Yesterday as I was doing a task at church and listening to a podcast of an interview with a pastor of a church with 1200 members about his new book that was recently published and I began to get a little down. Here I am, scraping carpet glue off of a concrete floor because a pipe burst some months before and little had been done to get the nursery back in order. Instead it was moved to a temporary location in the church, and seemed almost in danger of it becoming permanent. If I didn’t step in and do something, my fear was that would be exactly what would happen. So I am, scraping up glue and listening to a pastor who has 1200 members, getting down and a bit angry. It didn’t take long before all I could think about was all the things wrong with the church. I was in a sinful, self-pitying state of mind.
As I kneeled on my hands and knees covered in goo and sweat, my mind began recalling a conversation Jesus had with his disciples. It came as a result of Jesus speaking to the rich young ruler. Of course, everyone is shocked that Jesus did not jump at the chance of having this well-resourced man in his throng. They were shocked the young man went away sorrowful; Jesus seemed just fine. Jesus had asked him to give everything away and follow him, but he refused. This sparked a question in Peter’s mind (whether it was a desperate one or an excited one we don’t know, but I think it was a desperate one).
“Then Peter said in reply, ‘See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have,'" (Matthew 19:27, ESV)
That’s the question I was really asking. Maybe you’ve asked it too. What about us!? It’s those moments of weakness in ministry where we get focused on ourselves and not Jesus and not the flock. What about us!?
It’s as if we have assumed that the Chief Shepherd has forgotten about his under-shepherd. But he is not like us. He has not turned his eye away. His answer is the same to us as it was to Peter. Yes, we have made sacrifices. Yes, we have done things that no one told us we would have to do. Things that were never on the job description and that go beyond the ministry of the Word and prayer. But Christ is not blind to those things. They are not insignificant.
Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first,” (Matthew 19:28-30, ESV).
Your ministry is hard. It’s difficult. Sometimes (most times?), it’s lonely. But it is necessary. It is worthwhile. It is rewarding, sometimes in this lifetime, but most definitely in the next. In those moments of despair, it is easy to say no to prayer and to roll your eyes at Scripture, but if we keep saying no and continue to ignore the truth but live in the lies that our hearts have deceived us with, we risk not only our spiritual health, but the spiritual health of our flocks. For we are “keeping watch over [their] souls, as those who will have to give an account,” (Hebrews 13:17, ESV). It is difficult to keep watch over their souls while allowing ours to languish in self-pity. May we continuously seek the Lord in prayer and in his Word. Let us so engulf ourselves in the truth that the lies get drowned out.
Chris is a pastor at Highland View Baptist Church in St. Charles, Mo. You can find him on Twitter (@c_doyle_hughes) or on his website (www.cdoylehughes.com).