Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit which ought to be evident in every Spirit-filled life. Pastors are to be exemplars of that life, according to Hebrews 13:7, and so their lives ought to be joyful: “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.” Indeed it is so that God has purposefully filled their working lives with particular joys to enrich and sustain the ministry He has called them to, and to edify their souls. There are seasons in which the trials and troubles of ministry, and of life in general, overshadow the joys of ministry of the Christian life. It might be that a list of ills may contain more items than a list of joys in pastoral ministry, but the quantity is not so important as the quality, and the quality of the benefits that pastors are given is unmatched. Having already written about some of the struggles in ministry, it is only proper that we write about the joys that outshine those struggles as we want to give a balanced account to all of our readers. We want to encourage our brothers in ministry by reminding them of those things they may have lost sight of and to equip all the family of Christ to give such encouragement. Above all we want to praise God in gratitude for all that He has so graciously and generously provided His under-shepherds, and through them His Flock. May He help us in this work for much that we have to say is beyond expression.
Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit which ought to be evident in every Spirit-filled life. Pastors are to be exemplars of that life, according to Hebrews 13:7, and so their lives ought to be joyful: “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.”
Indeed it is so that God has purposefully filled their working lives with particular joys to enrich and sustain the ministry He has called them to, and to edify their souls.
There are seasons in which the trials and troubles of ministry, and of life in general, overshadow the joys of ministry of the Christian life. It might be that a list of ills may contain more items than a list of joys in pastoral ministry, but the quantity is not so important as the quality, and the quality of the benefits that pastors are given is unmatched.
Having already written about some of the struggles in ministry, it is only proper that we write about the joys that outshine those struggles as we want to give a balanced account to all of our readers. We want to encourage our brothers in ministry by reminding them of those things they may have lost sight of and to equip all the family of Christ to give such encouragement. Above all we want to praise God in gratitude for all that He has so graciously and generously provided His under-shepherds, and through them His Flock. May He help us in this work for much that we have to say is beyond expression.
Each of us has a unique capacity to find joy in life. What brings you joy may be nothing to another. So, there are going to be some aspects of pastoral life that delight some of our brothers that are not mentioned in this article. I have tried to focus on the most universal benefits afforded to pastors and ministers. I have listed these in ascending order from least to greatest first.
The Joys of Pastoring
An average day for a pastor does not exist. One day he is left alone to study and pray in solitude, and the next he rushes all over to do a thousand different things. There is no limit to what he might be called on to do. And with the right perspective, it is all a grand adventure! There is time for action, but also times of rest all laid out in perfect proportion by God. It is the sovereign hand of God in the schedule that makes it a joy and not a curse. The same thing is true for all of us who are in Christ as is the implication of Romans 8:28, see below.
- Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
All the variations of pastoral ministry serve to keep the man unsettled, vigilante, and above all, humbled. He can never know what is coming next. He could never be fully equipped for every single task he would face. Whether he is overwhelmed by the demands of ministry, or wondering if there will ever be any demand for ministry, he must always be looking to God.
When this reality is accepted it opens the way to a relaxed, unhurried, God-centered pace. The variation can be embraced as welcome changes, and opportunities to learn and grow.
Time with God
God is the lover of our souls. See John 3:16, and also the rest of Scripture: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Who does not delight to being in the presence of their lover? And when it comes to God, that time spent in His presence through prayer, or Scripture reading and meditation is never disappointing. How could it be, He is never disappointing!
He is the perfection of perfection, the maximum utmost, and He draws near to us inviting us to draw near to Him. For most of us drawing near to God is difficult as our work tends to get in the way. Pastors are wonderfully blessed to be paid to spend time abiding in God’s awesome presence so that they will have the abiding presence of God to minister to us. Some pastors give up portions of that time to take on secular work and relieve the financial burden of their congregation. It is no small sacrifice.
This is not just an option ministers have open, it is a God-ordained requirement. See 2 Timothy 2:15, Titus 1:9, and 1 Timothy 3:2:
- 2 Timothy 2:15: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
- Titus 1:9: “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.”
- 1 Timothy 3:2: “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;”
To neglect study is to fail in ministry. Nor is it enough to study in preparation for preaching, teaching, or counseling; personal study is also necessary to sustain a minister’s own spiritual health and growth. Neglecting prayer is nothing less than failure in ministry for it is the most vital means of ministry. The joy of communion with God is the very heart of pastoral life.
This privilege alone, to be freed somewhat from secular work so more time can be given to pursuing God, is sufficient to overshadow any and all hardships. It is communion with God that alone provides the strength and wisdom to weather the storms of pastoral ministry.
Those of us not called to the pastorate, or privileged with a full-time ministry, might envy this pastor’s time with God. We should not fall into this evil way of thinking. Not only is it a violation of the tenth commandment (see Exodus 20:17), but it is shortsighted.
