By Steven Ackley
If you have served in ministry for very long, chances are likely that somewhere along the way you have felt helpless. First, if you’ve been there or are there today, you are not alone. I don’t know anyone who has survived in ministry for many years without feeling this way at some point. Unfortunately, I do know people that have felt this way and responded by running from their problems and away from the ministry.
The bottom line is that ministry is difficult. Ministry is messy. There will be conflict. There will be trial. But, I can’t think of anything in life that’s worth the struggle more than a calling to make Jesus known in every pocket of the world.
Here are three things I’ve found essential when ministry feels impossible.
1. Remember your calling.
The question of calling is one that thought leaders, theologians, and pastors have shared differing ideas on for years. There is no way around the fact that God has wired everyone uniquely, that He doesn’t spell out every detail for our lives in the clouds, and that there are some He has set apart specifically to lead in ministry. If through your own prayer and seeking the Lord, conversations with those in your church family, specific gifting, and opportunity all line up for you to be in full-time vocational ministry, then there is a strong chance you’ve been called to ministry.
God doesn’t take you through the process of discerning a call to ministry just so you’ll start working at a church then walk away to leave you on your own for the remainder of your journey. God equips and sustains those He calls. When ministry feels impossible, you must remember your calling and cling to God’s promises to finish what He has started in you.
2. Remember Christ.
If you study the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, it’s impossible to think that He had it easy. From the onset of His ministry there was conflict: internal conflict with temptation, relational conflict with some of His closest friends, and conflict with those who slandered and wrongly accused Him. All of this was only a precursor to the greatest suffering He would endure on the cross as a gracious means of paying for our sin.
When you are in the throws of ministry, it can be easy to forget that Christ suffered far worse. Remember Christ’s suffering for your sake and the sake of the one or ones who may have led you to feel the way you do. Remember that everything you need for life and godly living comes from Him, and cling to this hope.
3. Be confident.
We can’t unsee things or forget things that have marked us deeply in ministry. I remember early days in ministry that were the hardest things I had ever walked through at the time. But we also can’t live in the past. Whether it be past success or past failure, the past is the past and we can’t bring it back.
My encouragement to those who are struggling with the feeling that ministry is impossible is to look to the future. As we look to what God is doing and will do, we find a great deal of reason for confidence that, though times may have been hard, God hasn’t suddenly become unfaithful. James 1 reminds us that God does not change. His faithfulness has no end. Hold tightly to the confidence that the Lord is working for His glory and your good and be confident.
Ministry is tough. At times, the last thing some of us want to do is keep going. Remember, as one friend told me during a very difficult season, you can’t run away just because it’s hard. Remember your calling to ministry, remember the work and the promises of Christ, have confidence as you step into each new day of ministry, and never forget that the aim is worth the pain.
Steven Ackley, his wife Emily, and their four kids live out their love for anything sports and Cookout milkshakes in Murfreesboro, TN where Steven serves as the NextGen and College Pastor at LifePoint Church. Steven holds a D.Min. and an MDiv from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.