The best part of most new year’s goals is the first week of January. Adrenaline runs high, and success seems just within reach.

And then the second week of January comes. And the adrenaline-based enthusiasm wanes.

Maintaining the momentum to pursue God-given goals is particularly difficult in long-range goals or in difficult-to-measure goals, such as leading and building up other people. Although I believe it is helpful to set clear, measurable goals, God’s work through us can’t always be measured this side of Heaven.

And yet, I believe God is honored when we persist in pursuing growth in His work—when we put our hand to the plow and faithfully look to the end of the furrow all year long.

When it comes to the work of the ministry, how do we maintain the passion to labor with God all year long? How do we lead and serve others with a commitment to build and a patience to persist?

I believe these five principles are vital for those who serve as spiritual leaders in any capacity:

1. Maintain a biblical focus.

We don’t make forward progress in our Christian growth or in the work God has entrusted to us very long without looking to Jesus.

Always remember that growth is not the goal of ministry; Christ is the goal. He is the prize. He is the one we serve.

When you lose your passion to serve or to be a laborer in the work of God, look to Jesus.

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.—Hebrews 12:2

2. Lay aside weights.

It’s hard to reach for the finish line while you’re carrying the baggage of last year.

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,—Hebrews 12:1

Do you find yourself burdened and cumbered in the race? Take a moment to check your heart for these weights that those who serve others easily find themselves carrying:

  • Relational burdens—Sometimes ministry is messy. You pour yourself into helping someone, and six months later they quit. To go forward for the Lord, you have to let go of the disappointments of the past.
  • Emotional burdens—Unmet expectations will suck the passion right out of you. Many people serve the Lord with an “if,” and when that “if” isn’t met, it will become a weight.
  • Comparison burdens—If you measure your success by other ministries or other laborers, you’ll be weighted down with either pride or discouragement.

3. Maintain a hunger for God’s presence.

It’s all too easy in ministry to become caught up with reaching our goals that we neglect setting our hearts to seek God. One of the greatest dangers of ministry is apparent success in our service while our hearts grow cold toward the Lord.

As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.—Psalm 42:1

Does your heart yearn for greater intimacy with God? Do you long to know Him more, to experience His power in and through your life to a greater level?

If the answer to these questions is “no,” what would it take to change that? What is robbing your desire for God? Is it sin? Is it busyness? Is it spiritual neglect?

Don’t go through the motions of ministry without a hunger for God’s presence. No goal is worth reaching without God.

4. Maintain right relationships.

Skewed relationships—especially with co-laborers—hinder God’s will and elevate our will. Be a quick forgiver. Be generous in giving others the benefit of the doubt. And go to those whom you sense may have been offended by you and vice versa.

Don’t be quick to end relationships, and don’t be content to carry on with simmering offenses.

Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:—1 Peter 1:22

5. Make a commitment to finish.

We don’t always see results immediately, and if we labor solely for results, we’ll be disappointed. The prize goes to the faithful.

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.—Philippians 3:13–14

The calling and opportunity to serve in the work of the ministry is a great privilege. In truth, it is Christ who builds His church (Matthew 16:18). But He allows and enables us to labor together with Him (1 Corinthians 3:9). And I want to maintain a positive momentum all year long in this labor.

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