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Steve Gilb Devotionals
Brought to the End of Myself
One important truth for all of us in our spiritual life and walk with the Lord is that in order for God to fully use us, we must come to the end of ourselves, so that we fully realize our own weaknesses as fallen human beings and are thus made aware of how much we need Jesus. I’d heard this truth so many times in my life, and it had become quite cliché. But eventually I came to experience it for myself, and this is what I want to tell about in this post.
I was in my late 20s and was very fulfilled in the missionary work I was doing in Mexico with my dad and others. My musical talents were being used for witnessing and follow-up. I was becoming more fluent in Spanish, and also quite proficient in distributing Christian products, and raising funds for our mission projects and trips. Also, I’d recently learned to use a computer, with the help of assistive screen-reading technology. This enabled me to spiritually feed and minister to people via email. Folks were also coming to me on a regular basis for counsel and prayer. If there was ever a time where I felt on top of the world, this was it.
The success I was experiencing began to make me too comfortable, to the point where I became lethargic spiritually. I was very engrossed in my work and did not spend nearly as much time with Jesus as I should have. I wasn’t very faithful to hear from Him about what I did, which caused me to often act on my own impulses and emotions, rather than through the leading of His Spirit. As a result, in 2011 I experienced two failed relationships in a row. Both were very painful.
By the end of that year, I had truly reached the end of myself, and I had absolutely no idea how I would tackle the new year to come. I felt not just weak; I felt totally finished. Completely exhausted, without a drop of strength left to continue. I also felt like a total failure. My successful, fruitful ministry mattered little to me now. After all, what was the point in trying to help improve the lives of others when I couldn’t even keep my own life in order?
I took full advantage of the time of rest we had after Christmas outreach to regroup and dive into God’s Word. I dug into the books Power in Praise and Prison to Praise by Merlin Carothers. I read them multiple times. I was amazed at the testimonies he told of how peoples’ lives were transformed when they began praising the Lord through everything they’d experienced, including dreadful mistakes and failures. Some were healed, others were freed from vices, while others simply came to a greater revelation of God’s love for them. All this was happening because of praising the Lord and giving thanks in everything, like the Bible says to do. (See 1 Thessalonians 5:18.)
I knew it couldn’t hurt me to try it, so I did. I gave thanks for all that had brought me to my current state, though my flesh felt anything but thankful. While doing this, it was as if I was suddenly elevated, so that the pain and loss were way beneath me. This was when I had the experience mentioned in the Anchor post “Faith Versus Sight,” where I sensed the presence of angels and heavenly beings after I gave thanks for things I hadn’t previously been thankful for.
As I continued to praise the Lord, He began revealing new things to me. He told me I was now in a good position to receive enhanced spiritual gifts if I wished, and that they would take my work for the Lord to a new level. How could I refuse?
It was then that I received my first baptism in the Holy Spirit. The best way to describe it is that an unexplainable comfort and peace spread all over me. The recent pain I had experienced was washed away, and my weary, exhausted soul was replenished.
I began studying about spiritual gifts in the Bible, and went on to receive the gift of healing and the gift of tongues—both of which have greatly enriched my prayer life and my service for the Lord. I’m still growing in them today. Along with these gifts came the anointing to write, which I continue to do.
I felt more empowered and strengthened than ever before. It felt wonderful to no longer do things in my own might or power, but by His Spirit. (See Zechariah 4:6.)
Though these new gifts did increase my fruitfulness as a missionary and minister of the gospel, I have not lost sight of the fact that I’d come to the end of myself before receiving them. That time back in 2011 wasn’t the only time I’ve been brought to the end of myself, but it was definitely the most memorable.
If you feel you’re at the end of yourself, let this testimony encourage you that it’s not the end. As you yield to the Lord and praise Him at all times, you will come to see the beginning of a brand-new era where you will be surprised and blessed to see what you are capable of through Jesus’ power in you. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:7: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”
A Wake-up Call to Thankfulness
One morning I got up in a fretful mood, unhappy with myself. I had slept well the previous night, but because my phone had not been adequately charged, my alarm had not gone off. I realized I had slept in for an hour and a half.
