I’ve been careful recently to alternate the mood of my blogs. A couple colleagues have noted a hint of cynicism in several of my posts. While I might argue that these are spurred on by serious times, I’ll say it plainly: this has been a very difficult year of ministry. I know a lot of folks reduce ministry to a job; I can discuss the dynamics of a pastor’s life another time. It’s a calling, a privilege, a joy, an honor to be used by God…but I’ll be honest, there are moments when it just plain sucks.
While we may give it our best and our all, for some it’s not good enough, not soon enough, not long enough…just not enough. While we seek God for strength and grace, there are times it’s hard to trust Him with people’s lives. They are His, but as stewards over their lives, we feel personal responsibility and take it hard when something goes wrong.
- When people don’t live for God. We learn a lot of leadership lessons from Moses: mostly how frustrating it is to deal with people J But how it must have grieved him to see constant grumbling, complaining, and faithlessness among the people that God had just used him to rescue. As if God hadn’t proven Himself enough through the plagues and miracles, now they refused to acknowledge and worship Him. Here’s Moses stuck in the middle watching his own people turn from God, the very one they cried out to for 400 years. The heart of any minister worth his salt would be that people thrive in their relationship with Christ. Likewise, they’re in agony when they allow their hearts to harden and walk away.
- When people make foolish decisions. God’s people persist in their rebellion, now wanting to return to their chains in Egypt. Aaron, Moses’ own brother, commits the ultimate blasphemy of creating another god to lead them back to bondage. Folks in our churches experience freedom from all sorts of lifestyles and life-controlling issues. They experience God’s grace and blessings. Yet, “He’s not enough” and doesn’t deliver in the way they prefer. So, they do things that ruin their relationship with God and their very lives.
- When people blame us for their issues. Once again, we see Moses’ own siblings, Aaron and Miriam, giving in to insecurity. This is their younger brother. Why does he get to lead and make all the decisions? Then Dathan, Korah, and Abiram, all wrestling with their own pride and discontent, begin to speak out against God’s appointed servant. The results are tragic as many lose their lives in the rebellion. People in our churches deal with real, every day problems. But the last thing they should do is blame their leaders for their inner battles. Their own frustrations with God and life are projected on the ones who are actually trying to help them.
- When people squander their giftings. Every person has unique God-given abilities to be used for His renown. Solomon received great wisdom but allowed it to be twisted and perverted for his personal gain. It’s a tragedy when selfishness drowns out a person’s abilities to effect real change in the world.
- When people take advantage of us. Elisha was a powerful prophet who existed to glorify and obey God. Period. But his servant, Gehazi, proved to be inferior to Elisha’s service to Elijah. Gehazi’s insecurity pushed him to see how Elisha’s fame could benefit him. He used him. We may not resemble ladders but yet, there will be those who walk all over us and use our hard work for climbing upward.
- When people disdain our investments. Jesus poured into Simon Peter’s life for close to 3 years and was soon to suffer in his place. At the crucial moment when he had a chance to associate himself with Jesus, Peter despised any relationship between the two of them. There will be those excruciating moments when people will scoff at any sacrifice made for them. They will call it a waste and discard it.
- When people betray us. Another one of Jesus’ close friends was Judas. The meals, the trips, the jokes, the laughter, the crying together. There was trust, intimacy, bonding, times of closeness. But at another crucial moment, it’s in Your face Jesus. Oh, those times when loyalty is thrown out the window. Our weaknesses are revealed. People sell out on us.
- When people won’t grow up. Jesus chastises the disciples for being so slow and distracted in not understanding the simplest of parables. It’s not that they were unintelligent. They were spiritually lazy. Then Paul rebukes the Corinthian church for not being able to graduate past “milk.” It was their refusal to switch from diapers to the armor. True shepherds help their flock to grow, mature, and develop. It’s not their role to spoonfeed people forever, but help them to stand up and fight on their own. Yet, too many choose to crawl.
People shift the blame. Don’t tithe or volunteer. Attendance is irregular and sparse. No daily devotionals. Wrestle with their old ways. Go places they shouldn’t. Do things they shouldn’t. Flirt with danger. Give in to sin. Unreasonable. Expectations are ridiculous.
Please don’t give up. Don’t abandon your post. People need us to stay where we are. Be encouraged in the fact that God honors our perseverance and faithfulness. Even in the darkest of times, let’s be consistent and stand firm. Christ calls us. People need us. End of story. And to the young lady who slipped that note into my Bible 13 years ago with this Scripture, while you didn’t know what was going on, thank you:
“So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time” (Galatians 6:9).