What To Do When You Are Discouraged

Ministry is hard work, folks. It’s very hard and it takes a lot of energy to accomplish it all. In life, the “why” always determines the “how long.” If you don’t know why you’re doing what you’re doing, you’ll never stick with it. The reason always determines the motivation.

That’s why we have so many depressed, discouraged people today. They have no reason for living. They get up in the morning and they go to work, they come home, they watch TV and go to bed and they ask themselves, “Why am I doing this?” If you have no reason, no meaning, no purpose in life other than just trying to get ahead – if you don’t know that there is much more to this life than survival – then you’re going to get discouraged and you’re going to quit. You won’t make it to the end of the race.

It’s absolutely vital that you remember the reason you do what you do.
Even I get discouraged. I’ve pastored in a wonderful church for 27 years, and do you want to know how often I feel like quitting? Every Monday morning. That’s about the time I think, “It’s somebody else’s turn.” It doesn’t matter if you hit a homerun last week – you’re still facing another seven days at bat. I’ve often thought, “I don’t have enough smarts to do this. Somebody else ought to be pastoring a church this size.” Whenever I feel like giving up, I remind myself of two wonderful truths. They’re the truths you should remember too:

1. When discouraged, I remember that my life mission comes from God. I didn’t just make this thing up. He assigned it to me – just like he assigned your life mission to you. And if our mission comes from God, then the power to fulfill it comes from him too. God doesn’t ask you to do something he won’t give you the energy, the brains, the intelligence to accomplish. So if he tells you, “This is your life mission,” then it will actually be easier to do it than to not do it. Because if you don’t do your life mission, you’re on your own power.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4, “God has given us this work to do. So we don’t become discouraged.” Why am I doing this? Because it’s assigned to me by God.

2. When discouraged, I remember that I’m going to be rewarded some day. 1 Corinthians 9 says, “To win the contest, you must deny yourselves many things that would keep you from doing your best …” We don’t like that part. What we want to do is what God wants us to do, plus we want to add to that everything else the world offers. God says, “No, that’s not possible.” If you’re going to win a race, you’re going to have to go through some discipline, some self-denial. He says, “To win the contest, you must deny yourselves many things that would keep you from doing your best.” You don’t have time for everything. If you’re going to do ministry that means you’re going to have to cut some things out of your life. “… but we do it for a heavenly reward that never disappears. So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step.”

James Dobson was speaking on the radio recently, and he told about how he made it his goal in college to be the college tennis pro. He achieved his goal and got a nice trophy, which they put in a glass case right there on campus. But not too long ago, someone sent it to him with a note, explaining that they’d found his trophy in the trash and recognized Dr. Dobson’s name.

Given enough time, somebody’s going to throw out all your trophies. That’s because earthly rewards don’t last. So don’t live for the earthly rewards. Don’t live for applause, don’t live for acclaim or fame because you’re going to be a hero one day and a zero the next.

There are really only three kinds of motivation:

There is internal motivation where I do things because I’m motivated inside. The problem is, sometimes those internal motivations are wrong. You may be trying to please an unpleasable parent. You may be trying to overcome some feeling of inferiority. You may hope to get famous or get to the top of your class so everybody will look up to you. Internal motivations are often issues of pride.

Then there are external motivations. That’s the carrot on the stick. That’s when you get the gold watch, the pin, the trophy, your picture on the cover of some magazine. As we’ve already seen, though, these kinds of external rewards are temporary at best.
Neither internal nor external motivations will last. If you’re going to make it to the finish line in the race of life, you need something different: eternal motivation. That’s where God tells us to keep our eyes on the goal in Heaven. You’ve heard me say before, if you live to be 100 years old, that’s only a millimeter on the yardstick of eternity. You’re going to spend far more of your life in eternity – thousands and thousands of years in eternity and maybe 100 at the most on this planet. Don’t build your life around just the here and now. You’ve got to have eternal perspective.

The answer to discouragement is to focus on your purpose and not your problems. The key to endurance is perspective – live your life in light of eternity. Most people in this world are living life as if all that matters is today. That’s wrong – today’s going to be over … today! It’s not going to last. But what is going to last is what happens in eternity. So keep your eyes on the reason you’re doing it – God has called you to this job and he is helping you. And remember the reward, which is Heaven. That’s a reward you’re going to enjoy for eternity.

Until next week,


This article is adapted from Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Church.


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.

Adapted from Rick Warren's Ministry ToolBox, a free weekly e-newsletter for pastors and church leaders, available at Pastors.com.