Staying Power

44 years.

38 years.

48 years.

These numbers represent folks who Denise and I had the joy of sharing in sweet fellowship this past Saturday and Sunday in two different locations.

For 38 and 44 years, Seth and Linda, now retired, have labored for the Lord in the fields of Christian education.

For 48 years, Bacilio and Eunice has labored faithfully in the mission fields of Hispanic nations. Although the years have taken its toll on him, he said to me, “Dale, I am busier now that I have ever been.”

As I have pondered their lives after our recent visits, my heart was once again encouraged to finish well; to have staying power over the long haul.

Seth & Linda (Gray & maroon)

How does someone in full-time vocational ministry “stay by the stuff” until the end?

What’s the “glue” that helps us “stick-to-it”? Having been involved in ministry now for over 41 years as well as growing up in a pastor’s home, I share these with a bit of experience, yet knowing that my race has not been finished.

  • Keep your heart fresh in your walk with the Lord by living life in the awe and wonder of Who God is! (Psalms 34:1-3; 63:1-4; 91:1-2; 145:1-21)
  • Live a life of prayer, not a prayer life. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
  • Memorize and meditate on Scripture so when you talk to yourself, rather than listening to yourself, you have something really worthwhile, transformative to say. (Psalm 42:5, 11; 43:5)
  • Learn to rest spiritually, mentally, and physically. There is no virtue in having your “foot-to-the-pedal” 24/7. (Matthew 11:28-30; Mark 6:31; Philippians 4:6-8)
  • Make daily investments in your marriage; more deposits than withdrawals. Outside of Christ, your wife needs to be your best friend. (Proverbs 5:15-23; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; Song of Solomon 4:9-11; Ephesians 5:18-33)
  • Enjoy the journey! Laugh a lot! Have fun! Don’t take yourself so serious! (Psalm 16:11; Proverbs 15:15; 17:22; Ecclesiastes 3:4)
  • Love people as Christ does. (Matthew 22:37-40; John 15:9-17; 1 John 4:21)
  • Expect to be disappointed and suffer at the hands of people. Why should I be treated any better than Jesus was? And, make sure you do not live with a martyr’s complex! (Hebrews 12:1-3; 2 Timothy 4:10)
  • Live a life of gratitude. (Colossians 3:15-17; 1 Thessalonians 5:18; Hebrews 12:28)
  • Remember, few men cannot stand the applause. (1 Corinthians 10:31; Proverbs 16:18)
  • Your identity is not in a successful sermon or project but in Christ alone. (Philippians 3:4-14)
  • Surround yourself with godly, encouraging, edifying, loving, transparent friends inside and outside your ministry. (Proverbs 27:17; Romans 16:1-16; Philippians 2:19-30)
  • Live with the Bema in view as well as eternity. (1 Corinthians 3:9-15; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10; Revelation 21-22)
  • Live the gospel and share the gospel. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Philippians 1:27)

One final thought comes to mind as I consider these four faithful laborers.

At this late date in their lives, they still have such a winsome personality, a sweet disposition and a joy-filled heart in spite of the aging process and current physical hinderances.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

Teach Me to Hit a Ball

For years I watched it happen in the back yard of our next door neighbor.

There was Dad patiently, sometimes frustratingly, teach his son and daughter the mechanics of pitching a ball, swinging a bat or fielding a grounder.

There it was . . . discipleship . . . mentorship . . . training in action!

Discipleship is not the latest “buzzword” in Christian circles.

Discipleship describes the Christ-life, who we are as believers in Christ.

Discipleship is a growing, intimate follower of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:9; Philippians 3:10; 2 Peter 3:18) whose passion in life is to help others come to know and follow Christ (Matthew 28:18-20).

But it does not end there. The goal for God’s glory is to see a disciple disciple others; it’s reproduction (1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 2:1-2; Titus 2:1-10; Heb. 3:12-13; 10:24-25).

As I would watch my neighbor teach his kids how to play ball, he was sharing what he had learned from someone else. One day, perhaps, his children will teach others as well.

