What if any of the Rocky movies would have ended in the middle of one of his fights? He would be bloodied, bruised, battered, and defeated. It wasn’t that Rocky never got touched in the ring, like Ali, that makes his story so inspiring, but that he finds a way to go back in the ring when it seems no one else would be able to.
In the Bible we get the luxury of knowing how each story ends, but to our disadvantage, we can miss being in the dark hours with some of these heroes. They didn’t know if God would come through for them, or how their stories would end, yet they went back in the ring.
Youth ministry is one of the best investments you can make with your life. This doesn’t mean that there’s an immediate return or that there won’t be setbacks. In fact, the return you should be aiming for is an eternal one, and there will be times when there is more turnover than return. Whether it is an event that did not pan out as you had envisioned, a dream that seems to be delayed, or just a rude barista at Starbucks, you will have to learn to overcome setbacks if you’re going to survive and thrive in youth ministry. You will do this by remembering that you may not get to choose your circumstances, but you do get to choose how you respond. You are not the first one to experience difficulty while trying to impact others for God.
Good thing it didn’t end when…
- death gained access to man through the disobedience of Adam, but rather when man gained access to life through the obedience of the 2nd Adam. Romans 5:15-17
- the flood waters of judgment fell around Noah, but rather when the rainbow of forgiveness rose above him.
- Abraham doubted God’s ability because of his problems, but rather when God did what was not in Abraham’s ability because of HIS promises.
- Joseph was cast into a pit, chased from Potiphar’s house, or chained in prison, but rather when he was put in charge in the palace.
- Moses fled in fear as a murderer, but rather when he returned in faith as a deliverer.
- twelve spies were discouraged by their obstacles, but rather when Joshua and 12 tribes were encouraged by their opportunity.
- God helped David escape the grip of Saul, but rather when God helped David release his grip on Saul.
Be determined not to be a “half baked” leader who allowed his or her story to end too soon by conquering these four C’s:
1. Comparison—Youth pastors are good at seeking out “ideas” and “strategies” that others are doing, while at the same time comparing in our hearts to what others are doing. In an age of social media this trap has never been easier to do. Don’t compare yourself to someone who is further along in their journey then you are, or has a different set of circumstances. Your goal is to measure your ministry by the ministry of Chris.
2. Competition—Comparing can quickly become competing. If you can be encouraged by doing “better” or having more “numbers” than someone else, than you can also become discouraged when someone outperforms you. We are the body of Christ and should be quick to share in the victories of others, and be supportive in defeats.
3. Complaining—It is one thing to have a close friend that can pray for you in the difficult times, but it is a whole different then to carry the toxic attitude of a complainer. This can be especially dangerous when you complain to those under you on their team. Your situation may not be the best, but it probably is not the worst either.
4. Criticism—Complaining can quickly become criticism. This is when your frustration festers into jealousy and becomes a personal attack on others. Someone may be different then you, or may even appear to be against you, but always choose to honor. When you show mercy, you set yourself up to receive mercy down the road.
God has not called you to start something that He has not equipped you to finish. We learn to appreciate the view from the top of the mountain when we start our climb from the bottom of the mountain. Listen to these words that the Lord gave Joshua before he entered the greatest challenge of his life, “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9 NLT). This is one of Israel’s greatest military commanders of all time, and even he needed God’s encouragement.
God is with you, He is for you, and He has enabled you to do what He has called you to. All you have to do is placed your trust in Him, and don’t give up!