Bible Truths to Sustain Volunteers as well as Vocational Christian Leaders
Opposition to goals.
Lack of visible results.
Self-condemnation over mistakes or failures in life or ministry.
Frustration over continued vulnerability to temptation.
Feelings of inadequacy for a task God assigned us.
Weariness from overwork.
These are among the factors that siphon off joy and motivation in ministry. What follows are four Bible truths that instill resiliency in me, despite a lifetime of recurring depression and a frail temperament. I don’t offer these as panaceas for the difficulties of service, but as a means of sustenance, perspectives that enable me to keep going in service when I don’t feel like it.
1. God pledges eternal dividends for faithful fulfillment of our tasks.
We don’t always see the promised results, but we can trust His Word. According to 1 Corinthians 15:58, dividends are as sure as the resurrection promise that precedes this verse: “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”
The “reap what you sow” principle in Galatians 6:7-9 also contains this promise. Paul connected this principle to the service of the Corinthian church members, so they wouldn’t lose heart in doing good (vs. 9). He emphasized that those who “sow to the Sprit” would reap a harvest (vs. 8).
You “sow to the Spirit” every time you intercede for someone. When you turn off the game on Saturday to prepare for and pray about your Sunday School lesson. When you spend lonely hours absorbing the text’s meaning so you can give your congregation solid food in your sermon. When you share your testimony of conversion with someone open to hearing your story.
Even when results aren’t observable, will we claim and believe this promise?
2. God does not forget our sacrificial service to His people.
Though other people may fail to appreciate or recognize our labor for the Lord, He has a keen memory of it: “For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints” (Hebrews 6:10).
Note two things about this verse. When you serve others you are expressing your love for the Lord. And His recollection of your efforts includes past as well as current ministry endeavors.
He doesn’t forget the late-night elders’ meeting when board members wrestle over difficult issues facing the church. He remembers the Bible study prep and shepherding you do as a small group leader, despite the heavy load you’re currently carrying at work.
Even when some criticize our efforts, if we’re diligent and our motives are pure, God is delighted by what we do. Sometimes He is easier to please than people!
3. Our confidence when communicating Scripture is the inherent power of the Bible itself.
The primary factor that should boost confidence in our teaching or preaching isn’t our experience, giftedness, personality, or past training. Our basis for confidence is grasping what the Bible says about itself. When we feel inferior to another teacher or preacher we’ve observed, or doubt the outcomes of our teaching because of personal frailties, let’s remember the source of our ministry’s power: the Holy Spirit’s use of the Word He inspired.
When God contrasted His words with those of false prophets, He exclaimed, “Is not My Word like fire…and like a hammer which shatters a rock?” (Jeremiah 23:29)
Hebrews 4:12 asserts, “The Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (For more verses on the efficacy of God’s Word, see 1 Thessalonians 2:13 and 2 Timothy 2:9.)
Before your lesson or sermon, when the enemy whispers that you aren’t qualified to speak, when he reminds you of your weaknesses and foibles, remind him that the power of your speaking is not in you, but in the truths you will communicate.
4. God promises His presence to folks on the front lines of ministry.
That all of God’s people can claim His presence is a clear, precious teaching of Scripture: (Isaiah 41:10; Hebrews 13:5). The term describing Jesus at His incarnation was “Immanuel,” God with us.
But on several occasions in the Bible, God assured His presence to persons heavily engaged in service for Him. He told Jeremiah not to fear foes because He would be with the prophet (Jeremiah 1:8). Jesus’ pledge of His presence after His ascension came packaged with the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). The Holy Spirit’s endless companionship was promised to His inner circle of followers who would spread the gospel after Jesus’ physical departure (John 14:16).
Even when we don’t feel His presence or go weeks without consciousness of it, that doesn’t negate the reality of His companionship. His Word that pledges His presence is far more reliable than our fickle feelings.
When unjust criticism leaves you emotionally numb…
When despondency descends on you and saps motivation for service…
When the enemy tries to tell you that your sacrifice of time and energy isn’t worth it…
Remember He is with you and you can talk to Him honestly about your feelings.
Which of these four truths reassure you most right now? Why?
Which Bible verse cited in this article will you memorize this week, so you will have fuel for the Holy Spirit to work with when a trying moment comes?
Think of a Christian worker who could use the encouragement of these truths, and send the post to him or her.
When you’re discouraged in ministry, what other Bible truths or verses instill resiliency within you?
For a much more thorough resource offering encouragement and sustenance for those serving the Lord, check out Terry’s book Serve Strong: Biblical Encouragement To Sustain God’s Servants. The 25 chapters explain and illustrate biblical principles that have buoyed his spirit and kept him going. He expands on points in this article, and adds insights on failure, brokenness, delays, spiritual warfare, failure, and the true basis for personal identity.
The late Robertson McQuilkin, missionary and President of Columbia International University, read Serve Strong and wrote this not long before he died: “I can’t remember reading a more powerful book on encouragement for pastors, missionaries, or lay Bible teachers. Well-written, practical, fresh, penetrating–and a fun read! I heartily recommend it for you, or as a gift for a leader in ministry.”
Use this link for a more detailed description of the book and a chance to order it. There’s also a link on my blog’s home page if you click on the front cover of the book.