What starts out as ministry burnout can grow into a full-blown dumpster fire. And no area of your inward life is more combustible than your relationship with temptation. If you’re battling ministry burnout, address the temptation issue speedily and thoroughly.
If not, you run the risk of falling into sin, fracturing your family and losing your faith.
I went far enough down this rabbit hole to see the possibilities. It wasn’t pretty. Thankfully, God’s grace pulled me out before the undertow brought me tragically under.
My prayer is that you escape in like manner.
1 Corinthians 10:13 (NKJV)
13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
In this post, I continue the ministry burnout series. Specifically, I will address the role that ministry burnout plays in weakening your resistance to temptation.
To read the previous posts in this series, click here:
An Unhealthy Lifestyle
The key contributor to my drift away from God was my overloaded schedule. I was teaching school to extremely high-maintenance students. I left my job every day emotionally and physically drained. When I got home I had three small children to take care of, with my oldest battling seizures.
In addition to this, I was pastoring a church with no vocational support staff. Anyone who’s ever pastored knows that the church weighs on your heart and mind 24/7.
My purpose is not to whine, but to point out that this type of lifestyle is just flat out unhealthy. And I was foolish for thinking that it wasn’t. To make matters worse, in some sort of twisted way I saw my burgeoning ministry burnout and exhaustion as a status symbol.
Rest and Rejuvenation are for the Weak
Pastors, church planters, and even volunteers in these circumstances are often advised to just keep toughing it out. Often, well-meaning people point out that sacrifice is necessary to build an impactful ministry.
While the principle of sacrifice is certainly true and biblical, so also is the principle of rest and recovery. For some reason, probably ego, the former is emphasized much more than the latter. If Jesus needed space to steal away and get rejuvenated, however, the chances are pretty fair that you do too.
The failure to do so will do nothing but weaken your resistance to temptation. When this starts, you’re on dangerous ground.
So, how are you and temptation getting along these days anyway?
To get an accurate read, I suggest asking yourself the following two questions.
Question 1: How am I Trending in the Area of Temptation?
Since some level of temptation is something that you and I will always have to deal with, the key is not to assess whether or not you are being tempted. Instead, you need to assess the TRENDS of temptation in your life.
Pastors are supposed to be beacons of spirituality. That just comes with the territory. If you don’t like having to be a role model, don’t be a pastor. But the the truth is that everyone is susceptible to becoming carnally minded when the right pressure is applied. This happened to me.
As I returned to the grind every day, the grind reduced my willpower to a fine powder. My spirituality dissipated, my heart grew harder, my mind more carnal.
It should have come as no surprise that temptation began to trend upward in in my life.
- I began to be tempted by things that I’d never been tempted by before.
- Things that God had delivered me from were becoming a temptation again.
- Temptation was more frequent in my life.
As the book of James shows us, continuing to go down this road has an inevitable and destructive end.
 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
Notice that falling into full-blown sin (and eventually death) always starts with temptation. Because of this, you need to take preemptive action against sin at the temptation level, not a second later.
Ignore temptation trends at your own peril.
Question 2: How Equipped am I to RESIST Temptation
Overcoming temptation is a lifelong struggle that Christians just have to settle in and fight over the long-haul. Jesus showed us how to overcome such battles in Matthew 4:1-11.
Therefore, while it’s not a sin to battle temptation, giving in to the temptation is. And there are certain times in our lives when we are more vulnerable to its onslaught than others.
Seasons of dryness, frustration, failure and even prosperity can leave our flank unprotected against the master tactician. I was in such a season. I was weak, tired, angry, burned out, and isolated from my support system.
I was as vulnerable to temptation as I had ever been and not properly equipped to overcome it.
This is why I resigned my church, ran for the hills, and got help.
Live to Fight Another Day
I called a friend of mine for counsel when I was in the throes of deciding whether or not to resign my church and get help or stick it out in hopes that things would turn around. Having overcome a similar experience a decade earlier, he gave me some life-saving advice.
We talked for about a half hour about the implications of walking away from a church of great people. We talked about the uncertainty of my future. We talked about my state of spiritual volatility.
When we finished, he summed up the conversation in five words that I’ll never forget.
He said: Live to fight another day.
My friend went on to point out that God could open more ministry opportunities in the future. There would always be new mountains to climb. There would be fresh visions to pursue. But only I was alive.
He advised me to do whatever I had to do to get better and let the rest unfold at a later time.
And boy, was he right.
And that’s my advice for you. Because the fact of the matter is that you’re no good dead – no good to your family, no good to your lost community, no good to your congregation.
So choose life today. And let tomorrow take care of itself.