The contemporary world offers us many choices. And yet we suffer from overchoice. That is especially true on the mission field. There are so many things one could do, people who need the Gospel or help in other areas, contacts to follow up, emails to answer, lessons to prepare, family demands, and never-ending household chores.
Every day we have to decide what to do. And often, because so many things need attention, we almost feel paralyzed and lose the motivation to even start.
We know better, but it happens again and again and we get stuck in an endless cycle. “First Burn, Then Out” is the title of a book (in German) written by Holger Schlageter. If we don’t find a way to stop this race and take care of ourselves we won’t make it in ministry. Burnout will rear its ugly head. Is there a way to prevent the loss of joy?
This is not an article on burnout. Rather, it is, to encourage called people to remember the principle of looking up and living their lives accountable to the Lord. The more we take time to look up, the smaller the chance we’ll fall down.
Called people set goals
Driven people are often in bondage to expectations of others. They are always busy, always on the lookout for the acceptance and approval of others. They’re concerned about their image and sometimes misled by a false image of God.
Called people are spiritually minded people who take time with the Lord to find out what He has prepared for them to do. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph.2:10 NIV). And after finding out, they set goals in all areas of their lives—goals that affect body, soul, and spirit. Goals motivate, give direction, and keep us on course. Called people have focus. They don’t run for the sake of running; they run like Paul to receive the prize.
Called people set the love of God above all things
Driven people love themselves. Called people seek to develop their love relationship with the Lord and this determines their priorities. We could come up with many good. So we need to ask: How urgent is this? How important? How often should it be done? Is there someone else who could do a better job than me? Is this part of my life goal? Is this the best choice?
Priorities may change. They depend upon our time in life, our place of ministry, our physical condition, our family status, and other circumstances. But one thing must always be foremost: “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind! This is the first and greatest commandment’” (Matt. 22:37-38).
If we believe what the Lord tells us in these verses we’ll make sure that nothing gets in the way to prevent our living and ministering according to this priority. The key to living according to our priorities is our ability to say no. This is something everybody can learn.
Driven people are afraid to say no. Often they determine their worth by accomplishments. They also hate to disappoint people and lose their approval.
Called people look to Jesus and follow His example. Jesus’ priority while He was on earth was very clear. He said: “I have brought You glory on earth by finishing the work You gave me to do” (John 17:4). We cannot survive in ministry if we don’t have the courage to disappoint others. Remember that we’re not called to meet the expectations of people, but to complete the work God has given us.
Called people are disciplined
Called people desire to bring glory to God through effective ministry. Effectiveness requires discipline. Goals may be mere daydreams. In order to make goals operational, we need a plan. We need to decide how we’re going to reach them, followed by action. There are many sidetracks, and things that distract us. That’s why goals can only be reached by discipline, by concentrating on what we have decided before the Lord.
A disciplined life is lived under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who is a Spirit of self-discipline. The characteristics of a disciplined life are:
A heart reverential towards God.
A heart that listens to God’s instructions.
A heart willing to obey those instructions.
A heart committed to self-control, characterized by patience, and perseverance.
Called or driven? Called people will set prayerful goals, because goals determine their lifestyle. Called people make love for the Lord their highest priority and allow this love to determine all decisions. Called people discipline themselves to accomplish the work the Lord has prepared for them, abandoning earthly pressures. Living with these principles turns our lives and ministry into an adventure and brings glory to God.
Anita Hallemann (Germany) was a church planter in the Philippines for seven years. She serves with SEND International at Brake Bible School and as a women’s ministry speaker.