And when we know [that we know] that we know what we are called to, we experience the joy of seeing the fruit of our work, in both Believers and non-Believers. But it is the Enemy's job to kill, steal, or destroy that joy, and to instill the joy-robbers of disappointment, discouragement, and dissatisfaction. All it takes is that one conversation or incident to quell your enthusiasm, and you begin to question if this is where God wants you.
But you don't have to have a ministry to run up against the three D's. You can be a teacher, an evangelist, or even a Christian seeking a reliable church to attend. Eventually we all face frustration. And when we do, we need only look to the Apostle Paul and Jesus for our examples of how to deal with it. First Paul ... He wasn't shy about writing of his discouragement. Church leadership and other Christians disappointed him quite often with their lack of commitment, lack of support, and lack of visible results or fruit, especially considering all the time he had invested in them.
I can tell you, personally, that I would much rather minister to an unchurched person than someone who considers themselves "faithful". With the unchurched, you can bypass the Christian "face" that is put on to show the world, and minister to the real and undisguised soul and spirit that will actually receive an honest evaluation and is eager to meet Jesus in the process. In fact, I've been having some interesting discussions with a good friend who accepted direction through our ministry, and is now on fire to find a church that has the same passion as she does about doing Kingdom work and making disciples; sharing all that Jesus has done in her life. But guess what? Each church that she approaches seems to be hiding behind a well-crafted mission statement, that when examined and questioned, reveals entrapments of "religion". To say that my friend is disappointed, discouraged, and dissatisfied is heartbreakingly accurate.
But none of this is new. Paul warned his protégé Timothy that ministry is hard and discouraging, but we are never to give up on the calling of the Lord. As he says in 2 Timothy 1:6-7, I remind you to rekindle God’s gift that you possess through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a Spirit of fear [cowardice, timidity] but of power and love and self-control. In other words, in the face of discouragement or disappointment, we need to re-focus on God's call on our lives. We need to recognize that the Enemy would love to capitalize on our disappointment and shut our ministry down. That's when we square our shoulders, see our true identity as a royal priest, and shout into the spirit realm, I WILL NOT QUIT!
I think it is so important for those who are called to unique ministries outside the church walls to make a commitment to Christ. We must declare that we are taking the "I'm done" option off the table, and that even when we get discouraged, are tired, or scared, and even uncertain about what the next step is, that we will just move forward out of obedience, and if need be, walk out our calling tired, scared and uncertain. That's the kind of commitment that Paul exhibited in 2 Timothy 1:11-12: “For this gospel I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher. Because of this, in fact, I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, because I know the One in whom my faith is set and I am convinced that He is able to protect what has been entrusted to me until that day.”
And speaking of those uncertainties that go hand-in-hand with being discouraged, Jesus offers us the perfect remedy. When He was tempted in the wilderness, before His ministry even began, He countered the temptations (which were actually demonic attacks) with the Word. I always urge those to whom I minister to recognize the lies they are hearing in their heads whenever discouragement or disappointment threatens to halt their spiritual maturity and/or progress. I tell them to speak out loud, "I reject the lie __________, and I declare the truth of the Word which says ______________ (usually the opposite of whatever the lie is)". For instance, "I reject the lie that I am worthless and will never amount to anything, and I declare the truth of my Father's Word which says I am fearfully and wonderfully made; and I am precious in His eyes, and honored, and loved".
Sometimes the stress and demands of our ministries can become overwhelming. It is in those seasons, that we must remember to approach our ministry the same way Jesus did His ... one day at a time, one breath at a time. Jesus rested in the knowledge that His Father would give Him strength and guidance for each challenge confronting Him. We must rest in that knowledge, too.
So, if like me, you have the occasional failure in ministry, or your agenda is not met, or your hopes and plans come crashing down, take on the mindset of Jesus. He knew He was always working out of God's eternal purpose, and that there was not enough power in hell to thwart God's master plan. If you are walking in an anointed calling, then take those times in stride. It is just a bump in the road.
And we must never forget the power of prayer and alone time with God. Even Jesus removed Himself from the crowds when the pressure became too much or He needed time to hear His Father above all the noise. It's okay to retire from the scene for a moment or two to get back into balance to complete the work God has entrusted to us. Nothing is more important than that.
Finally, on those days or in those seasons, when it seems as if our ministry is bearing no fruit, or we don't even recognize those we have been discipling, then we must remember God's faithfulness. He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Your ministry might look messy today, or on the verge of collapse, but you can be confident that God will have the final say. We can entrust our ministry to Him for safekeeping because He is the one who called it into being. We just have to walk it out until the end and never look back and never give up.
I decided to write this post to encourage you if you are feeling defeated or discouraged. I know how it feels, and it's a fiery dart of the Enemy to get you to step down from your calling. But don't you do it! It may feel like you have lost a battle or two, but you haven't lost the war. And that war has already been won. You are on the winning side, and you still have much fruit to bring into the harvest. Lift your head high! You are an ambassador of the King of the Universe and you have an important assignment to carry out. You may be down, but you are never out when your King fights by your side. And now get ready for the increase in your ministry and harvest!
1 Corinthians 15:58 "Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain".