Walking The Path With Warm Hearts
The countless hours spent pouring over the text of Scripture in sermon preparation. Long conversations striving to give biblical wisdom to others dealing with painful life issues. Witnessing in one-on-one conversations behind the scenes. Walking through all of the administrative and oversight issues of the local church. Pastor, you know as well as I do that those called to the ministry are constantly engaged in all of these pursuits alongside many more. It is our privilege to serve the Lord in the work of the ministry. I have seen the kind providence of God unfolding in allowing me to work for His glory. Yet, it often seems as though many men burnout giving way to fatigue, discouragement, and despair leading them to quit the work. They seem to give way to the quicksand burying down to the bottom.
I am not writing this article as someone who has 30 years of pastoral experience knowing how to solve every issue. My “Dear Young Pastor” blog series is meant to be a chronicle of lessons as I learn them not only for the betterment of others but so that they might be cemented in my own soul. I am blessed to have the opportunity to soak myself in the Word as I prepare sermons each week while also spending time in personal study. Additionally, I am closely connected to multiple men in the ministry who have trod this path for numerous decades. It seems to me that the key to maintaining your fervent passion for the work is to understand that Christ has called you as a gift of His mercy to serve in this role for His own glory. This point keeps you propelled to march forward in the work no matter how much resistance is pulling at your feet.
Understanding Ministry As A Gift
The hinge upon which my entire premise turns is the notion that being involved in the ministry is a gift of God’s mercy. Because if it is a gift of mercy, then we are owed absolutely nothing by God simply for being His laborer. My argument rests on solid ground since Paul was thoroughly convinced his ministry was a gift of the mercy of God. In 2 Corinthians 4:1 he says:
“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.”
-2 Corinthians 4:1
He has just closed out chapter 3 of this epistle by highlighting the glories of the new covenant in Christ. Now, he moves to assert that because he had been given this ministry by mercy he did not lose heart. Please remember, this is the same letter in which Paul will detail his life’s account of shipwrecks, near-death experiences, hunger, imprisonments, beatings, whippings, and exposure to the elements (2 Corinthians 11:16-33). Clearly, if anyone understood the adversity facing ministers of the Gospel it was the Apostle Paul. Still, he said it was a privilege granted to him by the mercy of God to stand firm with courage for Christ’s renown.
Dear pastor, brother, I do not know what path you are walking or the difficulties therein. My insight here is not based upon a deep understanding of your specific life, but rather on the enduring truth of God’s Word. Christ does not owe us an easy life, He died a brutal death so that we might live for eternity. He could have chosen any other creature to proclaim His Gospel, but He chose us as fallen human beings. It is His will to call the men He chooses to be pastors shepherding the church and teaching the Word. Because it is granted to us by mercy, that reality means no matter what the difficulty we should be astonished that Christ would use us in this way. Regardless of the beatings, persecutions, slander, gossip, hatred, or whatever else, we can keep charging ahead through the quicksand of this world knowing that our Lord has gifted us with the opportunity to serve Him.
The Practical Impact
If Paul could go through everything he did maintaining the understanding of ministry as a mercy gift, then we should be able to as well. The reality is that Paul’s comments follow on the heels of talking about Christ’s glory. His warm heart was driven to keep on in the midst of difficulty being fueled by a profound reality. The brightness of the eternal glory he was looking at made the difficulties present in his labor pale into the background. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says:
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” -2 Corinthians 3:18
We must know more about Christ and be constantly transformed by His glory. Our gaze must be captive to Him who died for us. Whatever pains we go through in this life are nothing compared to the grandeur of Christ or the incredible future we have with Him. Take heart, dear brother, and push forward. Your feet may be in the quicksand, but look up and see Christ pulling the rope around your waist bringing you to Himself. Each step, every day, brings you nearer to His eternal presence. Through the difficulty, He is refining you to be more like Himself. Sins are being cast aside. Righteousness is being soaked into your sanctification process. Most importantly, the Lord pulling you is being glorified. And know that it is by His power you will make it with certainty for He is the very One who has called you into this battle. By His mercy, you are enabled to be a warrior in the fight for the everlasting Kingdom of God.
Practically, as we serve day-by-day may we be men who pour our lives out in sacrificial service to God and others. Let us labor for the lost by declaring the Gospel to them so that they may be drawn to salvation by God’s grace. We must remain saturated in the Word daily feasting our souls upon Christ. It is vital for us to love our families by seeking to manage our own households well. Pushing forward, we must strive to invest in the congregation which God has called us to serve. Preach the Word. Pray for the sick. Counsel those who need guidance. Patiently endure whenever attacks come from others knowing you are called to contend for the faith and that your Lord was also slandered. And brother, do not lose heart. God has not promised you an easy race. Your champion, Christ, has already crossed the finish line having won the victory at the cross. Live on that basis knowing the victory is secure and we are simply one generation of men who received the baton from those who came before us passing it to the next. May we pour ourselves out expending everything we have in this effort so that in our lap of the race we may bring great honor to the Lord who gifted us by His mercy to serve Him!