Dallas Willard: The Secret to Ministry Satisfaction

In my early days of ministry, I spent huge amounts of time absorbed in Scripture and great spiritual writers. The Lord made it possible for me to spend whole days—without any issue of preparing for something or taking an examination—soaking up the Scripture. I literally wore out the books of great spiritual writers. This focus was foundational to my spiritual journey, to finding satisfaction in Christ.

Experiencing God in that way leads me to satisfaction in Christ and to speaking to others out of that satisfaction. There is no substitute for simple satisfaction in the Word of God, in the presence of God. That affects all your actions.

Characteristics of Dissatisfaction

Men and women in ministry who are not finding satisfaction in Christ are likely to demonstrate that with overexertion and overpreparation for speaking and with no peace about what they do after they do it. If we have not come to the place of resting in God, we will go back and think, Oh, if I’d done this, or Oh, I didn’t do that. When you come to the place where you are drinking deeply from God and trusting him to act with you, there is peace about what you have communicated.

One of my great joys came when I got up from a chair to walk to the podium and the Lord said to me, “Now remember, it’s what I do with the Word between your lips and their hearts that matters.” That is a tremendous lesson. If you do not trust God to do that, then he will let you do what you’re going to do, and it’s not going to come to much. But once you turn it loose and recognize we are always inadequate but our inadequacy is not the issue, you are able to lay that burden down. Then the satisfaction you have in Christ spills over into everything you do.

The preacher who does not minister in that satisfaction is on dangerous ground. Those who experience moral failure are those who have failed to live a deeply satisfied life in Christ, almost without exception. I know my temptations come out of situations where I am dissatisfied, not content. I am worried about something or not feeling the sufficiency I know is there. If I have a strong temptation, it will be out of my dissatisfaction.

The moral failures of ministers usually are over one of three things: sex, money or power. That always comes out of dissatisfaction. Ministers are reaching for something, and they begin to feel, I deserve something better. I sacrifice so much and get so little. And so I’ll do this. The surest guarantee against failure is to be so at peace and satisfied with God that when wrongdoing presents itself, it isn’t even interesting. That is how we stay out of temptation.

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Dallas Willard
DALLAS WILLARD was a Professor in the School of Philosophy at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. He taught at USC, where he was Director of the School of Philosophy from 1982-1985. He also taught at the University of Wisconsin (Madison, 1960-1965), and held visiting appointments at UCLA (1969) and the University of Colorado (1984). Dallas Willard passed away on May 8, 2013, at the age of 77.