“I feel like God has left me on the “back 40” of the ranch.” At least that it what I tell my wife from time to time. It feels as if so many others have so much more influence than I do, and when I struggle, I wonder if my work is doing anyone any good.
These feelings are real, but the moment I say them out loud I hear everything wrong with them. I know as a matter of fact that God does not abandon us or make mistakes with us. But a pastor’s feelings can betray them from time to time.
Encouragement is important for God’s under-shepherds and can come in many forms. People who appreciate our ministry are often very kind, and their words and gifts lift our spirits. In the end, however, our primary source of encouragement is the same it was for the prophets and apostles – the anticipation of our Lord’s words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
The Lord is thankful for good servants
The good servants in the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25 took whatever their master gave them and did their most with it. In the mystery of God’s providence, they began with different amounts, but each servant who worked with what the Master gave them was given the same accolade. They were judged to be good in their Lord’s eyes.
Christ lets us know that hard-working servants are good in his estimation, even if the outcomes are quantitatively different. Both the world and the church are tempted to weigh the value of our work based on external and quantifiable measures, but the economy of Christ is measured by different things. The gospel preaching pastor in the large church in the suburbs and the faithful shepherd in the rural community are both good to Christ.
The Lord is thankful for you no matter the size of the outcome this week or the number of online views you have. If you answer the call and faithfully occupy until the Master returns, you are good in His sight.
The Lord is thankful for faithful servants
This job requires endurance and gumption. In 2 Corinthians 6:4-10, Paul describes how he and his companions are commended by God. The list begins with the suffering they endured for their faithfulness, but the longer second part of the list details the fruit of their endurance, including the “power of God.” I have pastored for 30 years now, and it is as complicated and thankless a job as it has ever been. But faithfulness means driving back into the office and stepping back into the pulpit knowing that we follow in Paul’s footsteps and there will be both suffering and beauty.
The Master’s servants in the parable were both good and faithful. They will enter into the joy of their Master for faithfully discharging the work they were given. I am more convinced all the time that one of the primary qualities that God searches for in pastors right now is faithfulness. We are called to remain faithful to the flock. We are called to remain faithful to our spouse and family. We are called to remain faithful to God and the gospel.
And for that, God is thankful for you. God promises to bring you into his everlasting joy. Not only has God not taken his eye off you, but his glory is prepared for you.
I am thankful for you
Whether I am really stuck on the “back 40,” the larger truth is that I am not alone. If you are a good under-shepherd, and if you are faithful (and if I am the same), then I am unspeakably thankful for you.
At the risk of bearing too much and sounding negative, I am brokenhearted at those who have not remained faithful over the last couple of years. I know that faithfulness looks different given our circumstances, but the gospel and the importance of the Bride of Christ have not changed. I say this only to remark that when it seems that others are slipping away, the more thankful I become for those who remain faithful.
And being thankful for you helps me get up in the morning and put one foot in front of the other. May the God of all wisdom and might fill you with his peace and joy. May the God who raised Christ from the dead give you the strength and comfort you need to walk in the way he has prepared for you. And may you know the love of God for you with an ever-increasing depth of insight.