What often derails faithful Christian ministry is leaders who give up in the face of discouragement.
The signs of discouragement begin internally before they ever show on the outside. A weight on the chest that makes it hard to breathe. A lethargy that makes even the most common ministry tasks burdensome and difficult to manage. An overwhelming sense that all your work is amounting to little or nothing. Short patience with those close to you. A jealousy that burns down to your stomach when you hear of more successful ministries or ministers.
I wrestle with these things on a regular basis. Where should our minds go when they begin to pull in this direction?
I have been memorizing the book of 1 Peter and, in doing so, I’ve found glorious joys that can help pull the heart back from the pits of discouragement. Here are four realities from that book that can serve as a breath of fresh, cool air for the gasping lungs of the discouraged.
Your story ends in glory
In 1:6, Peter says that Christians can rejoice even while suffering all kinds of grief because God has for them an everlasting inheritance they cannot lose. They cannot lose it because their receiving of it depends not upon their own power but upon God’s. God has caused them to be born again into this hope, God guards them and keeps their faith alive with His power, and God keeps this inheritance in heaven.
Leadership is often discouraging because we ask, “Where is this whole thing going? How can any good come from this?” But Peter reminds us that there never has been nor will there ever be a single Christian whose story ends in failure and that includes discouraged pastors. Your hope is alive, your faith is kept by God’s power, and your future glorious inheritance is pristine and awaiting the perfect moment to be yours. Your story ends in glory. Never forget that.
Christ is the source of glorious joy
Later on in chapter 1, Peter tells his readers another glorious joy that is theirs, a joy rooted not in themselves or in their situation, but in Christ. He explains that though they have not seen Him, they love Him; though they do not now see Him, they believe in Him and rejoice with a joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.
In the midst of their difficulty, Peter tells his discouraged readers to remember. Remember your love for Christ. Remember how upon hearing of Him, your heart clung to Him even though your eyes never saw him. Remember how faith has sustained you, given a firm confidence in the trustworthiness of the Savior that did not come from physical sight but a Spirit-wrought dependence on the strength of His hand.
It is this remembrance of love and faith that leads to a joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory. So many of us in our discouragement have forgotten our first love. Stoking the fires of that remembrance sets our joy ablaze.
Jesus will share His glory with You
Peter continues later in the letter with specific encouragement to pastors in chapter 5. In 5:1-5, Peter reminds pastors that they are partakers in the glory that is going to be revealed when Jesus returns. It is not only Jesus that will appear in glory; all who belong to Him, including pastors, will share that glory.
Your glory on the final day will not rest in how outwardly successful you were in ministry. Your glory will be Jesus’ glory; He shares it with you and brings you into His own glorious victory. All of us, whether we shepherd thousands or tens, long to be clothed not in the glory of the size of our ministry but the glory of the cosmic victory of our Savior. And you will have it!
Christ will give glory for your faithful service
Finally, in verse 4 of chapter 5, Peter tells the elders that when the Chief Shepherd appears, He will give to them the unfading crown of glory. They will receive from Christ’s own hand a crown for their work.
The Chief Shepherd sees you banging your head over the keyboard, struggling to find the most helpful way to explain that biblical point. He sees the long phone calls with those who have been in your church for years but still don’t seem to get it. He sees the heartache when you give your life to someone who then leaves your church after a few years for one with a better children’s program or a more dynamic speaker. Don’t seek to mend those wounds with anger or dull them with secret indulgences. The crown you receive from the Shepherd’s hand will transform a million heartaches into everlasting joy.
Oh pastor, I pray that God would open your eyes to the glories all around you and the glories that await you. Don’t give up. Fight for joy. Your story will join the tapestry of the glory of King Jesus and will echo to his everlasting praise through the halls of eternity. And how sweet the sound will be!