Just Believe

 —  April 9, 2013 — Leave a comment

article.2013.04.02This is the time of year many youth workers get disillusioned with their ministry. Another job opportunity piques interest or the thought of working a simple 9-5 becomes a little intoxicating to think about. The fun of the fall kickoff is in the rear view mirror; the big events have died down while students hunker down for the last couple months of the school year. The grass looks greener everywhere else, and you start to get down on yourself or look for a way out.

Feel familiar? If it does, read on and find some hope to fight the Spring-time itch:

Believe in your calling.
You are called to do ministry you are made for this! You stand shoulder to shoulder in the long line of incredible men and women God has used to further his kingdom. Satan is an expert at kicking us while we’re down, and he will also try to kick us during the down times of the ministry season.

I (Kurt) have found that the early spring is often the time of the year that I find myself a little frustrated in ministry; and it’s in these times Satan likes to kick me. Reminding myself of my calling and thanking God for allowing me to play a role in his kingdom is the best way to kick back.

Believe in your church.
You are called to your church maybe not for the rest of your life, but don’t let anyone else know that. Serve like you will be there for the rest of your life. When something happens to make you question that calling (maybe an unsupportive leader or discouraged pastor) make sure you get it all out on the table so it doesn’t fester inside and eventually cause damage. Maybe take some time today to reflect on the early days of hope and joy when you first started working with these students and believe again.

Believe in your people.
You have the right people in your church to build a great team of youth workers. Believe in them enough to value their time, encourage them well and train them for the challenges of working with students. Pray for your leadership team before you delete this email, and send them an encouraging note letting them know you did!

Believe in students.
Students are young and immature sometimes they say things quickly that sting or hurt you with their na’ve words, unaware of the verbal damage they have caused. There may need to be a confrontation or a challenge to maturity, but chances are they need a leader who will love them and be long-suffering in his/her guidance over the long haul. Believe God has given you the right students to change your community for him.

I (Josh) started a fantastic spring tradition in our ministry a few years ago: For five weeks in a row our students are in charge of every aspect of our church services. Seeing them rise to the occasion always renews my belief in the teenagers God has called me to serve.

Not sure what you’re facing this Spring or maybe we just needed to say some things to ourselves today. Just believe.

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

Spiritual Winter: Everything is with God appears dead, cold, alone, and distant. Your faith is challenged.

Spiritual Winter is a lot like the wilderness that the Israelites wandered through. It’s described as a time in your life when yours prayers seem unheard. For some reason you begin to think that God isn’t listening to you or paying attention to what your begging him for. If you’re like me, verses like John 14:13,”And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” play on repeat in your mind. You say to yourself that God tells me to go to him and ask in his name and yet I feel like he isn’t listening, he doesn’t care, and I’m alone.

As we approach this spiritual wilderness, Satan begins to tell us that we don’t matter to God anymore. The reason, Satan says, is because we aren’t worthy of God’s time. He’s to busy for us and our sinfulness. We’re told that the winter storm approaching is God’s way of punishing us. The warmth of God’s light described in Revelation fades and God pulls out. The sunny days of running with God and enjoying the afternoon talks are gone. What Satan is really trying to get us to understand is that because God is pulling out (and therefore throwing us into winter), God is giving up on us. We are no longer the object of his affection, his prized “it is good” creation has lost its’ place in the royal family. Pictures are taken off the mantel, the Trinity stops speaking our name, and our place at the table is given to someone else.

The attack of Satan is so strong that our worship of God begins to lose its’ power and songs we once screamed with joy from our heart become mere words. Sermons don’t apply to us any longer. Our private devotional time is perceived as pointless. When we reach this stage of winter, most Christians will gather all of their strength and give it another go. We’re determined to read more, prayer more, worship more while the entire time feeling like we’re knocking on Jesus’ door and he’s pretending not to be home. In my mind, it’s like Jesus pretends we’re Jehovah’s Witnesses and he doesn’t want us to see him hiding behind the door’s peep hole. He knows we exists, but he’s trying to avoid us.

Spiritual winter has lasted years for me and at other times only months. Regardless of the length, it’s something that we should understand and work to combat. I say fight, not to give anyone the illusion that we will succeed, but that God himself is victorious. I refuse to say that God CAUSES spiritual winter, but he certainly allows it to happen. Because of that, we have two choices.

First, do we listen to Satan and believe that we no longer matter to God? I mentioned above that Satan often tells us during these times that God has given up on us because of our sin. He’s clearly lying here, but as always, the most dangerous lie contains some truth. We are sinful. Our sin has separated us from God. Without Jesus, we live in perpetual spiritual winter. However, God never gives up on us. He never stops chasing us. He sent Jesus to be our Immanuel “God with us,” so that he may be with us eternally. God’s relationship changed with Adam and Eve after their sin, but he never left. The same in true for us, except that now Jesus offers us a way back into the garden.

The second option is that we call Satan out. We admit that he’s telling partial truths, but we claim the victory of Jesus in our lives. The blood of Jesus covers us and nothing will separate us from the love of God. Romans 8:38-40 is key to this strategy.

“38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Realize that you will never be good enough, you’ll never be able to save yourself. Claim out loud until Satan flees that God loves you. Say aloud that he is the one that came to be with you–he is your Immanuel. Remind yourself and Satan that God is the one who saves and redeems. In order to get out of winter, we must understand that we are helpless. Jesus must become our everything. As a consequence (or divine providence) of winter, your faith is being tested. God might be using winter to strip unnecessary things from your life. Whatever the reasons, God isn’t leaving you alone. He hasn’t forgotten you. His love for you is beyond the emotions you feel when you try to approach him. Seek forgiveness from your sins, claim victory in Jesus, and above all, never stop pursing Jesus. The snow always melts and spring always comes. The glory of the Lord is around you. Don’t allow the lies of Satan to be your darkness. Luke 1:37, “For no word from God will ever fail.”

Nick Farr is a student minister in Greenwood, IN. He’s happily married, father of one, former missionary, a closet Star Trek fan and blogs right over here.