Q: Why do people need to Be Real with God?
Rick Bezet: I have talked to many Christians through the years, including pastors even, who battle feelings of condemnation, insecurity and inferiority. Christ died for us to have victory in our lives, yet so many believers lack confidence in their approach to God and in who God made them to be. It's a chronic situation that ticks me off. And fake is really exhausting when you believe that God doesn't want you around, or when you think He's mad at you. As a kid, I had a very mean Sunday School teacher who talked about hell like she was born and raised there! She said, "Hell is hot, Bezet! You do want to go to heaven, don't you?" I replied, "Not if you're there, I don't!"
Hebrews 10:22a says, "Draw near to God with a sincere heart." The word "sincere" can be easily overlooked, but it means "free from pretense or deceit." I believe we have confidence to be real, to come out of hiding for good, and to bring wholeness and integrity to all areas of our lives when we truly understand that God accepts us! You don't really let down your guard with God until you realize that the God who loves you really does love you! When we get real with God in sincere conversation, we get real confidence and boldness that can't be shaken.
Q: When you first gave your heart to the Lord, someone challenged you to be honest with God. What was that about?
Rick: I had an uncle who loved God the way I wanted to, and he told me early on that I could be honest with God about anything. That idea was revolutionary to me, and I was soon able to try it out. Before Christ, I loved to smoke marijuana. Well, one day I was filling up my car at a gas station, and I dropped my keys on the ground. When I reached down, I realized they fell on a joint – marijuana. My first response was, "Thank you, God! You must really love me!" So, I picked it up, got in my car, and punched in the cigarette lighter. Then I remembered my uncle's advice, so I said, "Lord, I'd really enjoy smoking this, but I'll do what You want." Strangely, I felt that He was telling me to throw it away. I didn't want to miss God, so I asked Him, "Are You sure about that?" He was! So I threw it away, and I felt God's reward for a small act of obedience.
Q: You travel the world consulting with pastors and speaking at churches. What do you think about the countenance of the average pastor right now?
Rick: I got a call awhile back from someone telling me that a pastor, once a close friend and mentor, had fallen into sin. I was shocked and wondered how it happened. Well, he was doing life alone. He didn't have anyone he was transparent with in honest community. Stats show that after ten years in ministry, most pastors don't have one friend they can be honest with. I know what my countenance would be if I felt I was doing this alone!
If we don't stay connected, it gets easy to respond to criticism in one of two destructive ways. The first is to pull back when you've been hurt. Everything looks the same on the outside, but when you choose to not let anyone come close again, you isolate yourself. The second way is more aggressive – push back, or rebellion. We believe we deserve a little comfort, and since we're not being honest with others, no one has to know. Soon we feel too ashamed to admit our temptations and failures to somebody else. One of the best ways to combat temptation is to be connected with friends.
There are many networks and tribes that allow pastors to build real relationships in ministry. For example, my brother Randy and I have partnered together on "Relate Coaching" which is an initiative where Pastors join together for a one-day event, learn from one another, and overcome obstacles they face in church, all in the context of relationships. One of our next events is September 23 in Wilmington, NC.
Q: Why do so many people in ministry tend to fake their relationship with God during difficult times?
Rick: I remember being taught in Bible School that we should never let anyone know how we're really feeling, or they'll question our faith. We must be the example. One professor even taught us that as pastors we wouldn't have close friends. I couldn't accept this idea. It's just not the way I'm wired.
Then a few years later something happened that caused me to become insincere and even consider leaving the ministry. My wife and I had been counseling this young girl who obviously had emotional troubles, and I told her we couldn't help her anymore. I even said, "I don't think you really want help. I think you just want to hang around us." She looked at us and replied, "Really? Is that what you think?" and she left. I soon got word that she had committed suicide, and I became very discouraged, almost to the point of depression, but I did not tell anyone. People would ask me what was wrong, and I would reply, "I'm doing great." Using that simple response, the terrifying reality dawned on me that I have the ability to fake my relationship with God.
I thank God all the time for the relationships I share with other pastors through the Association of Related Churches. We check on each other often and pray for each other. We talk openly about things and bring up blind spots and weaknesses that we deal with in ourselves. I love that! I believe this group of people sincerely operates the way God originally wanted the church to function.