Can I be honest with you? I was feeling a little sorry for myself this week.
COVID-19 numbers are up, and gathering restrictions are coming back in my state.
My church may need to go 100% virtual again soon. Ugh.
Maybe you’re feeling like me.
I think it’s important for us to remember that challenges like this aren’t new.
The early Christians were constantly under the threat of having their gatherings shut down.
In fact, they were always under threat of imprisonment and being fed to lions!
I dug through one of the Apostle Paul’s letters to a young pastor named Timothy and I found some pretty challenging words.
“Hey Timothy, in the midst of all the challenges and dangers you are facing…”
“Train yourself to be godly.”
“…labor and strive…”
“Give yourself wholly to…”
These words and phrases are intense.
It’s as if Paul is saying, "Get in gear. Focus. Work hard. Persist. Don’t give up.”
It’s as if he’s saying, “I know it’s hard. Work harder.”
How could Paul, the older mentor pastor, push Timothy so hard amid all the challenges Timothy faced as a pastor in Ephesus?
How could Paul push us so hard with all the challenges we’re facing as pastors and leaders during this pandemic?
Here it is:
“That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people…”
1 Timothy 4:10a
Our hope isn’t in our government’s ability to navigate this pandemic.
Our hope isn’t in the election and its outcome.
Our hope isn’t in a vaccine.
Our hope isn’t in our church budget.
Our hope isn’t in our ability to hold in-person services.
Our hope isn’t in our ability to lead.
Our hope is in the living God.
I needed to be reminded of this truth. The outcome isn’t on me.
This church isn’t my church. Your church isn’t your church.
It’s His Church and our hope is in Him.
I can promise you this: No matter what happens, God will build His Church.
I can train, labor, strive, devote myself, and persevere because my hope is in Him.
The outcome isn’t up to me and my effort. My job is to work hard and rely on Him.
That feels like freedom to me.
Something else that struck me as I made my way through this chapter of Paul’s letter to Timothy.
“Do not neglect your gift, which was given to you, through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.”
1 Timothy 4:14
Like you and me, Timothy possessed gifts for ministry.
Based on what I read in Paul’s letter, it seems like he was a teacher and leader.
I wonder what your gifts are? Hospitality? Discernment? Faith?
While I wonder what your gifts are, I don’t wonder where they came from.
They were given to you. They came through the Spirit of God, and they are on loan to you.
You didn’t choose your gifts. God did.
Why do we train, labor, strive, devote ourselves, and persevere? Stewardship.
Because we are responsible to use, grow, and develop these gifts that our gracious God placed in us.
I needed to be reminded of this truth.
God put gifts in me so that He can build and expand His kingdom through me.
This feels like a privilege. And it’s a responsibility.
Again, I’m not accountable for the results, but I’m sure going to train, labor, strive, devote myself, and persevere in stewarding these gifts.
Friends, this season is hard. It’s challenging and exhausting.
Could I encourage you to persevere? Strive. Train. Devote yourself to the ministry.
Why? Because our hope is in the living God who gifted us and called us to join Him in the work He is doing in the world.
We can continue to thrust ourselves into this calling because this is His church.
He’s still on His throne, and He’s still inviting us to participate with Him in building His kingdom.