This is my first post on For The Church. I was asked months ago to be a regular contributor, was excited about it and couldn’t wait to write, but any time I sat down to consider what to write, I couldn’t even start.
It had nothing to do with a lack of thoughts (I have too many of those; ask my friends), or a lack of time. It had everything to do, I’ve discovered, with a lack of gospel motivation. The heaviness of my heart in a difficult season had become a cloud over my desire to share good news with the church and with the world.
But I still had a job to do. I work as a pastor and have the privilege of meeting with people who are struggling with sin, experiencing the pains of life, and have questions about God. It wasn’t easy to stay faithful to God’s call, but in doing so I learned a lot about what to do when gospel motivation is gone.
While the causes of losing gospel motivation are many, from a spiritual dark night of the soul, persecution or a weariness from a busy season to unrepentant sin or relationship challenges in the community, the solution is a fight worth fighting.
As I fought for gospel motivation, I had to let go of anything extra, be faithful to God, dependent in the task, and fight with others for joy.
Letting Go of the Extra
It’s a funny Christian world we live in these days with thousands of Christian articles, thoughts, and books being cranked out on a weekly basis. I often wonder if it’s truly worthwhile for the church or merely its greatest distraction from God and His mission.
During this past season, I stopped reading all of these things beyond the Bible, writing beyond sermon or teaching preparation, and cut down the regular meetings I have with people in my church. Partly because I couldn’t do it; I only had so much energy and hope to extend, but partly because I needed to give the other time to God to allow Him to guide me to repentance, renewal, and joy.
Is Jesus better than the approval of others, the mentions online, and the excitement over the newest book or blog controversy?
The answer is yes, but any extra meeting, event, and platform is used as temptation by God’s enemy to tempt my heart to say yes, Jesus is better, as long as I know the latest ideas and people like me.
All of our lives have the extra. Say no to friends for a season, to church activity and obligations, even to community service. Their lives and activities will go on without you, but your soul can’t go long without the enjoyment of Jesus and His gospel.
Be Faithful to God
This leads me to my 2nd recommendation. Use the remaining energy, time, and effort toward faithfulness and start with faithfulness to God. Get away from the world, take breaks from work, and find headspace to pray your emotions, read God’s word at length, and re-center on God.
This sounds so simple, but we all know our tendency is to charge ahead, to justify continuing in the same activities believing that time is simply what is needed to restore us. Time without a purposeful faithfulness to God heals no one and restores nothing.
Engage with God in the ways that you can authentically meet with Him, not merely for a "quiet time." For me, it is in prayer as I shoot on an empty basketball court by myself, finding a space alone to stare at the world around me and journal, or a private room where I can yell at God, begging Him to be near.
What is your faithfulness space? When was the last time you went there?
Dependent in the Tasks
While it would be nice for all of us to get a sabbatical to sort through everything, we all still have responsibilities, jobs, families, and friends that we can’t block out for an extended season until we are motivated by the gospel again. In these things, we must learn dependence in our weakness and watch the truth of scripture come to real life around us.
This past season was one of daily dependence, crying out to God each morning in the shower in prayer to express my need and make my hope in God. I learned dependence on God in a new way as my quiet time felt essential to survival and the prayers before meetings were more than a formality.
If you find yourself here, know that even this dependence is a fight, a quest really to slay the dragons around your mind and heart through prayer and God’s word. A fight worth fighting and one, I believe, God loves fighting with us.
Fight with Others for Joy
I am blessed with an amazing wife, some really incredible friends that are close and far away, as well as a community locally that loves our family. This community was my lifeline, the ones who held my arms up and encouraged me to continue each day.
In them I saw God giving me grace and many times a word from God that would strengthen me. The Christian community seemed to be the team of doctors my soul needed to be revived for the fight myself.
This is essential for you when gospel motivation is gone. You need to invite others into your fight, have them listen to you share openly, and have them challenge you to pursue. Find the people who will be this for you and be the same for them along the way.
It’s worth it and it will return
I can say on this side of the journey that the fight is worth it (and ongoing), but also that gospel motivation does return. God seems to delight in restoring us with His good news, renewing our love for Jesus and His gospel.
Even still, there’s no need to wait to start the fight. If you find yourself here, take the steps now and do not delay. Your soul was not meant to run on fumes, but to run on the fuel of the gospel always.