Today, the local church needs:

  1. Believers living out the Christ-life of discipleship.
  2. Believers who are hungry to grow and change in Christlikeness, willing to meet with others for the purpose of searching the Scriptures and learning to appropriate who we are in Christ in practical ways.

Are you a genuine, passionate follower of Christ?

  • Would you be willing to mentor that young lady who is longing for help in her marriage and blended family situation?
  • Would you be willing to meet with that man who is struggling with a divided heart, wanting to live for Christ but experiencing a strong pull from the world’s allurements?
  • Would you be willing to meet every other week with a man at a restaurant and read through Scripture and/or a book like Disciplines of a Godly Man?
  • Would you be willing to invite a lady into your home to study the Word and then train her how to plan and cook a week of meals for her family?
  • Would you be willing to sit down at a coffee shop with a young man who just graduated from high school who needs encouragement to continue to follow Christ?

Discipleship is hard, supernatural, rewarding work. The needs are great! Every believer should be involved in the lives of others helping them take the next step toward Christ.

Will you pick up the spiritual bat, ball and glove and show someone how to follow Christ? The rewards are eternal!

Don’t Follow Your Heart!

A man is not a murderer because he kills; he kills because he is a murderer.

For out of the heart come murders (Matthew 15:19).

A man is not an adulterer because he cheats on his wife; he cheats on his wife because he is an adulterer.

For out of the heart comes adultery (Matthew 15:19).

A man is not sexually immoral because he preys on children; he preys on children because he is sexually immoral.

For out of the heart comes sexual immorality (Matthew 15:19).

A man is not a thief because he steals; he steals because he is a thief.

For out of the heart comes theft (Matthew 15:19).

A man is not a slanderer because he gossips; he gossips because he is a slanderer.

For out of the heart comes slander (Matthew 15:19).

The heart of every issue is an issue of the heart.

The “heart” as described in scripture is who you really are. So, in this Matthew passage, we see where Jesus puts his finger on the culprit of every sinful behavior . . . our corrupt, deceitful, desperately wicked heart (Jeremiah 17:9).

Jesus said to the Pharisees, Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. (Matt. 26:25-26)

The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart.

“Jesus teaches us that there is something far more fundamental to our sinfulness than the actual sins we commit,” Tom Ascol goes on to say. “Our sins do not make us sinful. Rather, we commit sins because, at the very center of our lives, we are sinful. Sin has invaded the inner recesses of our personalities.”

We can spend hours discussing the recent events of our world and try to come up with man-made answers and “band-aid” solutions to the murders in 2022, the war in Ukraine, the angry outbursts and ungodly actions from political leaders, the trafficking of humans, the abortion of babies, and the continual sinful behavior displayed daily on our phones and ipads, but the answer and solution is only found in the Word of God.

Sinful man must have a changed, transformed heart through the power of the gospel (John 3; Romans 3:9-23; 6:23; 2 Corinthians 5:17). Once he repents and believes in Christ alone for salvation (Romans 10:9-13), the Holy Spirit comes to indwell that man whereby he is now able to walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lusts of his heart/flesh (Galatians 5:18-24; Romans 6-8).

Much, much more to be said, but I’ll end with a word of great hope:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:2-4)

According To Your Word

My soul melts from heaviness (Psalm 119:28a). This describes my heart since Sunday afternoon.

The heaviness that has come over me because of the effects of sin.

The grief that has gripped me due to the deep deceitfulness of our wicked hearts.

Wednesday around 2:00 a.m. I was abruptly awakened out of my sleep, praying out loud for the many drowning in sorrow in Uvalde, Texas as well as those picking up the pieces from the SBC/Guidepost report released Sunday afternoon. As I thought of those precious elementary children, I thought also of my dear grandsons.

Oh Lord, strengthen me according to Your Word!!!

As I rolled out of bed, I grabbed my phone on the night stand and went to Wednesday’s scripture reading from Psalm 119:41-48. I needed strength! I needed to hear from the Lord! I needed my heart to be calmed!

