Each time reality falls short of what an individual expects, discouragement is bound to set in. Precisely, this is what befell my heart when I joined the ministry as a lay pastor after heeding to God’s calling. The conviction that accompanied the calling assured me that all would be well in the vineyard. I thus expected my joy, finances and whatever I touched to prosper as I preached the gospel. I also supposed to see my congregation grow spiritually, materially and in numbers. After four years of total commitment that yielded negligible change at our church, I felt distressed, worn out and on the verge of giving up.
We all have come to such points in life where we felt that God short-changed us. In this valley of desperation where everything seems to have come to a standstill, doubts feel our minds, and we begin questioning if at all God is still in support of our ministries and if He indeed loves us. David, a man after God’s own heart, once found himself in such a situation. We see him responding positively – he encouraged himself in the Lord (1 Samuel 30:6). This should also be our mentality whenever we are hard pressed to the wall by circumstances in the course of serving.
The Bible gives us several ways we can use to rise above discouragements as we tend His flock. Let me show you a few of these ways from the scripture.
1. Study the Word
Ezra and Nehemiah faced fierce opposition when rebuilding the wall of the city after the Israelites came back from captivity. The early church endured resistance as it preached Christ. Some were persecuted yet they soldiered on. Reading tales of such upright men undergoing opposition yet rose above discouragement in their days gives you the strength of holding on to your calling. The word confronts our wrong priorities (Matt. 6:33), reproofs and corrects us (2 Tim 3:16), and instructs us how to live in this age (Titus 2:12).
2. Stick to your assignment
Some of the discouragements that we face while serving come when we veer from what God called us to do. If God did not call us to be politicians, it might be inappropriate to voice our concerns on every political issue arising. Discouragements may give us an opportunity to go back to the drawing board and restart what we were indeed called to do.
3. Trust God
The greatest means you can use to fight discouragement is trusting God. Whenever doubts fill your head on whether God is with you in your ministry, the best weapon to pull out is your confidence in God. Phil. 1:6 assures us that the good work Christ has begun in us will come to a completion. We can believe this word from God and rest in Him.
4. Talk to a friend
There are times in the ministry where you just need a friend who has been through what you are currently undergoing to listen to you. The ideal time for such a friend is when you are going through discouragements. As a minister, find someone you can confide in your secrets. It is not advisable to be a lone ranger as you are likely to be overwhelmed by the enemy. Let them listen to you, advise and even pray with you. It is so refreshing to find one person who approves what you are doing in the midst of discouragements.
5. Pray intensively
The Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:10 – 18 that we are on a battlefield. One of the weapons this scripture says is at our disposal is prayer. Serving as a minister means that you are at the forefront of the battle and Satan is fiercely fighting to bring you down so that he can attack your church with ease. One of the tools he uses to fight the church is a discouragement. You can win the war against despair on your knees. Engage more in prayer when the desperation gets intense.
6. Take rest
Finally, I would advise you take some time off pastoring and just relax. If possible, do not take phones with you as they are likely to distract you. Go far away for a vacation. Relax, have fun and come back rejuvenated and ready to continue. Rest what you most likely need during times of discouragement.
Most importantly, do not give up. Fix your eyes on Jesus. Remember there is a reward in heaven for you if you do not lose heart.
Contributed by Walker Musalia