Ministry is a joy, but ministry is also heavy. Even if you’re overjoyed to be in ministry, some days will be a fight for joy.
One explanation for this is we have an enemy who seeks to kill, steal and destroy the abundant life Jesus gives (Jn. 10:10).
Since Satan hates Jesus, he wants to kill our ministries by killing our joy in Jesus. For this reason, ministers of the gospel must fight for their joy.
Here are five suggestions for how to fight for joy (and since I grew up Southern Baptist, you get each wonderfully alliterated—I just can’t help it).
1) Spiritual Disciplines
In John 15, Jesus told us that our life will flourish when we abide in Him. Abiding according to verse 7 includes both the Word of God and prayer to God. This results in a greater experience of God’s love (v.9) and greater obedience (v.10).
Jesus tells us, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (Jn. 15:11).
If you stop reading this right now and walk away to pursue a deeper communion with Jesus, then you will be a more joyful person. Nothing else brings joy like Jesus because He is our joy—fighting to know Him is fighting for joy.
2) Sacrificial Intimacy
After you’ve spent (what feels like) all your energy on ministering to others, it’s tempting to come home expecting your wife to minister to you.
When we consistently come home depleted from the day, we have forgotten that our primary ministry is to pastor our homes. So, we should steward our limited energy to prioritize sacrificing at home.
We also are forgetting the gospel—that God designed us to experience joy, not when we selfishly get but as we sacrificially give (Mt. 10:39; Jn.15:13; Acts 20:35—for more on holistic intimacy, check out Intimacy that Works).
3) Serious Friendships
By serious, I mean we must choose and commit to friends who are serious about helping each find joy in Jesus.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” —Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
Satan wants to steal our joy, and friends help us in the fight. They refresh our perspective by encouraging us when we’re beaten down and challenging us when we’re self-absorbed.
If you’re a pastor or church planter, you need good friends to help with the fight (for more on friendship, check out A Forgotten Remedy for the Worn out Minister).
4) Strenuous Exercise
High stress combined with talking to lots of people and staring at an illuminated screen all day probably won’t brighten up your disposition.
Thank God for the gift of exercise! We don’t all have to kill ourselves with Crossfit to benefit from this gift. You simply need to do something active that is strenuous for you. Even fifteen minutes a day will help in tremendous ways.
Get out there. Exert energy. Sweat. Enjoy the dopamine. Shower. And get on with your day.
5) Stunning Beauty
We become what we behold, which is why it’s so important for us to daily behold the glory of Jesus (2 Cor. 3:18). And the beauty of the world around us points us to the glory of God (Ps. 19; Rom. 1:20).
As pastors and planters, we can get tunnel vision with our churches—especially when things aren’t going well. We need moments of awe to drag us out of ourselves.
Being dwarfed by a mountain, getting lost in a movie, meandering in an art gallery, making music or sitting by a river, all aid our hearts to remember this essential truth—the world is much larger than our church, and God’s work is bigger than our small contribution.
The work we do for Jesus is important, but it shouldn’t consume us. Jesus should! Stunning beauty transcends us to a place where we can remember that.
One Day The Fight Will End
The surprising thing about joy is that when we experience it, we forget about ourselves.
We get caught up in the enjoyment of the people and particulars of the situation around us. True joy is self-forgetful. In this way, joy is a foretaste of the greatest joy a heart could ever know.
One day, we will stop fighting as the universe gives way to never-ending joy! But until then, we struggle to have joy in this joyless world because we carry the heaviness of sin, grief, guilt, depression and brokenness.
But we carry it with a smile that the world doesn’t understand because we know a secret—Joy is a Person! He came once to die, and He is coming once again to rule.
And in His presence, Jesus will forevermore be our joy (Ps. 16:11).