August 20, 2016

How to Stay Encouraged When You Want to Give Up (1)

“And apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” (2 Cor. 11:28)

The Christian walk is a battle. Ministry is tough. Leadership is back-breaking work. The Apostle Paul wrote this in 2 Corinthians 11:28 after remembering a whole list of sufferings he’d been through.

Paul felt the daily pressure of his ministry. He felt the burden of caring for churches.

Many of us reading this feel that same burden.

Some of us are church planters, and we feel the weight and responsibility of shepherding a people. We think, What have I done bringing this person or that person on my team? Or, What have I done getting into this church planting malarky? Some of us are possibly starting out and, as we look at the task ahead, we feel worried about it. We feel like we don’t want to let the Lord down. We feel like we don’t know what we are doing half the time, so how are we going to plant a church or shepherd God’s flock?What are we doing? Are we doing the right thing even being in ministry?

Maybe you’re not a church planter. Maybe you’re a pastor. Maybe you just feel the weight of simply being a Christian. You know the Lord has saved you and you know the gospel is true, but you are finding the Christian walk difficult. You are finding out that joy that you had at the beginning is hard to keep. You feel like that thrill has turned into drill. You feel tired, anxious, and weary. It all feels like too much hard work.

The Bible is no stranger to these emotions. Jesus was no stranger to these emotions. In times of difficulty, we should look to him to encourage our souls. Let’s see what he has to say to us.

1) Jesus promises us that HE is the resurrection and the life

Firstly, I want us to know that Jesus promises us that HE is the resurrection and the life.

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25–26)

The gospel is 100% true. And how do we know that the gospel is true? Because Christ has risen from the dead. Jesus really did die for our sins and Jesus really did rise from the dead. Jesus, right now, is ascended and reigning in glory. Jesus is alive.

Often, we stop and look at our lives and think, What the heck am I doing with this Christian thing? What the flipping heck am I doing getting paid next to nothing as an intern? What am I doing as a leader getting constantly moaned at? What am I doing getting ostracised by my family and friends? Well, when we are having our little self-pity party, we need to remind ourselves that Jesus really did rise from the dead and that what we are going through is all worth it (even when it doesn’t feel like it!)

Listen to the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:58 after telling the church that the resurrection of Jesus is true. He says:

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the world of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is NOT IN VAIN.” (1 Cor. 15:58)

Paul want us to know that the sacrifices we are making to leave friends, family, and even homes for the sake of the gospel, is worth it. He wants us to remain steadfast because Jesus is alive, and he will reward those who are faithful to him. What else would cause people leave comfortable lives to become pastors or church planters? Why would people leave America to come to the UK and work in a scheme of all places? Why would an Englishman come to be slagged-off in Scotland? It’s got to be because Jesus is alive! Jesus is changing lives. Jesus has called us to this point. Be encouraged my brothers and sisters—your labour is not for nothing. Jesus is the resurrection and life.

2) Jesus promises to build HIS church no matter what

Secondly, Jesus promises to build HIS church no matter what. Matthew 16:18 says:

“And I tell you, you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt. 16:18)

Jesus will do this work. Yes, he will use us. Yes, we have a responsibility to share the gospel. Yes, we are called to be faithful. But, Jesus is ultimately responsible for the building of HIS church. He cares about our people more than we do because he gave his life for them!

This promise is not a maybe. Perhaps Jesus will build his church. No. Rather, it is a rock-solid promise. We need to remember this as we go about the King’s business. Church planters often feel the pressure of a world watching for us to produce the goods. Many of us are starting from scratch and others may have core/launch/whatever groups that don’t exactly inspire confidence at every level. We wonder how on earth we are going to make anything happen. But, here is the truth we need to constantly remember: Jesus is the one who will do the building. Not us.

There are others of us who are a bit more confident. They think they’re going to smash this scheme or that town for Jesus. They have a saviour complex and think it all hinges on them. But, guess what? Jesus can do his work without us.

Remember, God does not call us to results but to FAITHFULNESS. We have a few different plants around Scotland at the moment. All of them at various stages of development. Some have seen quite a few salvations. Some have seen just a couple. Some have developed a strong core/launch/whatever group. Some have just a handful of solid people. All of the leaders, without exception, are going to be tempted to have a cheeky look at one another’s plants and make comparisons. Flippin ’eck! Look how many people they’ve got? I’m doing rubbish here! Or, Look how well we are doing compared to that mob. We are smashing it. We will either get proud or nervous. Yet, all God requires from us is faithfulness. The results are up to him.

God is the one who foreknows, predestines, calls, justifies, and glorifies. He is sovereign over salvation from beginning to end. Our job is just to preach the gospel and leave the results to King Jesus. We need to remember that our church plants will not grow overnight. Rome wasn’t built in a day. God’s kingdom often grows slowly and silently. Jesus was clear about that with the parable of the yeast and the mustard seed. Both tiny things that eventually make a huge impact. Therefore, we need to be patient with the timing of God and trust that Jesus will build his church no matter what.

3) Jesus promises to be with us always

Thirdly, remember that Jesus is with us always.

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

Jesus gives this command to disciples who were very nervous about the future. Their friend and Saviour was about to return to heaven and they were being commissioned to make disciples of the nations. Jesus comforts them by saying, “I am with you.” In other words, Jesus promises to be with them every step of the way. He will never leave them nor forsake them. That is the same promise to each one of us!

Sometimes leadership can be a lonely experience. Sometimes ministry in general can be very isolating. But, here is the truth, Jesus is WITH US. He is sustaining us, and he will be guiding us.

Yes, we have been called to a great task, but we have a great Saviour walking alongside us. When Moses was called to go to Pharaoh, God said this: “I will be with you. . . .” When Joshua was called to take the people into the Promised Land, God said this, “I will be with you. . . .” When the disciples were scared about the future because their Saviour was leaving, he said this, “I will be with you. . . .”

The Bible is full of so-called heroes who didn’t have a clue! Moses didn’t want to go. Gideon was a wimp. Jeremiah moaned. Jonah ran away. Peter denied Jesus. Yet, God was with them and completed his purposes. The Lord does not use us not because we are worthy or because we have great theological knowledge or because we are amazing entrepreneurs (although these things help) but he does so because Jesus is with us building his kingdom.

Part 2 to follow.

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