It is a wonderful privilege to be called by God to teach and to lead.  At the beginning of another year, there is a sense of excitement, and we look forward to our Lord doing great things in and through us and our Church. But often this anticipation and keenness is soon dulled, as discouragement sets in.

            On a wider scale, many Christians, gifted and potentially effective, have given up on teaching, leading, evangelism, hospitality, and other works of service. The lack of fruit from their labours resulted in them doubting their personal effectiveness, and even their calling. They became discouraged. Discouragement bred doubt. And so they ceased serving God.

            We must be prepared from the start to manage discouragement – because discouragement is inevitable. Satan loves nothing more than to attack us in this area. There is nothing as ineffective as a Church and her people “downing” their spiritual tools, doubting their call and effectiveness, and being overwhelmed with a feeling of failure. Like soldiers going to battle, we need to ensure that our armour is on securely, and that it will not fall off mid-battle. Here are a few practical steps to help us to be prepared.

1. Planting and a harvest

Remember there is a planting and a harvest (1 Cor 3:6-9). And just as a farmer or gardener does not expect fruit the very next day after planting, nor should we look for immediate results after planting spiritual seeds. God works in His way and time. In fact, there have been occasions when God’s people have seen fruit in a very short time. This would not seem to be the norm. And so it is important to check your expectations. Recognize that it takes time to reach people for Christ. Take the long view. Be ready to sow seeds, cultivate, and wait for the harvest – water what you plant with fervent prayers (James 5:16).

2. Giving and receiving

Come together with others for encouragement and support. It is important for teachers, leaders and Christian workers to gather for prayer, the sharing of ideas, and just to encourage one another. Jesus gathered twelve people when He formed His team, and when He sent His disciples to the field, He sent them in pairs. As Christians, we need each other (Matt 13:36; Mk 4:35).

3. Discipleship – a long process

Leading children, young people and adults to Christ, and teaching them what it means to respond to Christ’s love, will for the most part, be a long process (Matt 13:1-9). We must be prepared to give ourselves constantly to this privilege of leading and teaching. When a missionary protested at the fact that one of the native boys had walked for three days to procure a gift for her, the boy replied: “The long walk is part of the gift”. The long walk in preparing, praying, becoming frustrated, and teaching it again, is part of our gift to God.

4. Trusting and waiting

Trusting and waiting help us to focus on the sovereignty of God. When we are willing to wait, we affirm that God is ultimately in control of everything (Rom 11:33). See the delayed fruit as an opportunity for you to grow in grace, trust, patience, and to affirm anew your confidence in God’s power to do his work in His time.

5. Don’t do God’s work

Be careful to separate what you can do from what only God can do. God requires us to be “faithful” (1 Cor 4:2). While we are called upon to challenge those in our care to respond to the love of Christ in repentance and in willing and obedient service, we cannot convict people of sin. It’s our privilege to assist with planting, but God Himself brings about the harvest (1 Cor 3). You cannot cause people to seek God. Only God can draw people to Himself and with Him all things are possible (Matt 19:26).

            Above all, remember that our God is able to do “exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us…” (Eph 3:20). Trusting in God, and seeing everything in a Biblical perspective, may we have a great year working together for the glory of God and the extension of His kingdom.

– Guido Kettniss