Ministry is often a place of pain. In fact, if there is never any pain, one might want to do some serious reflection. After all, I think that if you will do a reading of the ministry of Jesus, Peter, Paul, or the early church in general, you will see that ministry is often accompanied by pain.
Some have experienced the pain of rejection. Yes, this may include personal rejection when you discover that certain people, for whatever reason, just do not like you. Unfortunately, there are people who will sometimes portray themselves as being your friend, while they talk in a negative way behind your back. A number of years ago when I was serving a different church, I had lunch with a friend of mine one day at Tippins. He served as one of the elders of this church. He told me that the night before they had met with a small group of people who wanted to see an end to my ministry with that church. Did I dislike the fact that these people did this? Of course. It did hurt because of a few of the people involved. Should it have surprised me that my ministry was not smooth sailing? Of course not.
Ministry can be very difficult for a number of reasons. Here are a few occasions when one might find ministry to be very, very difficult:
- When you experience personal rejection.
- When you see someone reject the message of the Gospel.
- When you witness someone walk away from Christ.
- When you struggle with your own faith.
- When you grieve with others in times of death, job loss, disease, etc.
- When you are present with others in times of severe pain (such as when an adult child abandons her or his family or seeing that child make very poor and serious choices).
Of course, in the first century some of the early Christians experienced immense suffering and even death as the result of their faith in Jesus. Paul spoke (2 Corinthians 11:23-28) of suffering that he experienced in his ministry and was it ever intense!
Paul warned some of the Ephesian Christians regarding those from their own number who would distort the truth and seek to draw these Christians after themselves. He said that for three years he "…never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears" (Acts 20:31). Night and day with tears? This is no dispassionate minister who is trying to climb a ladder of success. This is no 8 to 5 minister who sees ministry as little more than a chosen career. No, this comes from someone who has been called by God and deeply loves these Christians. He once said, "I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches" (2 Corinthians 11:28). This kind of pressure comes from one who deeply loves the believers who make up these churches.
Granted, most of us in the West have never experienced any suffering even remotely akin to what Paul or some of the early Christians experienced. At the same time, let us not be surprised when we experience mistreatment or personal turmoil even though we are trying to serve God and be faithful to our call. Perhaps this goes with the territory.