How to Persevere When You Are Weary in Serving

Our family vacation could not have arrived at a better time.

I was feeling worn out, discouraged, and depleted from the daily grind. Day in and day out, each 24-hour period seemed packed to the brim with activities, work, and other commitments. There never seemed to be enough time in the day to see all the people I wanted to see, finish the housework I needed to finish, and give all the effort I wanted to give in serving the church.

Honestly, that last one was the kicker. I realized that I was becoming weary and exhausted from serving. While I felt certain that I was not attempting to do more than he had asked of me, the weariness had caught up with me and left me feeling inadequate and depleted.

This reminded me of the reality of human frailty. While God never slumbers nor sleeps, you and I often come face to face with our limitations, especially in the area of serving God’s people, be it visiting the elderly, playing music for church services, teaching the children in Sunday School, or carrying one another’s burdens through the ministry of prayer.

The twelve disciples came up against their own limitations in Mark chapter six, after they had spent considerable time casting out demons and healing the sick in Jesus’ name (12,13). The men were weary with serving and had “no leisure even to eat” from the ministry they continued to do (31).

At this point, word about Jesus was spreading, and the crowds followed him wherever he journeyed. Jesus had just encouraged the disciples to get away for some rest from their service; yet, another crowd “saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them” (33). I imagine the disciples were thinking, We’ve got nothing left in our tanks! How can we possibly minister to these people adequately?

Those of us who are also weary in serving and aware of our limitations can learn five helpful keys to our perseverance from the rest of this account, when Jesus feeds the five thousand:

Submit to the plans God has for you

We often become even more exhausted from trying to skirt around God’s plans for us, rather than submitting to them in faith. Discouragement and self-pity tend to surface within us when events don’t pan out the way we thought they would: the rehearsal runs late, people’s hearts are hardened to the ministry of the Word, the turnout for the prayer meeting is slim and disheartening.

The disciples had not planned on continuing to minister to the crowds; they had wanted to get away, rest, and recover. So when Jesus changed plans on them, they had a few choices: They could resist him completely and go off to rest, comply with frustration out of obligation, or submit willingly to the change of plans out of a deep trust in his good intentions for them.

Willing submission to God’s plan, even when it looks different than ours, actually produces the fruit of patience and peace within us. As a result, our service increasingly becomes the aroma of Christ, rather than reluctant, dead works that are of little benefit to anyone.

Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with love for people

As the crowds gathered around Jesus and the twelve, Mark tells us that “[Jesus] had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (34). When I am growing weary in my serving, one of the first things to fly out the window is love for other people, rendering the rest of my outward actions useless. It is especially difficult to lovingly serve those who do not show any appreciation or love in return.

But Jesus, the great Shepherd of the lost sheep, was not merely unappreciated, he was rejected by men. The same crowds he ministered to, healed, and taught were the ones who crucified him. Yet, despite all the hatred and violence towards him, Jesus loved his enemies to the end and forgave them, even while he hung upon the cross.

This same Jesus has given us his Holy Spirit, and we need only to ask the Spirit to pour the love of Christ into our hearts so that we can love even the most unappreciative and difficult of sinners. The gospel frees us to serve in love because it reminds us of how immensely we have been served by Christ.

Give all you have as an offering of worship, even if it seems meager

When Jesus asks the disciples to provide the crowds something to eat, they bring him five loaves of bread and two fish – not exactly an adequate meal for five thousand hungry people! Nonetheless, the disciples obeyed Jesus’ command to bring what they had for his service, even it seemed meager and insufficient.

When I’m growing exhausted and discouraged from serving, I am tempted to believe that passing the baton to someone more able is better than giving what little I have. One of my greatest struggles is singing, and I often want to hide and let a more talented singer take over for me. Perhaps you, too, have found yourself embarrassed or discouraged by your limitations in serving, and you’re equally tempted to pass the baton.

But Jesus teaches us through this account that our obedience despite our limitations is the platform by which he works wonders in and through us, while making his own name great. Jesus used the five loaves and two fish for his purposes, and he will just as surely use what little you bring him in obedience and faith.

Trust the ability of God to provide what you cannot

So what happened when the disciples gave Jesus the seemingly meager five loaves and two fish?

[Jesus] looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets of broken pieces and of the fish. And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men (41-44).

Five loaves and two fish fed five thousand people? Did the disciples make that happen themselves? No, but Jesus took their obedient service and multiplied it, bearing significant fruit through an insignificant offering.

