Here are four encouragements for Christian ministers from a passage that has meant a lot to me lately:
Remember the mercy.
Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. (2 Corinthians 4:1)
We did not earn the privilege of ministering in Jesus’ name to people. It is not like a promotion at word or a goal we save up for. We deserve damnation, but have been given salvation and ministry instead. Ministering in light of this helps us keep heart in our service. It reminds us that ministry is a gift, not an obligation. It keeps us humble and grateful, and helps us endure the hard times.
When comedian Jerry Seinfeld first met Jimmy Fallon on the set of Saturday Night Live, we noticed how enthusiastic he was. Someone who knew Fallon well said, “He’s just happy to be here.” Fallon grew up watching SNL and never dreamed he would get the chance to work on the show. This is the attitude of Christian ministers who remember the mercy behind their ministry. We’re just happy to be here.
State the truth of Jesus Christ.
But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. (2 Corinthians 4:2)
There is no need to complicate ministry with tactics outside of this simple action: openly stating the truth of Jesus Christ. No amount of cunning could accomplish what is required to save someone. We cannot heal the spiritual blindness that keep unbelievers from seeing “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4). It is “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’” who “has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Embrace your nature.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (2 Corinthians 4:7)
We are like clay jars, and God made us this way on purpose. He pours the gleaming treasure of his mercy and glory into us in order to display his surpassing power. We’re not meant to look glorious, we’re meant to display his glory. We are the frame, not the painting. There is great freedom here from the pressure to be awesome, or to look awesome. Our role is simply to point others to the awesome One.
Transfer your weight.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
Often when leaving our house I cannot quite get my children fully in the van. They’ll be distracted by this and that, and then get lost in telling me something as they stand with one foot in the van and one foot in the carport. I have to continually tell them to get in the van as they meander about. Christian ministers are this way. God continually tells us to get our attention on the eternal rather than the temporary, the unseen rather than the seen. We stand with one foot here and one foot there, and he uses affliction to remind us to “get in the van.” The troubles we encounter in ministry serve to help us transfer our weight into eternity.
All Christians are ministers. What is your post? What is your specific assignment as a Christian minister right now? What people are you called to serve right now? Have each person in the group share.
Read 2 Corinthians 4:1-6. What stands out to you? How does this relate to your specific ministry?
Have you ever been tempted to “lose heart” in your ministry? Share with the group.
Read 2 Corinthians 4:7-12. What stands out to you? How does this relate to your specific ministry?
Have you experienced any of the things Paul lists in verses 8 and 9? Share with the group.
Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. What stands out to you? How does this relate to your specific ministry?
What are “the things that are seen” and “the things that are unseen”?
What is your biggest takeaway from this chapter? How will you respond to it?