Upheld by Prayer
A certain pastors’ conference once hosted a seminar that dealt with despair and depression in ministry. In a way that was either phenomenally encouraging or horribly depressing, it was the best-attended seminar of the whole conference, a standing-room-only event. Pastors, some accompanied by their wives, were looking for hope and answers regarding what to do when facing severe discouragement in ministry.
The prophet Elijah would have known how the most afflicted minister in that room was feeling. He experienced hopelessness in his own ministry. He once stood alone in front of 450 armed men—prophets of the false god Baal, who were totally opposed to him—and experienced God coming down in mighty power and vanquishing his enemies. Yet immediately after this, he received a threatening message from Queen Jezebel and ran away to the desert. He spent a dejected night in a cave, convinced he was the only one left who was zealous for God. And in this most dejected state, God met with Elijah and encouraged him, not least with the promise that “I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal” (1 Kings 19:18).
Your faith and your growth in Christlikeness are of great encouragement to your pastor. The apostle Paul, on hearing that the young congregation in Thessalonica was still standing firm in their faith, wrote that “now we live” and described “all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God” (1 Thessalonians 3:8-9).
God’s servants in all areas of ministry are not immune to discouragement. The path of Christian service is full of highs and lows; there are delightful days and disastrous days. When we’re disheartened, it can seem difficult to keep going—but God uses His people to uphold pastors and ministry leaders by their faith and growth, and by their prayers. When C.H. Spurgeon showed people around the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, he would take them downstairs to show them the “boiler room.” There was no boiler there; instead, there were seats. Here, several hundred people would gather every Sunday morning to pray for Spurgeon while he preached. He knew that his ministry’s effectiveness depended on those who prayed and on the God who answered their prayers.
If you are in ministry (whether paid or not) and are feeling disheartened, consider this: you have impacted lives for eternity. Look back over the past couple of years and among the difficulties you will be able to see evidences of God’s work through you. Let that encourage you! And whoever you are, how long has it been since you last wrote a note of encouragement or prayed for those serving in ministry around you? It is vitally important that you do so. Even if these leaders continue to preach and teach the same messages and minister in the exact way they always have, it will be to far greater effect when we simply pray for them in faith. All of us have the responsibility—indeed, the privilege—of doing so.
1 Thessalonians 2:17-20
Paul's Longing to See Them Again
17But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, 18because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us. 19For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20For you are our glory and joy.
1 Thessalonians 3:1-13
1Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, 2and we sent Timothy, our brother and God's coworker1 in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, 3that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. 5For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.
Timothy's Encouraging Report
6But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— 7for this reason, brothers,2 in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. 8For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. 9For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, 10as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?
11Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
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