ministry

Gospel Fuel for the Weary

Post Icon

Have you ever approached a Bible study with a bad attitude? Or is that just me? That’s certainly how I felt when our church announced we’d be studying the Book of Philippians.

Of course, I have no issue with Philippians; it’s God’s Word after all. But my general impression of this letter was that it seemed like a lot of work—especially during a season when I was running on fumes. After a few funerals, walking with several friends through crises, and a string of illnesses were wearing me thin, I really wanted a pass from the charge to “run the race” and “press on.”

Running Weary

As I skimmed the text, my legalistic-leaning heart zeroed in on the commands in Philippians: boldly proclaim the gospel (even from prison), endure through suffering, put others first, don’t complain, discount any gain, press on, imitate and model Christ, think rightly, act rightly, and be content and strengthened through all of it. *whew*

Honestly, it sounded exhausting and not at all like what I was prepared to study. So, I avoided diving deeper into the book and hoped my devotions in the Psalms would give me the strength I needed to “do all the things.”

Eventually, I was tired of hearing the admonishments, well-intentioned and God-ordained as they were. I was tired and ready to take a break. I needed a fuller picture of the letter to the Philippians, so I sat down (albeit reluctantly) to dig deeper into the text.

As I read, however, I realized some things I had never noticed before. Each of the verses I felt was exhausting me also had a surprisingly comforting context.

If only I remembered the fullness of Scripture and didn’t read with an unhealthy mind, I would have seen grace laced in every command to obey. But unfortunately, our intellectual pride, stress, or poor mental health can often affect how we read and apply God’s Word.

I hope this article serves as that good news to someone who’s tired today.

Press into Christ, and remember he’s always holding onto you.

I Need Jesus

  • I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)

This verse in particular was the life verse, email signature, and common admonition of a mentor and friend who died of cancer earlier this year. So, it was one of the main lenses with which I approached the book. It’s interesting how often the accuser uses undigested Scripture as a weapon against me.

However, on a fuller reading, I saw Philippians 3:12:

  • Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”

As a Christian, a parent, and all the other roles I play, I often want to press on in my own strength. I forget—or maybe just resent— the fact that I am only human and not God. Instead, the idolatry I struggle with is that of myself.

But here, I see that the fuel to press on comes from a deep trust in Christ. He’s already taken hold of me, so I’m free to do good and grow in Christlikeness without all the pressure to perform.

What I need, instead, is to acknowledge my limits—something many of us aren’t so good at. I am only one person, and God knows we are but dust (Psalm 103:14). He made me human, and a restored human is all He expects me to be.

That’s why sabbath is so good for us. For those highly involved in Sunday tasks, Sunday probably isn’t that day of rest for us. So whatever the habits need to look like for you, we all need to rest our bodies, minds, and souls.

I Need the Church

  • I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

This verse is a favorite for youth t-shirts and sports leagues. But even reading it in the fuller context of verses 11 and 12, I had the sense that I should be able to endure anything with just myself and God. After all, that seems to be what Paul says here.

However, I had never noticed the very next verse:

  • Still, you did well by partnering with me in my hardship.

The whole book of Philippians reads like a love letter to the church in Philippi, and here Paul is expressing gratitude for their support.

As an individualistic society, we may understand that Christ empowers and provides for us, but we can miss that He often uses His Church to do it. As members of His Body, we’re not only connected to one another, but we’re also a means of God’s work and service.

When I’m overwhelmed, unhealthy, and generally not seeing clearly, my brothers and sisters help encourage and admonish me. They spur me on when I need the challenge. They minister to me spiritually and practically with Scripture, hugs, prayer, coffee, and childcare.

If we’re used to ministering to others, it can be hard to receive help. However, when Jesus walked the earth, he relied on others. Why would we be above it?

Conclusion

I’ve been thinking a lot about the different seasons of life and ministry this year. As Solomon says in Ecclesiastes, “For everything, there is a season” (3:1), so each of our lives will look different right now. The church association I work at established the Collaborate Care initiative to help churches and ministers connect to and care for one another.

Maybe, you’re in a time of flourishing. Praise God! Now’s a great time to press on towards the goal and consider how you can encourage and bolster another brother or sister in Christ.

But maybe, your season is drier and, despite your best efforts, nothing seems to be growing well. Press into Christ, and remember he’s always holding onto you. Find someone in the Body of Christ you can lean on.

A version of this article originally published at UBA Houston.

Never miss an episode, article, or study.

Sign up for the CFC Newsletter now!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

  • ministry
Marie Burrus

Marie Burrus is UBA's Communications Specialist. She manages, edits, and contributes content for UBA's blog, website, UBA Voices newsletter, and social media outlets.

More to Explore

Never miss an episode, article, or study.

Sign up for the Christ and Culture newsletter now!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.