I have to admit; I never thought about Jesus being discouraged with His ministry. Jesus was not only the Son of God, but also a great leader and minister. Obviously He had the message and the life that was going to change the world. He got it done and made things happen. So I never thought of Jesus being discouraged in the midst of His ministry years.
If Jesus was never discouraged, and He is the example I need to follow; then what is my problem? The past several months have been, to say the least, discouraging. I’ve been trying to raise support for ministry in crazy economic times, seeing churches let go of their youth pastors or senior pastors, hearing that ministry organizations are reorganizing and letting people go, attending the funeral of a mentor and hero of youth ministry. More importantly, I’ve been hearing stories of students walking away from their faith in Christ, and others saying they never wanted it and will never return to it. Of course, there are good things happening. But in the midst of the good, there are these—and many more—disappointments and battles.
I was driving away from the funeral of my mentor and I turned off the radio and asked: “Jesus, were You ever discouraged during Your ministry?” As I drove, I sensed Jesus having a laugh and saying, “Seriously?” My mind started walking through His ministry.
- His Personal Ministry Preparation – Forty days of fasting and then the tempter shows up (Matthew 4:3). After the hard work of preparing for a short three years of ministry, Satan dangles in front of Jesus things that would have crushed me.
- Building His Team – He called and they followed; that doesn’t sound so bad. But look at who He called. Not the team that most organizations or churches would want to hire. I am sure many watching this team come together thought “them…really?” The criticism of who He selected as His disciples had to be enormous.
- Developing/Training His Team – OK, how many times do we read where Jesus looked at His team and rebuked them? My paraphrase: “When are you going to get it? How many times do I have to tell you, show you, do with you, send you out to do it, and you still don’t get it?” Jesus did the ultimate five-step turnover plan and the disciples still didn’t get it. Discouraging? Frustrating?
- Those He Served Didn’t Say Thanks – No matter what He did for others, some did not show any gratitude. A few did, but many did not. He gave all He was and many gave no evidence of being thankful. While on the cross, how many disciples showed up to be with Him at the end? They were afraid for themselves instead of being grateful to learn for three years, or for the opportunity to spend three years with the Son of God.
- His Team Complaining About Resources – 5,000 and 4,000 needed to eat. The disciples looked for the resources to get it done, and they didn’t think they had enough. Just a thought: Maybe what they had was enough to take care of themselves, but not the crowds. The disciples said, “Send them away!” (Matthew 14) and, “Where do we get them food?” (Matthew 15) What did they have to see before they would realize that Jesus could take care of it?
- His Own Team Questioned His Identity – Jesus walked on the water and Peter questioned, “Lord, if it’s you…” (Matthew 14:28). With my sarcasm showing, my thought is: “Who else could it be?” Jesus had just preached, healed and fed 5,000; and Peter wondered if it was Jesus?
- Overwhelming Ministry Responsibilities – How many people were brought to Him to be healed? How many challenged His authority? How many questioned His actions, His motives and even His teaching? Time and again, His team didn’t get it, didn’t acknowledge who He was, in word and action showing more fear than faith. They gave up on Him in the garden when He asked them to pray. Jesus knew this ministry was going to cost Him His life.
Jesus had discouragements. The difference between how He handled the discouragement and how I do indicates that He knew the end of the story. Jesus knew He was the sacrifice for us. He knew His mission from the beginning of His ministry to His last earthly breath.
So why am I discouraged? Maybe it is because I make it all about me. The truth is this: ministry is about the mission that everyone should have a chance to know the life-changing message of Jesus.
The difference between the ministry of Jesus and mine (there are many; this is just one) is His focus was on the God-given mission. When I get my eyes off the mission and onto my stuff, I wind up pushing God out. Jesus kept His eyes on the end goal, but I let my eyes stop at the discouragements. God help me look forward, beyond my discouragements, and see what this is all about: building His kingdom!
Question: Have you ever let discouragements cause you to take your eyes off of your God-given mission? Can you get your eyes back on your God-given mission?
This article originally appeared here.