One Sunday morning, a mother went in to wake her son and tell him it was time to get ready for church, to which he replied, “I’m not going.” “Why not?” she asked. “I’ll give you two good reasons,” he said. “One, they don’t like me, and two, I don’t like them.” His mother replied, “I’ll give YOU two good reasons why you SHOULD go to church. One, you’re 54 years old, and two, you’re the pastor!”
Charles Spurgeon was right when he said that discouragement was one of the ministry’s greatest risks.
- 75% of pastors report being “extremely stressed” or “highly stressed”
- 70% of pastors say they have a lower self-esteem now than when they entered ministry
- 70% constantly fight depression
- 50% feel so discouraged that they would leave their ministry if they could, but can’t find another job
- 1,500 pastors leave the ministry every month due to resignation, retirement or removal
The key theme of this chapter is repeated in verse 1 and 16: “We faint not.” Literally, Paul said, “We do not lose heart!” There were plenty of reasons for discouragement in Paul’s situation, yet the great apostle did not quit. What was it that kept him from fainting in the conflicts of life? He knew what he possessed in Jesus Christ! Instead of complaining about what he did not have, Paul rejoiced in what he did have. You and I can do the same thing.
Paul had a Glorious Ministry.
When pastors or anyone doing God’s service gets discouraged, it is good to remember the ministry we were given. We are able to tell what Jesus did for them and how they can have eternal life. That is a glorious ministry.
Paul defended the integrity of his ministry with a point-by-point response to his critics. He gives us a dynamic of two principles of how the ministry of the Gospel ought to be done.
Paul had the Right Philosophy: TELL THE TRUTH.
“Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” (2 Corinthians 4:1-4)
An effective ministry is one of openness, authenticity, no veil – nothing to hide or anything to prove. Paul did not lose heart and give in to resort to secret and shameful ways, deception of any kind, or distort the Word of God. But he presented the truth plainly. The reason people rejected the simple truth was not in its presentation, but in the blinding of Satan.
Like Supermarket cereal, today’s Christianity is brightly packaged and sugarcoated with enticing offers of free prizes on the inside, but we fail to read the fine print on the side of the box. We never know about all the empty calories we’ve eaten or how malnourished we’ve become. We must tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help us God! The simple truth of the Gospel is powerful.
But even though Paul did not hide the Gospel, there were some who could not see it. Though the Gospel can save anyone, some will not believe. Why? Satan has blinded them.
People are spiritually blind not because of the presentation of the Gospel, but because Satan has deceived them. They just don’t get it. Blind people cannot see it.
So what can we do for people who don’t get the Gospel? Ask God to remove the blinds. Pray for them that God will allow them to see the truth of the Gospel.
Trust in the simple, straight-forward message of the Gospel.
Paul had the Right Focus: IT’S ALL ABOUT JESUS.
“For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:5-6)
No one can focus on themselves and Jesus at the same time. The only one who can truly say “Christ Jesus the Lord” are the humble. Paul simply preached Jesus. The word ‘preach’ is from the Greek noun for herald (keryx). It is not how we proclaim, but what we proclaim – Jesus.
How do you know when you have let pride creep into your Christian life? When you frequently talk about yourself and your accomplishments. When these attitudes and actions crop up in your life, you are headed for trouble. Or when a leader exhibits these attitudes, you need to stay clear.
Remember, it’s not about you. Let the light of Jesus shine!
I will share more about what Paul had that kept him from getting discouraged in ministry in a later post. He mentions it in the rest of 1 Corinthians 4.