Overcoming Discouragement in Ministry #10

McAfee Knob, AT, Virginia

What occupies your mind each day?

Social media? Tasks? Worry? Fears? The News? Video games? Stuff? Woes? Church members’ needs? Conflicts?

How many thoughts do you think in a day?

The results of a 2020 study (Heathline.com) suggested people typically have more than 6,000 thoughts per day. In the study, which involved 184 participants with an average age of 29.4, study authors used brain imaging scans to track when new thoughts began while participants were either resting or watching a movie.

Here’s the math, based on their estimate: Say you get 8 hours of sleep each night. You’re awake for 16 hours each day and have exactly 6.5 thoughts per minute. (6.5 x 60 x 16 = 6,240 thoughts) Maybe you only sleep 7 hours each night, so you’re awake for 17 hours each day. (6.5 x 60 x 17 = 6,630 thoughts)

The article goes on to cover negative thinking, intrusive thoughts, and how to change your thinking. (Scripture gives us much to consider on these subjects.)

So, I’ll ask again, “What occupies your mind in a day?” Who or what controls your thinking, guides your thoughts, gives you peace and rest?

How grateful I am for my dad who often talked about being occupied with Christ. Grant Richison said, “Occupation with Christ is the cure for discouragement.”

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “occupy” as . . .

1: to engage the attention or energies of
2a: to take up (a place or extent in space)
b: to take or fill (an extent in time)
3a: to take or hold possession or control of
b: to fill or perform the functions of (an office or position)
4: to reside in as an owner or tenant

So, what does it mean, what does it look like to be occupied with Christ?

  1. To be occupied with Christ is to surrender moment-by-moment to Christ in me (John 14:20; Galatians 2:20), seeing life through the eyes of His Word (1 Corinthians 2:6-14; Colossians 3:16), living out practically each day our position in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 1:5-6), and appropriating all that we have in Christ for God’s glory (Ephesians 1:3-14; Colossians 3).
  2. Get out of bed each day, and as Ron Lynch says, “Report DOA” (Dead On Arrival). Each of us struggle with being too occupied with ourselves. Since we are crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20) and dead to sin (Romans 5:6-11), then I “report DOA.” A dead man can’t do anything.
  3. Understand who you are in Christ. Check out Overcoming Discouragement #5
  4. Live in 1 Peter 3:15 (NLT), Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.
  5. Preach the Truth to yourself rather than listening to yourself. (Psalm 18:30; John 14:6; Proverbs 14:12)
  6. Make your life’s goal to hear Jesus say to you at the Bema (The Judgment Seat of Christ, Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10), “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23). It is as Paul said, “For to me to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21).
  7. We, as ministers for Christ, are never the celebrity; only Jesus Christ is the true celebrity. He’s always the issue. Pastors should never be placed on a pedestal (Philippians 3:7-8, But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.)
  8. Preach motivated by and saturated with occupation with Christ. (Colossians 1:27-29, To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.) Preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2), not a verse out of context or a thought we have backed up by a Bible verse.
  9. Being occupied with Christ takes precedence over being pre-occupied with people. Therefore, you see people as Christ does (Matthew 9:36; 11:28-30; John 10:10).
  10. Being occupied with Christ is steadfast, consistent encouragement as you abide in the Vine (John 15:1-11).

So, what occupied your mind yesterday? What will occupy your mind today?

That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death (Philippians 3:10).

1 Christ beside me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
King of my heart;
Christ within me,
Christ below me,
Christ above me
never to part.
2 Christ on my right hand,
Christ on my left hand,
Christ all around me
shield in the strife;
Christ in my sleeping,
Christ in my sitting,
Christ in my rising
light of my life.

(Attributed to St. Patrick)

Overcoming Discouragement in Ministry (#8)

Twin Falls (Eastatoe), Sunset, SC

“Men, how’s your prayer life?”

WRONG QUESTION.

“Men, how’s your life of prayer?”

Ah, yes! That’s the correct question and the correct setting.

A prayer life is compartmentalizing your walk with God. A life of prayer aptly describes what the Christian life should look like–a man solely dependent upon God for spiritual life and vitality, an eternal, biblical viewpoint, wisdom from the Throne of God, and a relationship with his Heavenly Father that is real and personal.

