How can I renew my strength?
If I am serving God, why am I so exhausted?
Last year in ministry we were pushed to our limits. Because of some leadership vacancies at the time, we took on extra roles to keep the MK school going. We were wearing too many hats and soon became exhausted and faced decision fatigue. There were also conflicts we were helping resolve which were draining. It was the perfect storm that could have easily led to burnout.
Thankfully, when we are pushed to our limits, it can force us to grow stronger and find ways to improve. Problems shatter false foundations and force us to build on better foundations. Problems are hard, but they help us grow.
To renew our strength, sometimes we need to do less. Sometimes we need to do things differently. Other times, we just need to change our mindset. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all, quick-fix, approach to solving problems. We have to evaluate ourselves and our problems to find the best solutions.
Evaluating myself and my problems has taught me a lot. The lessons I learned during those times are what this series is all about. 1 Corinthians 1:3,4 says that God comforts us: “so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” I pray that these foundations will both comfort and strengthen you as they have me!
This blog series started with a question:
How can I be more efficient and effective as a leader?
The answer was fivefold.
This post focuses on Strength Management: "Only when God’s power fills us can we minister in a way that brings about true spiritual change. We must stay connected to the source, the spring and fountain of life. As soon as we are cut off from the source of water, we run dry." - Overflowing
If we depend on our strength for results, then we will not be effective because in our strength we can accomplish nothing. If we draw our strength from the right source, it will form a strong foundation on which all the other areas build.
Strength Management: 6 Top Practices to Renew Your Strength
"Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
"They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength" (Isaiah 40:31).
When you start each day, where do you start? Do you start with God or email? God’s Word or social media? Do you start with being still before God or being busy with your task list? It is easy to rush into ministry. When we have our 'quiet time,' do we actually quiet our hearts? Do we leave enough time to 'be still,' or is our mind still thinking about what we need to do?
Our default is to do, not to be still. We try to find our strength in activity and busyness, but that is not where it is found. Rather, our strength is found in quietness, stillness, and waiting on the Lord. God wants worshipers who work, not workers who worship. There is a vast difference between the two!
Slogging through the last year, my daily times with God were like fuel in my tank. They kept me from running on empty.
Of all the practices, this is the most important. Everything stands or falls on taking time to “be still” and “wait for the Lord”!
Worship brings strength.
Questions for Reflection:
Am I being still before the Lord and worshipping before work?
Am I drawing my strength from the Spirit?
"Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established" (Proverbs 16:3).
"Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7).
“The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16).
Prayer is worship in action. A heart that worships takes problems and responsibilities to God in prayer. It relies on God's strength to carry the burden, not our strength. Why? Because a heart of worship is amazed at God’s strength, not our strength.
We weren’t made to carry the burden of results. In fact, problems are perfectly designed to reveal our weaknesses and God's strength. Prayer is actively turning our problems over to God.
In ministry and leadership, we face a lot of problems. It is easy to begin carrying the weight of those problems as if the outcome were somehow in our control. When we do this, we are carrying the burden of results that we were not meant to carry. The results are in God’s hands.
How do we keep from picking up the burden of results? A simple self-coaching tool you can use is the Circles of Responsibility and Concern. Draw one big circle - the Circle of Concern. Then draw a smaller circle inside the first circle - the Circle of Responsibility. Write your problems and concerns. What parts of the problems and concerns are actually your responsibility? We still have some responsibility to act, but we don't have responsibility for the outcome. Paul Tripp, in his book Instruments in the Redeemers Hand* shares this illustration:
Part of our responsibility is to trust God in prayer. If something is in our area of concern, but not our area of responsibility, that is something we pray about and leave in God's hands. Don’t carry the burden of results!
Prayer connects us to God's strength and keeps us from draining ourselves by carrying the burden of results.
Questions for Reflection:
Do I prioritize prayer in my schedule and decision making?
Am I carrying and worrying about things that are outside the circle of my responsibility?
3. Trust (Believe)
“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken” (Psalm 62:5, 6).
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5, 6).
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
Trust that with God, all things are possible. When we walk by faith there is a gap between our actions and what we desire God to do. Our actions, strength, and strategy alone will not complete God-sized tasks. God and prayer fill that gap. In other words, our plans and strategy will fail unless God’s power shows up. We must believe that He alone is able.
As we trust in His strength, something incredible happens. Hope.
Belief gives hope.
Hope transforms us. What happens when someone loses hope? Their strength drains. When someone loses hope you can almost see their strength leave them. Their color drains and their expression goes flat. Hope is vital for strength. When someone’s hope is renewed, they are transformed. They go from listless and dull to energized and full of life.
Hope brings strength!
When we truly believe that God’s plan will be accomplished, it gives us calm confidence and strength. Why? Because we aren’t relying on our strength, we are relying on God’s strength. We move from a limited source of strength to an unlimited one. We also aren’t hoping in our plan, we are hoping in God’s plan.
We need to be aware of a very subtle, false assumption that can creep into our life and ministry. This assumption can create great dissatisfaction and is a lie that Satan has used for thousands of years.
