This is a note to all my family of faith, and a special shout out to those who find themselves in some way or another on the “front lines” in ministry.
On special United States holidays celebrating all those brave people who give their lives in service of this country, I reflect. I’m incredibly thankful for the life of liberty I’m blessed to live, and pray that God continues to bless us. I’m also saddened to think about the casualties of war. Losses are real for those on the front lines and scars run deep. Though victory may mean independence for the masses, it can leave our warriors in physical, mental and emotional prisons. They risk everything.
I also reflect on other warriors. Though these people also risk their lives, they do not fight, at least not physically. They labor for an even greater freedom than any armed forces can secure: the freedom of souls. The fight can get nasty, and many following Christ have the physical, mental and emotional scars to prove it.
My musings aren’t always this dreary, but I think this is a topic that needs more positive attention. There are so many misconceptions about what it can mean to serve Christ, and so much confusion and stigma associated with being wounded in battle. The pressure is on for those in ministry, and probably not (if I may be so bold) all for the right reasons. If you’re cool with it, maybe you can let your guard down for a bit as you read this. It’s not talked about much, but let’s face it: following Christ can get messy, and that’s OK. It’s OK to be imperfect. It’s OK to need grace. Hopefully these thoughts will encourage you and help you encourage others.
My first thoughts are general ones for all of us in faith–The Battle Is Real:
1. Ephesians 6:10-13 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
There is a spiritual war consuming this world that is far more dangerous than any physical war. Followers of Christ need to gear up with God’s armor and be ready. It’s time to put aside anything in our lives that makes us unfit for service. Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. You’re needed on the front lines!
2. 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2 Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith.
The Apostle Paul urged his Christian friends time and time again to pray for him and all the other missionaries in their network. Lets likewise pray for those who are giving their lives in service of God’s Kingdom. God listens to the prayers of His people! Those on the front lines like pastors, missionaries, youth workers, counselors, teachers, mentors, prayer warriors, financial supporters, etc. are attacked daily by Satan. This may surprise many, but your pastor is also human and could use notes of encouragement, care packages, prayer, a shoulder to cry on and even (gasp) a vacation every once in a while. The battle is real!
Now, these thoughts are more for those who consider themselves to be ministering on the front lines–God Is Faithful:
1. Luke 9:57-62 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Harsh words! God knows the cost of following. He asks for our earthly treasures to make room for heavenly treasures; our very lives in exchange for eternal life. Though it can get rough, there is no better place to be than with our Savior. He promises to never leave us, and wherever He sends us, He’s right there with us (otherwise He wouldn’t ask us to follow Him there). Even in times of waiting, hunger, poverty, death, prison, sickness and exhaustion, God is with you and working. May God keep you strong in faith to the end!
2. Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Some of you on the front lines around the world know suffering all too well. Maybe you have lost loved ones in service to the Kingdom. Maybe you or someone you know has been imprisoned and tortured. Maybe you’re struggling financially. Maybe you’ve incurred some scars that don’t seem to heal like chronic illness, burnout, PTSD, depression, nightmares, physical injuries and traumatic memories. As confusing and disheartening as suffering is, it is only temporary. The battle can get rough where God leads, but hold fast. God will sustain us and lift us up.
Side note: Isaiah 40:9-31 is full of awesome promises for times of suffering! I suggest you read this passage, like, all the time!
Remember John the Baptist? He gave up everything to follow God, and during the last few days of his life (in prison for Christ, nonetheless), he was all alone awaiting execution. Doubts flooded his mind and he sent two friends to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3). Jesus loved John and knew the struggle he was enduring. After showing the two friends many encouraging miracles for them to tell John, He sent them on their way. There was no condemnation for John’s fears, only grace. In fact, after John’s friends left, Jesus told the crowd gathered, “ Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11). Wow! How can God say this in John’s season of doubt? God is faithful to us even in our weakest moments.
If you’re struggling in ministry, reach out for help. Don’t be afraid to ask others to carry the load with you! I think we can get prideful, put on a smile and try to tough things out, but lets get real. You’re in a harsh battle and there is no shame in availing yourself of the Body of Christ–That’s what it’s designed for anyway, right? Pray for a mentor to be available to help you with your most personal scars, and above all, trust God with everything. Let God into all the areas of your life and ministry. Surrender all.
Thank you for your service!
“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life” (Jesus, Matthew 19:29).