An Eternal Perspective Produces Perseverance
According to recent research (Barna polling), two out of five pastors nationwide are seriously thinking about quitting the ministry. Nearly 40% of pastors have thought seriously about quitting, and they probably would quit if they could find another way to make a living.
Why do you think pastors would want to quit? After all, it’s an easy job—you only work on Sundays and Wednesday nights, and the rest of the time you are out golfing or fishing.
That’s maybe what some people think, but it’s far from reality for most pastors. Typically, those in Christian ministry face a lot of pressure, opposition, betrayal, and even violent attacks. Because of that, one of the ongoing temptations in Christian ministry is to quit. When things get hard and adversity sets in, when you face opposition and personal attacks, it’s often a huge temptation simply to throw in the towel and quit the ministry.
It’s not only pastors who sometimes feel like quitting. Many people who regularly serve in various church ministries think about quitting, are tempted to quit, or do quit. Perhaps some of you have quit serving in various capacities because of problems, conflicts, or discouragement.
In Gal 6:9, Paul urges us not to grow “weary in well doing.” In our passage today, he urges us not to faint in the face of adversity.
In 2 Cor chapters 1-7, Paul is giving an explanation and a defense of his ministry. Note 4:15—he’s done all these things “for your sakes” and for “the glory of God.”
Then in vs. 16, he says that, in spite of all the difficulties of ministry, “we faint not/we do not lose heart.” Cf. 4:1—same word. This is an interesting word (ἐγκακοῦμεν); it means literally “to give in to bad.” It refers to being downhearted, being exhausted, losing heart, giving up, or losing interest.
If anyone had good reason to be discouraged, exhausted, and downhearted, it was Paul. He had experienced a lot of opposition and persecution in the ministry. This work had nearly cost him his life many times. He was persecuted by the enemies of Christ and often opposed and slandered by those claiming to be Christians. Some of the Corinthians had opposed him. His work had been exceedingly difficult, and no one would blame him for quitting or at least for losing enthusiasm about serving God.
But he says he’s not ready to quit; he has not lost heart or enthusiasm for the work.
None of us is facing the kind of hostility and violent threats that Paul faced, but we may be tempted to quit serving God. Perhaps you are fed up with your SS class or working in the nursery. Those kids are driving you crazy! The people you are trying to serve don’t appreciate your efforts. It’s getting harder to serve in the work you are doing. Perhaps various afflictions and problems have made serving God more difficult lately, and you are thinking about quitting.
In these verses, Paul encourages us to persevere in the ministry. When you feel like quitting or giving up, remember Paul’s advice for us here.
.16 “Therefore we do not lose heart/faint; we are not downhearted; we don’t quit.” Paul uses a set of comparisons or contrasts to tell us how to avoid losing heart/becoming discouraged/quitting. And his main point here is that adopting an eternal perspective will help us persevere. We must focus on eternal things and spiritual values rather than on the physical problems we are experiencing here and now.
How do we persevere in ministry when we feel like quitting?