Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.
(2 Corinthians 4:1, ESV)
Ministry is no easy thing. Paul describes it like being poured out as a drink offering on the altar of peoples’ faith, as if he was being drained for the sake of their growth. When the Lord calls you to a life of ministry – a thing which he does to every one of his followers – he is calling you to a life of sacrifice. A life of dying so that others may live.
In that dying it’s easy to let bitterness and dissatisfaction fill up those places that you’ve emptied into others. Frustrations at people’s slowness to step out in faith, at lack of commitment by volunteers, at leader’s foolish choices, and at your own failures grow like weeds. Bitterness against people who speak ill of you or abandon you when you desperately needed them takes root. Depression at the lack of progress is natural. Ministry becomes a burden and your heart weighs heavy with the souls of men and women who you love.
Jesus knew this burden. The Apostle Paul knew this burden. That’s why he wrote the words that appear in 2 Corinthians 4:1; “Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.”
Ministry is a Gift
Remember, the ministry God has given you is a gift. It’s not a job or an obligation. He has purchased you as sons and daughters, given you a new identity in Christ and filled you from foot to head with the infinite power of his Holy Spirit. As 2 Peter 1 says, He has given you everything needed for life and godliness.
Ministry becomes a burden when we forget that it’s a gift from God and start treating it as something that we have to accomplish. Disciple making isn’t something we have to do; it’s something we get to do. What an amazing truth! We who were enemies, children of wrath doomed to destruction, have been reconciled through the cross and appointed as ambassadors of reconciliation.
Christ didn’t save us and set us aside out of fear that we wouldn’t be good enough. He saved us and made us good, giving us the honor of representing him. Remember that your ministry is a gift. It was given to you by God in his great mercy. When it starts feeling like a curse, turn your eyes toward our God’s glory. There’s a reason that Paul moves from “we all, with unveiled faces, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another,” into “therefore, having this ministry”. Beholding God’s glory is the fuel for our ministry.
Ministry is a Mercy
Our calling to be ministers of reconciliation isn’t just a gift, it’s a mercy. We have this ministry “by the mercy of God.”
More often than not our Lord chooses the most broken people to be his greatest ministers so that he will get the greatest glory. (2 Cor. 4:7) Not only that, he chooses the most broken people to be his ministers because the ministry will be the furnace of their sanctification. If it wasn’t for the fact that God in his mercy had moved me into a place of leadership over first a small group of 7th grade boys to a youth ministry intern to the director of Threshingfloor Communities my life would be full of foolishness.
The weight of spiritual authority has been a mercy from our king to mature me. The thought that my sin will effect each of those who I oversee is a merciful fence to keep me from sin and crucible to refine my character. Not only is my ministry mediating mercy to the people who are a part of it, it’s also God’s means of giving mercy to me.
Don’t lose sight of this truth. It may well be that without the ministry that Jesus has called you to your life would be being wasted on self-service and sinful living. Being a disciple maker is Christ’s command for every Christian not as a punishment or a means of proving, but as a mercy. Therefore, because our ministry is given to us by the mercy of God, we will not lose heart. Roots of bitterness will be washed away by the waters of praise. Frustration will be killed with the sword of faith. Even during those late nights lying awake with the needs of our disciples running through our minds, during seasons of drought, and during times of overwhelming tiredness, we will not lose heart. Jesus is enough.