The goal before us in ministry is to finish strong—to persevere. So we can say at the end of our lives, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the course. I have kept the faith. Therefore there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that day. And not to me only, but also to those who love His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
Finishing strong—developing finish line faith—takes perseverance. And perseverance requires something we tend to overlook in ministry: the Farmer Principle.
It’s a lesson that I have had to learn painfully in my life during four or five different seasons. I’m a Martha, not a Mary. I’m a work-for-God person. But I have had to learn the hard way that if you don’t feed yourself first, you don’t have anything to give people.
During specific times in my life—from all the way back to college, and early on as a pastor, and several years ago on sabbatical and in a smaller way more recently—the Lord again brought me back to 2 Timothy 2:6. “The farmer that labors must be the first to partake of the fruits.” You can’t take everything you have, and give it away, give it away, give it away. If you’re not putting in first, the strength is draining out of your life.
Listen ministers, faithful Children’s Ministry workers, Small Group leaders, Student Ministry, and all the rest of those who serve Christ—the farmer that labors must be the first to partake of the fruits.
That’s the Farmer Principle. If you’re not feeding yourself spiritually, you’re going down. You can come into all kinds of things for God in the church and in other places, but if you’re not feeding yourself first you are becoming more and more ripe, more and more susceptible to an attack by the enemy.
Feed yourself first. It’s part of learning how to persevere.