Sunday, April 22, 2007

Fighting Discouragement in Ministry-Part 5

Chapter 5-Ministry Discouragement through the Eyes of the Scripture

We have now taken the time to look at practical resources dealing with discouragement through books and journals as well as words from our peers in ministry. With all of that said, it is time we look at the idea of discouragement through God’s eyes. We do this by spending time looking at the Scriptures for information and encouragement that can help us as we fight the problem of ministry discouragement in our lives.
In the following pages we will look at various passages of Scripture that show us the following three things: First, you are God’s and He has a plan for you and your ministry. Second, you are not alone. Others in the Bible have faced the same discouragement we face today thousands of years later. Third, Ministry takes time and will be fruitful if God is in it with us.

You are God’s and He has a plan for you and your ministry
Genesis 1:27- “So God created man in His own image. In the image of God He created Him: male and female He created them.” With this verse we have the promise that God made us exactly who we are IN HIS IMAGE. Everything about us, He created. All of our short comings and failures, all of our little quirks that affect us, everything about us God made in His image. How can we be discouraged if we take to heart what this verse says? We are the Lord’s he made us who we are and no matter how hard things seem to get, we have this promise from His word.

Joshua 1:9- “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Wow! What a promise. No matter what we are facing, God tells us not to be discouraged because He will be with us wherever we go. That is simply amazing and should be such an encouragement to us when we are facing discouragement in ministry.

Proverbs 3:5-6- “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” Ministry is tough at times. When we are hurting or discouraged, it is tough to trust. This verse shows us that if we will simply place our trust in Him, especially during the difficult times, He will guide us. I don’t know if you have ever been lost on a winding back road before, but it is not easy to see where you are going. It is the same when we get discouraged in ministry. We begin to focus on just trying to maintain and get by. However if we would simply place our trust back in the Lord knowing that His plan is ultimately better than my plan we will be encouraged because HE will direct is through the difficult time we are facing.

Jeremiah 29:11- “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Wow what awesome words of encouragement God offers us in this passage. We have already established that there will be times of discouragement in ministry. There will be times when life and ministry just doesn’t make sense. However we know that no matter what we are facing God has a plan for our lives. He is not going to put us through anything that would cause us harm. Difficult times are still a part of His plan and we can learn from them if we will allow ourselves to.

You are not alone
There have been others thousands of years ago who faced discouragement just as you have and will. Let us look at a few of them and see what we can learn from their discouragement.

Moses- Here is a man who grew up among Egyptian royalty and then was asked by God to lead His people out of the bondage of slavery. Talk about an overwhelming task. He led the people through the desert for 40 years and faced discouragement of His own. He had to deal with people who wanted to turn back toward bondage every time it got tough. Ultimately his frustration and discouragement led him to do something against God’s plan for the people. In Numbers 20:12 we read these words, “But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not trust me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I will give them.” Wow, talk about your mistake to make when you are discouraged. The lesson here is for us to realize that we cannot act on impulse when we are facing discouragement. If we do, we may miss out on God’s best for our lives. Moses did show us though that even the best get discouraged, so take heart, YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
Elijah- In 1 Kings 19:4 we read these words, “I have had enough Lord. Take my life: I am no better than my ancestors.” Now if you are like me when you read this passage you scratch your head. Here is a man who has just had a hand in one of the greatest miracles of all time. He was a key player in an event where God came down and proved that He is the one and only true God. 450 prophets of Baal were slaughtered and God’s people saw that He was the one to follow. You would think that Elijah would be on the greatest spiritual high of His life. Instead we see him asking for the Lord to just let Him die. There are two things that we should take from this passage. The first is this- we should expect extreme lows just as we expect extreme highs, and often these will come after great times of victory. If we are aware of this, we can prepare for it and make the best of the situation when it comes. The second thing we see is that the first thing that Elijah does after this event is he rests! As we minister to people on a daily basis, we MUST be deliberate in making time to recoup ourselves. If we do, we may find that discouragement does not come as often since we are refreshed and ready to go.

Ministry takes time
Ecclesiastes 3:1- “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under Heaven.” This verse is more than a classic rock song from the 1970’s. It is proof that ministry takes time. Too often when serving, we try to make things happen in OUR time. The world we live in is results driven. We want what we want now and most of us have the resources at our fingertips to get what we want when we want it. Because of this we have become tainted. We expect the same to happen in ministry. As we are working with students, we expect to see results in their lives right away. We expect them to be spiritually mature without experiencing life. When this doesn’t happen we tend to get discouraged and frustrated. This if we are not careful can start us down the slippery slope of discouragement that can lead to depression and possibly leaving the ministry. Our time is not God’s time. There is a season for everything, and the sooner we realize this, the sooner we will face less discouragement in our result driven minds of ministry.

Matthew 13:3-9- “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among the thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop-a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” Obviously we know this passage of scripture as the parable of the sower. Jesus goes on to explain the parable as it relates to the lives of those we work with later in the same chapter. This is an important story to us as youth pastors for one reason.
We cannot reach everyone. Ministry, especially youth ministry is about planting seeds. Although we want to see results right away, we may not because a deep relationship with God takes time to cultivate just as the crops did in this passage. In addition to this, not every seed we plant in the lives of our student will sprout. We may not be the ones to reach a certain student, but that is okay. All we can do is plant the seeds in their lives, it is up to them to cultivate them. The thing to remember though, is that the final yield of the crop was much more than was sown. It can be the same as well in our ministries. We may not get to see the results of our hard work this side of Heaven, but some of the seeds we are planting will take root and one of these days we will meet countless people who have been touched because we touched the life of one teen who perhaps we didn’t even think heard a word we said.

If we are to battle discouragement in this results based world, we must realize the truth in these two passages. Ministry takes time. If we know this and we remember it, when discouragement comes because we are not seeing the results we want we can take heart in knowing that in time we will see the results, so in the words of my pastor, “Hangest thou in there.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey! I'm vry blessed to have chanced upon this post! It has helped me in knowing how to lead my group here in Singapore, Hope Church, to overcome and fight discouragement faced in evangelism. It has also aided me in remembering certain promises of God! God bless you in leading the youth ministry back in Ohio! Thanks! =D