What is faithfulness? Dictionaries define faithfulness as remaining steadfast in affection and allegiance. Biblically, faithfulness is inherently tied to obedience. As believers, we work faithfully unto the Lord by being obedient to Him. But most of us would say that although we have a desire to be obedient to the Lord, there are times when this faithfulness causes severe burnout. We end our days or weeks exhausted, but the cycle continues to repeat itself. And this begs the question, how do we work faithfully unto the Lord without burning out?
Work from the right perspective.
Sometimes burnout can result from an incorrect understanding of what it means to be faithful. It's important to understand that obedience does not mean perfection. God does not expect us to walk perfectly in faithfulness, but too often we can believe that what we do must be done perfectly or else He will not be pleased with us. Burnout results from a heart trying to use work as a means to earn favor with the Lord. When we see our work to the Lord as a duty rather than a delight, we aren't walking in faithfulness. When we buy into the idea that we must be perfect in all things in order to please God, we will run ourselves ragged.
In our own human strength, we are unable to work in perfect faithfulness to the Lord. But though daily we fall short, God does not see this and resent us for it but gives us grace through the work of His Son. Because of Jesus's perfect faithfulness on the cross, He has removed the necessity of our perfect faithfulness. As a result, our obedience to Him is a response to the obedience of Jesus Christ. Because of Him, any sense of duty turns into delight. As we delight in what Christ Has done for us, we dedicate our lives to serving Him. We find joy in our obedience to Him, not because it earns us anything but because it grows our intimacy with the One who died for us. Rather than being a burdensome duty, our faithfulness should be a response to our delight for the Lord.
Work from the right motivation.
If you feel burnout in your life, look at your motivations. Are you trying to please the Lord or man? Are you trying to bring glory to God or to yourself? Are you afraid to say no to something because you think you're letting people down?
Refusing to check the motivations for our actions can cause us to blindly think we're serving the Lord when in reality we're serving man. Colossians 3:17 says, "And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (CSB). A person who is performing to please others can do things in the name of the Lord but out of a fear of man. This is why ministry can be dangerous if we don't examine our motivations. We may volunteer every Sunday, lead Bible study groups, and say yes to any and every serving opportunity, but are we doing so out of a heart to please others rather than the Lord? Colossians 3:23 says, "Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ."
If our work is because of a motivation to please people, we will surely burn out quickly. We cannot be all things for all people, but God can. God is the omnipotent God, not us. When we convince ourselves that we can do everything for people, our faithfulness turns to pride. The more we try to do everything for everyone, the wearier we become under the burden of trying to play God. True faithfulness mirrors a heart that serves others because of a motivation to serve the Lord. If our allegiance is to Christ, all that we do will be for His glory and not our own.
Work from a place of rest.
Burnout can also result from a refusal to rest. God has commanded us in His Word to rest, so when we cease from our work to rest, we are being faithful to Him. When we stop our work, we declare our dependence on God. This helps remind us that it is God who works on our behalf. We must be faithful with the time and tasks He has entrusted to us but remain openhanded for Him to take care of the rest. Rest does not hinder but helps faithfulness. When we stop to sit with the Lord–to be in His Word and rest in His presence–our faithfulness is fueled.
We also work from a place of resting in the work of the Holy Spirit within us. By grace through faith, we have been given the Holy Spirit. Faithfulness is an evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, and by the Spirit's power, He guides us to walk in faithfulness as we keep in step with Him. When we feel helpless in our faithfulness, we must remember that we are equipped by the Holy Spirit to work faithfully unto the Lord. We cannot do this on our own, but that is the whole point. Philippians 2:13 tells us, "For it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose."
Even when we fail in our faithfulness, we must rest in God who works in us. We serve a God who is ever faithful to us, even when we fall short in our faithfulness to Him. As long as we rest in both the finished work of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit inside us, we can work faithfully, without burnout, in all that the Lord calls us to do.