Another quality made Moses a familiar name in the courts of God. He tied his fortune and future to Israel, just as God himself had. No pastor ever led such a heartbreaking group of malcontents as Moses did, yet even when God offered to cut them loose and build a great nation from Moses, he wouldn’t have it.
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.
Pastors draw energy from promising and interesting challenges—a new discipleship strategy, a surge in visitors, young believers eager to grow, the next sermon series. But sometimes the rains don’t come. The pandemic drove most pastors into a wilderness of bewildering tech demands, preaching to an empty room, and trying to shepherd without presence. Add to that the debilitating conflicts so many pastors face among their people. Badlands indeed.
Pastors don’t have to always be upbeat, thank goodness, but we must be living displays of hope in Christ, hope here and now, and hope hereafter. We must be heavenly minded if we are to be of any earthly good. When David prayed for God’s protection in Psalm 16 he described the parapets of his security…
I don’t think pastors fail because the burdens are too heavy or the enemies too fierce. I wonder if the difference between finishing and failing—the one test that is up to us—is simply being true.