A Bruised Reed

Joshua West

So very often as pastors, we take on the unmanageable and unsustainable burden of thinking that we must be everything to everyone. We read scriptures like 1 Corinthians 9:20-22 and take it to mean something beyond what its context allows.

“To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:20-22, NIV). 

Often we allow ourselves to be let down when the outcomes of our efforts don’t meet our expectations. When we do ministry for any reason beyond the glory of God, we will be let down. When this happens, our hearts get bruised, and the fire we have for ministry begins to fade. This is because we allow our identity to get caught up in our service to God and people. Our identity must always be found in the fact that Christ saved us from the consequences of our sins. If you find yourself in this condition, do not despair; the solution isn’t to buckle down and try harder. The solution is to once again fix your eyes on Jesus as the author and finisher of your faith (Hebrews 12:2). If your heart is bruised and your passion and fire are dwindling, there is good news.

“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory” (Matthew 12:20). 

Just like it is by faith we trust in God for salvation in our own lives, we work faithfully in ministry, but we trust in God for the increase in the lives of others. We are not responsible for the result; we are merely called to be obedient to what God commands us to do in his word. This doesn’t mean we don’t care about the people we are ministering to; it merely means that we acknowledge the reality that we have no power to change lives, only God does. 

“So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building” (1 Corinthians 3:7-9).

When we think we can save people or change people’s hearts, we are trying to do the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and this a recipe for burnout. It is pride that causes us to take credit for the success or failures of our ministry work. We preach, minister, love, counsel, encourage, build and serve with our trust in God, knowing that he alone saves, sanctifies and produces changed lives. If your fire has dwindled or your heart is bruised, cast your cares on Jesus. His burden is easy, and his yoke is light (Matthew 11:30). He won’t snuff out your fire. He will fan the flame until it burns bright once again. 

Your relationship with God is much more important than ministry, and a ministry of the Spirit is born from true fellowship and intimacy with God. Anything else is of the flesh. It has been my experience that a man whose flame has dwindled in ministry is a man whose prayer life and personal time with God has dwindled as well. A man whose life is right with God finds satisfaction in him, and his ministry is merely an overflow of that. Most of us have experienced this, and the solution is simple. Shut yourself away in your prayer closet and worship God. Meditate on his goodness; meditate on the cross, and pray to the God of heaven. 

The good news is that although we are unstable and weak, our God is not. He is good and gracious, slow to anger, quick to forgive, and his mercy endures forever. He will not refuse someone who approaches him with a humble and contrite heart. He is not only the one who empowers us to minister. He alone is the source of life.

In Christ,

Pastor Joshua

Joshua West is a pastor, evangelist, and author. He is also director of the World Challenge Pastors Network.


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