Without a doubt, ministry can be difficult.
There are times that it seems all our efforts are being stymied and days we feel we are making progress are far less in number than the days we fee like we have just been “kicked in the stomach”.
For those who have been in ministry for any amount of time, it is well known that you have experienced the hurt and pain that goes along with opening up your heart to people only to be betrayed outright, or feeling used for the selfish gains of others.
There are also times that we know we are working for the Lord without any recognition at all. Without a doubt, the ministry is not about the applause of the crowds around us and even Jesus Himself proved that as many people turned away from following Him when He spoke about the importance of sacrifice. They loved the free “fish dinners” but when He spoke about participating in His flesh and blood, the appeal soon was lost for so many of them to the point Jesus turned to His Disciples if they too, were going to leave Him.
It is important we keep the right perspective as we serve Christ by serving others. If we don’t, we will soon be overwhelmed and immobilized by the loneliness of ministry, and we MUST keep our eyes on Christ as the reason we do what we do!
The following sermon illustration is probably one of my favorites and I hope it speaks to your heart as well:
An elderly missionary couple had been working in Africa for years, and they were returning to New York City to retire. They had no pension; their health was broken; they were defeated, discouraged, and afraid. They discovered they were booked on the same ship as President Teddy Roosevelt, who was returning from one of his big-game hunting expeditions.
No one paid much attention to them. They watched the fanfare that accompanied the President’s entourage, with passengers trying to catch a glimpse of the great man.
As the ship moved across the ocean, the old missionary said to his wife, “Something is wrong. Why should we have given our lives in faithful service for God in Africa all these many years and have no one care a thing about us? Here this man comes back from a hunting trip and everybody makes much over him, but nobody gives two hoots about us.”
“Dear, you shouldn’t feel that way,” his wife said.
“I can’t help it; it doesn’t seem right.”
When the ship docked in New York, a band was waiting to greet the President. The mayor and other dignitaries were there. The papers were full of the President’s arrival, but no one noticed this missionary couple. They slipped off the ship and found a cheap apartment on the East side, hoping the next day to see what they could do to make a living in the city.
That night, the man’s spirit broke. He said to his wife, “I can’t take this; God is not treating us fairly.”
His wife replied, “Why don’t you go into the bedroom and tell that to the Lord?”
A short time later he came out from the bedroom, but now his face was completely different. His wife asked, “Dear, what happened?”
“The Lord settled it with me,” he said. “I told him how bitter I was that the President should receive this tremendous homecoming, when no one met us as we returned home. And when I finished, it seemed as though the Lord put his hand on my shoulder and simply said, ‘But you’re not home yet!’”