Pastor Mark Smith
As Christian men, we are called to be ministers for Christ. Regardless of our gifts from God, our talents, our abilities, or our occupation, we are called to advance the gospel and to edify Christ’s church. We’re all called to ministry, and ministry for the Lord Jesus Christ can be a discouraging endeavor for each of us, at times. It is in II Corinthians 4 that the Apostle Paul twice encourages us with these words: “We faint not” (4:1, 16). In making such statements he implies that faithful Christian ministry will often have its discouragements and times of defeat. Though we “faint not,” we are frequently tempted to.
The things that discouraged Paul are often the same things that discourage each of us as men regardless if we are a pastor, an evangelist, a missionary, or an “unknown” worker in the church. Let me ask you a few questions. Have you ever had relationship problems in the church you attend? Have you ever loved other Christians who didn’t return that same love? Have you ever endured criticisms regarding your ministry abilities or your integrity? I have found in my twenty-five years of being saved and my fifteen years of pastoring the same church that ministry can surely be tough! Add to that, physical trials, normal busyness, and financial pressures and you will have the perfect recipe for discouragement. As discouragements grow, remembering four gospel-centered truths from II Corinthians 4 will protect us from throwing in the towel in the last round of ministry for Christ.
1. Ministry for Christ Is a Privilege (4:1)
The gospel we believe and advance as Christians is a powerful and glorious message. In II Corinthians 3 we learn that our ministry exceeds what Moses experienced at Sinai where his face literally shone. How did we come to have this ministry? Simply by the mercy of God (4:1). When we are weary in ministry we should recall that knowing the gospel, being in Christ’s church, and ministering the gospel to others are privileges.
2. Ministry for Christ Is Not about Us (4:2-6)
All Christian ministry will involve some rejection and apparent failure. It is in those times that we are tempted to tamper or mess with the gospel message itself (4:2). Why is that? Because we feel that softening God’s message will increase our popularity. If we respond that way, we must ask ourselves what our motive for ministry really is. Men, when we are weary in ministry, we must recall that ministry is about Jesus Christ, and not about us. Our labors should be a straight up and straightforward exaltation of Christ, and not some underhanded effort to exalt ourselves. If we forget about ourselves, God may use our undiluted gospel message to open up spiritual eyes that are blind to the glory of Christ (4:3-6).
3. Ministry for Christ Will Look More Like the Cross (4:7-15)
It is an amazing thing that Paul compares each of us to a little clay pot (4:7). His point is that we are all common men, not impressive. I believe the more we look and feel like a clay pot, the more people will pay attention to our message rather than us. As God allows things to come into our lives to trouble us, perplex us, persecute us, and cast us down (4:8-9), He is conforming each of us to the crucifixion of Christ (4:10-15)—an unimpressive death that resulted in a very fruitful resurrection. Hey, men, the next time we are feeling a bit weary, a bit faint, remember that our ministry is supposed to look like our message: power in weakness.
4. Ministry for Christ Ends Well (4:16-18)
Let each of us men take heart, and faint not; for whatever ministry is “killing us”—making our outer man perish(4:16)—is not permanent! And Jesus tells us the reward will far outweigh the affliction (4:17). As the songwriter has said, “It will be worth it all when we see Jesus.”
Sir, are you prone to discouragement because of the hardships in your ministry for Christ? Then listen: Join the club. For hundreds of years since the days of Paul, faithful Christian men in normal churches have struggled with being faint and being discouraged. If we are to keep going, then let’s remember that ministry is a privilege, that ministry is about Christ, that ministry will look like the cross, and that the hardships of ministry will not last forever.
It is my prayer, that even today you will let the gospel message encourage you during your hard times of ministry for Christ.