“A new Barna study discovered that 38 percent of pastors have given real, serious consideration to quitting the ministry in the past year.” – Christianity Today, February 2, 2022
After reading Paul’s account this morning of doing what God called and sent him to be and do, while enduring beatings, shipwrecks, flogging, slander, and humiliations of all sorts, I wonder about what our motivations are as ministry leaders these days? What really is causing over a third of us to consider quitting? I wonder for myself and others, how holy are our motivations in the first place? Why do we do what we do? Who are we? What do we expect of others we are going and telling, making followers of Jesus?
Do we expect those we are leading to Jesus to be exactly like us? Are we pointing people to us instead of Jesus? Are we frustrated by the lack of growth in character by those we are trying to lead by our own standards? Are we trying to be in control of all possible situations and scenarios? Are we discouraged by our own finances? Are we discouraged by those who hire us to lead God’s people? Are we humiliated by what people say about us? How honest are we with God and ourselves? Are we asking God what HE wants? What are the real frustrations?
What is leading a third of us to throw in the towel?
Then I think of Jesus who took the servant’s “towel” and wrapped it around his waist. Jesus went down to his knees, bending low, taking the position of a servant and with a basin of water, washed his disciples’ feet—all those dirty feet—the beloved and the betrayer—all for the sake of saving them while showing them the FULL extent of His love.
Do we love, really love the people we serve? No matter how they respond? Does our care for people drive us or does the business of management of a group of people? (I know, ouch.) Are we tired of the work or just tired in the work? Are we trying to do God’s work all by ourselves? Do we allow others to help us, even though they might do it a different way that leads to the same result? Is gossip, slander and humiliation blinding us from the truth? These and many more questions of reflection are important to ponder by God’s called and sent.
Maybe it’s good to begin with prayerfully asking, “God, what do YOU want?” Then stop to listen, really listen. Be still and know God. Be still means to let go of all assumptions, let go of all that we think is in our control, close our ears to all other voices and just hear God’s voice with an honest, open, willing, sincere heart. When we do, our minds’ eyes are lifted to see from a higher perspective. Our wounded hearts are mended. Our souls filled by His Spirit that refreshes, renews and restores the joy of HIS salvation. Our love goes deeper for others when we realize God’s deep love for us.
“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.’”
Matthew 11:28-30, NLT
Jesus, the Master Teacher, the Supreme Servant Leader, Savior of Redemption and Lord of our lives does not ask us to go endure more than what He has gone through for us. As I write this, tears come. Jesus, dear Jesus, thank you.
CORINTHIANS—CALLED AND SENT
2 Corinthians 10, The Message
Pseudo-Servants of God
1-3 Will you put up with a little foolish aside from me? Please, just for a moment. The thing that has me so upset is that I care about you so much—this is the passion of God burning inside me! I promised your hand in marriage to Christ, presented you as a pure virgin to her husband. And now I’m afraid that exactly as the Snake seduced Eve with his smooth tongue, you are being lured away from the simple purity of your love for Christ.
4-6 It seems that if someone shows up preaching quite another Jesus than we preached—different spirit, different message—you put up with him quite nicely. But if you put up with these big-shot “apostles,” why can’t you put up with simple me? I’m as good as they are. It’s true that I don’t have their voice, haven’t mastered that smooth eloquence that impresses you so much. But when I do open my mouth, I at least know what I’m talking about. We haven’t kept anything back. We let you in on everything.
7-12 I wonder, did I make a bad mistake in proclaiming God’s Message to you without asking for something in return, serving you free of charge so that you wouldn’t be inconvenienced by me? It turns out that the other churches paid my way so that you could have a free ride. Not once during the time I lived among you did anyone have to lift a finger to help me out. My needs were always supplied by the believers from Macedonia province. I was careful never to be a burden to you, and I never will be, you can count on it. With Christ as my witness, it’s a point of honor with me, and I’m not going to keep it quiet just to protect you from what the neighbors will think. It’s not that I don’t love you; God knows I do. I’m just trying to keep things open and honest between us.