Jesus speaking to His disciples said, Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing (John 15:4-5). These same words are greatly needed for all of us in ministry.

How interesting, too, that the Lord Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, our Savior and Great High Priest and Intercessor is a man of prayer (Luke 3:21-22; 5:15-16; 6:12-13; 9:18, 28; 18:1; 22:31-32; 23:46).

So, what’s another remedy for discouragement in ministry? A life of prayer!

Prayer is the first thing, the second thing, the third thing necessary to a minister. Pray, then, my dear brother; pray, pray, pray.” — Edward Payson

You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed. Pray often, for prayer is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God, and a scourge to Satan.” — John Bunyan

So, may I encourage you who are prone to discouragement in ministry, see prayer as your life.

  • Pray on Monday! Make it a day of just praising the Lord for Who He is and what He did on Sunday. Redirect your focus upward not manward. Use Psalms 34:1-9; 92:1-8; 100; 103; 111:1-5; 117; 145 to pray in praise and thanksgiving. I would greatly encourage you to only pray this way on Mondays—praise and thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6-8).
  • Pray such that your sermon becomes a message from God. While studying the words of the text, talk to God about it. When you take a coffee break, talk to God about it . . . and listen to what He says. When you are driving down the road to visit a dear soul, talk to God about it. When Sunday comes, the message to preach is a burden from God that He responsible for, and not you. You will be so consumed with what God has taught you and how He has changed you that when you preach, the congregation will see Jesus, and not you. “Strange it is that any discussion of preaching should take place outside the context of believing prayer. We have not prepared until we have prayed… We cannot represent God if we have not stood before God” (David Larsen).
  • Pray with your wife. (Meals only do not count but can be included.)
  • Pray with your children.
  • Pray with your parents and in-laws.
  • Pray with ministry leaders in your church. Call and ask them to pray with you and for you. Maybe meet somewhere in the country, the mountains, or a coffee shop and have a three-way conversation with the Head of the Church!
  • Pray with pastors and other ministry leaders outside your church. As above, call a friend in ministry and say, “Just wanted to ask you spend some time in prayer with me and for me. Let’s talk to the Lord together!”
  • Pray with the one who just unloaded their burdens on you. Just you implore them to obey 1 Peter 5:6-7, you do the same with that burden. You are not to carry it either!
  • Pray with and/or for your server at the restaurant.
  • Pray right then and there when you are asked to pray about a situation or individual.
  • Pray Scripture with your Bible and your eyes wide-open!!
  • Pray in your “prayer closet” or that quiet place near your home or in the woods.
  • Pray on Sunday morning with a group of prayer people before Sunday School and the morning gathering.
  • Pray that you have a life of prayer, not a prayer life.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Remember, it was Jesus Who said, “Without Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5) and “Men ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1).

Overcoming Discouragement in Ministry (#7)

Hiking is so much like life! Constant ups and downs, wear and tear on your body, hidden and exposed roots that cause you to stumble, stony trails that cause your feet to burn and twist, steep climbs that seem to last forever, stinkin’ socks and fellow hikers, the burden of 25-40 pounds on your back, sloshing through a rain-soaked trail, and wishing you could carry your bed from home in your backpack in exchange for the ground or a shelter floor!

As I stood on one of the many awe-inspiring, give-God-praise views on the Appalachian Trail this week, I proclaimed to my hiking buddy, Rick, “And you ask me why we love to hike????” (Besides the fact that we just love being outdoors in the mountains!)

Men, one of the reasons we are prone to become discouraged in ministry is the view. Ministry can be like what I described in the first paragraph. While carrying the weight of “your church” on your shoulders, all you see are ministry deadlines, the constant burdens of others, unmet expectations, another sermon to ream out, your body wearing down, the battle of your flesh, and a mind full of stinkin’ thinkin’!!! Just like the old adage, “you can’t see the forest for the trees.” You need to change the view.

How?

Learn to rest! Most folks in ministry do not know how to rest! We are on the go 24/7 with our foot on the accelerator pushed to the floor. Even on vacation, we are still thinking ministry, taking calls, answering texts, and thinking about next Sunday’s sermon.