Though I did not have appointments scheduled for any specific time that day, it was nevertheless the beginning of the week with lots to do. I had articles to work on, texts to edit, and songs to practice for upcoming performances. I was hoping to make substantial progress on these fronts, but I figured I would fall short of my goal—all because of not waking up on time.
I went about my morning routine thinking of how much further ahead I would have been had I only remembered to charge my phone sufficiently the night before. The more I thought on this, the more heavily it weighed on me, leaving me with no motivation to move forward. I knew I obviously could not continue in this state of mind, so I asked the Lord what to do to get myself out of it. He replied: “Here you are berating yourself for not having woken up earlier when the reality is you are very fortunate to have woken up at all. You forget that every night there are people who go to sleep and don’t wake up in this life ever again.”
I knew the Lord was right. As I thought about what He said, I realized that there are also people who go to bed at night with all as it should be in their lives, only to have things suddenly change for the worse the next day by unexpected tragedies such as accidents, illness, or bereavement. Knowing how fortunate I am in contrast, how could I complain about having accidentally overslept, as though it were some terrible mistake?
My day getting off to a late start did not change the fact that it was a day which the Lord had made, and I should rejoice and be glad in it. Though I couldn’t go back in time and wake up earlier, I had everything I needed in order to make good use of the rest of the day. I was healthy, and my computer was working well. I had my guitar, which I love to play. I also had my voice to sing with, which was something to be grateful for. I could walk, I could talk, I could breathe. My heart was beating, and my vital organs were functioning. I had no reason to complain whatsoever.
Though I’m blind, I know that there are plenty of people with greater disabilities than mine, who still glorify and praise God every day in spite of the struggles, difficulties, and inconveniences they have to deal with. Why shouldn’t I do the same?
With determination, and a heart now overflowing with thankfulness, I went about my day. This included taking some much-needed time to read God’s Word and pray before plunging into my work, no matter how late it was. And guess what? By God’s grace, I ended up getting lots done, making good progress on all fronts.
I recalled Jeremiah’s words of Lamentations 3:22–23: “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” Every morning that I wake up is a miraculous gift. It’s all thanks to God’s mercy, compassion, and faithfulness that I am awake and alive at all. May I never forget this important lesson, which served as a wake-up call to thankfulness.
Growing Through the Challenges of Change
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I recently moved from Indiana, where I’d lived for the past five years, to Northern California where my brothers are. The Lord had spoken specifically to me about this move, and I’d planned it for November 2020. But because of the increased travel restrictions put in place at that time, I had to delay it until the end of April 2021. The five-month waiting period was difficult, but I kept busy and active, and the time flew by quickly. I also learned many valuable lessons on faith and patience.
When all was ready, one of my brothers came to Indiana and spent a few days with us, and I flew back to California with him. We were scheduled to fly from Indiana to Dallas, where we would catch a connecting flight to San Jose. But about an hour into the first flight, one of the passengers had a medical emergency, so we had to make an unscheduled landing at the nearest airport, which was St. Louis.
After a while of waiting, we were told that the plane had to be inspected by maintenance in order to ensure that it was safe to continue on our journey. Therefore, all of us passengers were asked to disembark with our carry-on baggage until further notice.
By the time we were cleared to get back on the plane and continue on to Dallas, it was obvious that we would be unable to make our connecting flight. Since there were no other flights to San Jose that day, we had to get a flight for the next day and spend the night in Dallas.
When we got there and went to baggage claim to pick up our check-in luggage, it was nowhere to be seen. We became concerned when the last bag was taken off the carousel, and we still hadn’t seen our luggage. The person at baggage claim and the airline app on my brother’s phone were telling us two different things about the whereabouts of our luggage. After a while, we were able to ascertain that our bags would be loaded onto the next day’s flight to San Jose. With great relief we headed to the hotel we’d been put up in, and tried to enjoy the night as best we could.
