If there is one thing we should model as Christians, and particularly as Christian leaders, it is the joy of the Lord.
God designed the Christian life to be an abundant life. The fruit of the Spirit is joy.
Although joy should be the norm for Christian ministry, we can go days, weeks, or months operating in “joyless mode”—diligent in going through the motions but empty inside.
Joyless living makes us vulnerable to the attacks of Satan, not to mention that it’s a miserable way to live.
Furthermore, joy-killers are subtle. Often what we think kills our joy isn’t. Too often, I’ve heard good men say that a person, a circumstance, or the ministry itself took their joy. Not so. Jesus said, “And your joy no man taketh from you” (John 16:22).
The real reason lies deeper.
So what kills our joy? What do we need to watch out for?
1. Lack of a Devotional Life
A neglect of personal time with God often precedes a lack of joy. The Lord is our source of joy, and the promises of His Word sustain our joy. But too often we don’t draw from God’s Word like we should. We can’t rejoice in the Lord if we don’t even know Him or take time to consider who He is.
When you’re in a high-pressure situation or season, you need devotional time with the Lord. In fact, you need more of it! Don’t let busyness or deadlines keep you from the one thing you need most.
Devotional time with God allows us to recalibrate our hearts to His. Take time daily to unburden your heart before the Lord and to rejoice in Him.
Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.—Philippians 4:4-7
2. An Unthankful Spirit
The longer I live, the more I see that the root of many sins is ingratitude. God daily loads us with benefits, but our tendency is to look past our many blessings to the few things that are difficult.
Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah.—Psalm 68:19
An unthankful spirit leads to melancholy. It bends our mind toward introspection, focusing our hearts on our needs rather than our blessings.
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.—1 Thessalonians 5:18
3. Dreaming Outside the Will of God
This builds from the last one. When our spirits become burdened with the difficulties of life (because we have neglected to thank God for the blessings), the grass begins to look greener anywhere that we are not.
Dreaming outside the will of God is tricky because we can easily believe it is God’s will for us to look over the fence. After all, God does sometimes transition people from one ministry to the next, right?
Be careful. When your mind is out on a prairie of “what ifs,” you’ll not regain your joy for where you are. If it is the difficulties of ministry or the struggles in your marriage or another relationship that are prompting your dreams, renew your time in God’s Word, give thanks for the blessings, and stick it out. You do want to finish your course with joy, right?
But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.—Acts 20:24
4. Comparing Yourself with Others
This comes in so many shades that we sometimes fail to see it for what it is. You might be looking at someone else’s lighter workload, more vacation time, less pressure, or enviable spiritual gifting. None of it is wise. You will either feel cheated or inferior—and joyless.
God gave us each different gifts—unique gifts, valuable gifts, admirable gifts. But when we compare our ministry or opportunities with others, we are bound to lose our joy.
But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.—Galatians 6:4
5. Impure Thoughts
We live in a pornographic society, and we are inundated with temptation. Allow these thoughts to play in your mind, and you will lose your joy.
For a man, the impure thoughts may be lustful thoughts; for a woman, they’re more likely to be covetous thoughts. Either way, they kill your joy.
A born-again Christian cannot have impure thoughts day after day without experiencing the conviction of the Holy Spirit. And no one who is under the constant conviction of the Holy Spirit can be happy.
Who is happy? The Christian who has a pure heart. With a pure heart, you see God for who He is, and in the presence of God, there is joy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.—Matthew 5:8
Yes, this brings us back to the source of joy—God Himself. There are many joy killers, but there is one joy giver. His name is Jesus. Psalm 16:11 tells us plainly, “In thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”
In part two, I will share five more ministry joy killers.