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Discerning between sacrifice and foolish heroism

Did you know that in America it has been estimated about 1500 people leave pastoral ministry every month because of burnout, conflict, or moral failure? The situations that lead these people to making this decision vary, however this statistic shows us an example of the intense pressure ministers find themselves under. And not only do ministers feel like this at times but so does the rest of the zealous Christians within the body.

It’s hard to manage many responsibilities such as work, school, family life, etc. and aside from that we have such a strong desire to serve the Lord in any way we can. We want to be a part of all the bible studies, we want to be involved in all the activities going on within the church, we want to be out evangelizing to the community… There’s so much work that needs to be done!

Some have been through burnout, stuck with it, and come out on the other side a stronger person, however; it wasn’t easy. Others have hit that point in their life where they don’t want to be involved in ministry any longer, and even don’t want anything to do with the church or their Christian friends anymore and they completely fall away. Some don’t have any experience with burnout and in fact don’t even think it could ever happen to them.

Everyone here knows what it feels like to be zealous for the Lord; it’s why we are here! The Professors are here to help train more warriors for the battle, the students are here to learn more about God’s mission and how they can make the most impact, the staff is here because they want to see the kingdom furthered. Our zeal calls us to action!

But if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you do not fall!

This devotion was inspired by the book Zeal without Burnout by Christopher Ash. And in the book he proposes the question, “Why not burnout for Jesus? After all He did say that in order to follow Him we had to pick up our cross daily and that whoever saves their life will lose it but whoever loses their life for Christ’s sake will save it. So why not? If you think about it the phrase has an almost heroic or romantic ring to it. And I must admit that at times I feel like a warrior princess for the Lord and I want to go all out and nothing can stop me! That type of energy is great to have, however; I want to encourage you to stretch it out and make it last.

I’ve seen people go through burnout, I’ve seen people fall away because of it, and I’ve had struggles of my own. I always used to say that I could never fall away from the Lord. After everything I know and have experienced, it’s simply impossible. I still feel that way because I can’t even imagine my life without Him. The more I think about those whom I know have tasted the true love of Christ and yet chosen another path… I bet they said the same thing at one point in their life too. I bet they had no idea they would find themselves in the position they are now. We are all human beings; we aren’t “the exception.” If Paul didn’t think it was an issue to worry about he wouldn’t have brought it up.

It’s important to realize that we don’t sacrifice alone when we allow ourselves to get to the point of burnout. When we crash, not only does it affect us, it also affects those close to us: spouses, faithful friends, children, co-workers, etc. It’s ironic to think that this person started out with a yearn to show Christ’s light to the world but because they didn’t take care of themselves along the way they ended up doing everything but that very thing. It’s so sad.

So, realize there is a difference between godly sacrifice and needless burnout. There is a difference between sacrifice and foolish heroism. Yes, Christ wants us to follow Him wholeheartedly, however,

He wants us to do it strategically in a way that will allow for long-term service. So, to guard ourselves against needless burnout Christopher Ash has proposed four ideas that one needs to stay on top of throughout their journey in ministry:

  • We Need Sleep

  • We Need Sabbath-Rests

  • We Need Friends

  • We Need Inward Renual

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