30 Jun, 2015 Chapter 15
HOW TO KEEP YOURSELF MOTIVATED AND FRESH
Well done if you have read this far, for there has certainly been an ‘intensity’ to the content of this leadership resource book. We hope you have read things and discovered resources that can be of use to you in your service to the Lord.
We will finish with a reflection on how we might best sustain our passion and motivation in service to God. Having an initial passion for something is easy, but sustaining it when faced with various challenges and discouragements is another thing. It is possible to remain in ministry many years because of a conviction on the importance of the work, and yet to struggle from day to day with motivation.
But, before we begin, a few quick pointers on discouragement.
a. Overcoming discouragement begins with a choice
The Bible does not teach us about how to deal with discouragement – it merely tells us not to be discouraged! See Joshua, Chapter 1 as an example. Overcoming discouragement begins with the simple choice to overcome it!
b. At the root of every discouragement is a doubt or a deception.
If we had full faith, we would never feel discouraged. It follows that we only do feel discouraged because we are doubting something of the great hope that God’s Word promises us. Our circumstances or experiences may be causing us to doubt God’s goodness, justice, or faithfulness to us. As such, discouragement could be a temptation – one we must therefore resist, just like any other temptation!
The only other way we could be discouraged is if we are deceived, not knowing of God’s faithfulness or the promises of His Word. The benefits of reading and knowing God’s Word, with regards to our feelings of emotional health, are clear.
At the root of every discouragement is a doubt or a deception.
c. Refocus on God, His character and His promises.
Overcoming discouragement (and its associated doubts) is not a passive thing – rather it is active. There are action steps we can take. Regarding our bodies it is said that we become what we eat. In the same way, regarding our emotions, we become what think. Our emotions will not stay healthy for long if we remain merely by-standers to struggling attitudes and negative thoughts.
2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
We are no to be passive bystanders to the thoughts in our minds. We are, instead, to be proactive in directing them. We are told in Scripture to think about whatever is true, noble right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).
With this perspective in mind, let’s turn now to consider how we can stay motivated. The opponents of our motivation are things such as discouragement and doubt, weariness and distraction. However, we can counter these, if we choose to!
Ten keys to keeping yourself motivated and fresh
1. Know your call
This is the same point that Ps Mark made at the start of Chapter 15. Knowing our call is foundational not only to our survival in ministry, but to the level of motivation we manage to sustain while in it. This is especially so when the work become challenging. Our belief in the value of something is directly connected to our motivation for doing it. If we are doubting our call to be doing something that is costly to us personally, it will not be long before we are struggling to sustain our motivation in it. If our greatest love is truly for God, and we have felt assured of His call to do it, then obeying His will and call will be one of our greatest desires. We will possess the internal motivation to persevere and overcome! We will find joy and passion in ministry again!
Reflect upon the time when you first recognised the call of God to serve Him as you do. And seek His ongoing affirmation in your life that you are on the path He has for you. When hard times come, your confidence can be significant not only to motivation, but to survival!
2. Feed your vision through your reading and thoughts
If I read magazines about sports cars I will think about sports cars (and then start dreaming of driving one). If I read internet sites that tell me about great new recording technologies, I will think about the usefulness of such technologies to my recording projects (a hobby of mine), and soon be dreaming of owning them!
It follows that if I read about the things of the Kingdom, and choose to think about the things of the Kingdom, that my belief in their importance will grow (they will become the subject of my dreams).
As an example, I want reaching out to the lost millions to be a driving passion of my life. I have therefore fed that passion through my reading. I have read a number of books about evangelism, outreach and Church growth. One of these books I have read more than six times because it is so motivating to me. I have also read biographies of Christians from history whose lives and passion inspire me.
What we read and think about affects our motivation level. We can learn to intentionally utilise their motivating power!
3. Pursue like-minded friends
As a Pastor, I have intentionally met regularly with various Youth and Young Adults Pastors. As a result, my passion and motivation in my work as a Pastor has been fueled. I also intentionally meet with people motivated by, and active in, evangelism. I never fail to feel inspired afterwards. We become like our friends!
A good mentor is thus no further away than a book, or taking time to have a coffee with an older person with a few good questions quietly prepared.
4. Pursue inspiring mentors
In addition to peers you can befriend, there will be people with more experience and maturity in areas you value, whom you can learn from. It is important to note that for someone to be a mentor to you, the relationship doesn’t need ‘formalising’ (i.e., you don’t need to discuss it with them). In fact, sometimes I have found this ‘formalising’ of a relationship to be detrimental, as the person stops just being themselves and maybe starts to feel obliged to offer something more… To explain this further, consider that your mentor could even be someone who has already passed away, so long as their life example and teachings are recorded in various books! A good mentor is thus no further away than a book, or taking time to have a coffee with an older person with a few good questions quietly prepared to ask them during the course of the conversation.
5. Enjoy your family
Apart from being a biblical responsibility, family time is also restorative. It reminds us that there is more to life than ‘work’. In time to come our ministry involvements will fade or end because of age or health, but family will still be there.
I have heard it said that there has never been a man who has, at his death bed, said ‘I wish I spent more time at the office’. While the work of ministry is more important than ‘office work’, there is truth in this statement that still applies to those of us in Christian ministry. Relationships are important in life, especially our relationships with our parents, spouses and children. By maintaining healthy balances in our lives we stay more healthy as people. By being more ‘healthy’ as people we will naturally be more energised and motivated for all that we do.
6. Prioritise your hobbies
They say a change is as good as a break. If you can get your mind out of what might otherwise be consuming you, even just for a while, it can be very creatively restoring. Healthy people have hobbies and interests other than just their ‘work’ or ministry. Such things keep us human – and sane.