The lie goes something like this: “You deserve more. You deserve a bigger/better ministry”. We may not desire more money or things. In fact, desiring God to bless the ministry is a good thing! However, we must remember that God’s plan is made from an eternal perspective. When we serve God, we cannot assume that because we are trusting in God’s strength that He will accomplish our plan. God’s strength will accomplish God’s plan.
So our hope must be in God’s plan being accomplished, not our plan.
I remember wrestling with this when we closed our care home for AIDS patients in South Africa. We had invested a decade of our life preparing, learning Zulu, and developing the ministry. I had fully depended on God’s strength . . . yet it closed.
When our plans fail, it tests our faith. It reveals where our true hopes lie. Through that time, I learned how subtly my hopes shifted from hoping in God’s plan to hoping in what I thought God’s plan was! I needed to rebuild my hope on a stronger foundation. Where did I rebuild? Where did I find strength? I found strength in trusting and hoping in God’s plan, not mine.
When we surrender our plans to God, we find new strength as we hope in His plan.
Hope brings strength.
Questions for Reflection:
Am I hoping in my plan or have I surrendered to God’s plan?
Am I fully trusting in God’s strength to do what is impossible with me?
4. Reflect on Your Purpose
“Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Colossians 1:28, 29).
“as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:20, 21).
What happens when we feel that our work or ministry is without purpose? We lose motivation. And motivation is directly linked to our strength. Thankfully, the opposite is also true. When we renew our sense of purpose we tap into deep reservoirs of strength. We are motivated to keep going, no matter what.
Viktor Frankl, who survived the Nazi death camps, wrote in Man's Search for Meaning: “Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.” Having purpose allows us to endure struggles and difficulties because we know that they aren’t wasted. They have a reason, a “why”.
The apostle Paul encourages us in a similar way: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18) Our “why” is our eternal joy with God and sharing that with others today.
Reflect on your purpose. Never lose sight of your “why” . . . it will strengthen you to bear the “how”.
When inevitable struggles come, will we remember our purpose? Our goal is not to be comfortable, it is to accomplish the purpose of spreading the gospel. The struggles are worth the effort. When we lose our sense of purpose, our default purpose takes over: maintaining comfort.
Don’t live for Comfort, live for Christ! Have a purpose that matters!
Having a purpose brings hope. Hope brings strength.
Reflecting on your purpose will reconnect you to deep reservoirs of strength!
Questions for Reflection:
What is my true purpose?
Have I lost sight of my purpose or let comfort become my goal?
5. Work Hard
"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ" (Colossians 3:23, 24).
"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might" (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
"Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord" (Romans 12:11).
Why have “work hard” on a list for renewing our strength? Because there is a difference between hard work and overworking. Hard work is within our limits. Overworking is beyond our limits. Hard work is good because it stretches us. Overworking is bad because it doesn’t allow us to be renewed.
Consider how physical exercise works. Exercise uses some of our energy, but then our body replenishes that energy AND grows its capacity. It gets stronger. Without some form of exercise, we stay weak. Muscles that are not used atrophy. However, we can’t exercise continually. We need a balance of exercise and recovery, of work and rest. We must work hard, but not overwork.
In the end, overworking leads to no work because we can’t continue. Overworking may appear effective in the short term, but in the long term, hard work wins every time. Hard work builds the capacity for more work. It makes us stronger.
If we work for God’s glory, we are connected to His strength because we become coworkers with God in His plan. He is committed to the success of His plan and will aid us with His strength.
Questions for Reflection:
Am I working to the best of my ability as unto the Lord in everything I do?
Am I working for God’s glory or my glory?
6. Maintain Your Health
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19,20).
"train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come" (1 Timothy 4:7, 8).
God made us as physical beings. We are body, mind, and soul. If our body is unhealthy, it profoundly affects us!
If we want to renew our strength, a key part of that equation is doing what we can to take care of the body God has given us. Life is all about choices.
I have some early-stage arthritis in my hands, but I know that eliminating regular sugar also eliminates the inflammation and pain. It's my choice. Have sugar, have pain. No (or very low) sugar, no pain.
If I want the strength to endure and press on, it means taking care of my body. Years ago I used to struggle with horrible back pain and sciatica. At one point it got so bad I couldn’t sit through meetings or travel. I realized that if I wanted to be effective in ministry for the long haul, I needed to do what I could to address my health. Today the sciatica is gone and my back is stronger than ever. It takes regular work, but it is worth it.
Not all physical problems are as simple to overcome as eliminating junk or adding regular exercise (I said simple, not easy.) If you would like to learn where to start or improve in diet and exercise, check out this post.
Some problems like women’s hormonal imbalances can be difficult to figure out but have drastic effects on one’s physical strength and energy. If you would like to learn more in this area, check out this blog post.
I want to finish well. I want to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.” If the Lord wills, I want to keep ministering in some way long past normal retirement age. If my body is going to last that long, I need to make adjustments now to do so. I want to be faithful to do my part and remove things that sabotage my health.
Questions for Reflection:
How long would I like to be physically able to serve God?
What changes do I need to make to be able to minister for the long haul?
More to follow..
This blog is part of a series that will unpack how to work smarter and do more in your work or ministry. It will help you be more effective and efficient in life and leadership
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* Paul David Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change (Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R Publishing, 2002), 354.