We may never see the fruit of our service – how many people trust Christ or grow in their spiritual maturity – but we can trust God’s ability to multiply our efforts for his glory in the lives of his people (and even in the lives of unbelievers). Our limitations serve to remind us that God does not need our service, but he delights to use us when we willingly, trustingly offer ourselves as living sacrifices. It is through the multiplication of our small, but sincere, offerings that God reveals his perfect power and strength and works among his people.

Notice that the people “all ate and were satisfied.” Ultimately, it is the Bread of Life, himself, who satisfies his people, not the greatness of our service. Our service points to our need for the greater Servant, and this should encourage us to continue giving of ourselves to see his glory put on display through our limitations.

Get away, seek Christ, and rest

Finally, it is important not to discount Jesus’ initial command for the disciples to go away by themselves and rest. Yes, Jesus had a different plan for the men that day, which purposed to put his power and authority on display. But even Jesus got away to rest and pray to the Father, and if the Son of God set that example for us, how much more do we need to rest and recharge?

It is only in resting in the Bread of Life, ourselves, that we will be fed by his Word and be satisfied. It is only when we think deeply about the gospel and receive the mercy and grace of God anew that we will be compelled and equipped to continue pouring ourselves out in service to others.

What outpouring of service is Jesus asking you to offer to him today?

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Three Lessons I’ve Learned While on Mission in Hungary

I’m on mission for the gospel in Hungary. Yet I’ve spent all day in a room by myself, hoping to heal from the unexpected sickness that came upon me suddenly last night.
Today, while the rest of the team continued teaching English to eager Hungarian students; while the chapel filled my temporary bedroom with the sounds of singing; while gospel conversations happened and the Bible was read, I prayed and slept.Allow me to back up and give you some background.Unlocking the Bible, the ministry I work for during the week, is in the midst of translating some of Pastor Colin Smith’s resources into other languages, one of the first being “10 Keys for Unlocking the a Bible” in Hungarian. Last summer, a great number of Hungarian students received a copy of this book as a gift for completing two weeks of English camp in Budapest.

I had the blessed opportunity to see these books distributed among the students, and we have heard testimonies of how God is using this resource to help these students, both believers and unbelievers, understand the grand storyline of the Bible.

This past week, a group of us returned to Hungary to run another English gospel camp in the country town of Tapolca. The end of our week holds a wonderful reunion with those aforementioned students from Budapest, who received Colin’s book last summer.

It is because of the support and prayers of many that these translations are able to be printed and given to people internationally. And there are more to come! (We’ll shortly be establishing a new section on our website specifically for these translations.)

I’ve come to realize a few significant things about missions during these last twelve hours of seeing all of my own plans get redirected. Paul opens his letter to the Corinthians with these very lessons, which are helpful to us all, whether we are on mission in our backyard or in Hungary.

1) When on mission, lean into discomfort. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).

Paul is referencing his persecutions in Asia, bodily hardship that came upon him during his missionary travels. None of the affliction was pleasant, but all of the affliction was purposeful. Paul is saying that when we realize that God is the source of our comfort, and not our bodily circumstances, we not only stand on a solid, trustworthy foundation of compassion, we are enabled by the Spirit to point others to Christ in their afflictions.

If you’re a Christian, there is never a time when you’re not on mission. Consider your neighbors, relatives, co-workers, or even the groups of people you are serving on technical “mission trips.” The afflictions God has ordained for your life are gifts of his grace to be leaned into, not complained about or devalued. In Christ, affliction may not be pleasant, but it has purpose. Lean into discomfort by leaning into the God of all comfort.

2) When on mission, realize the Lord is on mission within you. “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again” (vv. 8-10).

Amazing, that as Paul intended to go on mission for the gospel, he also was ministered to by the Spirit. He explains that in their many afflictions, they learned that God intended to deepen their dependence on him, making it clear that only he could be their steadfast hope.

Often it can feel like gospel “mission” is up to us: saying the right words at just the right time, or having enough energy to pour into people. I often slip into thinking that a person’s ability to hear the gospel and be changed depends on my own abilities and timing. But this could not be farther from the truth. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ–but always by the power of the Spirit and the right timing and will of God.

On gospel mission, we must remember that we are completely dependent on God at work within us. This is an especially needed reminder during moments of affliction and hardship. God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness.

3) When on mission, plug into prayer. “You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many” (v. 11).

