“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
“I never seem to have enough time in a day to do everything I need to get done in my ministry.”
“I just don’t have enough willing and skilled people to get the work done.”
“We are always short of funds to carry out our mission.”
Do any of these frustrations sound familiar to you? They are common challenges to leaders who are trying to do so much with seemingly so few resources. Time, people and money are the primary building blocks for any ministry, and when one, two or three are in short supply too often the leader is tempted, or forced, to step in and fill the gap.
The problem in doing so is that it burns us out and never allows us to develop the resources needed for long-term success. Are you filling the gaps in your ministry where there is a shortage of time, people and money? These three blogs are challenges to you to do the important work of developing greater capacity in all three areas.
In the beginning, God created time. “And there was morning and there was evening, the first day” (Genesis 1:5). God saw fit to create 24 hours in a day, and to create us with a need to sleep eight of them. He calls us to set aside additional time for quiet, intimate engagement with Him. We also require the hours needed to attend to personal health and hygiene, relational and family priorities and general survival duties. The time remaining for our work is significantly limited by both the 24 hours of day and night, and the demands on our time that fall outside our work schedule. This is how God created us, and he did so not expecting that the limited hours available for work would need to be filled with frantic, high stress activities because “there are just never enough hours in the day.” The truth is, there are enough hours in the day! That is exactly how God created the world, with enough of everything, including time to carry out the work to which he has appointed us.
What then is the problem? If it is not a shortage of time, perhaps it is our poor use of it, our inefficiencies and our waste. But honestly, I don’t think that is the greatest problem. I believe our greatest weakness with regard to time is our pride! This is a hard statement, given the millions of deeply committed Christian leaders who are working incredibly hard to serve God faithfully. Yet I am convicted that we must raise it up and speak truth at this critical point in our work as leaders.
Ask yourself if a loving God would create a world where he supplied us with about eight hours in a day for work, only then to call us to a ministry where our success demanded of us that we spend twelve or fourteen or sixteen hours a day, plus weekends? That is a definition of a fiend, not a friend. God did not create us for stress, burnout, and a generally frantic life. He promised us a life that was defined by abundance (John 10:10).
The problem too often lies in our own drive to succeed, which results in us saying ‘yes’ to more and more, taking on additional work and expanding our ministry, always believing that if it is for the Lord’s work, it must be right. Well, it isn’t always right. Too often it is our own pride that leads us to believe that either the work will not get done without us (and therefore, God needs us) or that it will not get done soon enough or well enough if we do not do it (and therefore, God really needs us). Both, of course, are absurd.
Can we believe that there are limits to the work God calls us to do? And when those limits are reached, that he has the capacity to bring in others to do the work or accomplish it in another way? If we cannot acknowledge this, we will be on a path to destruction, always agreeing to do more until we collapse. When this happens, it is not God who failed us, but our own pride that drove to do more than God ever intended for us. Most frightening, when we get out ahead of God, his hand of blessing is withdrawn from our work, for it then truly becomes our work. And no leader ever wants to be at that place!
Godly leaders develop work plans in a context of what is achievable given a God-pleasing use of time. They pray hard to keep any vestige of pride and ambition from the planning process. If there was ever a time for a leader to say the prayer, “It’s not mine. It’s yours,” it is during the planning process. Such a leader will always seek to set goals and take risks within a commitment to a God-pleasing use of time.
How do you steward the time of your organization, and do your expectations bear witness to a God-pleasing view of time? Replace pride with an openness for God to show you both the potential and the limits of your ministry, and work contently within each. After all, it is his ministry, not yours.