“Ministry is the easiest thing in the world,” said nobody.
Even Jesus wrestled with the troubles of ministry. As He considered the tremendous agony of His imminent death, His sweat gave way to blood as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane (Lk. 22:39-46). No one has had a tougher cross to bear.
Ministry is tough because life is tough. Since ministry is sacrificially meeting the individual needs of many lives, then ministry is nothing if it isn’t tough. Paul referred to it as work—a commitment to labor for the sake of another (1 Thes. 1:3). It’s a continuous pressing against the wind of apathy and weariness for the glory of God and the love of His people. It’s often a magnet for cruelty, pain, exhaustion, agony, embarrassment, doubt, and even danger.
Ministry, the glorious labor of love, is definitely tough.
If you’ve found yourself mumbling a quiet “Amen” once or twice already, then listen to this: Do not lose heart. The numbers and accomplishments from ministry mean nothing if the work destroys your heart.
Do not lose heart.
According to Paul, losing heart occurs when you become cowardly, timid, weak, hopeless, and fearful. It is when you lose boldness and courage. It simply means to give up.
Here are a few signs that you might be losing heart:
- resisting grace and grumbling
- failing to believe and doubting
- making sin weightier than the glory of Christ’s righteousness
- forgetting where spiritual power comes from
- being afflicted and believing it will crush you
- unwilling to carry the sufferings of Jesus and desiring comfort
- turning away from God’s forgiveness in fear
Troubles are sure to come. The labor, though it is very rewarding, can be hard work. But we are not to lose heart. Consider these three ways to not lose heart, as Paul provides in 2 Corinthians 4:16-17.
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
1. Value Spiritual Strength over Physical Strength
Paul understood the great paradox of the Christian’s strength: “for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). In order to not lose heart, we must value spiritual strength over physical strength.
Here, by way of an obvious condition, Paul admits that our physical bodies are breaking down and wasting away. We are like tires with years of wear and tear. But we should lean not on our own physical strength when it comes to ministry. Our value should be in the spiritual strength that comes gracefully through God’s Spirit.
2. Value Future Inheritance over Present Affliction
Next, in polarizing words, Paul compares our present affliction with our future inheritance. He says that today we experience “light momentary affliction,” but soon we will experience “eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”
These comparisons are important. Affliction is temporary and light. Glory is eternal and heavy. Affliction is here and then gone because it prepares us for what is to come—the glory that is beyond comparison. Our eternal inheritance is more valuable because that is where it is all adding up for our good.
3. Value Eternal Things over Temporal Things
Finally, Paul speaks to our meditations. He says “look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.” Why? Because “the things that are seen are transient.” These are things that have no home in eternity. Things that stay here on earth when you pass on to heaven.
Rather, we are to set our eyes on eternal things—namely, God and the souls of people. These are things that will continue when everything else passes. Fix your eyes on God. See people as God’s image bearers—eternal and valuable. They are not to be stepping stones, burdens, or obstacles. They are for whom Christ died (1 Cor. 8:11).
My fellow co-laborers, when you find yourself beginning to lose heart, resist it by resetting your values on spiritual strength, future inheritance, and eternal things. Do not lose heart.
How have the troubles of ministry diverted your values in the past year?