Orphan and foster care ministry is a daunting task. No doubt, if you’ve spent much time with a child, you know the task of raising children can be among the most sanctifying things that you can do. In our own strength, no one is up to the task of shaping, helping, and teaching children who are coming from difficult, traumatic, and complicated backgrounds without discouragement and trials along the way.
The question has to be asked, “What is the point of hardship?” and “Why continue in gospel ministry in the face of such challenges?” This month, Pastor Charles de Kiewit answers these questions for us as he shares his notes from Colossians 1:24-29.
Is there any point in facing hardship in ministry?
None of us are Apostles, but we are all ministers at work in gospel ministry to the glory of God. This means that there are lessons we can gain in our approach to ministry as God teaches us from the life of the Apostle.
Hardship in ministry is not an end in itself
On the last day of my holiday I finished a five km run by sprinting up a steep hill and walking down again to recover from the pain – 6 times. It was an extremely hard and painful exercise. But at the same time it was great! Why? Because it wasn’t pain for the sake of pain but necessary pain so as to accomplish something greater. Paul knew that to be true of his ministry.
Hardship in gospel ministry is never wasted.
His struggle of preaching the gospel in a hostile pagan environment or even having to endure prison was not wasted. Enduring hardship on their behalf brought the benefits of the gospel to them. Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake
Have you ever watched a lifesaver at the beach rescue a drowning person from the rough seas? Or, have you ever witnessed a fireman entering a burning building to rescue a suffocating child? Those are incredible scenes but iIsn’t it infinitely more wonderful to be involved in the rescue of a soul from the eternal wrath God in hell? If faith comes from hearing and hearing from the word of God, then the enduring of some pain and hardship in the process of ministry is worth it.
The fact that hardship in ministry is never wasted should provide some encouragement to you. But there is more revealed by Paul here about the positive acceptance of suffering in ministry. Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.
This is not suggesting that Paul or anyone else needs to add anything to the atoning work of Christ. A few verses back, he confirmed that in Colossians 1:20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. This difficult verse gives us more help in our approach to hardship in ministry.
Hardship in gospel ministry shows the love of Christ
A recent Facebook post depicted the difference between radical Islam and Christianity. The radical Islamic figure speaks saying, “if you don’t accept Islam it will cost you your life”. The Christian figure speaks saying, “I must tell you about Jesus even if it costs me my life”.
John Paton risked his life to share the gospel with the cannibals of the New Hebrides; Elizabeth Elliot returned to the Auca Indians who murdered her husband.
Why have so many Christians risked their lives (lost their lives) in going out with the gospel to hostile nations of the world? When a true believer faces hardship and suffering in the course of gospel ministry it is a “picture” of Jesus’ ministry. When you and I are busy with God’s work we are his representatives. We are showing the world a glimpse of our Saviour because he is not physically present. In so doing filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.
Any hardship and suffering we then face in gospel ministry conforms to and communicates the pattern and nature of Christ’s redemptive work through suffering. As well, we know that when we doubt the love of God for us, we ought to go back to the cross remembering John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
It is also true then that when we willingly endure suffering in the work of gospel ministry, we are demonstrating the love of God in Christ to our hearers. In the days of his life on earth, my Saviour showed his love for me by paying the ultimate price for my soul. I want you also to know this indescribable love of God for sinners; and so, it is good and right for me to endure a bit of suffering in the process of proclaiming the work of Christ.