Boundary 1: Listen to the Father, not the crowd.

When I feel out of breath from doing too much, I ask myself, How did I get into doing all this? How did it all end up on me?

At first, I list the immediate reasons: The project took longer than I thought it would. I wasn't planning on two people quitting the committee.

But when I dig deeper, I usually find buried in my heart the real reason: I wanted people to like me. My desire to help was partly a desire to love and help someone, but it was also my insecurity saying, "Love me! Affirm me! If I volunteer, maybe I'll get that!"

Jesus never operated that way. If he had, he would have had thousands of bosses, because literally thousands of people wanted his help. But Jesus had only one boss: his Father. "I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me" (John 8:28).

Obeying his Father, Jesus sometimes helped people so much he didn't even have time to eat (Mark 3:20–21). He obeyed and gave up dinner.

But other times, Jesus' Father must have said, "Leave those people behind and come away with me," because Jesus abandoned the crowds and went off by himself, to pray and rest (see Matt. 14:22–23).

Boundary 2: Find your specific mission.

God hasn't asked us to do everything, to go everywhere, to help everyone.

Jesus had a specific, narrowly defined ministry. While Jesus was on earth, he could have traveled the Mediterranean world-Greece, Italy, Turkey and Spain. But Jesus stayed within one tiny chunk of the world, mostly within the regions of Judea and Galilee.

Why? That's where the Jewish people were, and they were his primary calling (Matt. 15:24). Jesus poured himself out for people, but within the limits of the calling God the Father had given him. He focused.

Boundary 3: Accept your human needs and limitations.

In Jesus' time, there were no cars or planes, so he had to walk—miles. Walking miles takes a long time. You can't do much ministry during that time. All you can do is look at the countryside and talk with friends and recharge. At night, there were no electric lights, so Jesus looked at the stars and then went to sleep. For Jesus simply to make it through one day, he had to have slow times, rest times, recharging times.

God designed us with human limitations. We need to eat, sleep, and rest. We get sick and have to slow down. We need time to work hard but also time to play.

Yes, we may choose to sacrifice sleep in order to pray, or give up food in order to serve people. But those situations tend to be exceptions, not rules.

But, be willing to risk. Although I try to set healthy boundaries for my life, God sometimes calls me to risk. That doesn't undermine anything I've already said. It's simply a reminder that the Christian life is an adventure. To live it, we are going to have to depend on an adventurous, powerful God. He is the only true source of strength.


1. Which of the three boundaries is easiest for you? Most difficult?

2. How can healthy boundaries actually help you to take risks outside those boundaries?

3. What does 2 Cor. 4:16–18 say to this topic? To your life right now?

Go Deeper

How to Prevent Ministry Burnout

Ministry is hard. You've heard the stories and may even know leaders who have left their calling. Maybe you're struggling with your own church conflict, problems, or perceived failures right now. Or you're just interested in keeping your ministry healthy. These articles will help keep your priorities in order, your integrity high, and your attitude positive when things get tough.