Weary----seems like an appropriate word for this season. There seems to be no shortage of weariness going around, especially in ministry. Months of COVID Church, endless piles of decisions, the increased challenge in connecting with people through this time, racial tensions, arguments over police practices, denominational tensions and fracturing----and did anyone know this is an election year? Turmoil is the soup of the day.
Weary just might be the right word.
As a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ I am called to put my hand to the plow of the Gospel every day- no exceptions, no days off, no turning back. This is the calling of Christ for all who are called to follow him: to join him in the great harvest of the Gospel. This is one of the things I admire about our Lord, he did the work of God EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. And while he may have gotten physically tired (John 4:6 and others) he did not get weary of his mission, of his calling, of the purpose he had laid on him- the Gospel. Jesus did not miss an opportunity to do not just good work but God’s work.
Don’t get me wrong, I love this ol’ plow- the plow of the Gospel. Perhaps there is nothing more rejuvenating for my soul than a day in the field. It’s good work, it’s meaningful work, it’s eternal work. I tell people all the time that even on the hardest day there is nothing I would rather do than ministry.
Don’t be mistaken, I know the ol’ plow reaps a meaningful harvest. Maybe you have experienced it too, the joy and delight of seeing the harvest of Gospel plow. Seeing souls saved, marriages rejuvenated, addictions crushed, lives transformed.
Don’t be misled, I believe in this ol’ plow. I believe that the Gospel of Jesus is the only thing that will be real, meaningful, substantial change to this world. I believe Jesus is the only full and complete answer to every question, every mistake, and every shortfall of man.
But weary is a challenge, a reality, and a fault- and I am betting I am not the only pastor dealing with it in these moments- especially in the context of the Church of the Brethren. The conflicts seem endless, the hard moments pile over and over, and there comes a point when you just feel raw, disillusioned, disenchanted, and disoriented. At some point we all get to point where we want to throw up our hands and proclaim “I AM DONE!” and walk away. It is not that we want to lose the battle, we just do not want to fight anymore.
This morning, as I poured out my weariness to the Lord, I studied this verse, 2 Thessalonians 3:13, and specifically the word weary- or ἐγκακέω- and God just shook me up. The word means “to lose heart.” It was if God himself was whispering “Do not lose your heart in doing good, Jon.” Over and over I let these words wash over my soul—and then it hit me---what is the heart of the Gospel? Jesus.
Weary friends, hear these words today, do not lose your Jesus. Do not allow all of the swirling of conflicts and conversations, the unknown and the challenges, the disappointments and fears, do not let any of it take away your Jesus, or even knock him off center.
Jesus must be the heart of our well doing, our mission, our core of being- not slightly off center, not second place, not top 5- primary. Jesus must always be the means and end to anything, not just a motivating factor. This seems to be a common problem these days. My primary task is not social change, racial reconciliation, spiritual wholeness, physical rehabilitation, relational peace, or anything else- I WORK FOR JESUS, and he calls me into ministry in those areas, but I cannot allow the ministry- the doing good- to overshadow the one who is calling me- JESUS. My primary task is to carry the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and allow everything else to flow from that.
Jesus challenged me this morning- to reclaim my heart. Now, I would love to tell you that the next scene is one from Braveheart, where I storm down the hillside towards the battle- but it’s not. Instead, it is more like a scene from The Notebook, where I sit in the presence of God and allow him to tell me the story of his love one more time, so that I can be refreshed, reminded, and get my heart back.
Maybe I am not the only one who needed this reminder today.