Anyone in ministry can tell you that there are challenging days. Days that knock the wind out of you. Days that break your heart. Those who stick out the church splits, backbiting, and exhaustion do so because they have learned three important lessons from Christ. Oh, they’ve learned more than three things. Trust me. And they’ve learned some lessons over and over again. But I have come to know that if I want to endure, if I want to be found faithful to the end, I have to remember these three things:
Humility. Ministry is a breeding ground for the human ego. When things are going well, the people praise you. And, let’s be honest, it feels good. Being appreciated, being understood, being liked is something we all desire. We seek approval. But on the days when the crowd shouts, “Fire him,” you will need more than the cheers of the people. God tells us that, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18) I learned early on in ministry that if I was going to last in leading the church, I had best remember that it was Jesus doing the work. God requires a humble heart for His mission to be accomplished. He gives the increase. (1 Corinthians 3:6-8) There is nothing good in me. (Romans 3:10-12) This isn’t self-deprecation. We do not claim to be less than so that people might consider us more holy. It’s not deception. It’s not a false humility. Genuine ministers of the Gospel, whether they hold a title or not, see the brokenness inside themselves and others and cry out to the only one who can bring healing—Jesus.
Identity. Oh the struggle. Who am I? What defines me? Pastors, teachers, and leaders will wrestle with this and come out on the other side better for it. Those inside the church will seek to define you by their agendas. They will use their political rhetoric to sway you toward their vision. Those outside the church will label you without knowing you. And vice versa. There will be days you spend at Jesus’ feet seeking His wisdom to know what is true about what people are telling you. It can leave you empty and searching. Those of us trying to remain faithful to God’s calling in our lives will need to cling to who Jesus says we are. We will not succeed in Heaven’s eyes if we rely on people and positions to give us worth. We will find ourselves battling our own minds about who we know ourselves to be, but we cannot live in those places. We have to cling fiercely to Christ’s words over us, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” (2 Corinthians 12:9) We have to proclaim with John, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30) We can never forget that Jesus died for us too. He is our identity. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians2:20)
Eternity. This. This is it. This is the perspective that must remain our focus. Every day, day in and day out, mountain or valley, we chase after the lost for the glory of God. Where people spend eternity matters. We lead people to Jesus and disciple them to lead others. That’s it in a nut shell. This simple, but profound truth will be the rock that those who shepherd the bride of Christ stand on to finish the race well. We do everything because of eternity—ours and others. Jesus died for the world, and the command to take that message to the nations will keep us up at night and on our faces and in our communities until Jesus calls us home. It will carry us through. The love we have for Christ and a world that is headed for Hell unless they place their faith and trust in Him will be our resolve. Ministry has taught us that Jesus is enough.
To the weary, to the hurting, to the one in depression, to the one about to walk away, don’t give up my fellow soldier. Today is a new day. Jesus IS on the throne. Stay humble, keep your identity fixed in Christ, and remember that eternity makes it all worth while.