May the God of all grace, who is rich in wisdom, and abounding in mercy, be with you in the name of our Lord Jesus-Christ. I wonder how you would describe your Christian life. Has it so far been one of constant fire for the Lord? Or can you distinctly identify periods of drought, sometimes very long ones? Periods where you were – and perhaps still are – simply cold toward spiritual matters. May be even worse. Do you feel like you have simply run out of steam for God?
You can remember the days when you had all the zeal of the world. Perhaps that was at your new birth and the months that followed it. On fire you were to even preach the gospel. Volunteering at your local Church, even proposing new ideas of ministry. But now…
…You are exhausted. You feel like you have been doing everything you can, but now, you are tired, and that zeal is just not there anymore. At best, a routine has settled in, but spiritually and emotionally, you are somewhere else.
You, have burned out.
This burning out, is not like the one Paul is describing, where, precisely because of the Gospel, they were persecuted on every front.
2 Corinthians 1:8 – We don’t want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of our affliction that took place in Asia. We were completely overwhelmed—beyond our strength—so that we even despaired of life itself.
No, the burning out I am describing is where your Christian zeal is gone. Your prayer life is all but nonexistent, and your active involvement in Church is a thing of the past.
And even worse…
It seems like it does not really matter whether you find in you the energy to jolt yourself back up. God Himself seems silent. Not a word from Him, not a word of encouragement from Jesus in your head that perhaps says “Yes, go ahead, I am with you, do not give up!”.
What is my mission? What is my ministry? What is my calling? Why can’t I seem to find it? Why am I just not on fire for Him?
These are just some of the questions you have been wrestling with.
You, have burned out.
What is Happening?
I would not pretend to have the comprehensive answer on the matter, nor presume that God would reveal such to me. But one potential big reason could be the mistake we often make of placing the carriage before the horse.
We are focusing on the ministry before focusing on ourselves.
When you look at the words of Jesus, and of His apostles after Him, by in large their focus was on our personal growth, rather than our ministry.
Jesus’ message was full of Do’s and Don’ts for our personal life. He preached so that our very character will change. You can read Matthew 5 to 7 for a good illustration of this. His focus was not for us to engage on a quest to find our “ministry”, but to embark on a life of internal transformation by getting rid of moral traits, habits and behaviors which keep us far from God.
The Apostles’ message echoed their Lord and Master’s. Very little – if anything at all – is found in their writings about how to get creative in the church, how to attract new members, or how to get children engage in Bible school. No, we do not see any of that. But what do we see instead? A call for personal transformation. A call for each of us to look inward, a call to fight old habits and put on new ones.
Galatians 5:19-25 – Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I am warning you about these things—as I warned you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
Fighting our old nature – the flesh and what it produces – is where our focus should be. The fruit of the Spirit is not described as a series of activities in the Church, or a series of personal ministries, but instead as a list of character traits that are in perfect agreement with the Laws of God.
It is God’s part to give you a ministry, not yours – It is your part to fight your old habits, not His
And so we find ourselves often focusing on something else that God would have us focused on. We want to work for Him, but we are not focusing on purifying ourselves as He commanded. And therefore often we move forward, with our temporary zeal and creative mind, only to run out of steam because the Lord, was never with us to begin with!
2 Timothy 2:21 – So if anyone purifies himself from anything dishonorable, he will be a special instrument, set apart, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.
It is the Master’s privilege to judge us fit for use. Sure, as we fight our old nature and put on the new one supplied by the Spirit, we will find ourselves “doing” things that could rightfully be described as doing ministry work. But they are not the focus, for they are simply the natural product of the transformation that is taking place inside of us, which should be our focus.
And if God judges that we should spend the rest of our lives here on earth doing nothing else but transforming ourselves, rather than doing any kind of ministry, so be it, for it will all be worth it. For remember, only holy people will see God (Hebrews 12:14).
Matthew 5:8 – Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
May the Lord Jesus live His life in You, through the Holy Spirit, for the glory of the God the Father.