Tension is Good

Tension is Good

We are carry an internal tension that’s associated with our appetites. We struggle desperately because we all want MORE. When we talk about our appetites, we immediately think about food or hunger, but there are a lot of different human appetites. There’s food and sex and….I’m sure there are a lot more! For me, I’m just looking through the lens of a guy because that’s all I’ve really been, but for you ladies who a trying to figure men out, they only have three appetites: food, sex and sleep. Just kidding. God has designed us in such a way that we are really just a big bundle of appetites and desires. And appetites also include security, an appetite for love, an appetite to be respected, to be cherished, to feel successful…All these things God designed us with, but each one of our appetites creates tension. The reason you feel tension in your life, is because one or more of your appetites are clamoring for MORE.


When it comes to leadership-whether it’s in a non-profit business, a for-profit business, a church or whatever it is, I believe that there are some appetites that are heightened beyond the average person. I want to discuss the tensions that you will always have to manage as a leader.

  1. All of us in leadership have an appetite for progress. We want to see our churches or companies move forward.
  2. We have an appetite for greater responsibility. You probably wish you had more responsibility, but here’s the interesting thing. Every time you get more responsibility in your organization, what do you want? MORE!
  3. We want respect-recognition for what we’ve accomplished.
  4. We want to win. Now, we don’t like the sound of that word in ministry because it sounds so non-godly and non-spiritual, but you know what? No matter who you are, there’s something in you that wants to win! Every year Outreach Magazine publishes a list of the fastest growing churches in America. Here’s what happens in our office. The magazine sits on the desk of my assistant’s office, and I pretend like I don’t want to pick it up. How silly! Who cares about who has the biggest church? I mean, God doesn’t care about who has the biggest church…We know that big churches depend on where you are located, how long you’ve been there, whether your father is a famous televangelist like mine. Many people ask me how I do what I do. I always say, step one is to be born into the family of a famous televangelist. Every time I get invited somewhere, they think it’s him. I show up somewhere and they say, “Wow, it’s you?” Now we all think this stuff is kind of silly, so I walk back and forth in front of the church growth magazine and I’m not going to let someone know how much I want to pick it up. But do you think I want to know if we are on the list? Of course I do!  If you are a leader, don’t be fooled. You want to win! No matter how many times you win, guess what you want? MORE. We want to grow. We want to be famous. (We don’t talk about that out loud.) If someone says they read your article or heard you speak-you may appear humble on the outside, but you go home and gloat.
  5. Pastor Rick Warren talked about the appetite to be envied. Guys, isn’t that why we buy the cars we choose to buy? We drive around cars we can’t even see because we are inside of them. Have you ever thought about that? You can’t even see your car driving down the road. You’re inside of it.

But here’s the amazing truth. I think all of this is part of the imago dei-the way in which God made us.

  1. God created our desires and sin distorted them. Winning, progress, responsibility are all created by God. Think about it. Man is in the Garden of Eden and God said “This is your job-run the WHOLE WORLD.”
  2. Appetites are never fully and finally satisfied. EVER. This is an internal tension that never goes away. No matter how big your student ministry is, whether you got recognized by your denomination, or your pastor gave you a trophy. Three days later, that award is in the rear view mirror and you want MORE. How many times have you finished a meal and you say “I can’t eat another thing.” Three hours later-the refrigerator is calling your name and guys say, “Duh, Food!” We somehow think there is someone out there, some reward, some recognition that will finally fulfill our appetites. Often we will spend our lives making really poor leadership decisions trying to find the “golden ring” and give a relaxing sigh, “Ah!” “ My church is big enough! My ministry is big enough! I’ve written enough books.” “ I have a cool enough car. My children are perfect enough.” None of your appetites are fully and finally satisfied.” Leaders, there is always, always, always tension in this area.
  3. Your appetites always whisper, “Now!” Never “Later.”

Your response to these appetites, your ability or inability to manage your unquenchable urges and to say “I can’t let them rule my life” determines your success and your spirituality. Your response to that truth will determine your direction of your ministry, your family and your life. Do you know how that’s true? You simply look at your parents. Some of your parents wrecked their lives over an appetite that they thought could be fully and finally satisfied. Some of your parents have ended well because they were able to tame and manage this tension and they knew there was not someone or something out there that would bring the big “Ahhhh…I’m done!”


I can’t name many people serving God who lost their ministry over bad theology. But we could compile an endless list of men and women who have lost their ministry, lost their churches or families because of their inability to manage the tension of a longing that says, “I want more.”


If you don’t get this right, it doesn’t really matter if you get the rest right. If you are ruled and controlled and deceived by the little voice that says, “More.” If you could just get a little more, have a little more, grow a little more…somehow you are going to get to this place where you can say, “Done!” If we lead that way, ultimately embarrassment follows and the loss of what you currently consider most valuable.


I Timothy 6:6: “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”


Be content. Be thankful. It’s time to sigh, “Ahhhh.” Thanks, God. I choose to do Your will, not mine.


Transcribed from Session One Catalyst West 2010. Used by permission.

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