2/17/17 Difficulties I
Thursday, February 16, 2017
THE DIFFICULTIES OF THE MINISTRY
2 Cor. 11:23-28
Morning Meditation 2/17/17
Verse 23-28 says, “Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.”
I guess if a minister of the gospel was having difficulties and read this passage he would simply say, “Lord, I don’t really have any problems.” However, everyone has his particular difficulties. Our faith has to be worked out in the context of real life. And one can have the feeling of despair in his own unique situation as much as the one who seems to be suffering in a much worse situation. Our thoughts today are meant to encourage by observation and explanation those who are going through some of the difficulties that I will mention. There are difficulties in the ministry. I will mention several of them. First, there is,
THE DIFFICULTY OF PERSONAL PREPARATION
The difficulty of personal preparation is twofold. First there is the preparation of study. Paul told Timothy, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” The word “study” translates “spoudazo” and means, “to exert one's self, endeavor, give diligence.” It is an aorist active imperative verb. The aorist tense means to act immediately at a point of time. The active voice means the minister has a choice, i.e., He must choose to act. The imperative mood is a command that expresses urgency. The minister of the gospel is dealing in the eternal destiny of souls and their development after salvation. He only has the rest of his life to do this and the preparation at best will take years.
He must study the Word of God. This is what Paul is telling Timothy to do. Since we are not Greeks who know the original language in which the Bible was inspired and preserved, we do need some preparation in that language, if no more than enough to know what the lexicons and grammars are talking about. I use nothing but the King James Bible and text from which is it translated. There is an advantage in the study of original languages, and the minister needs to do whatever is necessary to prepare himself to know what the words and the text are actually saying so he can communicate it.
There is also the preparation in the language in which one will be preaching. I want to insert an illustration. The following is copied from the biography of Adoniram Judson “On The Golden Shore.” He is learning the language with the help of a personal tutor. The biographer says,
“Months passed.. Adoniram worked with his teacher all day on Pali and Burmese word-lists and grammars and translation, only interrupted when Nancy summoned him out to deal with an emergency, such as a cobra in the garden or an invasion by one of the numerous kinds of pests — which infested the houses in Rangoon. Nancy spent her mornings directing the household — thereby increasing her already enviable fluency in the popular speech — her afternoons in study with Adoniram and the teacher . . . But the better Adoniram and Nancy came to know the Burmese, the more they realized that even a lifetime was too short for more than the beginning of a mission.” They realized that they needed to know the language to communicate with accuracy God’s holy Word. This is one of the difficulties of preparation for the ministry and it is essential.
Second, there is the difficulty of personal sanctification. The minister must be willing to practice what he preaches and to suffer his family to be on public display continually. Paul says in 1 Thess. 2:10, “Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe.” Then again in 2 Thess. 3:7, “For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you.” Then he personally instructed Timothy in 1 Tim. 4:12, “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”
It is fairly common to hear a preacher’s child complain of what is expected of him because, “I am a preacher’s kid.” The ONLY reason for that complaint is because the one who is saying that does not want to live out the Christ-life before the world. Jesus said in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Please notice these words were spoken by the Lord Himself. The words “before men” are talking about the whole world of men including both saved and lost. So whether it is a preacher’s family or just an ordinary Christian, we all have a responsibility to live out the Christ-life. All of us as Christians are on public display. I always told my daughter, “I would ask you to do this if I were not a preacher. I ask you to do this as a Christian. This is what the Lord wants of all of us.” I was blessed with a daughter who wanted the will of God in her life and she responded to the right understanding of the Scriptures.
One of the problems of personal sanctification is the resentment that we have to do right because of the ministerial office that we hold. There is a tendency to resent being held to a higher standard. Well, the truth is that it is not a higher standard. It is where everyone else is supposed to be. But you can’t encourage someone else to do something that you are not doing. This is the reasons that one’s family figures in to the qualifications for the ministry.
One other thing before I leave this thought. There is the problem of the minister thinking that God is to be put FIRST in his life and that is somehow SEPARATE FROM HIS FAMILY. Jesus said in Matt. 5:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” When a minister “Seeks first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” it includes how he conducts himself with his family. If we cannot lead our families to submit to Jesus in all things, how can it be expected that we can lead the church? This is what Paul is talking about in 1 Tim. 3:4: “One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity.” This simply means that a person is not qualified for the ministry unless he can exercise loving control of his family with the kind of authority that secures their respect. You know it shouldn’t surprise us what we discover, when these qualifications are set aside, that bad things happen. It is not the resume that we need to read before we call a pastor, it is how he manages his family and how he has secured their respect in the process. Amen. I will continue this in the next meditation.
May the Lord use these words to encourage.