ANAHEIM, Calif. (NRB) – Rick Warren preached on defeating discouragement at the Closing Gala of Proclaim 19, the NRB International Christian Media Convention in Anaheim, California, urging those gathered to press on in ministry despite inevitable obstacles.
“I’m not really impressed with ministries that grow fast. Fast growth can be a cancer,” Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, said March 29. “What I am interested in is the long haul — people who consistently serve Jesus Christ year after year after year.
“I’m interested in finishing well, and I want you to finish well. Your ministry matters to God. It matters to the Kingdom. We need you to stay in the race. We need you to not get tired. We need you to not quit. We need you to not give up. We need you to finish your race,” Warren said.
Based on 2 Corinthians 4, Warren outlined seven antidotes for discouragement, starting with, “Never forget how much God loves me.”
“You’ve got to keep that constantly in focus,” Warren said. “Everything in your ministry flows out of God’s love, God’s mercy, God’s grace. The problem is we can get so busy working for God we forget how much God loves us. Your first purpose in life is not to love God. Your first purpose in life is to let God love you. The Bible says you were created as an object of God’s love.”
Every time a believer gets discouraged, he has forgotten how much God loves him, Warren said.
The second antidote for discouragement, Warren said, is to never fake it. “If you’re going to be used by God, if you’re going to be effective for God, if you’re going to last in ministry, you’ve got to be authentic, you’ve got to be genuine, you’ve got to be yourself. You’ve got to keep it real. God did not create you to be somebody else. When you get to Heaven, God isn’t going to say, ‘Why weren’t you more like Billy Graham?’”
If a believer is trying to be somebody else, he is wasting his life, Warren said.
“The reason we try to fake it is because we try to please everybody. Only a fool would try to do what even God can’t do. Even God can’t please everybody,” Warren said, “… If you’re always trying to be something you’re not, you’re going to be stressed out all the time. You’re going to fear being exposed. You’re going to wear a mask, and you’re going to get discouraged.”
Third, Warren reminded those gathered at Proclaim 19 that it’s not about them.
“The more self-focused I am, the more discouraged I’m going to be. Every time you forget about this principle and you forget that it’s not about you, you’re either going to get fearful or you’re going to get prideful or you’re going to get bitter in ministry,” Warren said.
“Everybody in this room has a unique life message that God wants to share with the world, but your life message is not about you. It’s about Him. It’s about our Savior Jesus Christ.”
To last in ministry, believers must have the right motivation. “God is more interested in why you do what you do than He is what you do,” Warren said, adding, “A lot of people start off as servants and end up as celebrities. They forget why they do what they do, and all of a sudden it is all about them.”
Fourth, Warren advised believers to relax in their limitations because God often puts His greatest gifts in His weakest people so that His power will shine.
“When I first started off in ministry, I didn’t even know I had any weaknesses,” Warren said. “… I couldn’t have named them. Then I discovered them, and I denied them. Then I went from denial to hiding them. Then I went from hiding them to rationalizing them. Then finally I went to accepting them, and today, like Paul, I glory in my weaknesses because when I am weak, He is strong.”
Believers misunderstand humility, Warren said.
“Humility is not denying your strengths. Humility is being honest about your weaknesses. We’re a bundle of both. I have some great strengths. I also have some massive weaknesses,” Warren said. “… Nobody gets all the gifts. That way we need each other. … It’s the mutual ministry of the Body to itself. Why? Because God wants us to need each other. … Humility is not thinking less of yourself. It’s thinking of yourself less.”
The fifth antidote to discouragement Warren cited was to use personal pain to help others – redemptive suffering.
“Paul says, ‘I keep on going because I know it’s helping others.’ … Never waste a hurt,” Warren said. “Your greatest ministry will come out of your deepest pain if you’ll be honest with God, honest with yourself, and honest with others.”
Sixth, take time for renewal, Warren said, advocating that believers divert daily, withdraw weekly, and abandon annually. “Every day you need to know what reenergizes you. … I happen to garden. Last year I grew 56 kinds of vegetables. … Every six days, take a day off. Are you doing that?”
Finally, Warren reminded believers to stay focused on eternity.
“The reality is, every time you get tired, you lose your perspective. You don’t think about Heaven when you’re tired. You think about what you’re feeling right now. When you’re tired, you don’t have a good perspective.”
“… We need you to last. We need you to not flame out or to burn out or to rust out,” Warren said.
By Erin Roach