I. What Are Some of the Hindrances and Pitfalls in Growing to Full Potential in Your Ministry?
There are many who begin to serve the Lord that don't continue. Many get stumbled and sidetracked by things that they never thought would hinder them. There are many who begin the race with great zeal only to find that long distance running takes more than they figured on. Have we really counted the cost? Do we see the potential problems that may hinder us from finishing the race? It is essential for us to know what these pitfalls are that we may avoid them at all cost. That one day we will say, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the Faith" (2 Tim.4:7). Most of the pitfalls we will examine in this study come from Paul's warnings and encouragements in 1 & 2 Timothy. Timothy was a young man struggling in his ministry.
A. The lack of personal spiritual growth
Paul tells Timothy that to progress in his own ministry he needed to continue and be faithful in his personal devotions (1 Tim.4:13,15,16). He went on to encourage Timothy to be studying diligently the Word. This was the way to become wise and how to become thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim.2:15) (2 Tim.3:14-17 ). We should never get so busy serving the Lord we neglect our personal time with Him. Without it we will dry up very quickly and our service will become external and not a labor of love.
B. Getting sidetracked from the fundamentals
It is very easy to get sidetracked from the fundamentals. There are many peripheral issues that continually attract our attention. There are also many issues that are contrary to sound doctrine that will lead us astray. Paul again warns Timothy that this is essential for his ministry to be successful. He tells him that the whole purpose and goal of God's commands were to produce love, a pure heart, a good conscience and real faith. If he didn't aim at these fundamentals always he would turn aside to just empty talk (1 Tim.1:3-7). Notice, Paul's emphasis on the importance of a good conscience (1 Tim.1:1 8 -20).
C. Getting hurt and offended by people
When people hurt you and do evil to you, it's easy to want to give up and retreat from serving anywhere. It happened to Paul, Timothy and of course to Jesus. Friends and co-laborers forsook Paul and others did many evil things to him (2 Tim.4:10,14-17). Jesus had one of His trusted disciples turn Him in for thirty pieces of silver. The rest all forsook Him. The key is not holding bitterness against them, because this would only hurt you. It never hurts them (Heb. 12:15). Notice, Paul said "may it not be charged against them" (2 Tim.4:16). Jesus said, "Father forgive them for they don't know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34). Notice, that Jesus, after His resurrection, sought reconciliation with the same disciples that had forsaken Him. Jesus kept right on doing what He had always done. Nothing would stop Him from doing the Fathers' will and to finish His work.
Also, notice Paul's counsel to Timothy was to not allow anyone to despise his youth. He was not to allow this to deter Him in the least. His concentration should be on being a good example. Paul also recognized that Timothy was very discouraged and ready to give up. He encouraged him to do several things.
1. Fight the good fight of faith (1 Tim.6:12) (2 Tim.4:7).
2. To endure the hardships as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2 Tim.2:3).
3. Be sure God is able to keep you, and all you commit into His hands (2 Tim.1:12).
D. The temptations and enticements of the world
To be enticed and entangled by the world has stumbled many a servant of God. Jesus warned His disciples that "No man can serve two masters" (Matt.6:24). We have to love one and hate the other! We can't do both. Notice again the warnings Timothy receives on this issue.
1. Paul warns him not to get entangled and wrapped up in the affairs of this world (II Tim.2:4).
2. He encourages him to flee all greediness and lust for money (1 Tim.6:6-11).
3. He also uses Demas as a perfect example, because he "loved this present world" and left serving with Paul (2 Tim.4:10).
Jesus also taught His disciples that to be caught by the cares of this world and the lust of other things, would only make them unfruitful in their relationship with Him (Mark 4:19).
James and the apostle John make it clear that to love the world puts you in a hostile relationship toward God (James 4:4) (1 John 2:15,16). This would of course disqualify you from any service you would be involved in.
E. Being ruled by the flesh
This is another problem area that greatly hinders those desiring to serve God. If a servant of God can't win the battle within, they will never be able to fulfill their outward ministry to others. You must either overcome the power of your fleshly desires or they will overcome you (Gal.5:16,17).
