Have you ever grown tired while running?
If you are as un-athletic as I am, you probably grow tired nearly every time that you run. However, ultimately it does not matter how athletic you are–if you run fast enough and far enough you will grow tired eventually.
Throughout the New Testament, the Christian life is compared to a race. It is the most important race we will ever run. It is absolutely imperative that we finish it.
But as we have just discussed, running is tiring. Just as we grow weary physically, we can grow weary spiritually.
The burnout rate of pastors and missionaries is very high. Many Christian leaders leave their ministries every year simply because they are exhausted.
But it is not just Christian leaders that are vulnerable to spiritual weariness. All Christians can grow tired. Pastors, missionaries, leaders, and laymen are all susceptible to spiritual exhaustion.
What can we do? What is the cure for spiritual burnout?
Hebrews 12:1-3 says,
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”
The cure for spiritual burnout is stated in verse 3.
The reason that we grow weary and discouraged in our souls is that we are not considering Jesus. A correct focus is the cure to spiritual burnout.
Matthew 14 tells us that once when Jesus’ disciples were in a boat on the sea, He went out to them walking on the water. His disciples were terrified but Jesus reassured them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”
Peter replied, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” Jesus told him to come so Peter got out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
Do you recognize that Jesus was not the only person who walked on water? Peter walked on water too!
But then what happened? It says that when Peter saw the winds and the waves he began to sink.
Peter was able to walk on the water because he was focused on Jesus. The moment that his focus shifted from Jesus to the winds and the waves he began to sink.
Just as Peter needed to be completely focused on Jesus so we must be completely focused on Jesus. It is only when we are focused on Jesus that we will be able to run well and without growing weary.
It is so easy to focus on other things, but Jesus must be our focus.
If we focus on the fruit that we want to see in our lives and ministries we will grow discouraged if and when it is not there. If, however, we focus on Jesus, we will be able to trust Him with our fruit.
If we focus on the stressful situations we are facing we will quickly grow discouraged. If, however, we focus on Jesus, we will recognize that He is bigger than anything that we are facing.
Spiritual weariness, discouragement, and burnout are all the result of focusing on the wrong things.
Let us therefore, as Hebrews 12:1-3 says, run with endurance, looking unto Jesus and considering Him.
Editor’s Note: this article was previously published in 2018.