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Perseverance in ministry

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Why do some fail and others do not?

You know, many of us have sometimes wondered. We've wondered why some do well in ministry, why others do not? We wonder how some are able to persevere, why others are not.
And we also wonder about these same situations in our own lives. In the ministries we have been called too.
The struggle to persevere.
In times of trials and suffering. Some drop away from ministry. Some even as far as from leaving the church.
 ...And some, sadly enough, even from the Lord.
What is it that causes many to fall? What is it that discourages others? Discourages us?
Well, for those who have worked in ministry you already know many of the struggles! But those starting out. And those not in ministry. You may not know (yet?).
First, and very important for all to know. When you are in ministry you have a bullseye "painted" on your back by the evil one. Unfortunately there's not a very gentle way of saying this. The more that you are being used for the kingdom, the bigger the "bullseye". And he will use whatever means he can to destroy you. By influencing others against you. Whether it is brothers and sisters in Christ. To other leaders. To family. To friends. To the world. Even using your own weaknesses and struggles against you. Such as sin areas in your life that have been, or can be a struggle for you to overcome.
You should come to expect it!
You see the evil one is very crafty:
 "And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light."
            (1 Corinthians 11:14 NKJV)
 And he knows what he is doing (for more info click here: Satan-"father of all lies")! He's had thousands of years of practice. And we should never underestimate what he will do to harm, or stop us!
That's why we are warned in God's word, to be careful:
 "Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour."
                    (1 Peter 5:8 Amp. B.)
You see he is out to destroy us. And to destroy God's work in us. Now, we know in the end, that he has been defeated already. But that will not stop him from trying to destroy God's work, or His people. Trying to take as many as he can with him!
Perhaps like the old saying, "misery likes company"?
Second, the "human factor" itself, is a big problem for all of us. Especially in ministry!
Our good intentions, wanting to make a difference. When we start out in ministry. Is very commendable and correct. But they can change, become worldly. And they can turn into "big" egos, pride, selfishness and a myriad of other problems. And they can all play into this.
Whether they are our own, or those coming from others!
None of us are perfect. Whether we have good intentions, or not. We will make mistakes. A dear brother and mentor, in ministry. Once told me, years ago. "Brother John, the same people inside the church, are the same ones outside". And this is so true!
Yes, we are held to higher standards (James 3:1). But yet we are still human, we are still "imperfect". And we all need to remember this!
Why? Because it can be dangerous if we do not:
 "Pride comes before destruction,
     and an arrogant spirit before a fall."
             (Proverbs 16:18 HCSB)
Now, before we even go into ministry. We must have that "call" on our life. Where we know in our heart, that God has called us too ministry. A feeling of a strong burden that has been placed upon us. And sometimes that takes time (to know for sure). As we all have to be careful to hear God's voice and not our own. Or the influence of others. We need to be clear in our own hearts that He is calling us. In fact this is a reason why some fail in ministry. They attempted to put themselves in a ministry. That they were not appointed too (by God). Either by deceiving themselves (going ahead without confirmation, etc.). Or by allowing others to influence them, without God's leading.
Now, this does not mean if you struggle you haven't been "called" to ministry. In fact ministry is not naturally easy! We must always be led and depend on God.
So we all need to have that "call". Such as God calling Moses:
 And the LORD said: “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites. Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt."
                     (Exodus 3:7-10 NKJV)
So here we have God calling Moses to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. Now, if we all remember the story of Moses? The "call" he received from God was not an easy one! So we must remember that not many ministries can be termed as "trouble free", or "easy". In fact most are not!
Next, integrity is very important. In fact it is paramount, at the "top" of the list. A person must have high moral character. What they teach, preach, etc. Must reflect how they live in their own lives.
Afterall, who would take someone serious. Who does not live what they preach? And how could they be trusted? If they show themselves to be untrustworthy in small matters:
 "He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much."
                       (Luke 16:10 NKJV)
Also, maturity plays a part in this. Especially, and most of all spiritual maturity. In fact Paul himself spoke about the qualifications on an overseer:
 "Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap."
                (1 Timothy 3:1-7 NIV)
Now, I'm sure you would agree. That God would not want to entrust His people. To someone who could do them harm. Whether it is purposeful, or not. So He grows us. By our own life situations and those around us. Whatever the circumstances may be.
He "prunes" us:
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit."
                    (John 15:1-2 NKJV)
He "prunes" us into who He would have us be (-come). And this takes time and patience. Which, if you are like me? You probably do not have much of!
So we know that we need to have a "call" in our lives. And we need to be patient that God is working out things in our own lives. And in the background. To prepare us for what He has for us (to do).
Now, the next thing we have to remember is this. We are dealing with the same people inside the church. Who are outside the church! Just as we talked about earlier. The same kind of "flawed" human beings that we are! So there will be personality conflicts. Ego problems, pride, etc.