Rest breaks are crucial while hiking. As we climbed up the mountain to McAfee Knob and trekked the distance over to Tinker Cliffs, periodic rest breaks for water and a protein snack gave energy and heart to press forward. Even along the way, we enjoyed other views as we dropped our packs and briefly rested. We knew the extraordinary views were coming!

Your rest breaks could be . . .

  • a drive in the country with your wife (no ministry discussion allowed)
  • a walk or bike ride in a nearby park
  • 15 minutes on the back porch singing and swinging
  • reading the Psalms or Philippians for your heart’s sake and not for a sermon
  • no phone at supper while remaining at the table with your wife to chat for 15-30 minutes at the end of your meal
  • your prayer closet
  • a power nap
  • watching something humorous to get you laughing
  • a cup of coffee or tea and a healthy snack
  • calling your wife and talking to her like you did when you were dating (seriously)
  • Facetimeing one of your grandkids . . . that’ll lighten up your heart

Ministry friend, learn to rest. Remember, Jesus went to the mountains and the wilderness to get away (Matthew 14:23; Luke 6:12). You need those rest breaks more than Jesus did. You are not the Messiah!

The “hike” in ministry calls for periods of rest. The “views” will be much better when you do!

Overcoming Discouragement in Ministry (#6)

Friends!

These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. (John 15:11-15)

What a statement from the mouth of the Lord Jesus Christ, No longer do I call you servants, . . . but I have called you friends. Oh the blessedness of being a friend of Christ! And, you are already ahead of me, . . . and we know that Jesus is a friend that sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24), and He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

Obviously, the greatest friend anyone can have is the Lord Jesus Christ Who gives us access to the Father who knows us intimately and completely (Psalm 139:1-16), is our compassionate High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16), and our life (Colossians 3:2-4). Therefore, it goes without saying that one of the greatest ways to overcome discouragement is to soak your soul in the reality of the friendship and relationship you have with the Lord Jesus Christ. Go ahead. Stop reading right here, and sing with all your heart, “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”!!!

The second level is daily enjoying and developing your friendship with your wife. Beyond the Lord Jesus Christ, your wife should be your best friend. She should be the one with whom you share your heart, your sorrows, your joys, your burdens, your heartaches, your dreams, your passions, your time, your recreation, your meals, your life. She is the other half of you!! You are one! Take her alone for the ride! She’s not Mrs. Pastor . . . she’s your wife, your companion, your sweetheart, your friend! When you are discouraged, let her pray with you and encourage you!!

The third level is having friends within your congregation, but especially outside of your congregation. Pastors are notorious for not having friends! We may have some surface friends, but we need some David/Jonathan friendships! You say you are too busy. Then you are too busy and that needs to change! Close friends (2-5 at least) are those you can call and be transparent. They are not the ones who want to know “How many’s your church runnin’?” or “How’s your church doing?” They are genuine friends who care for you, ask heart questions, and can hold you accountable. They can laugh with you, recreate with you, pray with you, share scripture with you, preach to you in a loving way when you are down, and identity with the rigors of ministry life! Who are these men in your life?

This week, enjoy the friendship of Christ, your wife and some other men! They can help you stay out of the ditch!

Overcoming Discouragement in Ministry (#5)

The call to shepherd the flock of God and preach His eternal Word is an extremely weighty matter. Just as being a Christian is a contrast to the world, so is the role of a pastor.

The world tells you to climb the ladder of success; be somebody; be true to yourself; use people to reach the top; get a good education so you can make money and go places; make a name for yourself (leave your mark), etc.

Jesus lived the opposite. Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8).

Jesus said, For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

Paul followed Jesus’s example. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2) and whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:7-8).

To overcome discouragement in ministry, we must find our identity first and foremost in Christ. We must surrender to Christ Who lives in us and the indwelling Spirit who will only enable us when Christ is the celebrity and not us. Only then will God be glorified.

You see, the ministry that God has called us to is not ours. We have no power to make it succeed. We do not have the foresight to control it. We are not the “main man” of the ministry. Christ is the vine, and we are the branches and apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5).

