by Dick Hill
I went to a pastors’ meeting and overheard two brothers questioning their call to the ministry. Think of this! They were wondering aloud why in the world they did not pursue a different educational path that would have given them a career to fall back on. This caught my attention, and I settled in to listen more carefully. Both men were discouraged about the ministries that God had placed them in. They were not sufficiently motivated to stay the course amidst all the obstacles they were facing.
I consider God’s call to preach His Word to the world as the highest calling a human being can have. However, some find it hard to remain faithful amid the many pitfalls in ministry: the money that does not come in to pay the bills, church leaders who feel obligated to take a stand against everything the pastor suggests, disgruntled church members who think it necessary to keep something negative stirred up all the time, not to mention the personal family pressures. I wanted to say, “Fellows, don’t you remember how and why the living God called you to Himself in the first place?”
I thought back to my own reasons for hanging tough through the years. How had I been motivated to hang in there through it all? I am drawn back to the amazing glimpse of grace I received in 1989 during a morning walk. God used it to change the course of my entire ministry. I was going through a particularly rough time with the congregation I was leading. I was looking to God for answers and pondering some passages I had recently studied.
Centuries ago, Paul faced the same opposition that I was facing in preaching the gospel. He found that he had to defend himself before the very people who should have trusted him. I identified with that! Some even accused him of using the gospel to serve his own selfish desires. Quitting was never an option for Paul or for me. Paul said that we are hard-pressed on every side yet not crushed. We are perplexed but not in despair, persecuted but not forsaken, and struck down but not destroyed.
What enabled Paul to persevere in the face of such suffering? He thought back to the day of his own dramatic Damascus Road conversion when he met Jesus Christ face-to-face. It has always been fascinating to me that God blinded Paul so that he could really seefor the first time. From that day on, his ministry was to advance the cause of Jesus Christ rather than his own agenda.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16–18)
I am painfully aware that my outward man is perishing. My body is growing older and wearing out. I do not have all the time in the world to finish the purpose for which God has set me apart.
Yet, we are not to lose heart, because the spiritual man inside is being renewed day by day. This is a comforting thought. No matter what is going on around us, the Holy Spirit is constantly renewing our minds and conforming us to the image of Jesus Christ. What an encouragement!
But how is this possible? Paul made an amazing contrast. He said that our momentary light affliction is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. What exactly did Paul mean by “momentary light affliction”? He tipped his hand in the same book by relaying his own personal testimony.
In labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—besides the other things, what comesupon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:23b–27)
This is momentary light affliction? Thanks Paul, I needed that. Up against that backdrop, my problem with the congregation didn’t appear to be so bad. Paul said that all he was going through in this life paled in significance when compared to the eternal weight of glory that awaited him. Seeing Christ face-to-face and being in His kingdom far outweighed the effects of an aging body, the suffering, the defeats—all the heartaches in this life. Being with Christ throughout all eternity will make every obstacle in this life, worth it. So, do not lose heart!