Get Help…Then Give It

Anyone who flies knows the emergency plan routine: When the oxygen masks deploy, take for yourself before you help another. At first hearing, this instruction seems selfish; it seems tantamount to jumping to the front of the dessert line. Upon further reflection, however, the instruction makes perfect sense. If we are in a compromised state we will be in no condition to help anyone.

I totally get this.

As the summer of 2008 began, I felt myself ‘running out of gas’. We were furiously planning for the launch of The Well, our Vacation Bible School was being planned and executed, and we had as many as five of our members in hospital. This was on top of all of the normal duties and expectations for ministry.

If I reflect honestly I have to admit that I pretty much limped into vacation time. Soon into that, I was called back for a funeral of a founding member and dear friend. I returned to holidays with a heavy heart and an ’empty tank.’

I am grateful that as I became increasingly less useful (in a ministry sense), my self-awareness became more acute. My longing for the fellowship of Jesus Christ intensified. So did my hunger for reading Scripture and for prayer. I desperately needed renewal and refreshment…I begged God for that…and He delivered.

My experience entirely matched what the prophet Isaiah describes:

 “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isa. 40:29-31) 

I realize that I have only been ‘back on the job’ for three weeks now, but I still find that my energy level is somewhere between the Energizer Bunny and the Tasmanian Devil. But it’s so much more than just energy levels (although, if I could bottle how I feel, I could probably put Red Bull out of business!). My perspective even seems sharper. And my hunger for Christ remains, even while feeling the satisfaction of His grace.

Why do I share this with you?

I share this because I’m guessing there might some who are feeling today, what I was feeling in mid July.

You’re being pulled in a hundred directions. Your ‘To-Do’ list is getting bigger, not smaller. You’re not reading your Bible as much. You’re too tired to pray. You’re unmotivated to attend and serve your local congregation. You’re ready to tap out.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

‘Bryn, you don’t know what I’m going through.’

That’s true.

‘Bryn, I don’t have the opportunity for an extended holiday like you.’

OK, noted.

NEVERTHELESS, I am absolutely convinced that the promise of God which picked me back up off the ground, also applies to you. I am supremely confident that all “who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”

It is likely the case that someone depends upon you in some significant way. It is likely that your Christian leadership sets the pace for someone–perhaps it sets the pace for a group of people. How can you do that effectively if you are ready to ‘tap out’? How can you build up another, if you have been brought low?

It’s not unChristian to help yourself when doing so multiplies your capacity to help others. If you really want to help those who depend upon you, draw close to the Lord Jesus Christ. Take his “yoke” (Matthew 11:28-30) upon you. It is an awesome thing to be rescued by the Almighty. I’m so grateful that He cares for us. I’m so grateful that He possesses the ability to help us up off the mat. Yes, the One who is abundantly able implores you:  

 “Call upon Me in the day of trouble and I will rescue you, and you will honour Me.” (Ps. 50:15)  

Don’t allow your myriad of responsibilities to keep you from making the call.

4 thoughts on “Get Help…Then Give It

  1. Hi Bryn,

    Thanks for this. Stress, priorities, busy-ness… these seem like topics that just keep resurfacing in my own life and in conversations I’m having with others.

    Your post reminds me of something CJ Mahaney said on his blog not too long ago, when advising pastors on their priorities:

    “(1) First is the priority of caring for your own soul before God, cultivating affection for the Savior, and growing in your appreciation for his death on the cross for your sins.
    (2) The second priority is caring for, serving, and leading your wife and children.
    (3) Then we arrive at preparation for the Sunday meeting. If I were to open your planner and study your calendar, I would want to see reflected in your schedule a sufficient number of hours to prepare for the Sunday meeting. This meeting must be your priority because, until you have a team around you, this is the most effective way you can serve the entirety of the church as it exists now.”

    I thought those were wise words. If only I could live them!

  2. Bryn, Julian (above) has it right. Without upbraiding you in any way, let me reflect for a minute on what you wrote, summarized by this paragraph: “As the summer of 2008 began, I felt myself ‘running out of gas’. We were furiously planning for the launch of The Well, our Vacation Bible School was being planned and executed, and we had as many as five of our members in hospital. This was on top of all of the normal duties and expectations for ministry.”

    I have been in this place. And I’ve learned – and relearned – that one of our responsibilities as pastors, as part of #3 in Julian’s comment and beyond, is to equip the saints for works of ministry (Eph 4, et. al.). There are many benefits to this, of course, and one of them is that the congregation begins to make a cultural shift away from ‘clergy addiction’ and toward a biblical understanding of what it means to be the body of Christ – all her members using their spiritual gifts to make the church function according to God’s plan, rather than sitting around, doing the odd thing here and there, and paying the professional to burn out for Jesus.

    As I said, I have been there. Burning out for Jesus is not even close to glorifying God. Those who say they’d rather burn out than rust out don’t have a blessed clue what they’re saying. The intention is good, but the theology is all wrong. What good are we once we have burned out? And there comes a time when a 5-week holiday won’t solve the burnout problem. The key is to teach people how to minister so that you can move away from doing all the ministry and move toward coaching those who do the ministry instead.

    That’s a pretty radical shift in thinking for some folks when it comes to how they understand the role of the pastor. But it has to happen, or more and more clergy will fall from the ranks. Get this: I read a statistic the other day that says, currently, 1500 North American pastors are leaving ministry *every month*. Why? Churches are letting their pastors burn out (or worse, but that’s for another discussion).

    Why will I not let that happen to me again? Because I intend to be kept accountable for how I use my time in ministry. That doesn’t mean I’m going to be a slacker; it means I’m going to use my time wisely, and act biblically to build up the church so it is equipped to do ministry. I’ve sometimes said the pastor’s job is never done until he has nothing left to do but write notes of encouragement to people. That may be a bit overstated, but there is a grain of truth in it.

    So – as the point of your post says, we do well to look after ourselves in order to be able to look after others, particularly our families first (to reiterate Julian’s comment).

    Keep up the good work, my brother!

    Passionately His,
    Jeff

  3. Thanks Julian and Jeff for such thoughtful and sound posts! I definitely am the kind of person who tends to learn things the hard way. And now, as we add another ministry track at St. Giles Kingsway (The Well), I am once again challenged to recalibrate my ministry duties/priorities. I suspect that if Peter Parker’s Aunt May had opportunity to observe my ministry habits she might be tempted to offer me the now famous rebuke, “You’re not Superman you know.”

    I’m delighted that the God who calls me is perfectly aware of my limitations and shortcomings, and I’m thrilled that He knows how to use even those things to further His glory.

  4. Bryn Just want to tell you I thought your message was awesome the way you emphasized putting Jesus first and other things would fall into place. The scripture verse that came to my mind was Matt 6:33 “Seeh Ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall bea added unto you.”
    I also thought the video clip was great on were we worship God.
    Thank you Bryn for all your hard work and prayer for the Well
    “God’s Belessing” on all you do for the Lord.

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