No wonder we get discouraged. We think that everything rises and falls on us. Friend, with all due respect, it rises and falls on God. Jesus said, I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH (Matthew 16:18). Paul said it so well as recorded in 1 Corinthians 11:1 (AMPC), Pattern yourselves after me [follow my example], as I imitate and follow Christ (the Messiah).

How often I have become discouraged because a program I started failed, a church member did not do what I thought they should, numbers of people weren’t getting saved like I thought, revival had not come (yet it did come to the church in the next town), etc. These were my expectations. These words in Psalm 62:5 are a fulfilling guide for the Lord’s ministry, My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation (hope) is from Him.

I lost sight of Christ in my busyness. I had failed to be still and listen to Him in the prayer closet. The world and others had set my standards to be successful because they had “achieved success.”

Men, the person of ministry, the builder of ministry, the preeminent One of ministry and our identity in ministry is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. And He {Christ] is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence (Colossians 1:17-18).

So, when ministry doesn’t meet up to your expectations, find your identity in Christ, surrender to the Christ in you, and soak your soul in the following:

For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:5-11)

Overcoming Discouragement in Ministry (#4)

My dad weighed a 119 pounds when he entered the Army and 125 pounds when he was married. Me, I think I weighed 125 in the third grade! 🙂 I wore huskie size jeans in the first grade! I always said that my dad ate to live, and I lived to eat!

I am a “foodie,” and, since college days, I have had a battle with my weight, up and down, up and down. Several years ago, that all changed. Please take what I share below as truly coming from a caring heart for you, my brother.

So men, one of the ways to overcome discouragement is to exercise and eat right.

There are several ingredients to helping you accomplish this need:

  1. You have to honestly and humbly admit that you need to change and then choose to make this a life decision. No one can guilt you into it nor change you. It is by the grace of God, prayer, and the will to say “yes” and “no.” Let me say that several years ago, an evangelist friend had a loving, stern talk with me that was extremely helpful, but you must make the choice.
  2. Be ready for the long haul that takes a day-at-a-time; a meal-at-a-time.
  3. Choose a diet plan that will enable you to go for the long haul. Personally, I have seen too many spend mega bucks on a strict plan just to see the weight return in a short period of time. My wife and I used Weight Watchers and ate our own food. Over a period of a few months, I lost a total of 80 pounds.
  4. Exercise. For me, my favorites are running and hiking. My wife loves to briskly walk the farm road near our country home. Do what is best for you.
  5. Speaking of my wife, a diet/exercise program is so much better with a companion on this journey or even a group of other ministry friends for encouragement and accountability!
  6. When eating out, share a meal. For a very long time, my wife and I order one entrée and split it. That also means no appetizer or dessert. Of course, we enjoy desserts and other special foods but we do not gorge! Remember, the very best bite of every food item is the first one. After that, you are headed toward . . . “Oh, I can’t eat anymore'” and the taste has diminished!!
  7. As you lose your weight, get rid of your clothes that are now too big. You are not going back!!
  8. The most convicting and challenging thing that moved me to change was my testimony before the Lord as a man and a pastor and my love for my wife. You see, food became an idol and an unholy habit before my God. Also, as a pastor, how could I challenge the folks I shepherd to live disciplined lives when I was not disciplined in my eating habits. Men, the belt around our waist should not be “a leather fence around a chicken graveyard” as so many preachers have joked about over the years! Our bodies were created by God, belong to God, and are sustained by God. Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
  9. As for my wife, I am so grateful that she has set a high standard for herself in this regard. She is so disciplined that she eats one bite from a candy bar, puts it in the drawer, and she might go back to it next week or next month! 🙂 Seriously, my love for eating was greater than my love for her. One of the best ways I could demonstrate my love for her was to lose weight and start being fit, if for no one else, just for her!!
  10. For any of you who need to loose weight and exercise, do not let the following statement discourage you. Hopefully it will motivate you. Remember, the older you get, the harder it becomes to lose the pounds. So, get started; begin somewhere (small or big) and stay at it! Your wife, your body, your heart, your cholesterol, your health, your congregation, and you will be glad you did. Most of all, it is pleasing to God!

