How God Uses Discouragement to Refine Your Ministry

If you're thinking about giving up your ministry, reflect on these things first. (Pixabay/

I hear from pastors all the time who are ready to give up. They're tired. They're frustrated. They feel like they've failed their family, their congregation—and God.

Any veteran church leader has experienced discouragement. In fact, some of us have been through several trying seasons.

It's not a sin to get discouraged—it happens to all of us. Discouragement is a byproduct of spiritual warfare. It also happens when our expectations need to be readjusted.

God uses discouragement to draw us closer to him and to refine our ministry.

Don't give up! What you are doing is far too important. We are in this battle together. God can still do more than you could ever imagine in your life and through your ministry.

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If you are ready to give up, consider the following:

Remember how much God loves you. I suspect that you often preach about God's love. If you're feeling discouraged, it's time to "preach it" to yourself. You can't feel the love of God and feel discouraged at the same time.

Refuse to "fake it." Typically, this is tough for those of us in ministry. Much of our lives are on display. We buy into the lie that we can't be real and still be effective in church ministry. This simply isn't true. The people in your church are struggling. It gives them hope when they know you are too.

Naturally, you need to be wise about what you share. You need to match your integrity with discernment. You may be able to live a double life for a little while, but it will eventually catch up with you.

Take the focus off yourself. Remember that there's more to your life than just you. It's not about you! The more self-focused you become, the more discouraged you will get. Life is bigger than you. Take the focus off your problems, broaden your perspective to include others and your discouragement will diminish.

Be realistic about your limitations. You are a ministry leader, not the latest hero in a comic book movie. You can't leap tall buildings in a single bound. You are a normal person and you have limits.

Unless you have a realistic view of what you can and cannot do, you're headed for regular bouts of discouragement. But there's good news for you—when you learn to be realistic about your limitations, you'll be less discouraged.

  • You can't keep everyone happy.
  • You aren't going to hit a home run with every sermon.
  • You won't successfully handle every conflict

"That's why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:10, NLT).

Take time for renewal. If you want to be in ministry for the long haul, you need to find ways to recharge. You need to divert daily, withdraw weekly and abandon annually.

You need to do something every day that recharges you—whether it's taking a walk, engaging in a hobby, playing with the kids or anything else that leaves you with more energy when you're done. You need a day of rest, a Sabbath day when you don't do any work. Maybe it's not during the weekend for you. Make sure you're taking another day as your Sabbath. Then, make sure you take vacation time every year.

Stay focused on eternity. I call it the tyranny of the trivial. It's when we major in the minors and ignore the majors. Even in ministry, it's tempting to focus on issues that just don't matter. When we take on the weight of a seemingly infinite amount of insignificant things, the only result can be a discouragement.

Unless you can let go of the minutiae, discouragement will be a constant companion.

Don't spend your time worrying about issues that won't matter next week or even next year. Keep your perspective on what will outlast you on this earth. Your present struggles will only last for a brief time compared to eternity.

"Brothers, I do not count myself to have attained, but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal to the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:13–14).

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church. His book, The Purpose Driven Life, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of, a global internet community for pastors.

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