As someone who is constantly engaged in evangelism, I am often tempted to define myself by what I do, rather than who I am in Christ. In my life, this identity error has led to insecurity, pride, and eventually a long period of burnout. My motivations were wrong because the very Gospel I was trying to proclaim, I wasn’t receiving for myself. If you are frozen by fear or compelled by insecurity, if you are on the hamster wheel working for Jesus, or burned out on evangelism or ministry of any kind, this post is for you.
The Gospel is for You Too!
The Lord spoke to me one spring morning and said: “JonMark, I want you to stop doing evangelism this summer.”
“What?” I was perplexed. “This can’t be God. This goes against every instinct I have. I am an evangelist. If I don’t do this, who will? People are going to hell! How am I supposed to just stop?”
The problem was that I was beginning to be afraid to just go grocery shopping. I couldn’t go out into public without crippling anxiety. I used to dread leaving my front door because I was so emotionally exhausted and terrified of what I thought God wanted me to do.
Still, I had been pushing myself to press on and pray for people. I was terrified that God would take His anointing away from me if I didn’t. “If I don’t use it, I’ll lose it,” I thought. If I went a few days without a testimony of healing, or something similar, I began to feel like a disappointment to God. I felt like He would never use me again. Fear spurred me on toward every evangelistic encounter, and while I saw people healed, and God do wonderful things, I was wracked with insecurity, had a complete lack of joy in my life, and was beginning to grow weary of the whole thing.
Our motivation is quite literally what moves us. It is the gas in our tank. If we have the wrong kind of gas, we won’t get very far and will ruin our engine. In any type of service for God, if we are moved by a faulty motivation, we will eventually burn out. There are a variety of wrong motivations for ministry:
- The need to prove something to ourselves or others.
- Guilt about not being a good enough Christian.
- The need to be successful in the eyes of others.
- Just following orders.
- Fear of disappointing God.
I could go on for a while here, but each of these faulty motivators boils down to one core issue; identity. If we don’t know who we are in Christ, we will constantly need the approval of others to validate us. If we don’t believe the truth of the Gospel we will perpetually be on the treadmill of “success”. If the Gospel has not taken root in our hearts, we will forever be attempting to win the approval of God, and never able to accept it. These motivations may temporarily lead us to some measure of success. Sometimes these motivators can sound like God’s voice, but they are completely contrary to the Gospel. If we don’t repent of these false beliefs, we will burn out. No one can run on the treadmill forever.
What Is the Gospel?
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
-Ephesians 2:8-10 NIV
God’s Kingdom has one currency; grace. God’s grace is what saved our souls, transforming us from sinners to saints, rescuing us from the kingdom of darkness, and making us brand new creations! (See 2 Corinthians 5:17-19.) Our sins are no longer counted against us, there is nothing that is separating us from God’s holy presence, and in Christ, we have perfect fellowship with the Father. (See Colossians 1:19-22.) In Christ, we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms. (See Ephesians 1:3.) We have been freed from slavery to fear, and adopted into the family of God. God has chosen us to be His children and His heirs. (See Romans 8:14-17.)
We have received every single one of these blessings because of God’s mercy and grace through Christ Jesus, and we access these things through faith. If we have received all of this because we believed the word of God, what makes us think we can earn anything else in the Kingdom by our own works? In fact, Paul asks, very pointedly in Galatians “Does God supply His Spirit and work miracles among you because you have obeyed the law, or because you believed what you heard?” (See Galatians 3:1-5.)
John Wimber used to say “The way in is the way on.” He meant that if a simple trust in God’s promises got you into God’s Kingdom, that same simple trust is the key to every other spiritual victory, every other miraculous work, and every other spiritual gift. If Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient to bring us “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms”, what makes us think we could win by virtue of our own efforts, anything from God? We are trying to earn what God has freely given. The problem is, we haven’t trusted God’s promise. If we did, we wouldn’t feel compelled to work for what we already have in Christ. The key which unlocks heaven is a simple and active trust in the promises of God.
If we have been adopted as sons and daughters of the living God, if God has chosen to make His Spirit dwell within us, if God loved us when we were still His enemies, then no amount of evangelistic activity could gain for us anything with God. Our ministry is not a means of currying favor with God, it is an overflow of the work of the Gospel in our own hearts. If insecurity, fear, pride, or guilt is what is motivating you toward ministry, then you need the Gospel more than the person with whom you are sharing it.
God is madly in love with every person on the planet. There is no one who could escape His passionate pursuit. This is the very same love that has arrested you and I and transformed us from pitiful wretches, dead in our sin, into saints. This powerful love, when we first drink from it, becomes in us a wellspring of hope and love to the world. (See John 7:37-38.)
God’s love is what motivated Paul, (See 2 Corinthians 5:14-15.) it is what motivated Jesus, (See John 3:16.) and it is what should motivate us. There is no use trying to be a wellspring of that love, however, if you haven’t first drunk of it yourself. If you are feeling discouraged, burned out, or frantically compulsive in your service for Christ, I challenge you; stop! Take a moment, and rest. Spend some time with the lover of your soul. Allow yourself to be romanced by Him again. Here are a few ways I hit the reset button for myself:
- Listening to sermons on the Father’s heart
- Meditation on the Word
I have never successfully willed myself into loving God. I need to inspire myself. If your relationship with Jesus needs a bit of a kick start, listen to a sermon that redirects your attention to the love of God. Dan Mohler and John Arnott are some of my favorites:
Next, I love to meditate on the word of God. Some of my favorite passages to go to are Psalm 103, Colossians 1, and Romans 8. As I read them, I love to read them slowly, allowing the Holy Spirit to speak directly to my heart. As the Holy Spirit breaths upon the scriptures, the become life to my spirit. Meditation on God’s word is absolutely vital for the Christian life. You can read more about how to meditate on the scriptures here.
Last, I worship the Lord. This looks different depending on my circumstances. Sometimes I simply sing hymns to myself, sometimes I simply turn my affection to God and allow myself to feel His love and His presence, and sometimes I like to listen to worship music. Here is a song I love to worship with:
You are deeply loved by God, and there is nothing you can do about. I pray that the eyes of your heart might be enlightened that you will know the hope to which you are called, that you are His glorious inheritance, that you would know His incomparably great power for you who believe. May you be filled with the love of God to run your race well.
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4 thoughts on “Insecurity, Burnout, and the Gospel”
Wow! This describes me to a “T.” I’ve become fearful to go anywhere, even running to the store, for fear of what God might ask me to do. I have a heart for others to come to the Lord, but extreme fear, condemnation nd feeling the expectation of evangelism have created such a life of anxiety and not enjoying God’s grace and peace. I’m going to meditate on this and the scripture references you gave. Thank you so much for sharing!
Shawnna, may you be free to experience the grace and mercy of God. He is head over heels in love with you, and the same Gospel of grace and freedom that is provided for others is for you too! God will use you, but He is not a slave master. He is a gracious Father that is inviting you along with Him in His mission to reconcile the world to Himself. I pray you are refreshed and encouraged, and that you find rest in the Father’s embrace.