the following quick check-up to diagnose how your experience of loving union with Jesus is going:

You know you’re not experiencing loving union when you …

  1. … can’t shake the pressure you feel from having too much to do in too little time.
  2. … are always rushing.
  3. … routinely fire off quick opinions and judgments.
  4. … are often fearful about the future.
  5. … are overly concerned with what others think.
  6. … are defensive and easily offended.
  7. … are routinely preoccupied and distracted.
  8. … consistently ignore the stress, anxiety, and tightness of your body.
  9. … feel unenthusiastic or threatened by the success of others.
  1. … regularly spend more time talking than listening.

Jesus faced overwhelming pressures in his life—pressures that far outstrip anything most of us will ever face. Yet he routinely stepped away from those endless leadership demands to spend significant time with the Father. He slowed down to ensure he was in sync with God. By routinely stepping away from his active work, he entrusted the outcome of his circumstances, problems, and ministry to the Father. And as a result, every action Jesus took was rooted in a place of deep rest and centeredness out of his relationship with God.

A question each of us must wrestle with on a regular basis is this: In what ways does my current pace of life and leadership enhance or diminish my ability to allow God’s will and presence full scope in my life?

3. Keep Your Work in Perspective

Jesus has a little work for you to do. Your work for God is important to him. But it is small. Consider the complexity of the work God is doing in millions of lives around the world. Consider his innumerable works since the beginning of human history. Imagine yourself looking back at your “to do” list for Holy Week after seeing Jesus face to face. Is everything on that list really so important?

Jesus is building his church—not you. He said, I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it (Matt. 16:18). He is the exclusive church builder. This work we do belongs entirely to him. And God alone has the power to grant someone a revelation of Jesus (see Matt. 16:17). We sure cannot. This is immensely hopeful and immensely humbling.

For the past few weeks, before I go to bed, I have been pondering the last paragraph in the final book in C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, The Last Battle. It has helped me surrender my “little” earthly work to God and keep a healthy perspective around my unfinished plans and work. Aslan (representing Jesus) explains to the children what their earthly journey meant. Lewis writes,

He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. ... But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read; which goes on forever; in which every chapter is better than the one before.

When I remember that my short earthly life is only the “cover and the title page” and “Chapter One” will begin when I see him, my body relaxes. My cup overflows with thankfulness. And I join with Julian of Norwich in affirming, “All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

Pete Scazzero is the founder of New Life Fellowship Church in Queens, New York City, a large, multiracial church with more than seventy-three countries represented. Pete is also the author of The Emotionally Healthy Discipleship Courses, a discipleship model transforming churches around the world. Follow him @petescazzero.