By Chris Philbeck
When it comes to ministry, for me, one Scripture verse stands above the rest. Paul wrote in Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
I love this verse for many different reasons, but mostly because of Paul’s honesty in saying that doing good can wear you out. How else can you interpret those first eight words?
While I invest my life in many “good” things, preaching is the one constant “good” thing that takes up most of my time because it is a holy and fixed activity that involves seeking God through prayer, studying God’s Word for understanding, and searching life for illustrations and applications that speak to people’s hearts.
Preaching is the dominant activity on my weekly to-do list. Preaching is the activity most associated with my role as a pastor. And preaching can sometimes wear me out. That’s when I need to remember the rest of the verse: “. . . for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” This is especially important to remember right now since, according to George Barna, more than 40 percent of pastors have considered leaving the ministry over the past year.
THE HARVEST WILL COME
I recently searched YouTube for an instructional video about golf, a game I love. When some part of my game is struggling, YouTube is a great help. On this occasion, I came across a video of Fred Couples’ World Golf Hall of Fame induction speech, so I decided to watch. The video began with soothing music and the voice of CBS golf commentator Jim Nantz—Couples’ college teammate—introducing his friend.
Couples received a standing ovation when he walked on the stage. His short speech was filled with heartfelt thanks and humility. One thing that stood out to me were his references to his family, mentors, teachers, and contemporaries (his friends) because each played a role in his rise from playing at a municipal golf course in Seattle as a child to winning 63 professional tournaments including the 1992 Masters. The speech ended with Couples saying, through tears, “Thanks for taking a kid from Seattle and putting him in the Hall of Fame. This is the coolest night of my life.”
When it comes to preaching, I don’t know what God’s harvest might look like for you or me. And I don’t know when that harvest will come . . . whether it’s something we will experience in this world or in the world to come. What I do know is that one day it will come, for God keeps his promises.
The harvest may not be a Hall of Fame-type induction; still, like Fred Couples, we need to remember the people who helped guide and shape our lives. We need to let their love for us and their faith in us continue to guide and encourage our lives. We need to hear them say, “I believe in you” and “it’s always too soon to quit,” especially when we go through dry and difficult seasons of ministry. And we need to remember these words from Scripture: “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them” (Hebrews 6:10).
God does not forget his own. He knows how faithful you have been in your service to his people. And he will reward you for that faithfulness one day, even if it feels like you are growing weary today.
DON’T GIVE UP
In a March 2021 devotion, Robert Jeffress told the story of how in 1927, Gutzon Borglum and his men began the massive job of sculpting the faces of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Thomas Jefferson on Mount Rushmore. Over the years that followed, Borglum and his men used jackhammers and dynamite to remove 450,000 tons of granite to accomplish their masterpiece. But as the men went up that mountain with their jackhammers each day, they were not thinking about the size of the task before them.
Many years later, Nick Clifford, the youngest man hired to work on Mount Rushmore, told a reporter, “At the time, of course, it was just a job. You went up there, went to work, did your job, and didn’t think much about it. You might have thought, Would it ever be completed one day? But the more you worked, the more familiar you became with your job, the more important the project became to each of us. . . . I feel like Mount Rushmore was the greatest thing with which I was ever involved.”
The same is true about our work for God. It doesn’t matter whether your church is large or small. It doesn’t matter whether your name is known or unknown. What matters is your faithfulness to doing the good work of preaching, knowing that God promises a harvest if you do not give up.
At the end of Jim Nantz’s introduction of Fred Couples for his Hall of Fame induction, the announcer said, “Never underestimate the power of a dream.” Here’s my encouragement to all my fellow preachers today. Never underestimate the power of a call. If God has called you to preach, be faithful to your call.