Paul commends his readers to pray for him because he trusts that God works through the prayers of the saints. This is especially true when our desire is to see more people come to know Jesus Christ. God is teaching me today that, even though I can’t run around with the students or teach English or share the gospel, I can pray. And pray and pray some more.

Prayer is powerful. It is a means of expressing our dependence upon God and trusting him with all of our needs. Prayer is also a fount of thanksgiving and praise for all God has done. Prayer actually does something! I read once that if we are not praying, or asking others to pray, then we don’t actually believe that prayer works. That is convicting.

So where does God have you on mission? How might he be using your afflictions to comfort others and cause you to depend on him? And how will you use your mission field as a prompting to pray?

Be blessed as you go on mission wherever God has placed you, trusting him with the outcome.

[Post credit: Unlocking the Bible]

An Ultimate Test of Ministry

“Can I use the computer for a minute, please?”

My younger sister determinedly entered the family office, posing her innocent, but rather inconvenient, question. I immediately rolled my eyes, uttering an annoyed sigh and said, “Really? You can’t wait for five minutes?”

After all, I was in the middle of teaching myself how to implement a new design technique for my blog. You know, one of those very involved processes that takes loads of concentration, creativity and time to carry unto completion.

Please note the sarcasm.

Even still, the process was intricately involved, and her interruption was an unwelcomed one at best. After another roll of my eyes, I caved to her needs, stood up abruptly from my chair and proceeded to leave the room, while she finished what she just had to start.

Needless to say, I am not always the most loving sister in the world.

The thoughts and attitudes of my heart are very accurately judged when I am in close proximity to those people whom I know the best. And these people just happen to be at home. How I interact with them translates into a very significant form of ministry, the love of Christ made manifest in my most daily of relationships. I would argue, in fact, that ministry and service are most aptly challenged by how we love the people we are surrounded by on a daily basis. To put it simply: ministry meets its ultimate match at home.

Three questions beg to be asked about at-home ministry, all of which Scripture delights to answer for us. To find our answers, let us delve into 1 John 4:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God… 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us…

20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Why At-Home Ministry Is Important

The ultimate test of ministry, demonstrating Christ’s love at home, finds its purpose in the glory of God. First, our love for the people in closest proximity to us reveals both an inward and outward manifestation of our relationship with Jesus Christ: “Whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (v.7). The more time we spend at the Savior’s feet, the closer we grow to Him and the more like Him we become. Christlikeness will show itself in the way we treat those closest to us. And when we love like Christ, God is glorified.

Second, the way we love others is a testimony to the outside world. Whether unbelievers dwell within our homes or they are looking in from the outside, our love—or lack thereof—will either validate or dismantle our testimony for Christ. Verse 12 reminds us that the unseen God’s love abides in His disciples, that we are His ambassadors to a lost world. How do you utilize at-home ministry when the lost, outside world is watching? Better yet, how do you love when that very world is within your four walls?

How At-Home Ministry Is Made Possible

We purpose to glorify God and reflect Christ when we love others, especially those people who are in closest proximity to us. But how is this made possible? There must be a motivator, an initiating factor propelling our love into action. The above verses remind us that love, ministry and service are not possible apart from the Gospel: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (v.10).

The fact that genuine love is not possible apart from the Gospel exposes the world’s vain attempts at good deeds and empty moralism. Without a cause, without a motivation, loving gestures and acts of service fall desperately short. The Gospel reminds us that it was God who first loved us, deeply enough that He sent His perfect Son to absorb all of our sins. In turn, we gain the righteousness of Christ. Now that is genuine love and ministry propelled into action.

Loving Those Closest To You

The practical question then is, “What does at-home ministry look like?” Applying verse 21, “whoever loves God must also love his brother”, can be worked out in various capacities. Three helpful ways include acts of service, attitudes and words.

Be observant; take notice of a chore that a family member, spouse or roommate dislikes and do it for them. Ask yourself, “How can I serve this person today?” Consider your attitude during conversations or when something is being asked of you. Align it to the attitude of Christ, who was humble and willing to serve. Edify a brother or sister with words by relaying genuine encouragement or thanks: “It means a lot that you took out the trash—thank you!” Sometimes, merely sitting next to a person is enough to say, “I love you and care about you.”

In the words of Nancy Leigh DeMoss, “Having a servant’s heart is more than doing a few good things for people…It’s a heart attitude of giving ourselves to God by giving ourselves to others” (Service and the Kingdom of God, 2013). May we give ourselves to at-home ministry in love, all because God first loved us!

[Post credit: iBelieve]