All of us, at one time or another, have experienced a measure of burnout.
What is burnout? It’s a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that results from prolonged and excessive stress, especially related to your job, need to perform, or other pressures of life.
When you are burned out, you might feel overwhelmed, drained, and detached. Burnout also produces negative, cynical, or critical attitudes towards people, work, life, church, and cultural events.
When you experience burnout, you lack enthusiasm or interest in activities that were once enjoyable.
In this article, I will describe one surefire recipe for spiritual burnout and how to avoid it. What is the one thing that will surely lead to spiritual burnout?
It’s when you place doing above being.
In our success-oriented, bigger-is-better American culture, an unfortunate mindset has crept into the thinking patterns of many Christians. It is a belief system that places a higher priority and value on what we do rather than on who we are.
Many believers, when seeking to know God’s will, focus all their energy on what they are supposed to do instead of who they are supposed to be.
Don’t get me wrong. Whether you are an accountant, pastor, writer, software developer, teacher, missionary, stay-at-home mom, or entrepreneur what you do is important. But it’s not more important than who you are and who you are called to be.
Living by grace to be who God calls you to be should precede living by grace to do what God calls you to do. When you get this order properly established in your life, your joy will return, and you will avoid spiritual burnout.
Grace Enables You to Become Who God Calls You to Be
Paul said, “By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10).
In Christ, grace makes you who you are. More than your genetics, education, and ethnicity, grace is what truly makes you who you are.
Anything godly you have—whether joy in the midst of trials, peace during a crisis, uncompromising resolve in the face of temptation, integrity in a world of broken promises, or selfless love in an age of narcissism—is a result of God’s grace working in your life.
Not only does grace make you who you are, but grace enables you to become who God has called you to be. This goes far behind your ministry calling. I am talking about your eternal calling to be the inheritance of the Father as a mature, Christlike son and the inheritance of Christ as His equally yoked bride (see Eph. 1:17-18; Heb. 2:10; Rev. 19:7).
Grace is the only way you can be transformed into the likeness of Christ, become an overcomer, be made ready as the wife of the Lamb, and be placed as a mature son into the inheritance of Christ for all eternity (see Rom. 8:29; Rev. 2-3; Rev. 21:7).
A significant aspect of becoming God’s inheritance and sharing in Christ’s inheritance is having Christ formed in your heart and soul. And this can only happen as you receive ample supplies of God’s grace daily.
To be God’s inheritance and to share in Christ’s inheritance requires a pure heart established in righteousness. This was one of Jesus’ primary themes in His famous Sermon on the Mount. He called believers to have a heart of humility, meekness, mercy, righteousness, purity, integrity, and love. This challenging mandate can only be fulfilled in one way: by God’s grace.
Grace makes you who you are, and grace enables you to be who you are called to be—in motive, thought, desire, and deed. Paul made this clear when he wrote, “To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power . . . according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 1:11-12).
According to Paul, grace enables you to become worthy of your calling by having the desire for goodness and the work of faith established fully in your heart and soul.
Grace Enables Spiritual Alignment
God desires to align your living condition with your legal position. Even though God sees you in Christ as righteous, crucified, resurrected, ascended, enthroned, and victorious, He desires to close the gap between who you are in Christ and who you are in experience.
Grace is how the Spirit closes this gap, aligning your living condition with your legal position. Grace is how the Spirit actually makes you righteous and victorious in your heart, soul, and body. And grace is how the Spirit actually gives you authority to reign in life, even when facing trials, tribulations, and testing.
Along these lines, Graham Cooke said, “Grace is God’s empowering presence that enables you to become the person that God sees when He looks at you. Who you truly are in Christ.”
When God’s grace operates in your life, His enabling power transforms you into who you already are in Christ.
Grace Enables You to Do
As grace enables you to be who God calls you to be, you will naturally be equipped to do what God calls you to do—avoiding spiritual burnout in the process.
I don’t know about you, but when it comes to God’s grace, my observation is many believers swing from one end of the pendulum to the other.
Before we receive a revelation of grace, we labor endlessly doing works for God, often to the point of exhaustion and burnout. But then, after receiving a revelation of grace, many retreat into passivity, apathy, and lukewarmness, doing nothing at all, claiming grace as an excuse not to exert any effort. Both are ditches you can fall into.
Dallas Willard said, “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning.”
Paul, speaking about how grace empowers you to work and labor, said, “His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me” (1 Cor. 15:10).
Carefully observe what Paul said here. I labored even more than all of them. That means Paul worked tirelessly to advance the gospel, to the point of being poured out like a drink offering (see Phil. 2:17). But Paul did not work like this by his own power. He said yet not I, but the grace of God with me.
Grace enabled Paul to work, labor, travel, preach, minister, write, plant new churches, build up existing churches, correct, rebuke, pray, and suffer. Grace enabled Paul to do what God had called him to do.
Grace for Good Works
Paul said, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).
Expressed in modern-day terms, God wrote your biography before the foundation of the world, and He calls you to live according to His script.
But here’s what you must realize about your God-given story: It is impossible to fulfill it in your own strength or power. Grace—and grace alone—is how you receive the ability to do what God has called you to do.
Whether God has called you to be an engineer, author, housewife, software programmer, pastor, consultant, athlete, coach, or missionary, one thing is clear: God’s grace is what gives you the ability to do what He has called you to do.
Grace Enables You to Multiply Your Talents
Paul said, “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly” (Rom. 12:6).
Grace gives you gifts and talents, which you need to do what God has called you to do. Peter basically expressed the same truth, stating, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Pet. 4:10).
Grace not only enables you to be who God has called you to be. Grace empowers you to do what God called you to do, enabling you to be a good steward of the gifts and talents the Lord has graciously given you.
Never forget the servant in the parable of the talents, who was severely rebuked and judged because he failed to multiply the gifts, talents, and resources the Lord gave him through diligent work, discipline, and labor (see Matt. 25:24-30).
If “grace” has put you to sleep spiritually and you no longer labor by the Spirit to advance the gospel—employing the gifts, talents, and resources the Lord gave you—you are no longer living by grace. You are squandering and wasting grace, for which you (and I) will give an account at the judgment seat of Christ (see 2 Cor. 5:10).
That’s why Paul warned us not to receive the grace of God in vain but to labor by God’s grace for the sake of the gospel (see 2 Cor. 6:1).
Divine Order in Grace
As you learn to live by grace—relying on the indwelling Spirit’s enablement to be who God calls you to be before relying on God’s grace to do what He has called you to do—God’s divine order will be established in your life. As a result, your joy will return, and you will avoid spiritual burnout.
If you want to read more about God’s enabling grace, my book Indwelling Life has an entire chapter focused on God’s grace. You can also watch my two-part teaching about God’s grace, Enabling Grace – Part 1 and Enabling Grace – Part 2, to hear more about God’s amazing grace.