Jonathan Master on Being Poured Out, Not Burned Out, in Ministry

One of the most notable aspects of Paul’s ministry was his commitment to hard work and sacrifice. Paul worked hard—harder than most of his peers. In 1 Corinthians 15, he writes,

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Cor 15:10).

While he was careful to attribute all of his effort and results to the grace of God, he finished his life by invoking a vivid image from the Old Testament sacrificial system: “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand” (2 Tim 4:6).

This should serve as a challenge to those of us in Christ’s service today. The trend today is to look out for our own preservation in order to avoid the symptoms normally associated with burnout in ministry. Terms like “self-care” are often employed. Many involved in ministry divide their day or week into sections with a certain percentage reserved for their own care, and a certain percentage reserved for the help of others. But Paul seems to view his whole life as being given for others, and ultimately for Christ. For Paul, “To live is Christ.” How did Paul avoid burning out while still being poured out?

First, it is worth noting that Paul sought the ultimate approval of God, not of other people. He says this clearly in 1 Corinthians, when he writes, “Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God… but He who judges me is the Lord” (1 Cor 4:15). Paul worked tirelessly on behalf of others, yet he did not seek their approval or acclaim.

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Source: Church Leaders