by Julia M. Bruce, MSPC, Mental Health Coach,
CEO, Wellspring Christian Ministries

Any person who works in any type of ministry profession is in danger. Real danger. Paul put it this way in 2 Corinthians 4:8: “We are pressured in every way…” (HCSB). The King James words it, “We are troubled on every side.” Pressured and troubled.

I bet when you said that obedient yes to God when He called you into your area of ministry you didn’t imagine that you were signing on for pressure and trouble. Too often, when we are serving God, we believe that everything we do in His name will blessed and we’ll be happy. However, it doesn’t take too long before we realize that’s not what ministry is like. Ministry work is pressure and trouble.

There is a reason that serving God includes pressure and trouble, but God can use those times to refine us, grow our faith, and make us better Christian soldiers who reflect His image and glory, or we can cave into the pressure and trouble and leave the calling that God has given us.

Most likely, you understand that as a part of ministry you are constantly fighting spiritual battles, but perhaps you need a reminder or to see your pressures and troubles through a different perspective. Either way, let’s examine why ministry work is about pressure and trouble.

Ministry work draws unwanted attention

As we begin to serve broken people who are sinners[1] that belong to the devil, we draw the unwanted attention of our adversary, Satan. Some of those broken people have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus, but they too are fallen, broken human beings. And so are we. The point is none of us are perfect. So, we who are broken and imperfect, are called by God to serve and minister to more broken and imperfect people.

Our calling – whatever the ministry is – is about winning the lost, growing disciples, proclaiming the good news of Jesus and to keep people out of hell. But Satan – who knows that hell awaits him – wants to take as many people as he can with him and we, through our ministry, are working in complete opposition with him. So, we become target practice for His fiery darts and the pressures and troubles begin to abound – relentlessly, at times.

Satan’s fiery darts

Satan’s fiery darts of pressure and trouble take on many different shapes and sizes, but if Satan can get us to quit the ministry to which we have been called, then our impact in God’s kingdom is affected. The moral state of our nation is impacted. And the world around us is impacted. We must remember that Satan is the ruler of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4 [2]) and when we are serving God, we’re serving Him in Satan’s territory. We are encroaching behind enemy lines.

Thankfully, Satan is not always successful in getting us to quit the ministry we have been called to. There are faithful Christian soldiers who continue to fight the good fight, and I hope that one of those soldiers is you. But if you feel like you have lost your effectiveness, then I want you to recognize that Satan will use pressures and troubles to keep us so busy putting out the skirmishes that our ministry effectiveness is hindered.

If you are considering quitting your ministry or if you feel like you are no longer effective, I want you to know that you are not alone, and I want you to see how Satan is at work to get you to the point of giving up. You probably already know this, but sometimes we need a reminder that what is going on around us in our ministry – those pressures and troubles – is about fighting the good fight and we must not give up.

Ministry is a Battlefield

Ministry is hard. It is a battlefield. And often, it is us who stand with feet firmly planted, with our shields raised high to protect the ones to whom we minister from the fiery darts of Satan. At the same time, our own backs are littered with numerous fiery darts and not just the ones where we were the intended target, but also the ones where the targets were the people to whom we minister to every day. We can not protect them 24/7 and they end up with numerous fiery darts well planted into them too, but when people who serve in ministry serve and protect those God has placed before us and we take on some of the arrows intended for them, as well as our own.

The assaults from our enemy are relentless and they are fierce. We are pressured and troubled in every way and on every side. Why? Because ministry is a battlefield, and we are soldiers sent in to fight the good fight. And if we are going to finish our race, we need to recognize when we need self-care, understand Biblical self-care, and take the time to practice self-care.

Jesus knows when we need to practice self-care

If the ministry in which you serve feels like pressure and trouble, then hear Jesus say to you the same words he said to the disciples in Mark 6:31, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” Jesus knew it was time for His disciples to practice some self-care. He understood that when we are continually pouring into others, we eventually become empty, and we need time alone with Him to recharge and fill back up again so that we can continue to pour into others.

Think about it this way. Jesus said He is the vine, and we are the branches. Apart from Jesus we can do nothing. In fact, in John 15:2, Jesus says, “Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit.” Pruning is never easy – but it produces more fruit. So, pruning is necessary.[3] Pruning is the act of cutting away dead or overgrown branches or stems with the result of increasing fruitfulness and growth. So now we have pressure and trouble and pruning. Sounds like about as much find as playing volleyball in the middle of a giant swarm of bees!

Pruning to be Fruitful

In a spiritual sense, pruning is about Christ cutting away the parts of us that do not glorify Him so that He can produce more of the Fruit of Spirit within us, so we are more fit to do the ministry He entrusted to us. But for that fruit to be healthy and vibrant, it needs to be nurtured. The branches get all they need for life from the vine. But apart from the vine, we whither and die. Apart from the vine we are not nourished. And if we are empty ourselves, we have nothing left to give to anyone else or to the task to which God has called us.

As servants of God, Jesus sends us out, just as He did His disciples, to fight the good fight and to do good work so that the Father in Heaven is glorified. If you’ve ever asked, “What is God’s will?” This is it. We are sent out to do good work so that God is glorified. But we all must continually come back to the Vine so we can fill up and then go out and pour the living water of Christ into others. Biblical self-care is about staying connected to the Vine, so we do not become empty, unnourished, and wither and die in our ministry calling.


Footnotes:

[1] Just as a reminder, we too are broken people who are sinners that once belonged to the devil. Don’t ever lose sight that before you were redeemed and made new, Satan was your father, too.

[2] In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4, ESV)

[3] I bet you never willingly went to the “vine pruning line.” But it is here that God cuts away at the areas of our lives that need growth so that we are better equipped for His plans for us. Don’t avoid the pruning line. It won’t be fun, but the end results will bring more glory to God.

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