Let Your mercies (lovingkindness, steadfast love) come also to me, O Lord— Your salvation according to Your word. (Psalm 119:41)

These were the first words I read. How marvelous to know that God has extended mercy and grace to me as a poor, lost, hell-bound sinner and has rescued me according to the Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-8; Romans 1:16; Ephesians 2:1-9; 1 Timothy 1:12-17) . . . according to Your word.

You see, for true salvation and assurance of eternal life in heaven, for our wicked hearts to be changed, for sin to be correctly and adequately dealt with, for quietness in our soul in the midst of such wickedness and sorrow, for an understanding of perilous times, to have “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,” . . . it can only and always be . . . according to Your Word.

Remember the word to Your servant, upon which You have caused me to hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life (Psalm 119:49-50).

According to Your word!

P.S. Take some time to read Revelation 21

10 for 10

Over the past ten days, my wife and I have enjoyed many blessings of ministry of which here are ten. They are shared here for God’s glory and appreciation for His kindness to us in these days of such sin and sorrow!

1. Officiating and directing a wedding! Wow! How special to see two lives brought together in the will of God! The wedding was Christ-exalting and so very romantic! I love weddings!! (Side note: In respect of the newlyweds, I will not post any pics until they do.)

2. Providing a place to rest in our home for two days for a fellow servant in ministry! Quiet walks, prayer, porch time, mountain drive, sharing scripture, etc.!!

3. In 2014, my wife and I had the joy of leading the Missionary Teen Retreat in the Basque region of Spain. We have kept up with several who are now young adults. Daniel and Jessica celebrated their first anniversary with a return trip to Gatlinburg, TN. Their anniversary celebration included worshipping with us in both Sunday gatherings plus a meal and afternoon spent at our home. What a special treat! I call that “clipping grace coupons”!!

4. Preaching the Hebrews 12:12-19 passage in the morning gathering at BCBC!! What a solemn and joy-filled honor it is to prepare and preach the Word of God verse-by-verse!! The Word works!! (2 Timothy 3:16; 4:2)

5. Leading and teaching the Biblical Counseling Elective on Sunday mornings!! “The heart of every issue is an issue of the heart.”

6. Follow-up visitation of church visitors. Made to feel so at home with these folks!!

7. Having coffee with a young man from our church who just finished his first year of college. My heart was greatly encouraged to see how he has grown both spiritually and as a young man!!

8. Discipleship with another man in our congregation. Met for lunch and read together through a chapter of Disciplines of a Godly Man, R. Kent Hughes. Iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17).

9. Small Group gathering on Thursday night! What can I say?!?! A highlight of every week! Singing, prayer, transparent testimonies, Bible study, fellowship around the bar counter and in the living room, laughter, tears, bearing burdens, and rejoicing in answered prayer!!

10. Attending a high school graduation of a young man that has attended BCBC through his teen years. Another opportunity to encourage a young man to follow Christ, not his heart!!

That’s only 10! There were so many more!! Oh! How marvelous is the goodness and grace of God!! And, I got to share in all of these with my wife, except for #8.

It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich, and He adds no sorrow to it. (Proverbs 10:22)

Practice, Brother!!

The oft-spoken adage and biblical advice for preachers is, “Practice what you preach!”

Well, since having completed an eleven blogpost series on overcoming discouragement in ministry, my wife and I put Post #7 to practice.

Last week we “got out of Dodge” and headed for a week of rest at Edisto Island, SC.

To make the week purposeful and full of memories, we took the word “READS” and used it as an acrostic for each day’s goal. After all, you usually spend time reading when you get away like this.

Here’s a sampling of our time with the hopes of encouraging you to “practice what you preach.”

R – REST

  • Each day, we did not let ourselves be driven by a clock. We had quiet, leisure mornings on the deck overlooking the golf course with our Bibles, journals, study books and coffee. We did read a lot on the beach, too!
  • When we went to the beach, which we had basically to ourselves, we just sat or strolled along the shore. One day I looked at Denise and said, as if I was being asked by someone at home, “Well, preacher, what did you do on vacation?” “Nothing!”
  • Wherever we went in the car, it was slow driving; no hurry.

