As leaders—or as Christians in general—we need to stay lit in Jesus, and by Jesus. As we’re doing His work, we often encounter more and more things that can cause us to burn out, or drive us into making choices that are less than God’s best. As Dallas Willard so pointedly remarked, “The greatest enemy of intimacy with God is service for God.”
So let’s start by thinking about what we need most right now, in order to stay fully alive in Jesus even as we lead/serve:
• On a scale from 1 to 10—10 being “fully lit” and 1 being “snuffed out”—how lit up are you right now… really?
• How might your current condition be affecting others? How’s their condition affecting you?
The thing is, when burnout approaches, we often try to fill the void ourselves rather than turning to God. With that in mind, let’s go scriptural and look at Luke 4 through a different lens. We tend to look at these temptations as belonging only to Jesus, at the beginning of His earthly ministry. But let’s read it over and break it down further:
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”
The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you carefully;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time (Luke 4:1-13, NIV).
• So: What human needs does Satan appeal to with each of these temptations? Put another way: What’s he suggesting he can deliver that God won’t?
• What are some ways we try to “get around God” and meet each these needs on our own?
• Take another look at Jesus, and where he’s at in the beginning of this passage. Forty days is a long time to be hungry and tempted non-stop, after all. How can our own ability to follow Jesus—and lead others—get compromised or taken off course when our resources are running low?
This is a tough subject—and if you’ve been in this kind of situation before, you know how tough. The good news is, God doesn’t leave us here.
The temptations and struggles we face as leaders may look different than those we faced when we weren’t leading, but they’re usually the same basic issues. Only the circumstances—and often, the number of others affected or involved—have changed. So let’s look back on how God has already carried each of us through our past struggles, and maybe get some idea of how God’s going to grow us further now. Think about each of these questions, and if possible write down your answers:
• What mountaintop experiences have you’ve encountered, when everything went right?
• Valleys, where nothing seemed to go right?
• Roller-coasters, where “it was the best of times and the worst of times”?
• Or wilderness times, where you just felt dry and empty and maybe couldn’t even understand why?
So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it (1 Corinthians 10:12-13, NIV).
• What have you learned from your previous times in each of these places you wrote down? How did God teach you to “be careful,” or show you a “way out,” in those times?
• Which of these places are you closest to being in right now? What may God be trying to remind you about, based on how he’s guided you through other times like this?
At the end of this entry is a section called “My Spiritual Health Plan.” You’ll notice that many of the questions aren’t what we normally consider “spiritual.” But God does. The Spirit needs to be involved in every aspect of our lives. The idea here is to work through a broader and longer-term plan to get more spiritually healthy, so when tough times hit you’ve got the reserves you need to stay lit.
Set aside time this week—you’ll probably need an hour, if you do this right—for you and God to work through these questions together. There isn’t a single area in our lives where we can’t grow, and keep growing, closer to God. Use this time to let God have all of them. May God amply reveal how He wants you to respond to His love and guidance.
My Spiritual Health Plan
As you read each of these questions, think in terms of where you’re generally at right now—not simply where you’d like to be or how you are in your best or worst moments. Answer each question as specifically and concisely as possible.
Once you’ve written your answer, stop and pray. Invite God into every response you’ve put down. Ask God how to address each issue right now. Who or what could God provide to help you grow? If there’s a specific person, write his or her name. If there’s a class you could take, a new way of serving others, or books you could read, name them. If there’s a specific word you need to hear from God, spell it out—God knows already, but maybe you just need to come out and say it. If there’s something you need to let go of, put that down, too. Whatever you believe God’s telling you, put it down on paper. And then, pray some more.
If any (or even most) of your answers are “I don’t know,” write that down. And then talk to God about that, too. Good luck, and may God bless your time with him beyond what you hope for!
|My checkup list:||My diagnosis—and God’s prescription|
|When do I experience God’s love and presence the most? What’s God trying to tell me through that?|
|What am I doing right now because I know God wants me to?|
|What’s one thing about God I’d like to know more about?|
|What’s one thing I know about God, but wish I could truly experience?|
|What distracts me from God’s presence most?|
|What’s one new thing I’d like God to do in my life?|
|General Personal Health|
|What’s the most rewarding part of my day? How aware am I of God during that time?|
|What takes up more of my time, energy, and resources than it’s worth?|
|What parts of my personal life aren’t getting enough attention?|
|Who or what do I most neglect at home?|
|What gives me joy that I really should do more often? (This doesn’t have to be a “spiritual” answer.)|
|What areas of my life are overloaded? What can I hand off, or just let go of?|
|How can I communicate more openly or directly? Why don’t I, and how can I address it?|
|In what areas of my life do I need to become more disciplined?|
|In what areas do I need to most “lighten up” and give myself a break?|
|What do I enjoy most about leadership? Does God “enjoy” it, too?|
|What’s the hardest thing about leadership for me?|
|What area(s) of leadership would I like to learn more about?|
|What area(s) of leadership do I find myself thinking, “I could care less”—but I know I need to care more?|
|What’s the one thing people ask me for that I have trouble giving?|
Done? Good. Except you’re not quite done. Here are two more questions to consider. Look back over what you’ve written, and then answer the following:
• Out of all the things you’ve written, what would be your top three priorities?
• Who specifically can help keep you accountable, connected to Jesus, and growing? (If you think of different people in different areas, write each of their names down.)