Encouragement for Discouraged Ministers

Encouragement for Discouraged Ministers

I was given the assignment to “write an encouraging message to preachers who just need a weekly “’pick me up.’” That sounded easy enough. But then I almost immediately launched into perhaps the most discouraging and trying stretch of my entire ministry. I put off writing the piece because I was struggling to find encouragement myself. Yet the deadline loomed and the struggles were not over. So, I’m going to share with you some things that kept me going in that season of trial.

Winston Churchill once said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.” Ministry is going to have its highs and lows. The highs are exhilarating! The endorphins flow when you preach the good news of the Gospel of Christ. There’s just no feeling like knowing that you have played a part in rescuing a lost soul when someone responds to that gospel. The opportunities to help others through their dark times gives such fulfillment.

However, the lows can be crushing. Nobody will treat you better than the brethren, and nobody will treat you worse. This is where the courage to continue comes in. When your efforts are thankless here on earth is the perfect time to recall the One whose approval really matters. Remember the words of Hebrews 6:10, “For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.” A ministry fulfilled in a way that shows love toward God and His people is a successful ministry, and should be the constant goal of every preacher.

It also helps to know that each of us is a part of a bigger story, the scope of which we likely will not know in our lifetimes. We merely present ourselves to be tools used by God in the ways that He sees fit. Our hope is to prove useful to the Lord as He achieves His purposes. The preacher writes in Ecclesiastes 3:11-12, “He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from beginning event to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime.” Our ministries are a journey, not a destination. There comes no point at which we have “arrived,” for as long as life continues so do the peaks and valleys.

Have you ever contemplated where “happily ever after” occurs in the story? It is always at the end, because the only way to reach “happily ever after” is to stop telling the story. If the story continued, then the protagonists would eventually meet more challenges. The triumph of today gives way to the tragedy of tomorrow, which is eventually replaced by another victory.

The point of all of this is to say embrace the story of your ministry. Enjoy the good days along the way without worrying about the troubles of the future. That’s not to say that the troubles won’t come, they surely will. But why should they rob today of its joy? Fill your time with doing good on behalf of your Lord. Rejoice in the day of adversity, knowing that however this page turns out, you know how your book ends. Provided you have endured faithfully, then your story ends with “Well done, good and faithful servant… enter into the joy of your master.” In other words, you live happily ever after.

Are You In Love?

Are You In Love?

Sometimes in the rise and fall of romantic relationships, you might observe someone who seems to really love the idea of being married. They like the idea of getting to have a wedding and wear a nice ring. They like the trappings and benefits of marriage. They like the idea of getting a home together, and having children. They might even obsess over the rules of marriage: the husband is supposed to do this and that, while the wife does such and such. They might get the wording of the vows just right. Everything seems perfect about it except… they don’t actually love the other person. They love marriage, but not their spouse.
How well would such a relationship turn out? That marriage would soon feel empty and ritualistic. They would eventually feel trapped and frustrated by the rules that bound them to the spouse they grew to despise, even if they continued to faithfully abide by those rules. There might be bitter disputes over the precise applications of the rules that they two are bound to follow.
We can recognize that such a situation is backwards. If a person loves their spouse, then they will gladly abide by the rules of marriage that bind them together. Love creates obedience; obedience does not create love. Jesus affirms this order in John 14:15 when he said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
At times people approach religion in an equally backwards way. They are converted to the church rather than to the Christ. They are fiercely dedicated to the rules of the church (the Bride of Christ), but have little affection for the bridegroom (Jesus). They may have the forms and patterns of Christianity down to perfection, but still have a religion that is as empty and ritualistic as the marriage we described earlier.
Please don’t misunderstand my implication. Rules and obedience DO matter. However, our obedient submission ought to be the result of our love for Jesus, not a substitute for it. After all, without love perfect knowledge and great service would be useless according to 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.
Are you in love with Jesus? Or just with the idea of being a Christian?

The Golden Rule and Teaching

The Golden Rule and Teaching

We all want our friends to go to heaven. We want them to be sure of the joy of God’s salvation. We want them to live in a way that pleases God. Sometimes we know that they need to make some kind of change in order to realize those goals. Maybe you’re seeing something they have missed. How do we help them change?

The first thing that we should do is put ourselves in their place. If we believed as they do, then how would we want the truth to be presented to us? This is right along with the Golden Rule—Matthew 7:12, “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” We would likely prefer to be engaged in a kind and respectful way rather than a harsh and demeaning way (Gal. 6:1). We would want the truth presented with compassionate care for our well-being rather than a haughty, condescending tone (Rom 12:16). We would want to be reasoned with rather than sharply rebuked (Acts 17:17; 1 Tim. 5:1-2).

We must never present the truth of Christ without the love of Christ. Our passion must never be devoid of compassion. Remember that sinners are not our enemies, but rather they are precious souls in need of Christ. Satan is the real enemy, but even the archangel Michael “did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, ’The Lord rebuke you!’” (Jude 9). If even the archangel felt the need to leave railing judgment up to the Lord, even dealing with something as evil as Satan, then perhaps we should be hesitant to offer railing judgement against our fellow man who is not pure evil. Instead, let us reason together with love and respect as we attempt to accurately discern God’s will for our lives.