E – EXERCISE

  • Although I did not get to run on the beach, I really enjoyed running through the Ocean Ridge Wyndham property!
  • Denise and I walked around the property hand-in-hand in the evenings!

A – ADVENTURE

  • Played Putt-Putt golf (Denise won, made four hole-in-one’s, just missed two others). So I bought her an ice cream cone for her “trophy”!)
  • Botany Bay shoreline at high tide with a storm brewing!
  • We have always said that the vacation begins when we leave home and ends when we arrive back home. Therefore, our “out-of-the-way” trip to Charleston, SC, was a great adventure: Handy & Hot Restaurant, King Street shopping, and strolling along King and Meeting Street to view the historic homes.

D – DINNER

  • We had seafood every day!! Some of the best was at Roxbury Mercantile (Twice), Edingsville Grocery Restaurant, and Pressley’s!!
Roxbury Mercantile

S – SPECIAL

  • The historic Presbyterian Church on Edisto Island is a must see! There is a small Prayer Chapel on the property. We stopped on Tuesday and Thursday (National Day of Prayer) for a time of prayer together that was very special!
  • Since we love ice cream, each evening I served Denise mint chocolate chip accompanied by a mint chocolate chip cookie served in a tall stemware glass. Cheap ice cream, Aldi’s cookies, but served up in special way.
  • Cheese sandwich picnic!!
  • Sunsets
Prayer Chapel

Practicing can be fun when you have your best friend, wife, and sweetheart of 41 years alongside!

Now! That was a great way to stay away from or overcome discouragement!!

Do you need to practice what you preach?

Overcoming Discouragement in Ministry #11

Two marriage failures. One sexual abuse. One suicide.

I heard about these four tragedies in a two day period. These were all ministry leaders.

Only the Lord knows all the facts about each of these scenarios, but the following is for certain:

  1. These sins could have been prevented.
  2. The heart of every issue is an issue of the heart.
  3. Men in ministry are not above temptation.
  4. The root cause is unbelief in God which leads to discontentment which leads to discouragement which leads to despondency/depression which leads to despair.

This is why I have written these several recent blog posts about overcoming discouragement in ministry. As I heard of the aforementioned moral failures, my heart ached. I wept. I realized again how susceptible I am in my own heart to fail. Everyone of us is one decision away from bringing reproach on the name of Christ, destroying our testimony, marriage, family and ministry.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (1 Corinthians 10:12-14)

Ministry is made up of two worlds, public and private. Public ministry life has its share of hurts and struggles which brings the temptation to deal with it in a sinful way in the private world, where there is no accountability.

Will you read the following from Paul Tripp and soak your soul in the grace of God, the Lord Jesus Christ Who has brought deliverance and rescue to us all?

“Why do I struggle with the same sin over and over again, and how can I break the cycle?”

Someone submitted this question not too long ago. I could feel their discouragement through the email. Have you ever felt stuck in a cycle of sin, seemingly unable to break a pattern that dishonors the Lord and reaps a harmful harvest?

I know I have, and when I do, my mind immediately jumps to Romans 7. “For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (vv. 18-19)

So what do we do when we hit that wall? I think Romans 7 provides us with some practical steps and encouragement to break the cycle of sin.

The first is this: Don’t sign a premature armistice agreement with our sinful nature.

As believers, the Bible declares that our heart of stone has been removed and replaced with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). Yes, we are new creatures, and yes, the controlling power of sin over us has been broken … but the presence of sin remains.

I think many of us have seriously underestimated the drama, the power, and the depth of remaining sin—how deep it is inside of us and how it infiltrates every aspect of our being. There is a tremendous moral and spiritual war still raging on within us.

I am surprised by how many Christians, myself included, live with a peacetime mentality. While we might be active fighting our culture or protesting outside evil, some of us seem to expect the luxuries and leisure of peace in our heart—where the war rages most fiercely.

