Was Jesus Ever Discouraged in His Ministry?

Youth Specialties
June 27th, 2016

Jesus is the Son of God, and he was also a great leader and minister. He had the message (okay—he was the message) and the life that changed the world. He got stuff done and made things happen. So it never occurred to me to wonder whether or not Jesus was ever discouraged during his ministry years.

If Jesus was never discouraged, and he’s the example I need to follow, then what’s my problem? Why are there times I feel so daunted? Even when good things are happening, I face disappointments and battles that leave me discouraged about my ministry.

So I prayed and asked him, “Jesus, were you ever discouraged during your ministry?”

As I prayed, it was almost as though I could hear Jesus laughing and asking, “Seriously?”

I began to think through some of the moments of Jesus’ ministry:

  1. Jesus’ prepared for his ministry.

Jesus spent 40 days fasting, and then the tempter showed up (Matthew 4:3). After Jesus put in so much hard work preparing for three short years of ministry, Satan dangled in front of Jesus things that would have crushed me. I thought my undergrad and seminary work was hard! But Jesus’ preparations were real-life situations and not contrived conversations in a classroom.

  1. Jesus built his team.

Jesus called and they followed—that doesn’t sound so bad. But look at the people he called—they weren’t a team that most organizations or churches would want to hire. The criticism of his selection process had to be enormous. Recruiting volunteers is no easy process.

  1. Jesus developed and trained his team.

How many times do we read that Jesus looked at his team and rebuked them? My paraphrase: “When are you going to get it? How many times do I have to tell you, show you, do with you, or send you out to do it . . . and you still don’t get it?” Discouraging? Yes. Frustrating? Yeah. The disciples were selfish, they fought over who got to sit closest to Jesus, they quickly forgot what they saw Jesus do, they questioned his authority, they wondered if he was for real, they came back from ministry events with no success, they were impulsive and argumentative, and one denied knowing him while another betrayed him. That would be a tough team to work with.

  1. Those Jesus served didn’t say thanks.

No matter what Jesus did for people, he didn’t receive much gratitude. When Jesus was on the cross, how many disciples showed up to be with him? They were afraid for themselves instead of being grateful for the opportunity they’d had to spend three years with the Son of God. Jesus radically changed the lives of lepers, the blind, the lame, and the dead . . . and so few said thanks. The one person who showed the greatest amount of gratitude was the woman rejected by Jesus’ team. I know we don’t always get a thank you for doing youth ministry, but what we receive is way better than what Jesus did.

  1. Jesus’ team complained about resources.

Jesus was speaking, and 5,000 people needed to eat. The disciples looked for the resources to get it done, and they didn’t think they had enough. Maybe what they had was enough to take care of themselves but not the crowds. The disciples said, “Send the crowds away!” (Matthew 14:15) and “Where could we get enough bread?” (Matthew 15:33). What did the disciples have to see before they would realize that Jesus could take care of everything? What was it going to take for them to see that Jesus could do the incredible?

  1. His own team questioned his identity.

Jesus walked on the water, and Peter asked, “Lord, if it’s you . . . ” (Matthew 14:28). Jesus had just preached, healed, and fed 5,000 . . . and Peter wondered if it was Jesus? Jesus told them that he came to die as a sacrifice for sin, but they never made the connection of his words and actions. The disciples gave up on Jesus in the garden when he asked them to pray with him.

Jesus experienced discouraging circumstances—he faced them because he came to serve others. Jesus knew he was the sacrifice for us—he knew his mission from the beginning of his ministry to his last earthly breath.

So why am I discouraged?

Maybe it’s because I make it all about me.

I allow disappointment to distract me from Jesus, so instead of looking to him, I focus on my stuff. Jesus kept his eyes on the end mission, but when I feel discouraged I can’t always see the ultimate goal. I need God to help me look beyond my discouragement—I need to keep my eyes on God and on his mission.

Have you ever let discouragement distract you from your God-given mission?

Can you refocus on your God-given mission?

Randy Davis is the National Director for Leadership and Partnerships for the National Network of Youth Ministries. Find him on Twitter, Facebook, and at NNYM’s website.

Youth Specialties

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