A Bible study through John 1-6
Have you ever experienced burn out? After an extended period of pouring effort, time, and energy into a project, job, or relationship, have you ever felt that it was all for naught? It’s a sinking, discouraging feeling that can drain all the motivation and enthusiasm for future endeavors right out of you.
While this is not a positive experience for any part of life, burn out and discouragement while serving the Lord is detrimental to our spiritual health. We are called to a life of sacrificial service which will require pouring time, energy, and effort into people and opportunities that may or may not reap immediate rewards. So as we do life and follow Christ’s call to sacrificial living, how do we avoid burn out and spiritual complacency from discouragement and fatigue
The answer is by looking at Jesus. He lived a very busy life pouring into the lives of countless people and ministering day and night without burn out. While His teaching drew crowds, the net result of His entire life ministry was people wanting Him crucified and His closest followers abandoning Him. So I don’t think we can honestly say that His ministry was “successful” in the modern sense nor was it high yielding in tangible fruit and impact.
However, that doesn’t mean that Jesus’ life ministry was unimportant. On the contrary, He was fulfilling the will and purposes of God, which is all that matters. Although His life was filled with drama, fatigue, lack of receptivity, and eventual rejection, He never lost sight of His mission or experienced burn out because He understood this truth: serving the Lord should never deplete but rather replenish and sustain.
Jesus talks with His disciples about this important topic immediately following His divinely appointed conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. Let’s take a look at what Jesus has to say.
“Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, ‘Rabbi, eat.’ But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ So the disciples said to one another, ‘Has anyone brought him something to eat?’ Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, “There are yet four months, then comes the harvest”? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.’”
Serving the Lord can be draining—emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. However, if we serve with the right motives, it should ultimately energize us. Jesus told His disciples that doing the work of God feeds Him. While He used the picture of physical food, I found in my own life that serving the Lord can replenish and feed my soul.
When we keep our eyes and motives fixed on God and pleasing Him through our service, we will find that doing His work is extremely rewarding. We will also discover how to not grow weary in doing good and that our labor in the Lord is never in vain. Also, if we heed Paul’s exhortation that in whatever we do we work as unto the Lord, then we will avoid burn out in ministry and experience the replenishment it’s meant to bring.
Watching people’s lives change is the most fulfilling thing ever. And as we make Christ the center of our lives and seek fulfillment in Him alone, no matter the results of our efforts in the short or long term it will always possess eternal value since we are serving God and not man. Therefore, let’s get out and start being about the Father’s business! We don’t have to fear burn out if our eyes are fixed on Him. And as Jesus told His disciples over two thousand years ago, the fields are ripe for harvest. And this is truer today than ever before.
Furthermore, as we lose our lives for Christ’s sake, we find true life. This is the upside, paradoxical truth of the Christian life. Therefore, let’s be ready to lay our lives down and invest in the work of the Father, finding lasting fulfillment and refreshment in heartfelt service to our King.
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
~1 Corinthians 15:58