Basically, the problems of people, life, etc.!
Everyone has good and bad days, etc. So we must get use to it! It's the human "condition"!
Now, hopefully we are all continuing to grow in the Lord. But we are still "human". And this of course is the very factor in itself. Ourselves! This is our biggest struggle. So when hard times come, we want to quit. When others hurt us, or don't appreciate us. We want to quit. When we are too heavily tasked we want to quit!
In other words? We are human! We want to feel wanted, we want to feel appreciated. We want affirmation! And when we have been hurt. When we are worn out. Burned out. We want to walk away! But we have to remember that we are in this for the Lord and not ourselves, or others:
 "Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ."
                   (Galatians 1:10 NIV)
We are here to be faithful to the one we are "running" the race for! The one who enlised us!
 "No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules."
                  (2 Timothy 2:4-5 NKJV)
Now, when we are overburdened. Wanting to quit, is very understandable. And there are circumstances and situations when we must speak up. If we are being overburdened? Then we must "lay" some things down in order to stay functioning healthy. But only after careful prayer. Seeking God's guidance.
You see we cannot do it all! If we try too? Then we will be spread so "thin". That we cannot do everything well at all. We will be "in-effective". And in turn, the ministry we do will suffer. Others will suffer. And we will too! Much like the relay runner. Who tries to run fifteen miles on one bottle of water! Not only will he not make it. But his teammates will suffer also!
Now, there is one more thing that is most important of all. In fact we CANNOT EVER forget this! We MUST keep our relationship with the Lord, in "tip top" shape! This means that we spend the necessary time with Him. In personal prayer time, fellowship with Him. Reading His word. Worshipping Him in our own private time, etc.
You see if we do not maintain our personal relationship with Him. How can we follow Him and His will effectively? And How can we be "in tune" with His voice?
You see all those who came before us. From Abraham, to Jacob, to Moses, to David, to Elijah, to Paul, all kept their fellowship with the Lord! Their personal relationships with Him!! By prayer, worship, study, etc.
In fact Jesus Himself. The very Son of God! And our Lord!! Gave us the same example:
 "And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there."
               (Matthew 14;23 NKJV)
 "Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed."
                     (Mark 1:35 NKJV)
 "And when He had sent them away, He departed to the mountain to pray."
                     (Mark 6:46 NKJV)
 "So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed."
                     (Luke 5:16 NKJV)
So if Jesus, our Lord and Savior had to spend time with the Father. Who are we not too spend even more time (even much more so)?
So Jesus gave us example.  That we would know that we need to maintain our relationship with the Father!
We need to by prayer (JN 14:14, 16:23). Reading and studying His word (2 Tim. 3:16). And by worship (PS 99:9).
Afterall, how can we follow (be led by, etc.) Him, know Him. Become more like Him (Rom. 8:29). Lead others. If we do not spend the time we need with Him?
You see it all comes down to this. We all have certain giftings. Giftings that God has given us for the benefit of His kingdom purposes. And we all are called in some way, or another of serving (whatever ministry that may be). Whether it is full time ministry, lay ministry. Or whatever type of ministry it may be. That He has for us. Pastoring, preaching, evangelism, youth, children's, mercy, etc.
And it is up to us to do what is necessary. That we can persevere in our walk. So we can follow Him as we should. Staying faithful to Him. And the purpose (s) He has for our lives. Realizing that the evil one is always ready to discourage us, destroy us. And that he will use whatever means possible to accomplish his purpose!
And we need to be careful with what tasks we are to take on. And what tasks we must pass on!
And this is something that should be remembered. If God has gifted you? Then you will be used! And what often happens is this. People that are gifted are often times overworked. Given too many tasks. Like the old saying, "twenty percent of the church does eighty percent of the work". What happens? They "burn out". So we must know when to say, "yes" and "no".
Afterall, God will not give you more than you are capable of (pardon the "pun"). So you must pray as to His leading for what you should and should not. Be taking on!
Now, one last thing. Just because we are called to serve. It does not mean that we will not fall. That we will sometimes fail. Or feel that we have failed. But, that does not disqualify us for ministry! It just means that we have had "set backs". And there is no one in history who got it right all the time (for more info click here: Think that God can't use You?)!
So you see, it all comes down to this. God uses imperfect vessels to accomplish His purposes on this earth. We all can be used. He has gifted us all, in some way, or another. And He has a given task, or tasks, for each and every one of us to complete. But we are imperfect and we will make mistakes. The important thing is this. That we do not give up. But we get back up and "dust ourselves off". And we persevere!
And if we maintain our relationship with Him? We will be solid!
Remember that solid foundation? The one we need in our lives:
 "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."
                     (Matthew 7:24-27 NIV)               
It's the same one we need in the ministry we are entrusted with!
Afterall, remember what Jesus said?
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."
                     (John 15:5 NIV)

Rev. John Heintzman
Evangelist Non-Denominational
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POHOM Columbus, Ohio
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