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.