I’m preaching on Galatians for the next few weeks, and so in my regular devotional reading I’m in the book, too. Some might think that practice is combining work with my personal spiritual growth and excuse it because, after all, a pastor’s life can be difficult. But I find that as I mine for gold in God’s Word, He tends to give me both nuggets for myself and for the congregation, as well.
But today—this morning—it was for neither. It was for a friend of mine.
Paul drops a big pastoral bomb in chapter two. One you never hear a pastor say in front of his congregation (and, truth be told, you rarely hear it even just among pastors), but it is one that every pastor worries over. Paul confesses a fear that he had been running his race in vain. He says that there was a moment, a season, a time when everything he knew and did in ministry was called into question. That perhaps all the hard work, all the preaching, all the discipling, had been for nothing. That maybe the cost had been too great and the dividends too little.
And this is Paul speaking. Paul, who writes half of the New Testament. Paul, who traveled thousands of miles on foot to expand God’s Kingdom. Paul, who had been beaten and stoned and left for dead because he dared preach the name of Jesus Christ. Paul, who after those things stood back up and looked up to Heaven and headed back down the same missionary road he had long traveled because he could not help but preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
Paul . . . who wonders, “Was it all worth it?”
And the thing is, he never really seems to answer that question. He could point to souls saved. He could point to churches planted. He could point to Spirit-inspired letters of encouragement and exhortation written and circulated from Christian to Christian. But he doesn’t count numbers. He doesn’t even seem to count the cost.
But he does say, “God was at work in my ministry.”
For just a moment, the fog of worry cleared from Paul’s head and he saw the brilliant light of Christ shining down on him. And suddenly the important question was no longer, “Was it worth it?”, but the important question was, “Was God working His ends through me?”
And the answer was—and is!—“YES!” Yes, God was at work through him then. God was at work through him now. God was leading, God was preaching, God was healing, God was saving and rescuing and delivering. God in Paul. In Paul’s ministry. In Paul’s life.
Is ministry worth it? I don’t think that’s the right question to ask anymore. I’m sorry to say that the answer to that question changes with my mood. But was God there? That I know for sure. Wherever He has been in the past, He was at work.
And where He is today, let me be there also.
“My dear Lord Jesus,
Thou art mine; therefore, I wish to be Thine.
All that I possess,
my body and my soul,
my strength and my gifts,
and all that I do,
my entire life,
shall be consecrated to Thee,
. . . to Thee alone.
Lay on me any burden Thou pleasest,
I shall gladly bear it.
Lead me anywhere,
through sorrow or joy,
through good fortune or misfortune,
through shame or honor,
through favor of men or their disfavor,
grant me a long life, or should I die an early death,
--I shall be satisfied with anything.
Lead the way, and I shall follow.”
-C.F.W. Walther, Law and Gospel