Abide in Me Devotional

by PCA’s National Women’s Ministry Team

(This is a free download.)

Dear Weary Ministry Leader,

The work of ministry is often hard, isn’t it? It stretches and pulls us to our limits. Rarely do things go smoothly. There is always some obstacle or barrier in our way. Unexpected challenges pop up on the regular. Just when we think we’ve got it all figured out, a crisis emerges, and we’re left with no idea what to do.

This is just in a normal season of ministry! Laboring for the church has been especially hard during a pandemic. We are all weary and worn from all the ups and downs, all the disunity and disruption and uncertainty. Our hearts ache from the losses we’ve endured. For some of us, we’ve reached our limit and feel like the proverbial candle burnt at both ends. We’ve exhausted our resources and have nothing left to give.

Dear friends, you are not alone in your weariness. We’ve all felt the same, especially after the last two years of ministry during a pandemic. Many of us wonder how we will endure. We all feel that need for refreshment. For strength. For hope.

We need the soul-filling nourishment only Christ provides.

When our Savior approached the end of His ministry here on earth—when the hour fast approached for His crucifixion—He gave His disciples some final instructions. This teaching takes place in John 13‒17 and is referred to as the Upper Room Discourse. In these chapters, we see Jesus prepare His disciples for what was to come after He left them. In the moment, they likely did not realize the significance of all He was teaching, for they had yet to grasp the fact that He would die. They still clung to the hope that He was the Messiah-Conqueror who would defeat the Romans, rather than the Messiah-Lamb who came to conquer sin and death on their behalf. It wasn’t until after Jesus rose from the dead that things began to sink into place and all that that Jesus had taught them made sense.

If you were going to leave a final message to those you loved most, what would you say? You’d likely voice your love for them. You might talk about your hopes for them and their future. You might remind them of things you taught them. You might even encourage them to not remain in their grief but to continue forward in their lives after you’ve gone. In Jesus’s final message, He both taught and showed the disciples what it looks like to serve in love. He instructed them in what would happen to Him and why He needed to leave them. He told them about the importance and necessity of the Holy Spirit. He prepared them for persecution and suffering. He told them about their vital union with Him. And He prayed to Father on their behalf.

Jesus knew all that these dear men would face in the coming days, weeks, and years. He knew the coming persecution and martyrdom. He knew that false teachers would come. He also knew that the evil one would create division and disunity. As a result, Jesus knew the disciples would be tempted to despair. They would face doubts. They would also feel ill-equipped, uncertain, and weary in their ministry. So, He taught His final lesson to give them what they would need to endure.

The Upper Room Discourse served to encourage and equip the disciples for all they encountered after Jesus ascended into heaven. In the coming months and years, they likely turned back to those final instructions, drawing strength and encouragement from the truth of their unity with Christ through His Spirit. When they grew frustrated with leading their wayward flocks, they would remember Jesus washing their feet—the God-Man who left the glorious halls of heaven to live a life of humility and sacrifice and called them to do the same (John 13:14-15). When they felt depleted and spent, they would remember the truth that “apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). They would then abide in Christ and be refreshed by their union with Him. When they faced uncertainty, when they didn’t know what to say or what to do, they would remember the Spirit at work in them who would, “teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26). And when they felt lost and alone, they would remember the glorious truth that they are united to Christ and God loves them as much as He loves the Son (John 17:23).

For weary ministry leaders, these chapters in John encourage and equip us as well. They teach us more of who Christ is and what He has done. They show us His great love for us and how our own ministry is done in light of His work for us. These passages remind us of our own union with Christ and how we can’t do anything apart from Him. They remind us, too, of the Holy Spirit at work in us and how we need to depend upon that work. And they give us promises to cling to: “I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Our National Women’s Ministry Team wrote this devotional offering as a gift to place in your hands upon re-entry to life and ministry. We encourage you to spend the month of March seeking to abide with Jesus as you marinate in the Upper Room Discourse. Soak in the truths of who Jesus is for you. Remember that you are not alone in your labors for the Kingdom. Abide in Him and receive the spiritual nourishment your soul needs.

We are praying you will see rich spiritual fruitfulness as you study this individually and, even better, with the women on your women’s ministry team.

Your fellow laborer,

Christina Fox