And then suddenly, we get surprised or discouraged when sin starts winning!

Don’t misunderstand: because of the wonderful atoning work of the Prince of Peace, the war between God and us has ended. And when Christ returns, our struggle with sin and the Enemy will be complete. But until then, a battle of hostility inside us still rages. Perhaps the problem is that we think that the adversary within—remaining sin— has been conquered long before it actually has.

In the middle of this spiritual war, there’s a second thing you must do: Don’t argue for your own righteousness.

Perhaps the biggest and most tempting lie that all of us tend to embrace is that our most significant problems exist somewhere outside. This is partially true because, in a fallen world, people sin against us and we experience bodily pain and suffering. The Apostle Paul experienced both of these and doesn’t minimize them by writing about them elsewhere in Scripture, but in this particular passage, he’s only concerned about his own sin and heart. He doesn’t argue for his righteousness.

On the contrary, in Romans 7, Paul locates his struggle inside himself. He knows that when you argue for your righteousness, you convince yourself that you don’t need the grace of God—the only thing that can protect you from sin.

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8)

Are you feeling discouraged in your battle with sin? At first glance, Romans 7 can be a pretty discouraging passage! Paul exclaims, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”

But the passage doesn’t end there: “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Eternal rescue has been supplied, but rescuing grace is still necessary every day. What we have received in Christ, we still desperately need. Romans 7 calls us to be aware and serious; the war for our hearts is not over. Our need for a conquering Savior has not ended.

Reflection Questions

  1. What sin have you conquered or left behind by God’s grace since becoming a believer? How have you become a new creation by being in Christ?
  2. What sins or weaknesses do you find yourself still struggling with? When was the last time you wrestled with the flesh because of it? What was the outcome? Do others know of this consistent battle?
  3. Are you more committed to fighting the sins of the culture than you are fighting remaining sin in your heart? Why is the latter more of a danger to you?
  4. Consider a recent time when you deceived yourself by arguing for your own righteousness. Who, or what, did you blame? How did you justify your selfishness or sin?
  5. What does the daily rescuing grace of Christ look like in your life? How can you pursue it today? Be specific.

Ministry friend, if I can be a listening ear for you with a heart of compassion and truth, please contact me at bcbcpastor@comcast.net. Let me help you before you become a statistic.

From a pastor’s heart!

dale

Overcoming Discouragement in Ministry #10

McAfee Knob, AT, Virginia

What occupies your mind each day?

Social media? Tasks? Worry? Fears? The News? Video games? Stuff? Woes? Church members’ needs? Conflicts?

How many thoughts do you think in a day?

The results of a 2020 study (Heathline.com) suggested people typically have more than 6,000 thoughts per day. In the study, which involved 184 participants with an average age of 29.4, study authors used brain imaging scans to track when new thoughts began while participants were either resting or watching a movie.

Here’s the math, based on their estimate: Say you get 8 hours of sleep each night. You’re awake for 16 hours each day and have exactly 6.5 thoughts per minute. (6.5 x 60 x 16 = 6,240 thoughts) Maybe you only sleep 7 hours each night, so you’re awake for 17 hours each day. (6.5 x 60 x 17 = 6,630 thoughts)

The article goes on to cover negative thinking, intrusive thoughts, and how to change your thinking. (Scripture gives us much to consider on these subjects.)

So, I’ll ask again, “What occupies your mind in a day?” Who or what controls your thinking, guides your thoughts, gives you peace and rest?

How grateful I am for my dad who often talked about being occupied with Christ. Grant Richison said, “Occupation with Christ is the cure for discouragement.”

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “occupy” as . . .

1: to engage the attention or energies of
2a: to take up (a place or extent in space)
b: to take or fill (an extent in time)
3a: to take or hold possession or control of
b: to fill or perform the functions of (an office or position)
4: to reside in as an owner or tenant

So, what does it mean, what does it look like to be occupied with Christ?

