You’ll face many ups and downs in ministry. Just like the earth experiences spring, summer, fall, and winter, we experience different seasons in our ministries. Our personal lives and our churches go through periods of significant growth and excitement. But we also have dry spells.
It’s tempting to quit when these dry spells come. In 50 years of ministry, I’ve certainly been tempted to give up at times.
The key to enduring these dry spells is to respond in faith rather than fear.
If you’re going through a dry spell right now, remember these seven truths. If you’re in an easier season, store these truths away because one day you will need them.
1. Feelings are unreliable. The Bible warns us not to trust our perceptions (Proverbs 3:5). Feelings come from many sources—chemical imbalances, food you’ve eaten, movies you’ve seen, and so on. We don’t need to listen to everything we think or believe everything we feel. Moods and emotions often lie to us, so we shouldn’t let them control our actions.
Ministry is a mix of bitter and sweet, but you get to choose what you focus on.
2. Life has both good and bad times. Ecclesiastes 3:1-6 reminds us that life is a series of opposite actions. There is a time for everything under heaven—time to plant and uproot, build up and tear down. Our ministries will go through periods of expansion and pruning. We need these tough seasons to help us to grow.
3. Dry seasons help build our character. God uses dry seasons to teach us to live by faith when feelings are gone. He wants to build perseverance and maturity in us.
Dry seasons can feel like desert seasons—and deserts are a time for testing. Ask the children of Israel. The 40-year journey they took in the desert could have been a couple of weeks. But God wanted to test them and build their character.
4. You’re serving God, not just people. God is our ultimate boss. We serve others because we’re serving him. Our motivation—our “why”—determines how we do what we do. When we don’t settle our why, we’re not likely to keep going when ministry gets tough.
Paul faced all kinds of suffering for Christ. He was beaten and jailed, experienced starvation and thirst, and faced many sleepless nights (see 2 Corinthians 11:24-29). But he knew who he was serving, and that helped him endure all those troubles.
I love The Message paraphrase of Colossians 3:22-24: “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.”
Paul lived for an audience of one. That helped him keep serving faithfully even through dry spells.
5. Your ministry makes an eternal difference. Many times in ministry you can’t see the impact you’re having on others. But God is watching the overall story of history. He sees an eternity we can’t.
I had many moments during my pastoral ministry when I wanted to quit. I kept going because people need Jesus. If one person in our community needed to hear about Jesus, our ministry needed to keep going.
6. You’ll have eternal reward. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 that eternal rewards far outweighed the temporary pain he was experiencing. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (NIV).
Our pain is short-lived too. No matter what you face today, it is minuscule compared to the rewards of eternity.
7. You’ll spend forever with Jesus. Ministry is a marathon. Keep your eyes on the goal. One day, you’ll celebrate forever with Jesus. You won’t be thinking about the problems you’re enduring right now. You’ll be with Jesus, and that will be all that matters.
I know ministry can be tough, but I want you to be around for the long haul. I’ve never been impressed with those who start off great. I’m impressed with those who finish well.
I’m cheering for you!