Once in awhile (most recently a couple weeks ago) the thought, "Why am I even doing this!? They are not learning." completely discourages me. This time it was in context of my strong-willed kiddos. They have heard and been trained and disciplined for the same thing over and over and then over some more. I'm talking years here. And yet, they still do the very thing I said not too.
And though this time my frustration of lack of growth was with my kiddos, I've also thought and felt the same thing with people involved in our ministry in the past. Sometimes it's been something I've been trying to teach that is just not getting through. But then someone else will say the same exact thing and the person will come up to me and say, Guess what so and so said...! and it's the very same thing. (This is something called third person credibility. A very cool thing really but at times it can be discouraging when you're perspective is skewed). Other times it's when someone is caught in sin or just wont take a step of faith no matter how much you cast vision and take them with you. Not seeing growth can be very discouraging.
Investing in people is hard. It has brought about some of the most rewarding and also some of the most painful experiences I've ever had. And not only that, but investing in people has no end. It's not like the mailman who has his bag of mail which he delivers door to door and then his job is done. Investing in people can be very slow going and completely out of our hands, for the Lord is the One who brings growth, not us.
Then I remember years and years ago a time when God whispered to me as I was standing at the drinking fountain of a new church, I'm going to use you here. And He did. He used me to play a significant role in seeing the church grow from 30 older people to about 200 in a very short amount of time through many young girls coming to Christ and getting plugged into the church and bringing their families. But the thing is, HE used me. And HE is the One who changed lives and drew girls to Himself. I couldn't even choose the time or the place. Now that I have moved back to the very town where that church is, 10 years later it is thriving and I'm overwhelmed with what God is capable of. His plan is so much bigger than our present day worries.
We don't need to get discouraged because God will complete the good work He started (Phil. 1:6). And He tells us that our labor in the Lord is not in vain (1 Cor.15:58). 1 Corinthians 3 talks about how some people plant and some water but God is the One who brings the growth. So though we might go through seasons where we do not see the kind of growth we'd like to, that doesn't mean it's not happening. God's growth is often slower than we might expect.
So for those seasons when you feel like it's not worth it, hopefully these 4 things will help:
4 Things to Remember When you Feel Like it's Not Worth it.
1. It's Not your Job to Change Hearts. It is so freeing when it sinks in that we can't change peoples hearts and that God doesn't expect us to. But not only is it freeing to us, it frees the other person. We can begin to accept personalities rather than make them who we want them to be.
2. Enjoy the Lord in the process. CS Lewis once said, "Stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of life" This is crazy hard for me, a lazer focused person. I want to accomplish and be effective in everything the Lord has put on my plate (and things I've put on my plate).
I once read a story of a man who every morning would get up and say, God what do you want me to do today? And each morning the Lord would say I want you to push on the big rock outside. I want you too push with all your might. So day after day the man would push the rock and finally he got so discouraged that he had been working so hard and the rock hadn't even moved an inch. He finally broke now to the Lord feeling completely defeated. The rock hasn't even moved and inch, I am so sorry! I am such a failure! But God lifted his head and gently said to him, I never intended you to move the rock my son. Puzzled and a little frustrated the man asked why in the world God had told him to push the rock every day. Then God said, Look at you. You are strong. Your muscles have grown as well as your perseverance. My intention all along was for you to get stronger, not for you to move the rock.
The Lord is wanting to shape us through this in a variety of ways. At times it could be to grow in compassion, perseverance, or even the ability and skill to do the things He wants us to do. This was what He was doing in the Israelite's but didn’t really enjoy their testing in the wilderness. They grumbled and complained. They even talked about going back to being slaves in Egypt thinking it was better than what they were presently experiencing. They did not delight in the Lord through the process. The regarded the unpleasant desert as an interruption. How often I do the same! Ugh.
3. Be willing to not see the end product. My personality is one that keeps focused on the end result and checking things off the list until I get there at the expense of delighting in the Lord on the way there.
The builders of medieval cathedrals knew what it meant to work their entire lives to please God without ever expecting to see their work completed. Many cathedrals would take more than a hundred years to build! One hundred years! Can you imagine! Talk about slow going and never experiencing the blessing of accomplishment.
The Lord wants us to keep focused on the end result-the end as He sees it, not the end of where the list is crossed off. He wants us to fix our minds on things above, on eternity, living for then all the while walking with Him till then. Another way to say it is to keep your mind fixed on the things to come in heaven but walking by the power of His strength till them. This will allow us to enjoy Him through the process, though it might be difficult.
4. Taking initiative in the power of the Holy Spirit and leave the results up to God. Just because we can't change hearts, doesn't mean we shouldn't make effort in people. Or just because it's hard or because it's a very slow process often times that dowsn't mean we shouldn't make effort and plan and prepare for helping others grow. it just means we need the Lord who gives wisdom. We can not do this impossible task by our own strength.
Often times when meeting with girls I would feel inadequate or unsure of what they really needed but as I would go to the Lord and ask Him (sometimes before hand when preparing what I was going to do with them, and sometimes in the moment), He would put an idea in my mind and if it didn't contradict Scripture, then I would pursue it. And so often it was just what the girls needed to hear. There was absolutely no way I would have known. But we have God who knows His people and wants to interact with them. A generous God who can lead us as to how to teach and disciple.
Though we can't change lives or hearts, God can and wants to use us. Our part is to live dependent on Him. To take initiative in the power of His Spirit and leave the results up to Him.
For everything we do, is for God. For His glory and His pleasure. As crazy as it sounds, my goal is not them learning and changing, though I hope they will. My goal is to please God. I am not in charge of making them learn. I just need to be faithful to teach the best I can by the power of His strength.
Laura, the founder of Missional Women is married and has six kids, two of whom are adopted. Laura and her husband have been missionaries to college students for 14 years serving with Master Plan Ministries where she is the Women's Development Coordinator. Laura has authored 5 books, including an award winning 12 week Bible Study on First Samuel, Beholding Him, Becoming Missional, Reach; How to Use Your Social Media Influence for the Glory of God, A Devotional Journey through Judges, and Discover God's Calling for Your Life. Most recently her resource for Bible studies, The Connect Cards was released by Cru Press. You can find her on facebook, twitter, pinterest, youtube, instagram, periscope, blab and her author site.
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