Nehemiah 8:10 has the phrase, “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Ministry can be draining emotionally, physically, and spiritually. A pastor gives of him or herself to help others grow. This is part of ministry, so pastors should not complain about the “hard work” they do. Almost every pastor I have met is more than willing to give of him or herself, even to the point of burnout. We don’t want to burnout in ministry, so what can we do?
This giving of ourselves to others can be compared to drawing water from a bucket. Eventually the bucket runs out of water unless it is replenished. How can we replenish ourselves? The thought from Nehemiah in this verse is that the joy of the Lord can give us strength to carry out God’s will and ministry. The people of Jerusalem were experiencing challenging times and needed to find their source of strength in the joy of serving the Lord. The Lord gives joy to those who have dedicated themselves to his service. Joy is one of the fruit the Holy Spirit produces in those who are sanctified to and by God.
Joy is deeper than happiness. We all experience challenges and even sadness in ministry. I have found this especially true after a busy Sunday. As we give of ourselves in preaching and being with people, we must replenish what we give. This includes our emotions. Joy is part of our emotional makeup. How can we find strength in the Joy of the Lord?
One way is to find our self-worth in the Lord and not in what people think of us. People will disappoint us, criticize us, talk about us behind our backs and even to our faces, make it difficult to move a vision forward into action, and many other negative things. Sometimes we take this negativity in a personal way and it begins to chip away at our self-image. This can begin the downward trend into depression and discouragement. When these are full-grown, we may even leave the ministry.
A second way is through close fellowship with the Lord in our devotional life. There are plenty of things to disappoint us in this world, especially the daily news or social media posts. Staying connected to God through prayer and Bible reading can provide us spiritual strength that we cannot find anywhere else. If our devotional life is weak or neglected, discouragement and spiritual failure will encroach themselves upon our joy.
A third way is through the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. This is closely related to the previous two items. This is more personal and difficult to program or describe. Only those who walk with the Lord can know the deep peace and joy that comes when the Holy Spirit is with us.
A fourth way is by living righteously so our consciences are clear. When we carry the burden of unconfessed sin, our joy is stolen by conviction and guilt. If our joy is low, it might be that we are not resolving the problem of sin in our lives. This can happen even to pastors who are only fellow humans on the road of life. We need honesty and humility before God and possibly before a brother or sister who can walk this road of life with us.
The joy of the Lord can enthrive our ministry with strength. This can be a powerful motivation that will trickle out or even burst out through our ministry to touch the lives of the people around us. It is not based on personality, ability to be humorous, or a smiling face. It is dependent upon how well we are connected to the source of this joy.
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