Prevent Burnout: Keys From the Life of Jesus

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Tony McKinnon


Burnout, compassion fatigue, loss of passion. Whatever you call it, it's deadly to our effectiveness in life. That's especially true for those in ministry. In Jesus' life we can see some keys to staying healthy and avoiding burnout.

Key #1: Purpose

Jesus was driven by a singular focus. His guiding purpose kept Him moving forward in the face of hardship, difficulty, and opposition (Luke 19:10; John 4:34). Purpose is more than a mission statement or a catchy slogan. Purpose is something we all have in common. It's the Great Commission. We're to go and make disciples.

The how may be unique to a person, people group, church, or culture. But the purpose—the "go ye"—remains constant for us all. The joy of fulfilling that purpose was enough to enable Jesus to endure the cross (Heb. 12:2).

Jesus didn't waste precious time or energy on things outside of His purpose. He did only what He saw the Father do (John 5:19). If we're honest, we'll realize that most of what burns us out are the "add-ons." Those are things God has not graced us or called us to do. Grace is to our lives what grease is to a bearing. Without grease, a bearing will burn out. And without grace, we will too.

If you keep purpose in view, purpose will keep you. It's the why in the midst of the what that keeps us going no matter what.

Key #2: Rest

Jesus observed a healthy rhythm of rest for His spirit, soul, and body (Matt. 14:13, 23; Mark 6:31-32). God could have made us with 24/7 bodies and eyes that see in the dark, but He didn't! God designed us for daily, weekly, seasonal, and eternal rest.

It's the Sabbath principle, and it predates the law in much the same way as tithing does. God actually wove the principle of Sabbath into the fabric of creation. He even practiced it by example (Gen. 2:2-3). If we violate this principle, we will experience the effects of the curse. Long sabbaticals that are very often rescue attempts aren't necessary if we simply practice this principle Jesus modeled.

Key #3: Relationships

Jesus maintained healthy relationships. He did that both vertically with the Father and horizontally with others.

Time invested alone with God was the cornerstone of Jesus' rhythmic lifestyle. Mark 1:35 says, "In the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed."

But Jesus didn't stop there. He didn't live as a member of some spiritual elite. He had friends whose company He enjoyed. For example, He spent time with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (John 11:5; 12:1-2); and Simon the leper (Mark 14:3). We also can't deny Jesus' close relationship with Peter, James, and John.

We can't maintain close relationships with everyone. But we must have an inner circle of friends. Jesus ministered to the masses, but He was friends with a few. It looked like this: the multitudes, the 70, the 12, the three, the one.

Key #4: Delegation

Jesus was the master of discipleship and delegation. Because He was a man, it was physically impossible for Him to be all things to all people. He couldn't personally meet every need. The same is true for us.

Jesus' model was to teach and train by precept and example. Then He delegated assignments and authority. That compounded His effectiveness and lightened His workload (Luke 9:1-2; 10:1).

Jesus' life and ministry would have been wasted had He not raised up and released others to minister. The same is true in our ministry, business, or home life. It is not only unwise for us to try and do everything ourselves; it is ungodly.

Jesus showed us a life driven by purpose, refreshed by healthy rhythms of rest, enriched by relationships, and lightened by delegation. That kind of life will never burn out.

Want more?

Click here for a pdf download with additional steps you can take to prevent burnout.

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