It’s not hard to see the difficult parts of pastoral ministry. Expectations are high. The weight of pastoring is heavy. Discouragement is a constant temptation. People can and will hurt us.
It’s right to be honest about these. Paul was. He frequently wrote about the challenges he faced as an apostle (2 Corinthians 4:7-12, 11:16-29). He was honest when people let him down (2 Timothy 1:15, 4:16).
Paul was honest, but he didn’t throw a pity party. Despite his difficulties, Paul understood the incredible privilege of ministry.
The Privilege of Ministry
I can never read 1 Timothy 1:12-16 without being overcome with the privilege we have in serving God through ministry.
I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief…But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.
Paul understood that he didn’t even deserve salvation, never mind his apostleship. The ongoing task of ministry is to remain grateful for God’s saving grace in our own lives. It will help prevent a spirt of entitlement and will help to keep us humble.
But Paul was not only grateful for his salvation. He was also grateful for the privilege of serving God as apostle. Paul understood that ministry involves suffering. But ministry at its hardest is still a privilege. We who were rebels have been enlisted in service to the King. He’s entrusted us with ministry that matters. It’s a privilege we don’t deserve.
The Privilege of Loving People
Read almost any letter from Paul and you’ll read Paul’s gratitude for people. He’s thankful for churches, even ones that have problems. He’s grateful for the way the gospel is changing them, and for their partnership in his ministry. He’s grateful for his coworkers. Paul consistently demonstrates gratitude for people.
I sat in a meeting on Tuesday night with 15 or so people from my church. A friend led a time of prayer. I looked around the room and was overwhelmed with the privilege of loving these people. It’s an honor I don’t deserve. I’m grateful for them, and I can’t believe he’s allowed me the joy of seeing the gospel change them, and the privilege of working alongside them.
Show Gratitude Today
We can be honest about the challenges of ministry and grateful for the privilege of ministry at the same time.
We don’t deserve this. Let’s stay amazed that God has even saved us, never mind enlisted us. And let’s be grateful that God allows us to love the people we serve. What a privilege!