Today’s devotional: serving others… while respecting yourself

Do you volunteer (or work) at your church? If you’re involved in any aspect of ministry, you’ve probably learned firsthand that there are far more ministry needs out there than a typical church or ministry has the time or capacity to address.

Faced with this reality, how do you respond? For many church workers and volunteers, the answer is to stretch themselves ever more thin to try and help as many people as possible. Blaine Smith of Nehemiah Ministries encourages us to respect our own limits while helping others:

At a staff meeting one Sunday afternoon a member complained to the youth pastor that many of us were feeling considerably overtaxed. He responded that we must learn to place some limits on ourselves. “But,” she replied, “Jesus never turned his back on any person’s need.”

As quickly as the words left her lips he shot back, “But you’re not Jesus Christ!”

It was at that moment as though giant chains dropped from my body. As a young Christian I simply assumed I was to imitate Jesus in every way possible. This meant striving to live at his energy level, and following his pattern of continually responding to an overwhelming variety of needs.

For the first time it dawned on me that there was a difference between how Jesus ministered to people and how I was expected to do so. God had put me within a certain physical shell, and I was to operate within its limitations. Not only was it okay to pace myself–I was required to do so. What a glorious insight!

However laudable the motives, trying to respond to every need or problem is a sure road to exhaustion and burnout. And this isn’t just a problem for church workers and volunteers–it’s easy to be overwhelmed by needs in our families and friendships.

What do you think of Smith’s advice? How do you draw reasonable limits in responding to needs?

4 Responses to “Today’s devotional: serving others… while respecting yourself”

  • Anon1 says:

    Don’t you ever tell me what God can’t do.

    And besides, what a glorious lie to trick someone into complacency.

    • Andy says:

      Anon1, I don’t think anybody is trying to tell you what God can’t do. But emotional burnout is an extremely common problem in ministry positions (volunteer and paid)–I have seen it in my own church firsthand. There is a difference between being complacent and being honest about your own limitations. Do you see the distinction?

  • Linda says:

    Jesus did not respond to every need. He responded to faith.In His own home town, he did not do many miracles because of their unbelief. He waited to go to Lazarus. While on the way, He did reach out to those in His path, but He was not in a hurry. He did what the Father told Him to do. He sought to obey the Father, not to the demands of the people. He always had compassion, but in order to be fruitful, He had to be led by the Father. God will not give us more than we can bear. The question is, are we following His lead or giving in to the demands of the people.

  • I understand the zeal of Anon1, but I’ve felt the frustration of trying to be what my friend calls “Shari self contained”. I love serving Jesus, and I love looking for opportunities to minister to others, but in so doing, I often pick up roles that were never meant to be mine. I fear I have denied, less zealot Christian’s the opportunity to serve by growing weary of waiting for someone to do the task at hand. Perhaps they would have picked up that portion, perhaps they wouldn’t. I doubt I’ll change, because it’s my nature to want to serve, but your colomn did make me think about (not setting limits on God) but allowing myself to savor some of the moments I serve Him, instead of being worn out in the midst of it and not enjoying it at all. Thank you.

  • David says:

    Yes, we must realise that we are fallen and frail and bound to fail, but we must also recognise that God is always with us, our rock and redeemer. For he is the all-sufficient God and his grace is sufficient for us. And what is impossible with men is possible with God. But we must never rely on our own motives and effort and work even if they are for God, because Jesus also says, “remain in me and I in you for apart from me you can do nothing”. There is a difference between striving for God according to our opinions and living because of him. For even the children of Israel, when they refused to hear God, each did what was right in his own eyes. And so also, though the lord Jesus will follow us and take care of us as our good shepherd, we must ask ourselves, do we follow him? If then we seek first the things that are above, God is faithful to provide all that we need, and we will know how to abound and how to lack, and as Paul said, “if I am poured out, I rejoice”. For we are made vessels not only to contain Christ but also to be poured out in love. And we have such confidence through Christ towards God, not that we are sufficient from ourselves to reckon anything as out of ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant not of letter but of spirit, for the letter kills but the spirit gives life. If we will truly depend completely and solely on the providence of God in Christ and the guidance of his spirit, God will be to us more than what we ask or think.