Please, if you have not done so, take a few seconds to view the video from which I captured the picture at left. It crossed our screen one day and inspired us as we anticipated the next chapters of our pastoral calling. You can view it by clicking here. Here's hoping you will be inspired too.
Scripture often addresses the crisis of losing heart. For the life of me I cannot find an adequate English parallel to the terms used to describe this dilemma. The dictionary defines losing heart as becoming discouraged. And, that may be a good synonym. But, in my mind, losing heart is a more amplified personal crisis. In Scripture losing heart is an admixture of demoralizing emotions and life experience---discouragement, failure, disappointment, regret, futility, emptiness, sorrow, loss of hope, and perhaps defeat, just to mention a few. Observing life from so many angles over the past 38 years, losing heart is the eventual outcome of being fed up, burned up, used up, and finally giving up. When we lose heart, the finish lines that have guided us can become vague and blurred, beyond our reach. Many objectives, goals, aspirations, and dreams can be lost because we don't have the heart to pursue them any longer.
Over the years I've coached and counseled many pastors, church staff ministers, spiritual leaders, parents, professionals, and people in every human walk through the uncertain mire of losing heart. Having sderved four churches, and during a period of time as Director of Pastoral Ministries at the South Carolina Baptist Convention, I was convinced that losing heart was among the most destructive forces in calling, careers, marriages, relationships, financial planning, and church life. Those circumstances, always tragic and hurtful, drove me to God's Word for guidance in ministering to others on the precipice of losing heart, or, to those who were already there. The question is, how can we navigate this rugged world without losing heart.
1. Keep your spiritual bearings.
There's a fix-it mode in every one of us. In difficult times we tend to shift into that
operating system as a matter of fact. As believers, however, we should know that our
help comes from the Lord (Psalm 121:2). Luke wrote in the Gospel, "And he told
them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart" (Luke
18:1, ESV). Prayer certainly gives our spiritual bearings a reliable direction. The
Apostle Paul wrote, " So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away,
our inner self is being renewed day by day" (2 Corinthians 4:16, ESV). It is the
constant renewal of the inner self that successfully navigates the threats that can
cause us to lose heart.
2. Don't let circumstances define your life.
Life circumstances can be distracting. The anonymous author of the Epistle to the
Hebrews advised his readers to "Consider him who endured such opposition from
sinful men, so that you do not grow weary and lose heart" (Hebrews 12:3, NIV).
Earlier he had written that we should "fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector
of our faith" (Hebrews 12: 2). Keeping our eyes focused on Jesus will help us resist a
fixation on the circumstances that could rule us.
3. Learn the spiritual discipline of endurance.
Endurance is not listed as a fruit of the Spirit. It is a Christian discipline that must be
learned. in Scripture, endurance is a consistent and constant theme. Jesus said, "But
the one who endures to the end will be saved" (Matthew 24:13, ESV). The Apostle
Paul wrote, "For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction,
that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might
have hope" (Romans 15:4, ESV). James also wrote, "Consider it all joy, my brethren,
when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces
endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and
complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4, NASB). And, of course, that's the tripwire
for most of us. Endurance is learned in our tough times, even when we're close to
the reality of losing heart.
4. Keep the promises of God close to your heart.
God's promises are real and constant. Learning to live by them is a great virtue. Paul
attested the reality and veracity of God's Promises. He wrote, "For all the promises of
God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to
God for his glory" (2 Corinthians 1:20, ESV). About the promise of endurance, the
Apostle Paul wrote, "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to
man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are
able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be
able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13, NASB). His promises can see us through
every life difficulty. We should learn to live by them.
5. Draw trusted friends close.
It's one of the trendy leadership motifs these days, the accountability thing, and it is
especially needful when we're in the decline of losing heart. Scripture, of course,
gives ample instruction regarding our choice of friends. Solomon's Proverbs provide
line-by-line counsel about the people in our circle. For the sake of space here, lets
just remember the one-another passages of Scripture, what should be the norms of
our relationships with other believers. There are around of 59 them, and many
provide guidance in how we are to provide truthful, frank, and often hard counsel to
the people in our faith circle. The one that stands out for me here is simple enough.
The Apostle Paul wrote, "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up,
just as you are doing" (1 Thessalonians 5:11, ESV). Trusted friends can read us,
advise us, and lift us up, sure antidotes for when we're fed up, burned up, used up,
and close to giving up. Being lifted up is a precious blessing from our trusted friends.
Losing heart can trigger an "I'm done" reaction in us humans. Quitting is often our most natural response. Here's a prayer that these Bible truths will sustain us when faced with the danger of losing heart.
The photo above and the video clip "finishline" are used with permission from www.values.com.