BURN OUT OR RUST OUT?

December 23, 2016

knock you down

When I began to serve as a pastor 41 years ago, just six weeks shy of my twentieth birthday, I was extremely unsure of whether or not I could do it. I didn’t know whether I could prepare new sermons each week without running dry after a short while. I didn’t know if I could handle the other aspects of the ministry: providing leadership and vision for the church, giving biblical counsel to those in need, working graciously with difficult people, discipling current and future leaders, conducting weddings and funerals, and handling day to day administrative tasks.

 

That church was small and had never supported a full time pastor before, and so there was the added concern of whether or not the finances would be there week to week to meet our needs. And so with some anxiety and an overwhelming sense of personal inadequacy, I said, “Lord, I’ll try this for three years and then we’ll see where we’re at!”

 

By God’s grace alone, here I am 41 years later, still with some anxiety and an overwhelming sense of personal inadequacy, hanging on! I am not exaggerating or being modest when I say that if God pulled the plug on me tomorrow, I wouldn’t last a month in this ministry. I have often felt like Peter, walking on the water, thinking to myself, “What am I doing out here? Why did I ever get out of that boat?” and at the same time praying, “Lord, if You don’t hold me up, I’m going under!”

 

Charles Simeon (Expository Outlines on the Whole Bible [Zondervan], 10:460) said it well, “We see how dependent a little infant is on its mother; and such must we be in the arms of God. We must undertake nothing in our own strength: in no circumstances whatever may we lean to our own understanding: whatever is devised, or whatever is done, the creature must be nothing; but God must be all in all.”

 

We hear a lot today about stress and burnout, especially in ministry. It’s a complex problem that includes many factors that I cannot delve into in this message. Sometimes burnout stems from faulty time management or from being over-committed. Sometimes it results from trying to do it all yourself and not delegating properly. Our text does not deal with these aspects of the problem, nor will I. But it does give us two principles that offer significant help in preventing spiritual burnout:

 

To prevent spiritual burnout, see the importance of God’s work and depend on the continual supply of His Spirit.

 

The work that God gives us is to be His lampstand, both corporately and individually. The only way that we can fulfill that task is by depending on the continual supply of the oil of God’s Spirit. In that way, we will burn for God without burning out.

 

Zechariah’s fourth vision (chapter 3) encouraged Joshua the high priest with the message: “God will cleanse His chosen people through Messiah and use them to serve Him.” His fifth vision (chapter 4) encouraged Zerubbabel, the civic leader, with the message: “The temple that you have begun will be completed and My people will become a light unto the nations under Messiah. This will not be accomplished by human effort, but by My Spirit.” In the fourth vision we saw the cleansing that is necessary before anyone can serve God. In the fifth vision we see the testimony that results from a cleansed and Spirit-filled life. While our text will ultimately be fulfilled with Israel in the Millennium, it also applied to God’s people in Zechariah’s day and it applies to us as we seek to be God’s light to the nations.

 

Zechariah saw a lampstand of gold with seven lamps and a bowl at the top, which served as a reservoir for the oil. Two olive trees, each with a branch, stood beside the lampstand. A golden pipe extended from each branch to the bowl so that the golden olive oil poured from the tree. Out of the reservoir or bowl (according to most commentators) came 49 spouts or pipes, seven to each of seven lamps on the lampstand. This lampstand was similar to the one that stood in the holy place of the tabernacle, with three exceptions: (1) the bowl on top of it; (2) the seven pipes to each lamp; and, (3) the two olive trees. These additions point to the abundant, continual supply of oil to the lamps. In the temple, the priests had to keep the lamps full of oil, but in this vision, the supply of oil flowed constantly without help from any man.

 

The lampstand signifies the important task that God gives to His people to be a light to the nations, to reveal God and His truth to those who walk in darkness. The oil that flows in continual abundant supply so that the lamps can go on burning symbolizes the Holy Spirit. The two olive trees represent the priestly and kingly offices in Israel, with the two branches being Joshua and Zerubbabel. Together these two anointed ones were a type of the Lord Jesus Christ in His offices of Priest and King. Jesus is God’s Anointed One (that’s what “Messiah” or “Christ” means), who provides the Holy Spirit in abundant supply to His people.

 

The Lord encourages Zerubbabel (4:7-9) by assuring him that in spite of the mountain of problems in rebuilding the temple, he would finish the task. This would confirm to all of God’s people that He had sent His Messiah-Servant (“me” in 4:9b), in the person of the angel of the Lord, to His people. The old timers, who were disparaging this temple in comparison to the former one, should not despise the day of small things (4:10). Under God’s perfect providence (the seven eyes of the Lord, which range over the earth to watch over His people), the project will be completed. With that as an overview, tomorrow let’s look at the two main principles.

 

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Scott, a young man who had a serious stroke

Pray for Lois that is having memory loss

Pray for Nathan and Katie, a young Christian couple trying to work hard and be successful in their new business

 

 

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