>>11 Questions to Ask Yourself If You’re Going Through Tough Times
1. Have I stopped pressing? It’s easy to get distracted, lose focus, or get complacent and coast. In First Timothy chapter 4, Paul encourages Timothy not to let daily hindrances or troubles take all his time and attention, but to keep pressing into God, no matter what else is going on. He gives Timothy some specific tips (vv.12–15): Don’t neglect your spiritual gift. . . . In speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, be an example. . . . Give attention to Scripture, exhortation, and teaching. . . . Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. If your progress isn’t evident, ask yourself: Am I making the best use of my time? Have I lost my focus? Can I make some improvements to get back on track?
|"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."–Winston Churchill|
2. Am I stuck in a negative mindset? Whether your tough times stem from money, illness, relationships, lack of growth, or something else, once you get the words “quit” or “hopeless” in your head, everything that comes along will seem to agree with them. Hebrews 11:6 says we must believe that God is, and that He is a rewarder ! Do whatever you can to turn that mindset around—believe that God is working in your situation, and that there is an answer.
3. Am I being swayed by adverse circumstances? For example, if your marriage is in trouble, are you questioning whether you’re married to the right person based on your current level of marital satisfaction? Or are you questioning your calling based on whether you’re as far along as you thought you’d be? Remember, circumstances don’t determine whether you’re in the will of God. If circumstances were indicators, then Paul and Jesus were never in God’s will! You are going to face hard times—in ministry, in marriage, in your finances, and so forth. Don’t waver or wonder. Stay faithful to your commitments and calling. Expect answers from God.
4. What is my purpose or the purpose of my ministry? Am I fulfilling it? Sometimes we lose track of why we do what we do. Are you accomplishing what God wants you to? Do you need to “get back to basics”—to cut out some things and return to some others? Regardless of how anyone else is acting or not acting, get the focus back on how you can improve. Don’t get sidetracked by circumstances. If you turn your attention back to the important things, God can meet you there.
5. Am I a voice or an echo? It’s important to stay fresh and current in your relationship with God and in His Word. Don’t just read a book or go to the Internet and repeat what someone else has said or done. What makes ministry powerful is the truth from inside you, not what you borrowed from someone else. Do whatever it takes to keep developing yourself in study, and keep honing your delegating skills and people skills. Walk among the people you minister to. Don’t isolate yourself—live with them. Know where they are in their faith and what they need so you can speak into their lives and help them.
6. Am I just “hanging on, waiting for God to move”—or am I taking purposeful, positive steps toward change? It’s been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same things but expecting different results. While it’s important to stand fast and remain faithful, it’s also important to give God something to work with. If you ask God to direct your steps, be willing to move your feet. Do something—take some steps. A ship at anchor is never going to catch the wind.
7. When someone brings up a new idea, do I immediately think, “If only”? We all have “ceilings” in our thinking—we just don’t always know where they are.
8. Do I have a budget? A well-planned budget is a tool that can guide you to a lifestyle free from debt so you can experience financial freedom. Without a budget, you may always spend more than you make and always work for money, instead of allowing money to work for you. (For some budget tips, see resources.)
9. What are my specific goals? Without a plan and a system to arrive at goals, how will you know if you achieve them?
10. Should I get a secular job? See pages 14–16 for benefits of secular employment and how to balance that work with ministry.
11. How am I treating the people around me? Tough times are hard on people. Your loved ones need extra love and care during this time. Be sure you are giving them as much as you can. If you are a church leader, evaluate how you are treating your staff and your volunteers. If you’re a pastor, what kind of person are you endeavoring to produce from your podium? Whatever answer you give, how are your messages addressing those qualities?