by Christian Penn: There are times when the joy of being in the Lord’s work is second to nothing else in the world. However any experienced preacher will tell you, if he is honest, that there are times that any other job looks better than being a preacher. Serving God full time has its incredible highs, but it carries with it some amazing lows as well.
Tragically, some men feel guilty because they have lost the joy of ministry, but it happens. Seeming loyal people turn on us. Sometimes offerings are low. Occasionally attendances are down. A deacon may get drunk or a staff member may fall into an adulterous affair. People fail to show up for duties and don’t bother to call. Members at times will roast the preacher for Sunday lunch. People do the exact opposite of what you preached. You are called to bail a member out of jail. Your “best” member suddenly joins a church across town without even coming to tell you why. Could this list go on? Oh, yes. There are so many times when the joy of ministry is hard to find.
These things are true in any type of ministry not just pastoring. Perhaps that can explain why so many people quit their positions or even quit church altogether. Sometimes ministry can be joyless, thankless and frustrating. Do not misunderstand. Serving God should be the greatest privilege in the life of a Christian. However it is not always joyful. The moments when it is perfect and when everything is clicking on all cylinders are wonderful and they are times that we should thankfully cherish, yet we must not allow ministry to be the source of our joy.
Notice what Jesus told His the chosen seventy when they returned from a successful time of ministering in His name. First look at what they said: “And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.” (Luke 10:17) They returned with what? JOY! Yes, they had joy because of what happened when they were out doing the work of God. But where were the 70 when Jesus was walking up the hill carrying his cross? Where were they when He was hanging on the cross. I am not certain that ANY of them were there.
Now, notice what Jesus said to them. “And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.” (vs18-20) Did you get that? He was warning them not to allow the results of ministry be the source of their joy but rather the fact that they were saved.
We love singing the song, There Is Joy In Serving Jesus, and there truly is…at times. But at times that joy is challenged by the threats, challenges, criticisms, defections and rejection that comes in ministry. Our humanity is often ruled by our emotions and when the object of our joy is determined by what we cannot control we risk losing our joy.
Why did Jesus tell them not to have their joy in the works they accomplished? It was because He knows that those works are not always going to turn out the way we want them to. However He also knew that there was one certainty that no one could ever change and that was that they were saved. God never changes so that is the one certainty they could trust fully forever. When the results of ministry are awesome, my name is written in Heaven and when they are not what I wished for them to be my name is still written in Heaven. When people join the church my name is written in Heaven. When people abruptly quit the church or even turn on me my name is written in Heaven. When the offerings are up my name is written in Heaven and when we fall miserably short of budgetmy name is written in Heaven. When my Sunday school class is thriving my name is written in Heaven and when no one shows up my name is written in Heaven.
That is an amazing principle. Jesus knew what these 70 were going to face and he knew that if their joy came from any other source than one as perfect and unchangeable as this they would certainly falter.
- Evangelist after an amazing week of revival rejoice in this that, my name is written in Heaven.
- Pastor after a great Sunday when the altar was full of souls being saved and Christians getting right rejoice in this, my name is written in Heaven.
- Musician, after your greatest and most blessed performance rejoice not in the accolades but rather in the fact that, my name is written in Heaven.
- Parent when your kids are doing right and walking perfectly as they have been taught rejoice not in that moment of temporary perfection but rejoice in the fact my name is written in Heaven.
- Teacher when every student has seemingly caught the lesson and you sense that they truly have grasped what you have taught rejoice not in that moment of educational wonder but rather in the truth that my name is written in Heaven.
- Soul winner when you have seen tears of conviction and someone come to Christ after first crying out to you, “What must I do to be saved?” do not allow that experience to dictate your joy but be dictated by the fact that my name is written in Heaven.
- Christian on that day when you have won the battles against the most powerful temptations and stood firm in your faith victorious be not deceived into making that the source of your joy but return to the sure turf of the fact that my name is written in Heaven.
Think about it. It is the one certainty amidst uncertainty. It is the one unchangeable in the midst of shifting sands. It is the one anchor of promise in the midst of the feathers of empty promises. It is the one uncompromising promise on which we can hold in the midst of broken promises. When workers don’t show up He NEVER LEAVES. When our best family quits He NEVER FORSAKES. When other no longer call us their pastor He still calls us His Own. When people’s love for us turns to hate NOTHING CAN SEPARATE US FROM HIS LOVE. When people blame us for their own failings and problems, He WILL PRESENT US FAULTLESS BEFORE THE FATHER.
Are you getting this? Yes, ministry is an honor much like a soldier fighting in the trenches and being shot at by real bullets from the guns of an enemy whose purpose it is to kill them. The joy is not the battle. The joy is being a part of the army of the United States of America. The joy of ministry is not always in the service but it always in the reason we serve. And what is that reason? Oh, it is very simple. It is because my name is written in Heaven.
[box]by Christian Penn[/box]