As a pastor, how often have you thought about quitting your current assignment? Usually, the response I get to that question is, “Every Monday morning!” Let’s face it. There’s much about the weekends that serves to send adrenaline rushing through your veins. When it’s over, however, you’re faced with the relentless return of the Sabbath as the cycle starts all over again.
Long ago, another pastor must have thought about quitting as well. Perhaps it was on a Monday morning, that this young minister read these timely words from his mentor, Paul:
You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs–he wants to please his commanding officer. Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. (2 Timothy 2:1-6, NIV)
There’s a lot about this passage that I like, beginning with the emphasis on discipleship and multiplication. Further, I’m reminded that there’s a war, and like good soldiers, we’re to engage in it. We can’t go AWOL. I also love the analogy of the athlete. Prior to competing in the games, the athletes of long ago would have to swear that they had trained diligently for at least ten months. Certainly, this has application for our lives as well. We can’t simply go through the motions and hope to be effective in ministry.
The images of the soldier and athlete excite me and cause me to reflect on all that I like about ministry: teaching, training, and engaging in adrenaline pumping initiatives. These activities are characterized by action, life-change, adventure and progress. In my heart of hearts, I’ve often wished Paul would’ve stopped there. But he didn’t. He goes on to casually toss in the idea of a farmer. A farmer?
Why not a bodyguard, an archer or a metal forger? Anything but a farmer! But God knows best. And somewhere in this he wants us to learn that progress, change and impact rarely take place overnight. As a result, we’ll be tempted to quit. Think about it. Day after day, the farmer gets up early to look for any signs of growth from the seeds he recently planted, and day after day, there’s tremendous potential for disappointment.
In this analogy, we have an image of what ministry is like most often. Sure, there are moments of exhilaration in your current assignment where it feels like you’re storming across the battlefield with guns blazing or running the anchor leg for the 3,200 meter relay as the theme song to Chariots of Fire blares in the background. But who of us gets to experience that every day? If we’re honest, most of what we do is plod along while putting one foot in front of the other. That’s why we’re grateful for the hardworking farmer. After all, our life is much like his.
Is God asking you to quit your current assignment? If so, keep the overalls on. He must have another field for you to plow. If not, He wants you to keep the tractor running in the one you’re in right now. Is this always easy to discern? No. But Paul tells us we’re not alone in this:
Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this. (2 Timothy 2:7, NIV)
Enjoy the journey!