  1. To be occupied with Christ is to surrender moment-by-moment to Christ in me (John 14:20; Galatians 2:20), seeing life through the eyes of His Word (1 Corinthians 2:6-14; Colossians 3:16), living out practically each day our position in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 1:5-6), and appropriating all that we have in Christ for God’s glory (Ephesians 1:3-14; Colossians 3).
  2. Get out of bed each day, and as Ron Lynch says, “Report DOA” (Dead On Arrival). Each of us struggle with being too occupied with ourselves. Since we are crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20) and dead to sin (Romans 5:6-11), then I “report DOA.” A dead man can’t do anything.
  3. Understand who you are in Christ. Check out Overcoming Discouragement #5
  4. Live in 1 Peter 3:15 (NLT), Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.
  5. Preach the Truth to yourself rather than listening to yourself. (Psalm 18:30; John 14:6; Proverbs 14:12)
  6. Make your life’s goal to hear Jesus say to you at the Bema (The Judgment Seat of Christ, Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10), “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23). It is as Paul said, “For to me to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21).
  7. We, as ministers for Christ, are never the celebrity; only Jesus Christ is the true celebrity. He’s always the issue. Pastors should never be placed on a pedestal (Philippians 3:7-8, But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.)
  8. Preach motivated by and saturated with occupation with Christ. (Colossians 1:27-29, To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.) Preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2), not a verse out of context or a thought we have backed up by a Bible verse.
  9. Being occupied with Christ takes precedence over being pre-occupied with people. Therefore, you see people as Christ does (Matthew 9:36; 11:28-30; John 10:10).
  10. Being occupied with Christ is steadfast, consistent encouragement as you abide in the Vine (John 15:1-11).

So, what occupied your mind yesterday? What will occupy your mind today?

That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death (Philippians 3:10).

1 Christ beside me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
King of my heart;
Christ within me,
Christ below me,
Christ above me
never to part.
2 Christ on my right hand,
Christ on my left hand,
Christ all around me
shield in the strife;
Christ in my sleeping,
Christ in my sitting,
Christ in my rising
light of my life.

(Attributed to St. Patrick)

Overcoming Discouragement in Ministry (#8)

Twin Falls (Eastatoe), Sunset, SC

“Men, how’s your prayer life?”

WRONG QUESTION.

“Men, how’s your life of prayer?”

Ah, yes! That’s the correct question and the correct setting.

A prayer life is compartmentalizing your walk with God. A life of prayer aptly describes what the Christian life should look like–a man solely dependent upon God for spiritual life and vitality, an eternal, biblical viewpoint, wisdom from the Throne of God, and a relationship with his Heavenly Father that is real and personal.

Jesus speaking to His disciples said, Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing (John 15:4-5). These same words are greatly needed for all of us in ministry.

How interesting, too, that the Lord Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, our Savior and Great High Priest and Intercessor is a man of prayer (Luke 3:21-22; 5:15-16; 6:12-13; 9:18, 28; 18:1; 22:31-32; 23:46).

So, what’s another remedy for discouragement in ministry? A life of prayer!

Prayer is the first thing, the second thing, the third thing necessary to a minister. Pray, then, my dear brother; pray, pray, pray.” — Edward Payson

You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed. Pray often, for prayer is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God, and a scourge to Satan.” — John Bunyan

So, may I encourage you who are prone to discouragement in ministry, see prayer as your life.

