Can I share a few words for those spiritual leaders and Christians who are engaged in Gospel ministry this week and are simultaneously experiencing spiritual battle?
Twenty-eight years into ministry I can tell you, any time you tackle a big effort to lift up Jesus, you can buckle up for some spiritual opposition of some kind. It’s as predictable as the sunrise.
WHAT IT LOOKS AND FEELS LIKE…
Sometimes it’s purely an internal, emotional, psychological weight or oppression. The sheer intangibility of this makes it hard to identify. In this case, you just feel in a fog, discouraged, or generally negative.
Sometimes it’s tied to fatigue—during a big ministry week you are expending more physical and emotional energy, making you more irritable or sensitive.
Sometimes it’s conflict-oriented—bumping into others emotionally (perhaps also facing similar battles), or finding conversations more combustible, running thin, or generally “flaring up” more easily.
Sometimes it’s circumstantial—a car accident, a hard drive crash, a technical systems problem, an irritating or discouraging series of events—more than usual, indicating that it’s more than random.
Sometimes it’s personal and functional—this could be an amped up anxiety about your message, your cue card, your weekend events, the details or teams you are managing. It’s just an added layer of intensity to ministry that you’re carrying, and maybe tossing and turning over. This can also contribute to tension, stress, and inner turmoil or relational tension. Can we say “lost sleep?”
HOW TO DEAL WITH IT…
First, see it for what it is. At least for me, this is like 99% of the battle. For years I would get neck deep into this before realizing it’s primarily of a spiritual nature. Seeing it as deliberate opposition (as opposed to merely random occurrences) would immediately neutralize the vast majority of its power over me. Resist the Devil and he will flee… he’s all smoke and no fire. But he’s really good at smoke!
Second, deliberately reframe the inner narrative. The best way to do this is pray. Cast down imaginations, and stand on truth. Don’t allow lies, deception, and incriminating thoughts to win the day. Refuse to let the opposition win your attitude. Don’t let Satan kill the awesome joy that there is in serving Jesus and giving the Gospel to others. Decide you won’t allow your opposition to have the pleasure of robbing you of actually experiencing resurrection power as you celebrate the resurrection. Ironic isn’t it—we celebrate resurrection in a “living death” sort of way.
Third, breathe and rest and fuel up. Between now and Sunday it’s pretty critical that you rest well and have some down time. If you come into the weekend exhausted and depleted, so much for enjoying ministry and rejoicing in resurrection! You will barely remember it! God’s people deserve the best you—the joyful, rested, unanxious, gracious you. That you only emerges when you’ve rested properly, eaten wisely, and cultivated a healthy soul. Your best weekend isn’t a product of radical over-extension and personal depletion. It’s a product of resting in Jesus to do the work you cannot do. It’s pretty hard to call people to the “joyful, abundant Christian life” from the prison cell of frustration and emptiness.
Finally, link arms with co-laborers and friends, renew your passion for the Gospel of grace, think for half a second about what it really means to celebrate the hope of resurrection, and ENJOY giving the Gospel to hungry and hurting hearts this weekend. There’s no greater joy ever!
The spiritual opposition of ministry is hard, hurtful, and just plain frustrating. The spiritual fruit of seeing a heart turn to Jesus is worth it all! It’s a mind game more than anything else, and Satan’s strategy is all built on lies. He only has the power you grant him by believing his lies. He fears you and your Gospel message IMMENSELY! He fears what is going to go down this weekend at your church. Literally! The Lion of Judah is about to roar!
Rest up. Fuel up. Chin up. Head up. Eyes up. Your best Friend rose from the grave, saved you, called you, enables you, goes before you, empowers you, and plans to use you. He’s got this, He’s got you, and He’s got someone in mind that you will reach!
Tonight at our church prayer time a sweet lady raised her hand and said, “Pastor, I got saved three years ago at our Good Friday service!” Three years later, she’s loving Jesus, growing in grace, and serving with her church family. My heart soared! (For two reasons!) First, I needed to hear that and rejoice with her. But second, that particular year, a guy (a carnal authoritarian pastor) shredded me publicly, online, for having a “Good Friday service.” I distinctly remember that year how discouraging that week was. One carnal man kicked me in the gut, but, three years later, fruit remains and speaks for herself! I was reminded all over again tonight the power of opposition and grumpy people is no match for the power of the Gospel.
Yes, in case you’re wondering, I’m preaching to myself (even 28 years in), but I thought this time perhaps it would encourage others to make my message public. Don’t let the spiritual battle get you down. Rise up! Jesus has gone before you.
Godspeed in GOSPEL ministry this weekend, friends! We will spend all of eternity rejoicing in the hearts that turn to Jesus this weekend, and we will barely remember the fog in which we served!
P.S.—feel free to share, copy, paste, email, steal, claim credit for… whatever… with this, if you feel it can help or encourage someone in ministry.