Leading When You Are Running on Empty


“If your soul is healthy, no external circumstance can destroy your life. If your soul is unhealthy, no external circumstance can redeem your life.” John Ortberg

You matter to God, not just the work you do, or the ministry that you fulfill, but YOU matter to God. He is your provider and can meet your every need, He is your guide and can give you wisdom when you’re feeling lost, and He is your savior, who is your perfect superhero. You matter to this God, and He loves you.

And life happens. Ministry can lead you to a place where your motivation and drive feel like a dry desert, screaming for water. And the work doesn’t stop. Just because you are broken or feeling hollow doesn’t mean that everything can be put on hold. Right now, you might be running on empty but you still have to lead.

It might not be you but sometimes the soul of a leader needs help. So how do you refuel your soul in the midst of the chaos? Here are three quotes from the greatest leader of all time and a few challenges to help you lead when you are running on empty.

1. Soul Fatigue

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” – Jesus in John 15:4

If you are finding that your spirit is drained or tired maybe you need to focus on the Word and abide. Abide is a verb meaning to stay, remain, continue, or wait. To abide in Christ embodies a relationship with Jesus. It’s not asking the question, “Did I read my Bible today?” but rather, “Did I spend time staying connected with my Friend, today?” It’s not just praying before a meal, but honestly talking with your Father about your struggles and heart.

First Tip for Soul Fatigue: Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10. At this to your calendar as a reoccurring reminder. Pause, reflect and refocus because this time is topping off the tank in my soul.

Maybe for you, it’s the first thing you do in the morning.

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Mark 1:35

Second Tip for Soul Fatigue: Read the Word. Go on Bible Gateway and start The One Year Bible.

In order to lead others, you must first make sure that you are abiding in Christ, connected to Him, and allowing Him to refuel your soul. So before we move into the next point, Abide in this verse. These are the words of Jesus:

Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

To abide in Christ is medicine to your soul fatigue.

2. Soul Insignificance 

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20

With all authority and with the promise of being by our side, Jesus charged us with the mission of reaching the lost, and that is by no means insignificant. If your spirit lacks worth or you are struggling to feel valued, remember that Jesus has placed a high calling on your life. When our soul is struggling to find meaning we must remember that we serve a God who knows the number of hairs on our head and who meets all of our needs according to His riches.

You exist to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength and to love your neighbor as yourself.” Part of loving your neighbor is to open the door and introduce your neighbor to the God who loves them, and this is one of the most significant things we can do.

First Tip for Soul Insignificance: Step into your calling. Here’s what I think, maybe the reason you soul is feeling insignificant, is that you are failing to step into the mission that God has called you to. When do you feel most alive? What is the burden that God has placed on your heart? The way Andy Stanley puts it is, “What breaks your heart?”

Second Tip for Soul Insignificance: Share your faith. And no, I’m not talking about teaching the Bible lesson to the kids at church, I’m talking about talking with someone who is far from God and sharing with them the hope we profess. Yes, you are busy, but what is more important than making a disciple? Who is the last person you discipled? Can you name them, and how long has it been?

Stewarding your time and energy towards discipleship will energize your soul.

3. Soul Filth

Kill the Spider: Getting Rid of What’s Really Holding You Back by Carlos Whittaker

He spent decades trying to figure out how to be a “better person.” Time and time again, he strived for holiness only to get caught in the web of destructive habits, behaviors and thought patterns.

In Kill the Spider, Carlos shows us that it’s not enough to try and “stop sinning.” He teaches that knocking out deep-rooted habits and issues comes by treating the issue, not just the symptoms.

The greatest teacher of all time, Jesus, helps us out when it comes to discovering out soul filth. In Luke 6:45 Jesus says,

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

If you have not dealt with the sin in your life, then this will be reflected in your words and actions. Unrepentant sin causes a leader to have a short fuse, say things they will later regret, and lose the trust of those they are leading.

It’s been said that “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.” 

You can go through the motions and focus on surface level issues, but if you want to truly begin leading then you need to repent and get your soul right with God.

First Tip for Soul Filth: Confession – Talk with a counselor, coach, or mentor about the cobwebs in your life and determine the spider that you need to kill. Stop putting it off. Right now you could send a text and say, “Hey Richard, we need to talk. Can we meet Tuesday at lunch?” I know you’re busy but unless you make a plan your good intentions will always just be a future plan. Start that plan now and take your first step.

Second Tip for Soul Filth: Think the Word. My mentor, Jim Wideman has challenged me to take every thought captive to obey Christ. I have scripture memorized to put my spiders in their place. So here’s your tip, think the Word. Before leaving this room, use google and find a verse that speaks directly to the filth in your soul. Write it down and begin committing it to memory.

4. Soul Distractions 

Jesus said it best in Matthew 16:26, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”

I actually want to push back a little on this being busy statement. I think we have more time available than we give ourselves credit for. We overestimate how busy we are because we are so distracted.

Do you have an extra 5 minutes? What most people do…is fill ANY downtime, with their phone in their hand distracting them.

CBS News reported in 2012, 75 percent of Americans admitted to using their mobile phones while in the bathroom.

The time U.S. users are spending in mobile apps is continuing to grow; according to new data released in March by analytics firm Flurry, we’re up to 5 hours per day on our mobile devices.

So, is your soul distracted? I realize this is a weird week for your schedule but how many hours do you think you’ve been on your phone this week?

To find this information, iPhone users with the at least ios9 software can go to the ‘Settings‘ menu then select ‘Battery‘ (green icon), wait for it to load. They can then see a breakdown of their activity in the past 24 hours or 7 days, for example, with the apps they have spent the most time on at the top of a list, and the least popular at the bottom. Click the clock to see how many minutes or hours you have spent.

Android users, download the app “AntiSocial”

First Tip for Soul Distraction: Redeem the Distraction. Instead of trying to find the very last post on the bottom of that Facebook feed, read something that fills your soul tank. Instead of trying to amass more friends on social media, write a short prayer to your best friend. Later today when you pull your phone out to fill a void, recognize that and realize that only Jesus should be filling that space.

Second Tip for Soul Distraction: Set a time budget. What would it look like if next year when we pulled up the time we spent on our phones our number one app was the YouVersion Bible? Take a step in the right direction now by maybe saying that you won’t allow yourself to spend more than X amount of hours on such and such an app. Clear out this distraction, your soul doesn’t need it and there are more important things for you to spend your time on.

In order to lead for the long haul, you must continually get back on track and refuel your soul. Remember to abide in Christ, remember the significant mission He has called you to, deal with unrepentant sin, and remove distractions.

Probably one of the greatest tips that I can give you is a question that Jim challenged me with that has continued to roll around in my head. He asked:

“Has there ever been a time in your life where you were more in love with Jesus than you are right now?” And if the answer is yes, it’s your responsibility to fix it.



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