7. Prioritise your time off
Whether they are Sabbaths, annual holidays, public holidays, longer ‘sabbatical’ breaks or ‘study leaves’, having time off from the work of the ministry is essential to our sustaining in it (Chapter 15’s topic) and motivation in it (this chapter’s topic)! The Sabbath was instituted by God not for Church attendance and busyness, but for rest! It is a sad reflection of our times that many people are unrested. Some work six days, and then spend the seventh all busied at Church and with friends and family gatherings. In such an environment, having two days off per week definitely helps. Rest feeds and restores the soul.
8. Prioritise exercise, healthy eating and good sleep
Exercise, healthy eating and discipline with sleep times are underestimated components to maintaining motivation and energy. A Pastor friend recently told me he was giving greater priority into his physical health these days as he saw too many older Pastors with great passion, but weak bodies. Their bodies are incapable of keeping up with what their hearts and minds want to do.
(There are) ...too many older Pastors with great passion, but weak bodies. Their bodies are incapable of keeping up with what their hearts and minds want to do.
To have a fruitful and enduring ministry, exercise not only refreshes the mind, it gives our bodies the freedom to do what our hearts and minds desire. If we are continuously tired and weary, the lethargy of our bodies will unavoidably affect our motivation levels. Don’t underestimate the benefits of a twenty-minute jog or a good sleep!
9. Actively engage in meeting real needs
One of the most significant motivators for me is my discussions with those involved in the ministry I lead. I enter conversations seeking to encourage others, but in the process of talking with them find myself becoming encouraged. I seek to give all diligence to my preaching so as to impart truth and revelation in a way that might impact, inspire and motivate those who listen to obedience; and then I see some giving themselves to God in obedience. The truth is I really do care for these people. Hence, engaging with them in conversation, and seeing them bear fruit motivates me to no end! I see that the effort is worth while.
One of the great motivators of ministry, therefore, is loving and serving the people involved in that ministry. Taking extra time to listen, or to ask a few good questions, can yield wonderful encouragements we would not have heard otherwise. Loving the people, and talking with them, is a motivator in itself.
10. Pray without ceasing
Our spirituality (relationship with God) is the true source of our motivation! In prayer our own desires become submitted. In prayer our wills and visions become ‘conformed’ to God’s. In prayer God speaks and reveals things to us, and we begin to ‘see’ with greater clarity. Quite apart from the fact that God also answers the prayers we pray when we spend time with Him, we become motivated through them!
Consider these quotes (in consideration of the relationship between our prayer and our motivation) from author E.M. Bounds (E.M. Bounds lived in the Nineteenth Century. His eight books on prayer are all available online for free download in various websites, available also for iPhones, and are found in most Christian bookstores).
“Praying makes the preacher a heart preacher. Prayer puts the preacher’s heart into the preacher’s sermon; prayer puts the preacher’s sermon into the preacher’s heart.”
Power through Prayer, Chapter 12, E.M. Bounds.
In other words, prayer brings to life the content that we seek to communicate to those we lead. Prayer puts the fire in us!
“The preacher must be surrendered to God in the holiest devotion. He is not a professional man, his ministry is not a profession; it is a divine institution, a divine devotion. He is devoted to God. His aim, aspirations, ambition are for God and to God, and to such prayer is as essential as food is to life.”
Power through Prayer, Chapter 10, by E.M. Bounds.
In case we miss the point, to word it differently, if we are to be able to be motivated to live a life of true devotion and service to God (which a very great many do not have the motivation to do), prayer is as essential to this as food is to life.
...if we are to be able to be motivated to live a life of true devotion and service to God (which a very great many do not have the motivation to do), prayer is as essential to this as food is to life.
No matter how much you seek to ‘work yourself up’ for something, if God is not in it, you will not have the essential energy (power) that you need to sustain such activity beyond a few years. God is our source of power. God is our truest source of motivation. How much time are you spending with God? How much time do you spend praying for the areas and people you lead? These are the most important of all questions.
The Apostle Paul said, in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27,
“…Run in such a way as to get the prize…
…Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training…
…Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave…”
How much time are you spending with God? How much time do you spend praying for the areas and people you lead? These are the most important of all questions.
In these verses, Paul reflects the radical extremity of his passion for the ministry God had called him to. He tells us in these verses that he orientated every aspect of his life around one central thing – the cause of the gospel. Talk about focused! I actually suspect that Paul would have disagreed with some of the points above, such as the place of hobbies in one’s life, such was his intensity of focus and devotion to God and the ministry (though I still believe the point has its place).
If you are going to have any success as an athlete you will have to be truly devoted to that cause and to orientate your life around it.
If you are going to have any sustained influence in ministry, you will likewise have to be truly devoted to that cause – just like the Apostle Paul was, and to orientate your life around it.
So, understand this – you are not a powerless victim of cosmic forces that are against you. What you do and don’t do does influence your motivation level! You have power in this equation!
So, understand this - you are not a powerless victim of cosmic forces that are against you. What you do and don't do does influence your motivation level! You have power in this equation.
Know also that you are one of the most important people on the planet to keep motivated, because you are a carrier of the eternal saving truth of God! Your motivation level is very important! What you do as Youth and Young Adults Pastors and leaders is very important. I assure you that, in the decades to come, you will be reminded of this a thousand times as you see the youth you once discipled going on to make great decisions in their lives that came as a result of the values they gained in the days of their youth.
You are changing young people’s whole lives!
Please don’t stop!
Focus your life, feed your motivation, and live it out!
Something to reflect upon
1. How motivated, on a scale of 1 – 10, would you say you are for the ministry work that you do?
2. How intentional are you at this point in your life in feeding your motivation level?
3. What could you do (from the above ten points) to grow yourself to be a more focused and motivated person?