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

I realize that this step could be very difficult for some. This post was not written to shame or further discourage you. Men, I’m cheering you on!!!! No matter your situation, begin with the Lord in prayer. He’s able.

Overcoming Discouragement in Ministry (#3)

So you have completed a full day of ministry. You have proclaimed and taught the Word of God, perhaps as many as three to four times. You have praised the Lord with all your heart! You have listened to many burdens, heard maybe a complaint or two, and sought to encourage and edify many. You have worked through a power point failure during your third point, a crying baby, and on the way home, a flat tire. As you ease into your chair in the family room and take a deep breath, you can still hear all the “noise” of the day in your mind, even if you are catching up on Sunday night football and Facebook.

Be careful! Your mind and body are worn out! You are reliving the day. Thoughts of “what if” and “if only” and “I should have” start to permeate your mind. You are a prime target for the flesh and the devil to lie to you. It’s a set up, friend!

May I encourage you . . . and remind myself?

First of all, instead of listening to yourself, preach the Truth to yourself . . . instead of just to those who gathered to hear the message. You proclaimed the Truth with passion and conviction all day. Now, believe and live out what you preached! Rest in it. Lean hard into it. His Word never returns void (Isaiah 55:11). Your failures of the day are a good reminder that you are frail and totally dependent on God’s grace and mercy all the time. Your successes, and only God determines that, are what they because Christ worked through you to build His Church, to do His work, not yours. So rejoice in Him! Praise Him! Thank Him!

Second, start counting your blessings from the day and record them in a journal or on your phone . . . even if it might have been a difficult Sunday! Satan doesn’t want you to remember the goodness of God that you experienced through the day. Most of all, remember your position and identification in Christ (Ephesians 1:3-14). You are accepted in the Beloved (1:6).

Third, track your thinking and what you usually do on Sunday nights. Make sure it does not feed your discouragements. Perhaps a good idea would be to put the kids to bed, and you and your wife enjoy some time alone! Act like you’re newlyweds! Hold hands, kiss, cuddle, and enjoy the wife your youth (Proverbs 5:18). Encourage each other. And, just like Saturday night, hold hands and pray before drifting off to sleep. You need her, she needs you and you both need the Lord!!

Sleep well, friend, and . . . let’s pray for one another to choose what’s right by God’s grace.

You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.
(Isaiah 26:3)

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, . . . and be thankful. (Colossians 3:15)

Overcoming Discouragement in Ministry (#1)

“I’m tired of letting mean people (in church) determine when we move.” These words were spoken to me by a pastor quoting his wife as they and their family are preparing to relocate once again due conflict, hurt, sorrow and discouragement in ministry.

Soul Shepherding Ministry posted “over half of ministry leaders are discouraged.”

When you consider the events of the last two years brought on by Covid such as shut-downs, divided congregations over politics and masks, and now the economy and the fear of war, no wonder this can be said of pastors (as well as thousands of others).

These are discouraging days. Pastors have battled discouragement for many years. Our day is not unique nor is the trial of discouragement (1 Corinthians 10:12-14). Ask King David (1 Samuel 21:15-22:2). I fight discouragement and have done so off-and-on for years.

What does it mean to be discouraged? What does it look like? What causes it?

Discouragement is defined by the Britannica Dictionary as “a feeling of having lost hope or confidence; something (such as a failure or difficulty) that discourages someone.” The FreeDictionary says it is “the feeling of despair in the face of obstacles.” Webster’s Dictionary gives it as “depression or weakening of confidence; dejection.”

If you want to know what it looks like, go home with your pastor on Sunday night or spend time with him on Monday . . . or Tuesday or . . . Wednesday . . . . The look and frame of discouragement is one of down-heartedness, lack of motivation, loss of joy and zeal, slumped shoulders, slower pace, procrastination, apathy, critical spirit, a spirit of Eeyore, mood swings, and more. Now, I’m not saying that every pastor is this way, but as noted above and from history, discouragement is a force that must be dealt with.

