Never trust a church planter who says they haven’t occasionally thought about quitting.
I haven’t considered quitting often, but I remember visiting a friend for advice. “This is harder than I expected. Am I missing something? Am I the wrong person for this job?”
My friend looked me in the eye. “You signed up for church planting,” he said. “It’s supposed to be hard. Get back to work.”
I found his advice strangely comforting.
Suffering like Soldiers, Athletes, and Farmers
Ministry wasn’t easy for Paul either. He wrote 2 Timothy from a prison cell in Rome shortly before he was killed. “Share in suffering,” he instructs Timothy (2 Timothy 1:8; 2:3). When you sign up to serve Jesus, you sign up to suffer.
When you sign up to serve Jesus, you sign up to suffer.
In fact, Paul gets specific about the kind of suffering he means (2 Timothy 2:4-6).
- Like soldiers, we must shift our loyalty and our priorities. We don’t live like civilians anymore. Nothing — not even imprisonment or death — is off the table.
- Like athletes, we must discipline ourselves to play by the rules. We must live so that we’re conditioned when nobody’s looking, and obey so we’re not disqualified.
- Like farmers, we must work hard, even when we have nothing at first to show for our hard work, and the results involve uncertainty and waiting.
“Think over what I say,” Paul says, “for the Lord will give you understanding in everything” (2 Timothy 2:7). Paul doesn’t want Timothy (or, indirectly, us) to gloss over these images. With the Lord’s help, he wants us to think about what these images mean for our lives.
Maybe we need to watch the odd war movie and consider what it means to be in active service. Maybe we need to watch some sports and consider if we’re as disciplined as the athletes. (Or maybe I’m just missing sports and looking for an excuse.) Maybe we should take the odd drive to the country and watch a farmer at work in the field when it’s still months away from harvest.
Why would anyone live like this? Because of Jesus, Paul says, and because of those who still haven’t heard (2 Timothy 3:8-13). When Jesus and his mission become bigger than our comfort, we’ll be prepared to suffer.
Our faithfulness, even in hard things, matters. It will matter for eternity. But our faithfulness is predicated on God’s faithfulness. He is at work even in the hardships. He will stay faithful to his promises. We can endure everything when we have a clear enough picture of Jesus, the mission, and the faithfulness of God. It’s what sustained Paul in prison as he prepared to die.
Don’t base your ministry or life decisions on what looks easy. Follow Jesus even when it gets hard. When you signed up to follow Jesus, you signed up to suffer. And it’s worth it. Hang in there. God is faithful. He’s at work. He will give us everything we need to suffer as part of the normal Christian life.