Pastoral ministry is a good fight. And if we want to say with Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7), we will need endurance. Endurance is not only a mark of a Christian’s discipleship, it is a nonnegotiable component of serving in Christian ministry. The ministry road may cross lush green meadows from time to time, but it also bends and turns through fire and flood and maybe even the valley of the shadow of death.
1. Endurance is necessary because . . . people are sinners.
True enough, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood” (Eph. 6:12), for the greater warfare is spiritual, but a local church still does not consist of glorified saints. The New Testament epistles recognize that the saints are sinners, for the apostles exhort readers to bear with one another, forgive one another, rebuke one another, and discipline one another, when necessary. In the course of your ministry, pastor, you may be the subject of gossip, slander, and anger, and such a situation, especially if ongoing, may tempt you to waver, withdraw, or leave the church altogether. Yet part of shepherding sinners is bearing with them even in their sin, pointing them to Jesus and praying for their repentance.
2. Endurance is necessary because . . . pastors are sinners.
According to 1 Timothy 3, pastors must be qualified to shepherd a church, yet notably missing from the requirements is sinlessness. The shepherd of sinners is a sinner himself. The pastor will have to wage war against his acts of flesh, just as he exhorts his hearers to walk in the Spirit and in the light. He must endure this battle, in season and out of season. He must not justify his sinful failings but repent of them. The pastor should lead the way in obedience, setting an example for the flock (1 Pet. 5:3). He should hold to the gospel more firmly, take holiness more seriously, love God’s word more deeply, and intercede in prayer more fervently—all for the glory of God and the good of his family and church.
3. Endurance is necessary because . . . the unseen is eternal.
We can endure the trials endemic to pastoral ministry because they are temporary. The Chief Shepherd will appear in great glory, and an unfading crown awaits us (1 Pet. 5:4). So visit the sick and bury the dead. Baptize believers and administer the Supper. Preach Christ crucified and urge people to repent. Lead meetings and return phone calls. Love your wife and play with your children. One day the burdens in your ministry will not feel like burdens, for although you didn’t realize it at the time, they were achieving a glory that outweighed them all (2 Cor. 4:17). Paul wrote, “So we do not lose heart . . . 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 Cor. 4:16, 18). Therefore, labor on, beloved pastor, and endure. “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58).
Mitch Chase is the pastor of Kosmosdale Baptist Church in Louisville, where he also earned a PhD in biblical theology from Southern Seminary. He is the author of Behold Our Sovereign God. He blogs at Unto Him, and he tweets at @mitchellchase.