Discouragement comes from a fear of failure, “mean people,” lack of success, fatigue, not knowing how to rest or “turn off” the ministry demands, lack of exercise, unhealthy eating habits and subsequent weight issues, health events, financial woes, focusing on people rather than Christ, acting like you are the “Messiah” of your ministry, a sense of not meeting up to other’s expectations, competition and comparison in ministry, reading other “successful” pastor’s Twitter feeds, frustration with people, feeling like you are never doing enough, not getting everything done, believing you have to be on your “A game” every Sunday, the attacks of Satan, wrong thinking, feeling forsaken by God and others, being misunderstood, always on the front lines, personal marriage and/or family issues, etc.

In the next few blogs, I want to be a genuine source of encouragement like a cold drink on a hot, humid day after reaching a mountain summit on the AT (Appalachian Trail) or a refreshing dip at the base of a 125 foot western North Carolina waterfall or the expectation of a multi-colored beach sunrise. I want to help you, my friend in ministry, with handling discouragement and rising up out of the despair!

I’ll end this post with Psalm 42:5 (NLT), a passage I have quoted so often over the years when my heart has been disquieted within me.

Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and my God!

St. Patrick & the Pinch

In my child/teen years attending school, it was important that you wore green on March 17th. Why? It had nothing to do with St. Patrick, the man. It was to avoid a classmate pinching you due to not wearing the color of the day! If you did not wear something green, be sure you were in for a long day!!

But really, who was St. Patrick?

Here’s an article from The Gospel Coalition written by Mike Pettingill that will shed some very interesting light on this man.

Today most people know St. Patrick for green beer, banishing snakes from Ireland, using shamrocks to teach the Trinity, or his walking stick growing into a living tree. Indeed, none of these legends has anything to do with the real Patrick.

However, the factual accounts of Patrick, missionary to Ireland, are even more compelling than the folklore. Telling the true story of Patrick provides an inspiring lesson in God’s grace and mercy.

While other 1,500-year-old characters in history are difficult to research because too few writings have survived time, Patrick is hard to study because so much has been written about him. The bulk of the writings on Patrick are lore, fiction, and embellishment. In uncovering the real Patrick we must sift through ten fictional accounts of his life to find one factual work.

From Slave to Evangelist
As a teenager Patrick was kidnapped, taken from his home in southern Britain, and sold into slavery on the island of Ireland. During his six years as a slave he converted to Christianity and earned a reputation as a fervent evangelist. In the dark of the night Patrick escaped his bonds and fled Ireland. Following a long journey home he entered theological training and full-time service to the Lord. God spoke to Patrick in his dreams and told him that he would return to Ireland and serve as a missionary to the people who had kept him in servitude.

In AD 432, 25 years after fleeing Ireland, Patrick returned to the place of his bondage. He did not return with malice in his heart, but as a missionary eager to convert the Irish. Patrick served in regions of Ireland where outsiders had never traveled. While roaming through Ireland he preached to pagans and also instructed Christian believers. Patrick trained Irish helpers and ordained native clergy. He was bringing a new way of life to a violent, war-oriented pagan culture. His work was both groundbreaking and Christ-honoring.

“Daily I expect to be murdered or betrayed or reduced to slavery if the occasion arises,” Patrick wrote while serving in Ireland. “But I fear nothing, because of the promises of heaven.”

Many brutal kings and warlords felt threatened by Patrick’s work. In order to obtain the favor of local leaders and to gain safe passage, Patrick paid penance, or bribes, to authorities. He used the rulers to gain access to their lands just as they used Patrick to gain wealth and favor with Christians. Of the bribes he paid, Patrick proclaimed, “I do not regret this nor do I regard it as enough. I am paying out still and I shall pay out more.”

Missionary Ahead of His Time
In fifth-century Ireland women were a commodity. Selling a daughter or arranging a politically strategic marriage was common and advantageous to a family. Patrick upset the social order by teaching women they had a choice in Christ. As God converted these women to Christianity, some became full-time servants of Christ in the face of strong family opposition. Patrick told women they could be “virgins for Christ” by remaining chaste. This newfound control was appealing to many women, but it angered many men who believed Patrick was taking away their prized possessions.

At the time many scholars regarded Ireland as the end of the earth, or at least the edge of the inhabitable portion of earth. The collapsing Roman Empire supported many beliefs that civilized society was drawing to a close. Politicians and philosophers viewed Ireland as barbaric and untamable. Many Christians did not believe the Irish were worthy of being saved. At that point in history, Patrick truly served as a pioneering missionary to a forgotten people.

Patrick advocated learning among Christians. He promoted the ascetic life and monasticism. The Irish culture did not place great value on literacy or education. Patrick, however, promoted studying the Scriptures as well as reading books written by fathers of the faith.

Recovering the True Patrick
Patrick entered an Ireland full of paganism and idol worship. But just a few short decades after Patrick arrived, a healthy, Christ-honoring church was thriving. The Irish church was so strong that in the centuries to come it would send missionaries to evangelize much of continental Europe. Patrick’s legacy lives on through the countless spiritual grandchildren he left to continue his work.

Patrick lived in a way that brought honor to God. His devotion and resolute obedience offer examples for all followers of Christ. Patrick stood in the face of great challenges and did not falter. His service, his life, and his unwavering commitment to spreading the gospel of Christ are as commendable today as they were in the fifth century.

We as Christians have allowed the modern, secular customs of St. Patrick’s Day to steal away one of the greatest missionaries in Christian history and reduce his memory to leprechauns, green beer, and fictional tales. Let’s take back our beloved servant of Christ and share God’s glory achieved during the life of Patrick the missionary to Ireland. Let’s share the true legacy of this great Christian evangelist.

What a great day to share the gospel as the Lord opens the doors and . . . go ahead, wear green! No need to be fearful of the pinch! Share the good news!!

“The Pastor’s Wife”

Last evening I was sitting in our family room chatting with my wife. She shared some thoughts from her heart about an upcoming speaking opportunity to be addressed to pastors’ wives.

Almost every Sunday in the morning gathering in my introductory remarks, I introduce my wife as well as our assistant pastor and his wife. “I’m Pastor C and this is my wife, Denise.” More often than not, she is characterized as “the pastor’s wife” or perhaps in the minds of those who have known us here for almost 21 years, “our pastor’s wife.”

I love the sound of those descriptions. You see, I have had the privilege of being a lead pastor for 39 years, and my sweet wife has been by my side through it all . . . as my wife.

For every pastor, his most important ministry is his wife, then his children, and then his “neighbors” (next door, down the street, church, town, the world). For the wife, her first ministry is always to her husband and then her children and beyond.

A long and varied job description for “the pastor’s wife” has been created by thousands over the years, but the truth is, the pastor’s wife is his wife first and foremost. Her “job description”(as a woman, a wife, a follower of Jesus Christ) is found in Proverbs 31:10-31, Ephesians 5:1-33, Colossians 3:1-25; Titus 2:3-5, 1 Peter 3:1-12, as well as other passages. As to how she serves in ministry, that is between her, the Lord and the loving leadership and protection of her husband.

The pastor’s wife is a born-again believer, saved through the cross-work of Jesus Christ, and living out the Christ-life (John 15:1-11; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27) through the power of the Holy Spirit within her (John 14:16-23). She is no different than the other ladies in the church who are under the same guidelines as the passages listed above.

She is not the “first lady the church.” or Mrs. Preacher or “the pastor’s wife.” She is a servant of the Lord as is every other born again lady in the local church. She does not have a position. Her identity is first of all in Christ, and then, as in the case of my wife, just that, my wife, my best friend, my sweetheart, as well as mom to our daughters, Gigi to our grandsons, and Denise to everyone else.

She needs prayer, friends, love, her family, compassion, prayer, grace, kindness, space to grow, not placed on a man-made pedestal, prayer, laughter, fellowship, encouragement, and prayer.

Ladies, if the pastor’s wife listens and prays with you after you have shared your burden with her, or confronts you about some habitual sin in your life because she cares, or wants to have lunch with you so she can disciple you and lead you further in your walk with Christ, it’s not because she’s “the pastor’s wife.” It has everything to do with her love for you, her obedience to the one another’s in Scripture, her love for God and her neighbor and her passion to disciple (Matthew 22:37-39; 28:18-20).

So, the next time you see your pastor’s wife, embrace her as your sister in Christ, your friend, and one who is growing and walking with Christ on your journey Home to Glory, not just “the pastor’s wife.”

From a pastor’s heart,

Dale