I must admit I was still very concerned about our luggage, which was the majority of the possessions I’d brought with me—including my guitar. I worried there would be a mix-up and our bags would be lost. But I also knew this was a chance to grow in faith, so I did my best to commit the whole thing to the Lord.
I was very thankful my brother was traveling with me. He helped me stay positive, reminding me to be grateful that we were still alive, healthy, and able to travel at all. He was confident that our luggage would catch up with us, but he also reminded me that most material possessions are replaceable, and that they aren’t what life is all about anyway.
We slept surprisingly well that night, and had a safe, uneventful flight to San Jose the next morning. Once again, our luggage was not on the carousel. My brother went to the baggage claim office, and when he returned, he had all our bags with him. Not a thing was lost. Praise the Lord!
The topic of change is one I’ve thought a good deal about lately—especially since my move, and consequently have had to adjust to a number of new things. I’ve been searching the Bible lately, and have been amazed upon realizing that it contains so much more insight and counsel for times of change than I was even aware of.
The funny thing about my favorite Bible verse on change is that the word “change” isn’t used in it. But this scripture, Ecclesiastes 3:1, and many of the following verses in this chapter, make it clear that change is an unavoidable part of life: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”
These words clearly indicate the coming, going, and replacing of the different seasons and phases of life. Whatever we see come is eventually meant to go, and whatever goes will be replaced by something new. This is the cycle of change.
Yet change is seldom, if ever, a walk in the park for any of us. I’ve found out many times that even the changes I earnestly desire and long for are by no means without challenge. This has held true for all kinds of changes I’ve experienced, from relocating to learning the use of a new musical instrument or electronic device. There’s no such thing as changing without stretching, but in the stretching is found the growing.
The move I just made from one U.S. state to another was something I’ve been champing at the bit to do for a long time. I’m very happy to have finally done it, but I also must admit that there have been a few times when I’ve become frustrated with some of the new challenges and had to ask God for His help, which He never fails to give. I’ve also been hanging on to Galatians 6:9: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (NIV).
Even with all the bumps in the road, I can honestly say that this recent change has been by far one of the best growing experiences I’ve ever had as it serves to teach me greater responsibility, adaptability, independence, perseverance, and so much more.
Things are currently going well as I get settled into my new situation and adjust to new routines and challenges. One of my favorite things about my new location is being closer to the ocean, as you can see in the photo I’ve included. The sound of the waves fills me with such peace—reminding me that God is always with us on this ocean of life no matter what might be happening. All we have to do is trust Him. “The Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him” (Psalm 32:10 NIV).
Keeping the Passion Alive
Lessons on Avoiding Burnout in My Ministry
Ever since I first felt God’s call as a teenager to devote my life to spreading the gospel, I’ve had a strong passion for doing so. But keeping that passion alive can be challenging at times.
I’ve seen in my life and in the lives of others how common it is to start out with a genuine fire and passion for doing the Lord’s work, but after a while, this fire sometimes flickers low so that our ministry becomes more of a drudgery or even a heavy burden. Still, we keep going like a car running on empty, and we sometimes end up getting burned out.
Though my experience with burnout has been relatively mild, in that it only affected me emotionally without bleeding over into the physical, I’ve definitely been through it. Since that experience, I’ve learned some key things which are helping prevent me from falling into it again. I will share some of them below.
It’s true that we all have our preferred methods of witnessing, which we are best at and feel most comfortable with. While Scripture does say that we should abide in our calling (see 1 Corinthians 7:24), we should also be open and moldable should the Lord call us to try new ways and means of getting His work done. As Isaiah 43:19 says, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” (NIV). Being stuck in the same rut day in, day out, can lead to boredom, and boredom can lead to burnout.