- Exodus 20:17: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.”
As we mentioned above, the fruits of a minister’s devotion to God, both private and professional, end up with those he ministers to.
We wish that the radiance of all work and all employment could be such that every man, woman, and child who wished could have an abundance of time to study, meditate on God’s words, and speak with Him in prayer. We wish the hearts of every believer would be stirred to a similar desire for themselves and for all their family of faith. We wish that everyone, including our brothers in ministry and ourselves also, would have such a desire kindled to be nearer to God and to know Him better that no obstacle would keep us from our devotion. God grant it. Amen.
Watching God work
Of course, no pastor can, or should, spend all of his time in seclusion praying a studying. He has things to do like preaching and teaching. As he preaches and teaches, he will occasionally see a soul grasp a truth for the first time. Perhaps he will even witness a soul surrendering to Christ in repentance, and being delivered by grace through faith. It is wonderful when the pastor speaks the truth in the power of the Holy Spirit, and God blesses the work. A pastor is often the one to enter the baptismal waters with a new convert assisting them in their first act of obedience before all of God’s people.
The pastor gets to pray publicly and sometimes will see the prayer answered and the result publicly noticed. It is all very wonderful to witness and to point out. The pastor is very focused on these things so he ought to appreciate them profoundly.
Yet, the greatest moments in ministry tend to happen behind closed doors in counseling rooms, living rooms, hospital rooms, or even at the side of a fresh grave. These moments are often the most difficult to face, but from that difficulty can come a surprising joy as God demonstrates His perfect power in the midst of crushing weakness. The pastor does not always know what to do, or what to say; and many times is not the one used by God to say or do what is needed.
He is very often present, or nearby to see God at work. There is no describing that pleasure: we can only pray that our reader may have a taste of it in their own lives.
We must be very clear that the particular joy of the pastor is very simple in being on hand for these moments. It is simply the nature of his position to be in dark moments where the Light shines through most brilliantly. No, not every dark moment, not in every time of need; only God himself accomplishes that. And if the minister does not gasp that truth, he will find no joy in his work. He must trust that God will bring him into those situations where he is useful.
You see, the pastor is only one tool in God’s toolbox. God may well choose a different tool for this or that occasion according to His perfect wisdom. The pastor gets to see this and hear of it, and that is a joy in itself. That is often the great benefit of short-term missions; watching your fellow believers discover for themselves the joys of using their talents for the advancement of the Kingdom.
The Final Joy
You may have noticed a theme in our discussion so far: trusting God. If God is trusted, the life of ministry is joyful, but if we mistrust God, it is miserable. The thing is that God moves in a mysterious way from our vantage point. He does not consult with us, or even go over all the details of the plan with us. The pastor is often left wondering. And in these moments of question, his heart is deeply engaged for he loves the people, and he loves his Lord. How do you detach yourself at the end of a difficult day in ministry when some souls are still hurting, and some issues unresolved? It isn’t easy to trust God at such times.
It has been said that a pastor will most likely spend his entire career in small churches that no one has ever heard of, ministering to a handful, he will face all kinds of troubles, he will know many defeats, and when it is all said and done, they will place his remains in a pine box and bury it six feet under. Then his soul will enter into the glory of Heaven to meet the Lord. The faithful pastor will hear the most wonderful words, seen in Matthew 25:21: “His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”
And everything will have been worth it.
This is the final, the ultimate joy of the pastor and of all the saints. It is the joy of life, and of death, and of eternity. It is the joy sought after and promised. It is the joy that calls a man into ministry, and it will be the joy when he lies the ministry at the feet of His God. It is the answer to every agonizing doubt, the comfort of every sleepless night, the balm for every bloody wound, wiping away every bitter tear, it is all that is needed to set right every perceived wrong. It is more than we can know till we have known it ourselves.
Oh, to hear those words from that voice followed for so long. There are no words.
I am quite sure there are many other joys to be discovered in ministry. The first thing though is to discover ministry itself. Only a choice few are called to the pastorate, but every believer is called to a ministry. Therefore, every believer can share some portion of the joys we have examined. If you are unsure what your ministry is I am certain your pastor would enjoy helping you find it and fulfill it.
Finally, I would speak to my brother pastors. Dear brothers, let no one rob you of your joy in the work God calls you to. These gifts are from God to you. No man can revoke them. God means for you to have them, and who can stand against His will? Our joy is not taken from us by pestilent church members, hostile outsiders, or even by demonic forces; though they all try to rob us. No, in the end, we rob ourselves by allowing our focus to slip away from God and onto other things.
Dear brothers as John 15:5 admonishes us all, hold fast to the Vine and the fruit of joy will remain with you: “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”
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