How do you fight discouragement in leading the Lord’s church? There are several ways, of course. Among them: Get alone with the Lord; get alone with a godly, mature friend who will tell you the truth; examine yourself by asking some hard questions. How about this as well: Take joy in the progress of God’s people.
We all know the many sin problems in the church. We’re sometimes confused about the best way to handle those who deal out trouble, and trouble is consistently present in one form or another. Add to that the complexity of managing your own responses, and trouble can lead to discouragement.
Bottom line is that church leaders must be committed to courageously handle sin problems—including their own—and take joy in the progress of God’s people in the process. If you don’t determine to remember the progress of God’s people, then you’re getting ripe for a descent into debilitating discouragement. That’s a lethargy that hits when the clock’s alarm sounds in the morning, but you just don’t have the energy to get out of bed. It’s the deadness in prayer and the reluctance to open the Scriptures. It’s avoiding people who have hurt you and it’s the refusal to forgive and move on. It puts a distance between you and the Lord and it cripples your spiritual effectiveness in ministry.
The mature leader accepts the bumps and lumps of relationships as a reality of body life in the local church. And it’s not only about everybody else in the church. Each of us disappoints and falls in many ways. Even the best leaders fall . . . but they get up, learn from the fall and continue the work.
Get up. Take note not only of where a person is on the maturity and sanctification scale, but also remember where he started. Don’t focus only on his failures and sins, but also look for and commit to remember marks of his spiritual growth and maturity. Remember the person’s spiritual condition when you first laid eyes on him. Paul noted in Philippians 1:6 that the Lord was not done working when he saved us through Christ. Paul knew and remembered that salvation was only the beginning. The Lord is faithful to continue working with each of us, relentlessly and patiently shaping us to be more like Jesus.
Disciples of Christ are being transformed into the image of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18). The transformational fight against sin often is painful and sometimes brings out ugly responses, even in the local church. But, in the face of opposition, disappointment and pain, leaders are to lean into sin problems and take joy in the progress of God’s people. Remember, though, to take joy in your own progress as well.
I’m reminded of a critic who complained that a man in the church really wasn’t much of a Christian. Well, he’s in process, just like each of us. And we’re working with him. You should have seen him a year ago. Yikes. He’s grown a lot since then. That's a reason for joy.