I’m so grateful for the different outreach methods the Lord has led me to through the years which helped me to stay inspired, motivated, and challenged. As a teenager, my ministry began with soul-winning, singing, and distributing Christian publications. While I still do some of these things to a degree, growing in the use of technology has opened one new door after another. When I first learned to use a computer, I had an email ministry for several years, sending out spiritually feeding material to many. I also started writing articles for Christian publications. Later, when I learned to use a smartphone, my email ministry was converted into a WhatsApp group. A year or so after that group was formed, I found out about Zoom and how popular it was becoming as a platform for online meetings, and I began using it to hold weekly Bible studies with some of the WhatsApp group members. Besides the original Spanish-speaking group, an English-speaking group was also started more recently.
Mind you, these steps and stages of growth took place over a period of many years. The point I’m making is that it’s important for us to stay on the lookout for new ways and methods to share God’s message with the world, without getting stuck on any particular method. Stepping out to try new things and keeping ourselves challenged is a great way to remedy and even prevent burnout. In some cases, a change of location can be beneficial. Openness to change is crucial.
One tendency that can quickly lead to burnout is that of operating from a sense of duty or obligation, instead of sincere inspiration and joy. If I find myself no longer deriving joy and fulfillment from sharing God’s Word with people, it’s important that I stop and think about the reason why. If it’s because of personal situations that are weighing on me, then I need to cast those on the Lord instead of lugging them around in my heart. When I do this, I always regain the motivation and inspiration to continue in my ministry.
If my sense of joy has been robbed because I’m focusing on trying to please others and meet their demands, it’s important that I remember the admonition in Colossians 3:23 about doing whatever I do as unto the Lord and not unto men. I can say that focusing primarily on trying to please others equals traveling the quickest route to burnout. But doing what I do as unto the Lord, with His joy shining in my heart, equals freedom and fulfillment.
In the daily course of my ministry, I receive many requests for prayer and counsel regarding a variety of situations and problems—health, finances, spiritual growth, marital, you name it. For a long time, I used to easily get overwhelmed and overburdened, and this contributed to the burnout I experienced. But the more I studied God’s Word, and thanks also to the godly counsel of others, I gradually came to see that I’m not responsible to carry people’s burdens, let alone solve their problems. That’s God’s job, and His alone. All I can do is point them to Him and His Word, and encourage them to cast their cares and burdens on Him, like I need to do with mine.
Sure, the Lord might sometimes give me insight into what they are going through and inspire me with some counsel to offer them. But this happens when I’m at peace and not overwhelmed. The natural tendency of my flesh is to immediately feel like I have to somehow solve someone’s problem or situation when they tell me about it. But I’m now learning to counteract that urge by saying to myself, “No, flesh. This is not my burden to carry. God’s Word says I should cast it on the Lord, so that’s exactly what I’ll do.”
It’s an honor and a privilege being able to spiritually minister to people on a daily basis. But amidst all the pouring out, it’s crucial that I devote adequate time to getting spiritually replenished through personally partaking of God’s Word, and through inspiring, Word-based fellowship with others where I can receive good teaching, counsel, and prayer support. I had previously allowed myself to think that the need to be prayed for, counseled, etc., was just for those I ministered to, and that I was somehow above it. Oh, how wrong I was! This erroneous idea was, no doubt, the biggest contribution to the burnout I went through. Now that I’ve forsaken it, there is much more balance, joy, peace, and harmony in my life.
While it pleases God when we serve Him to the utmost, doing our best to lead others to His kingdom, burnout is by no means part of His plan for our lives. His Word says, “Serve the Lord with gladness” (Psalm 100:2 KJV). It also says that we should find satisfaction in what we do. (See Ecclesiastes 2:24.) Maybe you’ve been experiencing burnout or have noticed that the fire of passion with which you began your ministry has started to dwindle. Whichever the case, I hope and pray that the things shared in this post will help inspire you, renew you, and keep your passion alive.