Pastoring Isn’t Supposed to Be Easy

“Why do you think God has to call people into this work? If it were easy, people would be lining up to volunteer.”

It’s supposed to be tough.

Why do you think God has to call people into this work? If it were easy, people would be lining up to volunteer.

The Christian life is tough to start with: “‘In this world you will have tribulations,’ our Lord said. Then, he added, ‘But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world’” (John 16:33).

Then, the Lord calls certain members of the redeemed to stand apart from the flock and become his undershepherds. Overseers of the flock. Examples to the rest. And frequently, his spokesmen.

Targets. In the crosshairs of the Enemy.

He does not sugarcoat the call. When Jesus called Saul of Tarsus, he said, “I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:16).

Jesus told his disciples, “I send you forth like sheep in the midst of wolves … Men will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake … A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master” (Matthew 10).

We read about how they treated Jesus, so we shouldn’t expect anything different.

We can’t say we weren’t warned.

Accept God’s call to ministry and the world draws a target on your back. You must not say, “Why me, Lord?”

Accept this call and understand that you have chosen to swim upstream in a downstream world. You must not say, “It’s hard, Lord.” It certainly is.

Accept this call and throw out all plans for a soft life with a cushioned retirement at the end. And you cannot accuse the Lord of misrepresenting things in order to sucker you in.

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Accept this call and know that your troubles will come as much from within the congregation as from without. Paul told the Ephesian pastors, “After my departure, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also, from among yourselves, men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore, watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears” (Acts 20:29-31).

Want to do something fun? Read the account of Moses as he led Israel from Egypt up to the back door of Canaan. Read about the harassment he took and the bellyaching he endured. Then notice one more thing: Do not miss all the griping and complaining that Moses himself did.

It would be easy to say Moses’ chief difficulties came from a group known as “the rabble,” certain non-Jews who joined the exodus out of Egypt as though it were a jailbreak and they were willing to do anything and go anywhere to get out. (In both Exodus 12:38 and Numbers 11:4, they are called “a mixed multitude,” unbelievers who went with Israel out of Egypt.) Unbelievers in the midst of a people of faith will always cause problems, and Moses had his share. As will you.

This, incidentally, is why the Lord’s flock must be careful to choose only people of faith when selecting teachers and leaders. (See Luke 18:8) It’s why Jesus said, before delivering some of his strongest lessons, “I say to you who hear.” Only people of faith will “hear,” will “get it.” Paul said, “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit because they are foolishness to him” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

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You think you have it tough?

Moses was living off the land with a flock of a million people or so. I suspect you have a house with a stove and refrigerator and a bed with a mattress. Moses had none of those things. They probably give you a check every couple of weeks, and might even deposit something in your retirement account. You are blessed indeed.

That is not to say Moses did not get in his share of complaining. My favorite instance is recorded Numbers 11:15, where Moses prayed, “Lord, if I have found favor in thy sight, please kill me now.”

Many a pastor understands the feeling.

I suspect the source of much of our unhappiness in the ministry results from comparing ourselves with two groups:

1. When we compare our status in life (income, houses, cars, luxuries) with our neighbors, we become envious. We must help our children not to fall into this trap.

2. When we compare our situation with that of other pastors and ministry leaders, we can become restless and even a little resentful. “Why isn’t the Lord blessing my ministry the way he blesses theirs? Some pastors pull in over a hundred grand a year; why am I struggling to get by with a third of that?”

When it comes to the first scenario, we must wake up and repent. Envying the world is a disease that will poison your heart and destroy your ministry effectiveness. Psalm 73 was given as the Lord’s permanent reply to those who would envy the world: “You don’t want to be in their shoes. Not now and not ever.”