Monday, February 11, 2008

Endurance in Ministry

I have chosen to read John Piper's The Roots of Endurance, because I believe that we need to read about the lives of other saints who have endured through many difficulties. I haven't read the whole book yet, but what I have read has been very encouraging. It is always very motivating and encouraging for me to read about the lives of those who have gone before us in the cause of Christ, and to see how they endured for the glory of God.

I think one reason we may struggle with endurance in ministry today when the times get tough is because of our mindset. Piper, I believe, rightly describes today's Christian culture in the following way, "There is a mind-set in the prosperous West that we deserve pain-free, trouble-free existence...I have found myself in conversation with Christians for whom it is simply a given that you do not put yourself or your family at risk. The commitment to safety and comfort is an unquestioned absolute" (p. 18). I find this to be so true. I think we as Christians often expect to have an easy ministry, with a lot of visible success and fruit, and with little hardship. We tend to look at this type of ministry as a mark of God's blessing upon our faithfulness to Him and of our faithful preaching of His Word.

But what about Joseph? What about David? What about Moses (Heb. 11:24-26)? What about Paul? All of them were very faithful and yet experienced extreme hardships. These seem to be the normal experiences of most in the Bible. Should we not reevaluate our western, 21st century mentality and ask if the way of the cross for us may just be that of these great men of faith? Should we not look at trials as a mark of God's blessing (Phil. 1:29)?

Piper says, "Frustration is normal, disappointment is normal, sickness is normal. Conflict, persecution, danger, stress--they are all normal. The mind-set that moves away from these will move away from reality and away from Christ" (p. 19).

Can trials not be a result of doing something good for the Lord? Are they not a mark that we are in a spiritual battle? Are they not being used by God to sanctify us? One friend recently shared, "I believe God cares more about our own sanctification than about what we can accomplish for Him." I agree. He can't very well use an unsanctified vessel to accomplish much for His holy name.

So when evaluating our ministry I believe it is important to remember those who have gone before us. May they be our example (Heb. 12:1-2)! May they serve as a root of our endurance in ministry! May we resist the temptation to look at difficulties in ministry as a reason to get discouraged and give up, or to choose an easy way out. The deeper the trial the greater God's grace, and the greater our faith will be if we endure!