ENCOURAGEMENT FOR STRUGGLING PASTORS (Timothy 5)
Is there someone in your church who criticizes what you? Does someone say your sermons aren’t good enough? Is somebody making it hard for you to minister? Does it make you wonder if you should be a pastor and sometimes feel about quitting? Welcome to the ministry.
Timothy isn’t the only one who struggled as a young pastor, or even later in life. We all do. I faced some of the same difficulties Timothy did: fear of what people thought and said, dislike of confrontation, being a victim of gossip and criticism and opposition from strong-willed Christians who thought they knew God’s will better than I did. More than one person wanted me to leave the church, even quit the ministry. I struggled with some of those for my whole ministry. I didn’t clearly see it at the time, but in hindsight I realize God was allowing it to cause me to face my weaknesses and grow in my faith. It was part of His plan to bring me closer to Him and help me become more like Jesus. I could have let it destroy my ministry and end my usefulness for God or I could have pushed on despite it and continued to do my best. Satan was trying to discourage me and make me ineffective, and sometimes it almost worked.
God never promised ministering would be easy or that he would silence all opposition (Matthew 10:16). He allows it for our growth (Psalm 119:71). Remember, God does not want us to get our affirmation from the people we lead but only from Him (Galatians 1:10). If we try to please others we won’t be pleasing God, it’s one or the other (Galatians 1:10). The way to succeed in this is to stay close to God in prayer (Luke 18:1). The only approval we want is His: “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21, 23). If pastoring was easy and fun, everyone would want to be a pastor.
Jeremiah is a good example of this. He was called by God to minister. God told Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). Jeremiah responded that he was too young and didn’t know how to do what God wanted (Jeremiah 1:6). God reassured Jeremiah He would be with him, but that he would be criticized and rejected because the people would not follow God (Jeremiah 1:14-16). He was told from the start that his ministry would be a failure in the eyes of the world. God then warned him to not fear people for He would be with Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:17-19). His message was to be one of coming judgment and they would fight against him. Clearly this was not a popularity contest because Jeremiah would be rejected and hated by all.
Jeremiah was God’s willing servant. He was serving the Lord; the Lord wasn’t serving him. When we agree to minister for God, we are saying we will do whatever He wants no matter how hard or difficult it is. We can’t look at the response of the people or how successful we think we are. We are just to stay faithful as Jeremiah did. He served for 40 years but had only 2 converts (Jeremiah 32:12; 36:1–4; 45:1–5; 38:7–13; 39:15–18). Isaiah ministered longer and had less converts (Isaiah 6). The people Jeremiah and Isaiah spoke to never did repent, in fact they martyred both Jeremiah and Isaiah. Yet in God’s eyes both were faithful prophets. Remember them when you think you have it hard. Get your eyes off yourself and how hard you have it and keep your eyes on Jesus. After all, He was rejected, too, and if the world rejected Him, they will reject those who follow Him as well (John 13:16).
What Jeremiah did have was God’s promise: “They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord (Jeremiah 1:19). We have God’s promises as well to rely on. God promises to meet our needs (Philippians 4:19) and give us His peace (Philippians 4:6-7). He promises to give us strength to do whatever He wants us to do (Philippians 4:13; Isaiah 40:31). He will never leave us of forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:5-6; Hebrews 13:5). He will guide you (Proverbs 3:5-6). His grace is sufficient for whatever you face (2 Corinthians 12:9). He won’t give us more than we can handle with His help (1 Corinthians 10:13) and He will use all that happens for our growth and His glory (Romans 8:28). Therefore we don’t have to fear anyone or anything (Psalm 118:6; Hebrews 13:6).
Don’t expect the ministry to be easy, not if you are following God 100% and serving Him alone. Don’t let it bother you when others despise you (1 Timothy 4:12). Never give in to fear (2 Timothy 1:7) but be strong in God’s grace (2 Timothy 2:1).
“I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves” (Matthew 10:16).
“It is good that I was afflicted,” the psalmist said. “That I might learn thy ways” (Ps. 119:71).
What is the hardest part of ministry for you?
How is God using that to help you grow more like Jesus?
What promises does He give that you need to rely on during those times?
cto Rev. Dr. JERRY SCHMOYER
Christian Training Organization
(India Outreach, Spiritual Warfare, Family Ministries, Counseling, World View)
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