Rick Warren: How to Thrive Through the Dog Days of August
By Jocelyn Hu
There comes a point in every great work when you will begin to get tired, disillusioned, and discouraged. Fatigue at the halfway point of anything worthy of your dedication is inevitable. This is true for pastors and church leaders, especially in August.
I've noticed that about half way through the year I always tend to get a little lethargic and down. Part of it is the warm weather. Part of it is the fact that everyone is on vacation. And Part of it is just calming down after the big springtime push for growth and health in our churches.
In August, or at any point you feel that sense of fatigue and discouragement, remember these things.
1. Feelings are unreliable.
"Like an open city with no defenses is the man with no check on his feelings." Pr.25:28 (NAB)
"Trust wholeheartedly in God; put no faith in your own perception." Pr. 3:5 (NJB)
Feelings come from a variety of sources: past, present, & future. Our feelings often lie to us and give us a false sense of reality. The Bible describes life as a mixture of conflicting emotions.
If we're going to be effective over the long haul, we must constantly manage our alternating emotions. People often compare life to a roller coaster of hills and valleys. But actually, life more like two rails on a railroad track. One rail represents the good and positive in your life. The other represents the bad and painful in your life. And you will always have both at the same time!
When I'm unsettled - I tend to think everyone else is unsettled. When I am discouraged, or anxious, or experiencing low morale, I tend to think everyone else feels the same way. They don't! The world is not falling apart just because it's August.
2. Life is a series of opposite actions.
"There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven... A time to plant and a time to uproot... A time to tear down and a time to rebuild... A time to keep and a time to throw away..." Eccl. 3:1-6
We love the times of planting, but rarely love the times of uprooting. We like to rebuild and disdain the times of tearing down. But life involves both! Some years of ministry are years of waiting and pruning in preparation for future broth. These years bring less excitement about expansion, but are just as necessary for long term church health.
3. Dry spells are time to build character.
Whether or not your church is growing numerically is often a separate consideration from whether you are personally growing. Dry spells are like desert moments with quiet times alone with God. Look at dry spells as prime opportunities to develop your spiritual walk and grow richer and deeper in your personal character.
3. We serve for Jesus' sake.
Paul was crystal clear in his motivating for doing ministry. He did it for Jesus' sake. "Don't just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you'll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you're serving is Christ." Col. 3:22-24 (Msg)
Your persistence is always determined by your perspective. You must continually ask "WHY am I doing this?" And the answer to why often determines how long you do something.
5. We make an eternal difference in ministry.
Paul also said, "All this is for (their) benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God." 2 Cor. 4:15 (NIV) We serve for the benefit of others, so that they may come to know Jesus Christ. If you don't love people you'll never last in ministry.
6. God has eternal rewards in view.
The Bible says, "For our present troubles are quite small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever! So we don't look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever." 2 Cor. 4:17-18 (NLT)
The final secret of staying power is to focus on our future with Christ. The most powerful motivation is neither internal, nor external - but eternal! Ministry is a marathon, not a 50 yard dash. And I've noticed that the crowd thins out as the race progresses. But it is not how you start race that matters, but how you finish it.
Never forget that everything God does for you, in you, and through you - he does by grace. Remind yourself daily of this fact. We are all trophies of grace. You are freed from the performance trap. And you don't have to be defined by failures. Grace gives us the power to start over, to keep going, and to never give up!