Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Why We Burn Out?

Burned out? Exhausted? Needing a break more and more often? Perhaps, these are signs that you really needed a Sabbatical, or a getaway. More so, it is a gentle prompting that true ministry begins with true receiving.

I am currently reading through a wonderful book on Spiritual Formation called "Deep-Rooted in Christ", by a Korean-American pastor called Joshua Choonmin Kang. Translated from Korean, it is a first book published in English by this prolific practitioner of Christian Spirituality. His chapter 'Let Yourself Be Filled' prompts today's meditation on what it means to be giving and receiving.

As Christians, we all like to talk up, even hype up the notion of giving as more important than receiving. Many well-meaning believers quote Acts 17:11 liberally.

In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” (Acts 20:35)
The book of Acts is narrated by Luke, the disciple of Christ. The person exhorting the audience is none other than Paul the Apostle, evangelist and martyr for Jesus. Giving is good. Giving is necessary. Giving is better than receiving. However, the question is where are we giving from? From whom are we being empowered to give? On what basis are we practicing true giving?

Easier said than done. After all, giving is never a natural inclination of human beings. Babies insist on grabbing milk bottles and crying out for attention all the time. Teenagers insist on their own versions of growing independence. Young people insists on their rights, sometimes overshadowing responsibilities. Even the elderly insist on their right to be treated fairly in a world that so easily cast them aside when they are no longer earning as much or contributing effectively as before. The stark fact of life is this: We can only give when we are filled. There is no giving without any receiving in the first place. Hear what Kang has to say:

"True ministry begins not with giving but with receiving. We need to be filled up before we have anything to give to others. John told us that 'God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him' (Colossians 1:19 NIV). We should be pleased to be channels for God's truth and grace. Many servants of God, acting out of good will, move too quickly into ministry. They focus on giving before they're been refilled and reenergized. They become exhausted before they know it." (Joshua Choonmin Kang, Deep-rooted in ChristDowners Grove, IL: IVP, 2007, p25)
Isn't this the reason why many of us in ministry burn out so easily? When we fail to receive well, we fail to give well. One of my professors at Regent-College constantly warns us:

"The quality of your output must be equaled or exceeded by the quality of your input."

True. Like charging up our batteries. When we give time for our electrical or electronics to be charged to its full capacity, we will be able to discharge our responsibilities more effectively. Just think of a laptop computer that is rated 8 hours of battery life when it is fully charged. If we are only charged up 50%, obviously we shut down when we approach the 4th hour mark.

One more thing. The discipline of receiving and waiting on God`s time also trains our patience with people. If we rush into ministry, we can also do the unhelpful thing of rushing people in order to fit our ministry. It ought to be the other way round. We wait upon the Lord for His filling. We receive His fullest grace and peace. We step confidently into the world, aware that we ourselves are nothing. Like the Samaritan woman at the well, filled with the joy of Jesus` promises, we are then able to point others to Christ for true filling of needs. If we rush into ministry, we are in danger of pointing others to ourselves and our own versions of what ministry is all about.

May our ministry be one that reflects an overflowing river of grace and peace from God, and not one that squeezes ourselves dry that makes us brittle and bitter over time. True giving must first come from true receiving. Not the other way round.

Why do we burn out so easily? It is because we rush into ministry before being filled. We fail to recognize that true giving comes from true receiving. Instead, we need to acknowledge that it is God`s filling and constant refilling of us that brings glory to Him, not to us.
Thought:  "There`s a lesson here for those who want to give away what they haven`t yet received. Let`s not be impatient or overeager. Let`s wait for our reservoirs to fill with grace." (Kang, p25)


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