Serving people necessitates giving of ourselves. Paul put it well in 2 Corinthians 12:15: “I will very gladly spend and be spent for you.”
We are not infinite, however. Every expenditure must be replenished, or eventually we run dry.
Many suggest the answer to this need is to develop hobbies. It’s a wise suggestion, but it’s not complete. None of us entered the ministry so we could pick up a hobby as a lifeline to sanity. Hobbies and recreation are helpful, but they can never be our sole solution to depletion.
How can we spend and be spent and yet stay refreshed? Scripture provides sound, common sense answers to the need for replenishment. Here are seven:
1. Remove from toxic situations.
Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go:—Proverbs 22:24
Being with perpetually angry or issue-orientated people is wearing to the soul. We disciple, counsel, pray with, and do all we can to help those in our care to grow spiritually, but we cannot make close friendships with those who feed toxicity into our minds and hearts through anger, sarcasm, or bitterness.
2. Retreat to the Lord.
Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort: thou hast given commandment to save me; for thou art my rock and my fortress.—Psalm 71:3
There is no replacement for a growing personal devotional life. Time spent with God through Scripture reading and prayer is our lifeline to renewal and power in our own lives. We need to spend time in His presence. We need it more than we need any other form of help. Even Jesus knew He needed communion with the Father to sustain His ministry. We do too!
And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.—Mark 1:35
3. Replenish with family.
The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.—Proverbs 31:11
Time spent with and invested in your family provides perspective and encouragement. Plan a date night. Take your kids to the park. Have a family pizza and game night. You’ll do much to encourage the hearts of your wife and children, and you’ll find encouragement in the process.
4. Renew with physical nourishment.
And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:—Mark 2:27
Consistent exercise, regular rest, and nourishing meals really do make a difference. I know contingencies come up when these are unavailable, but we should plan them into our normal routines.
Planning for adequate sleep is an expression of trust in God—that he can run the universe without my help.
Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.—Psalm 127:1–2
5. Replenish with edifying friends.
A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.—Proverbs 17:17
Develop spiritual friendships and accountability with non-agenda friends.
6. Refresh with fruitful ministry.
Ministry is depleting, but it is refreshing at the same time. Being used of God to touch lives has its own reward! Sometimes when I’m exhausted, carving out a couple of hours to knock on doors and share the gospel is just what I need.
For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.—2 Corinthians 4:16
Even as the outward man perishes through the demands of ministry, the inward man can be renewed by reflecting on God’s goodness and spending time with the Lord. But remember, this is a “day by day” process. Spend time with God daily!
7. Reengage with margin.
See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.—Ephesians 5:15–17
To be involved in every ministry opportunity is to break the body and limit ministry. We need wisdom and discernment, and we need to plan for margin in our lives so there is room for the emergencies that are so woven into the fabric of serving people.
As useful and needful as each of the tips above are to our replenishment, ultimately, it is God alone who can give us the strength we need. Thankfully, He promises to do just that as we wait on Him for renewal!
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.—Isaiah 40:31