Everyone has heard the adage, “hindsight is 20/20.” This is very true; looking back we see things more clearly. At the beginning of ministry it is easy to find yourself naïve and in difficult situations as a result of the realities of living out your faith. I realized after several situations how passive I had become in the name of “love.” We all wish things were black and white, but I found that is not always the case. I hope to share some hard realities I have learned in ministry that have helped me understand and persevere.
- To one person I am an inspiration, to another, I am an antagonist. First Thessalonians 2:4 says, “On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.” We often seek the approval of man over the approval of God because we can see the reaction of people instantly, whereas it takes time to see the fruits of our spiritual labor. In addition, we are to do all things for Christ and not for man. Then we trust the Lord with the results.
- Just because someone says they are a Christian does not mean they will always act like one. Our lifestyle reflects what we believe. Matthew 7:20 says, “Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” No one can pronounce the eternal state of another person’s soul except God. Yet we can certainly tell whether someone is living by the Spirit or not. As Millennials, we sometimes trust labels without reading the details. As you begin to grow, understand that people may be at different stages in their spiritual maturity. Or they may not be saved but choose to wear the label of Christian because they believe it will give them societal benefits. See this as an opportunity for discipleship instead of discouragement.
- Some people take the Word of God and manipulate it for personal benefit. As Christians, we should study with a biblically-centered worldview and stand in submission to the Bible. Second Timothy 2:15 says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” It is important as Christians that we always side with God’s Word over our emotions because our feelings are fickle and inconsistent, but God’s Word is solid and never changes.
- Every day we live will be a battle against the schemes of Satan. We must take up our cross daily according to Luke 9:23, “And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” When we acknowledge our sin, accept the forgiveness of Jesus, and give our hearts and lives to Him, Satan places a target on our backs. The love of Jesus casts out fear, but we must not be ignorant that Satan’s plan is to kill, steal, and destroy. Christians are not above moral failure and must walk by the Spirit to resist the temptation of sin.
- Many people react with partial knowledge. It is much easier to jump to conclusions without any effort to understand the details. James 1:19 says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” It is not wrong to have an opinion from partial knowledge when you know it is partial knowledge. Too often in ministry and in life, we react with the assumption we have all the details. This can, and usually does, cause damage to people's reputations. Don’t be afraid to ask questions before you react or respond.
There are many more difficulties in ministry. The biggest and hardest reality is that we are ministering to people in desperate need of the gospel, a desperate need that is only matched by our own. Keep the fight and stand on God’s Word. We are all sinners in need of grace and mercy from Jesus. That is what keeps us going on those really difficult days, and on the easy ones too.