Lasting joy in ministry comes from knowing Christ better and better. You may think thats obvious for those of us in ministry. Well, I wish it were more obvious. Its way too easy to just go through the motions instead of basing your ministry on a growing relationship with Christ. In fact, your ministry will have no impact if youre not developing a more intimate relationship with Christ.
Philippians 3:10 says, I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering, becoming like him in his death. The word know in this verse speaks of a very intimate relationship, like the relationship a husband and wife have with one another. Part of what kept Paul joyful in spite of being imprisoned as he wrote the book of Philippians was his intimate relationship with Christ.
The last few weeks, Ive shared with you two of the most powerful joy killers in ministry legalism and misplaced priorities. A dry relationship with Christ will kill your joy in ministry as well.
I remember hearing the story a long time ago about a little boy who fell out of bed. His mother came in and said, What happened, Tommy? He said, I guess I stayed too near where I got in.
Thats the problem with a lot of us in ministry. We get into the family of God, but we stay too near where we got in. We dont go any deeper. We havent grown in knowing God more personally. Thats why our joy has faded. Want to recapture your joy in ministry? Keep growing in your relationship with Christ.
Pastor, what can you do to deepen your relationship with Christ? Theres no secret to how someone in ministry gets to know Christ better. You grow the same way everyone else does.
1. You spend time with God. Are you spending more and more time with God? When we get busy in ministry, we often let our time with God suffer. But we must guard our time with God very jealously. Serving God without spending time with him is fruitless.
The more time you spend with Christ, the better you know him and the more joyful your ministry will be.
2. Talk with God continually. You dont just spend time with God though. You build a more intimate relationship with him by constantly talking to him. Its not about a bunch of fancy words either. My prayers dont sound real spiritual, but I talk to God all the time. I can be going through a fast food drive-in and say, God, Im really glad to get this taco. Im hungry! The key is, keep talking to God.
And dont get hung up on the details of your prayer life either like when, where, and how long you prayed. Then youve substituted a relationship for a ritual or a rule. Those rituals wont bring you joy. Only a growing relationship with Jesus will.
3. Trust wholeheartedly in God. God wants you to learn to trust him. Thats often why he allows problems to creep into your life. Through those problems he can demonstrate his reliability and your trust in him will grow. And your relationship with him will grow in the process. Take a look at any struggles youve been going through recently. How is God trying to get you to trust him more? Those problems can be a door to an even more intimate relationship with God.
Paul tells us in Philippians 3 what his number one goal in life was. He doesnt point to rewards in heaven, the accolades of others, or even to plant churches or win people to Christ. He says, My number one purpose in life is to know Christ. He says this at the end of his life. Doesnt he know God? Of course. But he wants to know him better. He never stopped hungering for God.
And neither should we. Our joy in ministry depends upon it.
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and best-known churches. In addition, Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose-Driven Life and The Purpose-Driven Church, which was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th Century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for ministers. Copyright 2005 Pastors.com, Inc. Used with permission. All rights reserved.