Remember, Repent, Renew – The Remedy for the Burned-out Believer

by Will Graham

If you take a real assessment of your life and ministry today, how does it look?

Perhaps you haven’t seen the fruits of your labor that you’d hoped for or expected. Maybe you’re resentful of others around you who don’t seem to be carrying their own weight in the ministry. It could be that your team is great and you’re seeing a harvest, but you’ve been going non-stop as far back as you can remember and you’re just burned out.

If you’re struggling, you can probably empathize a bit with the church in Ephesus, to whom God speaks in Revelation 2:1-7. The early believers there worked hard in the ministry, and they were good at it. They were tireless, discerning, and persevering. Even in the face of hardships and persecution, the church continued to serve those in need.

The problem was that they labored so hard in ministry that they lost their focus and the source of their motivation. The church had forsaken its first love. They were too wrapped up in the process of doing God’s work to make time for God himself.

We’re called to so much more, however, than just “staying busy for Jesus.” If this struggle is all too familiar in your life and ministry, look specifically at the first half of verse 5, which gives us three key steps to return to the correct path: “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.”

Let me share three things I think we can learn here.

First, believers in the church at Ephesus were commanded to remember back to when they had first encountered the living God and were bursting with excitement. Just as marriages can become mundane if we forget that original passion and don’t make an effort to keep it burning, so it can be with God. We can go through the motions and do the work, but not remember the desire we once had for him.

Second, perhaps we need to repent. It feels odd to say we need to repent for doing ministry, but according to the passage, it had reached the point where the people of the church were ministering with the wrong spirit and motivation. The issue was bad enough that God called them to repentance.

Finally, we must “do the things you did at first.” Or, as I would put it, renew your relationship with him. Spend time in prayer and in reading the Bible. If we give God the best of our time, and focus that time on building our relationship with him, I believe we will quickly remember and reconnect with our “first love.”

My friends, if you’re feeling burned out, it doesn’t have to be this way. Remember, repent, and renew. God will lead you and your ministry from there and use you in ways you cannot even begin to imagine.

Will Graham (William Franklin Graham IV) (@tellagraham), grandson of Billy Graham, is an associate evangelist and vice president with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. He has proclaimed the gospel across six continents since beginning his evangelistic ministry in 2006. He is also executive director of the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, N.C.