Lessons Learned From a Trying Season

The Ministry of Encouragement is Essential

I didn’t realize how much I needed to hear an encouraging word in my difficult season until it came. One day after laboring in ministry for months, all heaven broke loose and I think in one day I received five random encouraging words from different people for no apparent reason. Nothing had happened that spurred them on to rush in an encouraging word. All too often we wait to encourage in the time of crisis. That day was a mundane and ordinary time during this season. It is in those days, I think, we need the encouragement the most. It is not just Paul who stresses the importance of encouragement, but if you look back to the Old Testament you will quickly see that the Israelites were instructed to encourage their leaders as well. Leaders need courage, and if you want to be led well by a courageous leader, encourage him. Joshua, for example, led the people of Israel fueled by encouragement from his flock. When the day of encouragement came to me, my friends reminded me most that the sacrifices that I was making and the bricks I was laying were not straw or hay. They were silver and gold.

Ministry is Kingdom Work

Elders can easily forget, at least I can, that this isn’t all there is. Our congregation is not the congregation, it is a congregation in a line of thousands all leading to Zion. While I do hold an optimistic eschatology, and believe that the picture the scriptures paint is a re-marriage  of heaven and earth; I still believe we should set our minds on things above. The heavenly vision is what should root our earthly work. This means even if I do literally build a solid foundation to a church here on earth, that foundation in the heavenly realm cannon be shaken. Our building may tower like a medieval cathedral for centuries, or a tornado may wipe it out next week. Regardless the spiritual work that was put into it will stand and the kingdom will not be shaken.

You Are Not Your Family

I have a high tolerance for stress and burden. I entered ministry leadership around the age of seventeen in a large non-denominational charismatic church. Anyone who knows church dynamics knows that is a hot and heavy place in regards to leadership. Burn out is around every corner. I watched numerous people walk away from it all. So my discipleship in that environment has prepared me for very tough seasons. What I found myself forgetting was that I am not my whole family. While I am the head of my family and represent them, my experience of ministry is not identical to that of my wife and children. Leaders must guard against carrying a burden that they don’t realize is dropping objects off of the load like an overloaded semi going down the highway. Those small rocks bouncing out can easily bust a window to those following behind. While you may not have met your weight limit yet, you must be sure to secure your load so that those drafting behind you don’t catch any of it in their face. Secure your load by reminding your family of the gospel. The Law says you can’t load beyond this limit. The gospel says even if you don’t break that law you will break another law out of neglect. So, you must look to the good news of Christ to preserve you and your family through this season no matter how many guards you put up to prevent it.

The Burden is Not Yours, It’s Christ’s

The role of the husband is to be a head to his wife by loving her enough to take the weight of hardship in self-sacrifice. He should welcome the cares and pains of his wife because it is his job to trade his life for hers. When a burden afflicts the family, the wife should promptly pass it on to her head. So the ball is in your hands husband. There are two options at this point. Either you can try to dribble, juggle, or backpack a load of burdens that keep coming, or you can pass them off as well. Remember husband, you have a head too.

But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.  -1 Corinthians 11:3

Leaders should systematically implement a burden flow chart that channels all stress, worry, anxiousness, etc. from the family to its head, which is the father and husband. The leader-husband should then take those cares to his head, Jesus Christ. He gladly welcomes them.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” -Matthew 11:28–30

If a leader tries to carry the weight on his own back he will eventually break. Burn out is inevitable. For this reason leaders must be fervent in prayer, passing all cares upon the Lord because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).

Everything to God in Prayer

Prayer is the lifeblood of ministry. If you don’t have a rich prayer life with the Lord you will not last long. If you seek to be a liberal soul and be made fat with blessing, you must pour out prayers and be filled up in prayer. Find a person you can count on to pray for you and pour out your own prayers for him as well. He that watereth shall be watered also himself (Prov 11:25). If you want to be filled up, the only way to do that is to empty yourself. If you seek your life you will lose it, but if you give your life up for Christ’s sake you will find it. This is the paradox of kingdom work. If you want to be encouraged, empty yourself in encouraging others. If you want your work to last, don’t build it for yourself. If you want to save your family from burn out, realize you can’t and only Christ can. If you want to carry weighty burdens, stop trying to carry weighty burdens and pass them on to Christ. If you want to be sustained by prayer, pour yourself out in prayer for others.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. -1 Peter 5:6–7

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