  • Pray on Monday! Make it a day of just praising the Lord for Who He is and what He did on Sunday. Redirect your focus upward not manward. Use Psalms 34:1-9; 92:1-8; 100; 103; 111:1-5; 117; 145 to pray in praise and thanksgiving. I would greatly encourage you to only pray this way on Mondays—praise and thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6-8).
  • Pray such that your sermon becomes a message from God. While studying the words of the text, talk to God about it. When you take a coffee break, talk to God about it . . . and listen to what He says. When you are driving down the road to visit a dear soul, talk to God about it. When Sunday comes, the message to preach is a burden from God that He responsible for, and not you. You will be so consumed with what God has taught you and how He has changed you that when you preach, the congregation will see Jesus, and not you. “Strange it is that any discussion of preaching should take place outside the context of believing prayer. We have not prepared until we have prayed… We cannot represent God if we have not stood before God” (David Larsen).
  • Pray with your wife. (Meals only do not count but can be included.)
  • Pray with your children.
  • Pray with your parents and in-laws.
  • Pray with ministry leaders in your church. Call and ask them to pray with you and for you. Maybe meet somewhere in the country, the mountains, or a coffee shop and have a three-way conversation with the Head of the Church!
  • Pray with pastors and other ministry leaders outside your church. As above, call a friend in ministry and say, “Just wanted to ask you spend some time in prayer with me and for me. Let’s talk to the Lord together!”
  • Pray with the one who just unloaded their burdens on you. Just you implore them to obey 1 Peter 5:6-7, you do the same with that burden. You are not to carry it either!
  • Pray with and/or for your server at the restaurant.
  • Pray right then and there when you are asked to pray about a situation or individual.
  • Pray Scripture with your Bible and your eyes wide-open!!
  • Pray in your “prayer closet” or that quiet place near your home or in the woods.
  • Pray on Sunday morning with a group of prayer people before Sunday School and the morning gathering.
  • Pray that you have a life of prayer, not a prayer life.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Remember, it was Jesus Who said, “Without Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5) and “Men ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1).

Overcoming Discouragement in Ministry (#7)

Hiking is so much like life! Constant ups and downs, wear and tear on your body, hidden and exposed roots that cause you to stumble, stony trails that cause your feet to burn and twist, steep climbs that seem to last forever, stinkin’ socks and fellow hikers, the burden of 25-40 pounds on your back, sloshing through a rain-soaked trail, and wishing you could carry your bed from home in your backpack in exchange for the ground or a shelter floor!

As I stood on one of the many awe-inspiring, give-God-praise views on the Appalachian Trail this week, I proclaimed to my hiking buddy, Rick, “And you ask me why we love to hike????” (Besides the fact that we just love being outdoors in the mountains!)

Men, one of the reasons we are prone to become discouraged in ministry is the view. Ministry can be like what I described in the first paragraph. While carrying the weight of “your church” on your shoulders, all you see are ministry deadlines, the constant burdens of others, unmet expectations, another sermon to ream out, your body wearing down, the battle of your flesh, and a mind full of stinkin’ thinkin’!!! Just like the old adage, “you can’t see the forest for the trees.” You need to change the view.

How?

Learn to rest! Most folks in ministry do not know how to rest! We are on the go 24/7 with our foot on the accelerator pushed to the floor. Even on vacation, we are still thinking ministry, taking calls, answering texts, and thinking about next Sunday’s sermon.

Rest breaks are crucial while hiking. As we climbed up the mountain to McAfee Knob and trekked the distance over to Tinker Cliffs, periodic rest breaks for water and a protein snack gave energy and heart to press forward. Even along the way, we enjoyed other views as we dropped our packs and briefly rested. We knew the extraordinary views were coming!

Your rest breaks could be . . .

  • a drive in the country with your wife (no ministry discussion allowed)
  • a walk or bike ride in a nearby park
  • 15 minutes on the back porch singing and swinging
  • reading the Psalms or Philippians for your heart’s sake and not for a sermon
  • no phone at supper while remaining at the table with your wife to chat for 15-30 minutes at the end of your meal
  • your prayer closet
  • a power nap
  • watching something humorous to get you laughing
  • a cup of coffee or tea and a healthy snack
  • calling your wife and talking to her like you did when you were dating (seriously)
  • Facetimeing one of your grandkids . . . that’ll lighten up your heart

Ministry friend, learn to rest. Remember, Jesus went to the mountains and the wilderness to get away (Matthew 14:23; Luke 6:12). You need those rest breaks more than Jesus did. You are not the Messiah!

The “hike” in ministry calls for periods of rest. The “views” will be much better when you do!