Anyone who ministers for the Lord is bound to get weary and one day ask the question, “Is it really worth it all?” Preachers are human, too.
You take time away from your own family to help people, and they complain because you didn’t come sooner and do more.
You go the extra ten miles to meet somebody’s needs, and you never get one word of thanks.
You are on call 24 hours a day and often devote your day off to conducting a funeral, and people ask if you are busy.
You use a part of your vacation for study, and people wonder if you are working hard enough. And there is always the specter of the former pastor (“what a great and godly man!”) haunting every service and every board meeting.
Is it any wonder that you ask, “Is it really worth it all?”
The question is not new, nor is the inward pain that goes with it. Moses gave his best to his people, and yet they criticized him as well as his wife. On one occasion, he told God he would rather die than lead the people of Israel, and he meant it.
Many of the saints of old, including the prophets and apostles, felt unappreciated and unwanted; and a roll call of the “great preachers” would reveal that they often felt the same way.
Apparently this is one of the occupational hazards of the ministry, so we had better expect it and learn to live with it. Phillips Brooks reminds us that growth in ministry means “higher heights of joy and deeper depths of sorrow,” so our only escape is to stop growing.
Whom do we serve?
The place to start in dealing with this problem is in our own hearts. Before we can answer the question “Is it worth it all?” we must ask, “Why am I ministering at all?” If we are ministering for any other reason than to serve the Lord, then nothing will make us happy.
The Jewish priests were set apart “to minister to the Lord” (Ex. 28:1, 3, 4, 41). Of course, they served their people; but their first obligation was to please the Lord. Paul and Barnabas were ministering to the Lord when God called them into missionary service (Acts 13:2).
Yes, we serve God’s people; but we serve them “for Jesus’ sake” (II Cor. 4:5). That means that our very first responsibility is to obey Him and please Him, no matter what His people may say or do. This should not make us independent in spirit, but rather dependent on the Lord and patient with His flock. After all, God is patient with us.
It is encouraging to know that the final judgment lies with our Master and not with His people. The Prophet Isaiah has God’s suffering servant say: “I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and in vain; yet surely my just reward is with the Lord, and my work with my God” (Isa. 49:4).
Paul took this same approach when dealing with the accusations of the militant crowd in Corinth (I Cor. 4). It’s the best approach to take.
Who’s to blame?
It comes as a great relief when you realize that God’s servants, if they are faithful in their ministry, are not held accountable for what their people do. If they were, then Moses and Pau1 are the two biggest failures in ministerial history!
God holds us accountable to do our work faithfully as He directs and as He enables, and the consequences are not in our hands. The pastor who expects all of his people to develop into spiritual giants is bound to be disappointed. For that matter, how many pastors become “giants”?
Don’t forget faith.
“Do you know what the formula is for blessing in ministry?” Dr. Lehman Strauss asked me many years ago. “It is to simply preach, and pray and plug away!” I’ve learned that he is right.
Ours is a ministry of faith, and we don’t always see the results. The harvest is not the end of the meeting or of the church year. The harvest is the end of the age, and the Lord of the harvest will see to it that His good and faithful servants will get their just rewards.
The longer you minister, the better you understand that God has “seasons” to His work. He has a right time for everything, and everything is beautiful in its time (Eccles. 3:1-11). He uses different workers at different times to accomplish various purposes. A ministry you begin may be completed by somebody else, but both will share the reward and the joy of working together for Him (John 4:34-38).
The pastor who wants only to build a crowd, and not a church, doesn’t have to work by faith. There are many surefire methods for entertaining the sheep and attracting the goats. But the minister who truly wants to edify the church must do his work by faith, and he will not always be able to measure the “results.”
George Morrison said, “God rarely permits His servants to see all the good they are doing.” When we wonder if it is really worth it all, we need to lay hold of His unchanging promise that “in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6:9).
The measurements for ministry are so confused these days that it’s easy for any of us to be intimidated. (The fastest way to feel guilty is to attend a pastors’ conference and listen to the speakers being introduced.) The discouragement that comes from intimidation (or envy) is one of Satan’s chief weapons, and we must fight against it.
There are no small churches and there are no big preachers. All of us are important in the work of God, and He will see to it that no man’s work will go unrecognized or unrewarded. Don’t be too quick to praise another man’s ministry, or to underrate your own. When tempted to do so, read and ponder I Cor. 4:5.
As difficult as it is, we must try to separate feelings from facts. How we feel about the church, and what God knows about the church, are two different things, as Revelation 2 & 3 make clear.
“Is it really worth it all?”
Yes, if you are doing it for the glory of the Lord. And the best part is, what you do will last forever.
©2002 WWW Used by permission. This article is copyrighted by the author and is for your individual use. Reproduction for any other purpose is governed by copyright laws and is strictly prohibited. This material originally appeared in Prokope, January-February 1988
Dr. Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) was an internationally known Bible teacher, author, and conference speaker. He graduated in 1953 from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. While attending seminary, he was ordained as pastor of Central Baptist Church in 1951 and served until 1957. From September 1957 to 1961, Wiersbe served as Director of The Literature Division for Youth for Christ International. From 1961 to 1971 he pastored Calvary Baptist Church of Covington, Kentucky south of Cincinnati, Ohio. His sermons were broadcast as the “Calvary Hour” on a local Cincinnati radio station. From 1971 to 1978, He served as the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago 1971 to 1978. While at Moody Church he continued in radio ministry. Between August 1979 and March 1982, he wrote bi-weekly for Christianity Today as “Eutychus X”, taught practical theology classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and wrote the course material and taught a Doctor of Ministry course at Trinity and Dallas Seminary. In 1980 he transitioned to Back to the Bible radio broadcasting network where he worked until 1990. Dr. Wiersbe became Writer in Residence at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids and Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. In his lifetime, Dr. Wiersbe wrote over 170 books—including the popular Be series, which has sold over four million copies. Dr. Wiersbe was awarded the Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA).