Ministry can be discouraging.  The dark days when you want to cash it all in and go sell insurance come regularly.  Especially early in an endeavor when the tide turns against you and your initial dreams of success are tenuous, it is easy to lose focus.  I hear that under the surface of today’s section.

I am being imaginative, I know, but I see a Prophet who has burst on to the scene with a revelation.  He has come down from the Cave of Hira convinced he has earth-shattering news, a code for life that will revolutionize his world for good, but only if people will listen.  We know they did not, at least not in great numbers at first.  People did leave their Arabic paganism and follow Muhammad towards total devotion to the one God.  But many more opposed him, even violently by the end of his time in Mecca.  And Muhammad wasn’t alone; the first Muslims would have suffered from deflated morale too.

When discouraged, it is helpful to remember what we can and cannot do about our predicament.  Especially when the area of discouragement is ministry success, we need to bear in mind our role and God’s role in the matter.

  • Preach your best sermon or teach your best class, and there are some that are just not going to be persuaded.  God controls the destiny of people’s hearts, and people can resist all they want (6:46; 64-66)
  • Our job is to “give good news and to warn,” not save.  We don’t have that power. (6:48)
  • We don’t hold the keys to reward or punishment.  That’s God’s business, so we shouldn’t assume we know how it will all end up.  Be slow to judge. (6:50; 53; 57-62; 73) 
  • We don’t have all the answers. We can only share what we know and what we have experienced.  However, there are some things we see more clearly than some. (6:50; 55)
  • Use the words of God to warn people, not our own words.  People are accountable to God not us, so they need to hear His words. (6:51; 70)
  • Always be quick to extend grace; it is fundamental to God’s nature (6:54)
  • Be careful of going too far to fit in with those who do not yet believe.  There are limits to what we should accommodate. (6:56)
  • If we are faithful to our calling to put God on the minds of people, we are not accountable for people who reject God. (6:66; 69)
  • Be leery of spending too much time with people who reject God’s message in favor on the pleasures of this world.  Don’t shun them, but don’t be a glutton for discouragement. (6:68; 70)
  • When tempted to give up, keep praying. (6:71-72)

Nothing novel in the list above, is there?  But they are good reminders.

What else?  What helps you when the ups and downs of ministry discourage you?