The Pastor’s Personal Life: Part 7 – Your Spirit
by David Wentz
Published on July 3, 2022
Categories: For The Pastor
Dear pastor and Church Leader,

This is our seventh and final installment of one of the chapters in David Wentz’s book, Pastoring: the Nuts and Bolts. You can read the first six weeks here: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

If you have enjoyed this series please let us know by writing a comment at the bottom of the post.

 

The Pastor’s Personal Life – Part 7

By David Wentz

 

Your Spirit!

It’s not unusual for pastors to spend so much time caring for other people’s spirits that they neglect their own. You pray for other people; be sure to pray for yourself. You listen to church members; be sure to listen to God. You read the Bible to prepare your sermons; be sure to read the Bible to feed your spirit. You challenge those who think they know all about God; be sure you keep seeking to know more of God. You urge others to regularly examine their hearts and lives; be sure you regularly examine your own.

Ministry is hard. It’s so easy to make excuses. “I can’t take time to pray and read the Bible right now. The people need me!” We can even feel noble about the sacrifices we are making for the sake of our church. But God said obedience is better than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22). That includes obeying God commands to wait on the Lord and be filled with God’s Spirit (Psalm 27:14; Ephesians 5:18).

One of the Bible promises few people want to claim is John 16:33, In the world you will have tribulation. Sometimes this seems doubly true for pastors. We’ll talk about dealing with problem people and situations in Chapter 19. The point for now is to not let them get you down.

We already looked at the importance of keeping yourself healthy and strong spiritually, physically and emotionally. When you are right in these areas, you have a head start on dealing with discouragement.

Getting discouraged is not a failure. Staying discouraged is. So how do you deal with discouragement?

If you are a pastor, I can promise that hard and unfair things will happen to you. You may feel that you have a right to be discouraged. But before you indulge in a pity party, consider David. One day, before he became king, he and his men returned from patrol to find their houses burned and their wives and families taken captive. Everyone was devastated. The men were so upset they were ready to stone David. But 1 Samuel 30:6 says, David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.

The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly how David strengthened himself. But Paul, who knew a bit about discouragement himself, gives us an outline in Philippians 4:4-8.

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Here are the steps I see in these verses:

Verse 4: Rejoice in the Lord. If you can’t rejoice about your situation, rejoice about something else: past blessings, or Bible promises, or the love of your family, or the beauty of a flower. Listen to some uplifting music, or even better, sing. Find something that points you to the goodness and faithfulness of God, and focus on that. And act like you’re rejoicing, even if you don’t feel like it. Do you think Paul and Silas felt like singing hymns, shackled in that dank Philippian jail with their backs bleeding from the whip? (Acts 16:25) Of course they didn’t. But they determined that they were going to rejoice in God in spite of the circumstances, and God gave them a miraculous deliverance. The joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

Verse 5a: Be gentle. Discouragement can make you want to lash out at people or do rash things. Don’t give in to those urges. Gentleness is strength under control. As you remain gentle, the strength that discouragement saps will begin to return. And often we become discouraged because we feel we have failed somehow, so don’t forget to be gentle with yourself.

Verse 5b: Remember that the Lord is near. God hasn’t abandoned you, even though it may feel that way. Remind yourself that God loves you, God is with you, and God will care for you.

Verse 6: Turn your worries into prayers. Worry says, “Oh, what if this and this and that?” Prayer says, “Dear God, please handle this and this and that.” Tell God your problems and thank him that he’s going to take care of you.

Verse 7: Continue until the peace comes. A hundred years ago, American Christians used to talk about “praying through.” Pray through the doubt, pray through the discouragement, pray through the darkness until the peace, the light or the answer comes. When you compare the size of your problems to the size of your God, you can’t help but find peace.

Verse 8: Protect against future discouragement. Encourage yourself by focusing your thoughts on good things, positive things, things of God. Habits of thought are just like any other habits; they can be formed and broken. Develop the habit of refusing to allow yourself to entertain negative or discouraging thoughts. You can’t keep the thoughts from coming, but you don’t have to entertain them – or as somebody put it, “You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you don’t have to let them build a nest in your hair.” As soon as you notice a worry or a negative thought, tell it to go away in the name of Jesus. Then consciously start thinking about something positive and godly. Learn to renew your mind in the Lord and it will transform your life (Romans 12:2).

The devil wants you to stay discouraged, because when you are discouraged you aren’t ministering as effectively as you can. So the devil will tell you you’re a failure, or everybody hates you, or you’re the only one who has ever felt this way. Most of all, he’ll tell you that you can’t let anybody else know how you feel. Don’t listen to those lies. One of the most helpful things you can do is find someone you can trust, perhaps another pastor who will understand your situation, and share your story and your prayers with them.

Many places in the Bible give helpful examples. For instance, many psalms start with complaints but end with faith. I encourage you to do your own study of how people in the Bible strengthened themselves. Preach a sermon on those principles, because pastors aren’t the only ones who face discouragement. Then practice what you preach.

Points to Remember

  • Your time belongs to God; let him direct how you spend it.
  • Your home is your own private space, even if the church provides it to you.
  • You can serve God best if you are healthy spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically.
  • Trust God to guide your finances; he’s better at it than you are.
  • Take one day out of seven to rest from your work.
  • Care for your spirit.

   [i] This is not intended as an example of proper Biblical exegesis. Clearly, my stress level is not what Ezekiel had in mind when he wrote those words. But it is an example of how God can find ways to speak to those who are sincerely seeking to hear from him.

[ii] In some situations it may be better for the wife to work and the husband to stay home with the children. Often it is necessary for both husband and wife to work. The point of this section is not about who works and who doesn’t, but about God’s faithfulness in providing for our financial needs.

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Thirty-eight years as a pastor honed Davids passion for helping people connect with God and make a difference. Add a varied church background, a first career in engineering, and graduate degrees from three seminaries (mainstream, Wesleyan-evangelical and charismatic), and you can see why he expresses Gods truth in ways everyone can appreciate.

David earned a B.S. in Systems Engineering from the University of Virginia; two Masters of Divinity, from Melodyland School of Theology and Wesley Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Ministry in Christian Leadership from Asbury Theological Seminary. He enjoys the outdoors, writing worship songs with his guitar, and playing sax and flute in jazz and blues jams. His heroes are John Wesley, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

David married his college sweetheart, Paula, in 1974. Their five children are actively serving God in the US and around the world.

Check out the rest of Pastoring: The Nuts And Bolts

You can connect with David on his Email, twitter, Facebook, and Doing Christianity Nonprofit.

CGM Wishes to Thank Memento Media on Unsplash for The Use of Our Feature Photo

 

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