1. Timothy is warned to flee his youthful lusts (2 Tim.2:22).
2. He is told he must control his anger, impatience, fear and pride (2 Tim.2:24,25) (2 Tim.1:7).
3. Paul also felt this was essential for himself (1 Cor.9:24-27).
4. How can you overcome the desires of your flesh?
a. It begins with a choice not to allow sin to rule in you (Rom.6:12).
b. Don't take any forethought for your lusts as to how you might satisfy them (Rom.13:14).
c. Don't try and fight against your desires by yourself (Rom.7:18-20).
d. Know your old man was crucified with Christ. By faith acknowledge to God you believe that, and yield to Him! (Rom.6:6- 13).
e. Be filled with and walk daily under the control of the Holy Spirit (Gal.5:16) (Rom. 8:2).
F. Being caught by Satan's traps
Again Paul warns Timothy to remember the Word that God had spoken to conscience, which some having rejected, concerning faith have suffered shipwreck" (1 Tim.1:18,19). If you seek to serve God you are immediately at war with the Prince of Darkness. You are engaged in a wrestling match (Eph.6:10-18). How does he try to hinder you in your service to God?
1. He uses the world to tempt you with your fleshly desires to sin and disobey God (Gen3:1-6).
2. He uses lies and deceit of every kind (John 8:44) (Rev.12:9).
3. He then condemns you if you do disobey God (Rev. 12:10) (1 Tim.3:6).
4. He twists and misinterprets the Word of God (Matt.4:6).
5. You must resist Him and put on the whole armor of God! (James 4:7)(Eph.6:10-18).
G. Being governed by feeling
Another stumbling stone in the path of service is to be governed by your feelings and not the Word of God. Timothy was a young man who struggled with his feelings of fear. Yielding to these feelings caused him not to be fully obedient to God and the calling upon his life (2 Tim.1:6-8). Anyone who follows their feelings and not the Word of God will have many of the same troubles that Timothy did.
1. Every time the children of Israel came to a new problem in the wilderness they allowed their feelings and circumstances to dominate them instead of the promises of God (Ex.16,17) (Num.13,14) They never entered the Promised Land. Nor will anyone find real rest in obeying their feelings.
2. The armies of Israel, when they heard Goliath's challenge, allowed their fear to control them. David of course did not. He did what he knew was right in spite of his feelings (1 Sam.17). They were ashamed but David was victorious!
H. Not keeping the correct balance of family vs. ministry
In 1 Timothy 3:1-3, Paul gives the qualifications for the Bishops and Deacons of the church. It is essential to notice the importance Paul places on having their home life together. See verses 4,5,11,12. Paul goes on to say that the widows must first show piety (godliness or respect) at home. Without godliness being ministered at home we will have great difficulty ministering to anyone outside our home. We can't be losing the battle at home and expect to win the struggle outside the home.
Yet we must also be careful not to elevate the marriage or the family to a higher place than God has intended. Jesus and His kingdom must be the priority of your life (Matt.6:33). Jesus said, if you love father, mother, son, daughter, wife or your own life more than Him, you're not worthy of Him and cannot be His disciple (Matt.10:37,38) (Luke 14:26,27). If Christ is given this priority in your life He will enable you to keep the balance between your marriage and your ministry. One time your family may come before your ministry. Another time your ministry may come before your family. When Christ is Lord of your life, He will show you where the needs are, and where the time needs to be spent.
I. Not willing to do the small thing
Once a man named Zerubbabel was rebuilding the Temple of God. He was discouraged because the work was going very slow and very little had been accomplished. The prophet Zechariah came to him and asked, "Who has despised the day of small things?" (Zech.4:10).
Many times we get discouraged when the task we have to do in the kingdom doesn't seem great or important or we feel the labor we put into something doesn't equal the fruit coming out. Remember these principles.
1. Be faithful in the small things (Luke 16:10).
2. If the Lord calls you to a place of service great or small it is essential and important (1 Cor.12:14-25).
3. Do your work as unto Him (Col3:23).
J. Trying to do everything
Moses was a gifted man. He was called by God to lead the Children of Israel out of Egypt. Yet Moses began to burn out after a short time. He was judging the peoples' problems from morning to evening. (Ex.18:13). Moses' father-in-law saw what was happening and told him he would "wear out" (Ex.18:18). This was good counsel. Moses then delegated responsibility to others to help him. This enabled him to "endure" and not burn out (Ex.18:23). Burn out in ministry is something that happens to many. People trying to do more than God has ever called them to do. It is important for you to find your ministry and fulfill it (Col.4:17) (2 Tim.4:5). You have certain strengths within your ministry. These are the areas you are gifted in. You love to serve the Lord in these areas of ministry. Stick to these areas and don't try and do everything.