12-15 And I’m not changing my position on this. I’d die before taking your money. I’m giving nobody grounds for lumping me in with those money-grubbing “preachers,” vaunting themselves as something special. They’re a sorry bunch—pseudo-apostles, lying preachers, crooked workers—posing as Christ’s agents but sham to the core. And no wonder! Satan does it all the time, dressing up as a beautiful angel of light. So it shouldn’t surprise us when his servants masquerade as servants of God. But they’re not getting by with anything. They’ll pay for it in the end.
Many a Long and Lonely Night
16-21 Let me come back to where I started—and don’t hold it against me if I continue to sound a little foolish. Or if you’d rather, just accept that I am a fool and let me rant on a little. I didn’t learn this kind of talk from Christ. Oh, no, it’s a bad habit I picked up from the three-ring preachers that are so popular these days. Since you sit there in the judgment seat observing all these shenanigans, you can afford to humor an occasional fool who happens along. You have such admirable tolerance for impostors who rob your freedom, rip you off, steal you blind, put you down—even slap your face! I shouldn’t admit it to you, but our stomachs aren’t strong enough to tolerate that kind of stuff.
21-23 Since you admire the egomaniacs of the pulpit so much (remember, this is your old friend, the fool, talking), let me try my hand at it. Do they brag of being Hebrews, Israelites, the pure race of Abraham? I’m their match. Are they servants of Christ? I can go them one better. (I can’t believe I’m saying these things. It’s crazy to talk this way! But I started, and I’m going to finish.)
23-27 I’ve worked much harder, been jailed more often, beaten up more times than I can count, and at death’s door time after time. I’ve been flogged five times with the Jews’ thirty-nine lashes, beaten by Roman rods three times, pummeled with rocks once. I’ve been shipwrecked three times, and immersed in the open sea for a night and a day. In hard traveling year in and year out, I’ve had to ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends, struggle with foes. I’ve been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by desert sun and sea storm, and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers. I’ve known drudgery and hard labor, many a long and lonely night without sleep, many a missed meal, blasted by the cold, naked to the weather.
28-29 And that’s not the half of it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches. When someone gets to the end of his rope, I feel the desperation in my bones. When someone is duped into sin, an angry fire burns in my gut.
30-33 If I have to “brag” about myself, I’ll brag about the humiliations that make me like Jesus. The eternal and blessed God and Father of our Master Jesus knows I’m not lying. Remember the time I was in Damascus and the governor of King Aretas posted guards at the city gates to arrest me? I crawled through a window in the wall, was let down in a basket, and had to run for my life.
WE LEARN FROM PAUL—
KNOW YOURSELF: God’s passion of love and care burns inside the called and sent for others who need to know Him and grow in His character. Nothing will stop the called who burn with God’s passion, motivated by His deep love.
KNOW YOUR MESSAGE: Keep The Message simple, open, and honest. It’s all about Jesus not about we who preach Jesus. Glorify Jesus always.
KNOW THE ENEMY: Be ready to endure those who oppose the message. Know the real enemy, Satan and his team, who masquerade as servants of God but in reality, are not. Satan’s goal is death to all who believe in God. In Jesus we have Life forever. Know the difference.
KNOW GOD: God is for us, not against us. We love God because He first loved us. God knows all and is in all. God takes the bad and produces good results. God does not rush us but gives us peace in His Presences which is always with us. God always provides where He guides. God knows what we go through and leads us through the red seas of troubles that come—all while growing us stronger in faith, deeper in love for Him and others, with motivating us in our continued, tenacious service to Him, all in Jesus Name, All for His glory!
“If I have to “brag” about myself, I’ll brag about the humiliations that make me like Jesus.”
Thank you for this lesson of spiritual endurance. Thank you for always providing for all our needs. Thank you for the lessons we learn in troubling times. Thank you for restoring the joy of our salvation. Thank your rest when we need it. Thank you for showing the full extent of your love as expressed in others who minister to us. Thank you for your legacy of leaders who taught us over the years. Thank you for what you are teaching us now. Thank you for saving my soul, listening to my heart and lifting me up to where you are so I can see Truth.
In Jesus Name, Amen