That hard ground of tough ministerial work that Paul described—fight the good fight, finish the race, keep the faith—is the seedbed of the righteousness God grows in us. Remember Jesus’ kingdom parable about the man who scattered seed? “Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain” (Mark 4:27-28). Our righteousness grows as we persevere in pastoring.
Once my pastoral heroes were older shepherds. Now they are you—today’s Timothy and Titus, Phoebe and Priscilla—the younger shepherds who come behind me, loving Christ, gripping your Bibles, learning to pray, determined to feed, lead, and guard the flocks God has entrusted to you.