As I was preparing for this message on the Thorns and Thistles we encounter in our work I was reminded of that letter. 2020 has had its share of thorns and thistles.
I hope, if you are facing some thorns and thistles in your work, it might encourage you. It is dated 2009 and as I recall that was a particularly tough year in ministry. So, for what its worth, here is me talking to myself (that sounds bad when I say it out loud but this was over a decade ago and I don't talk to myself so much anymore, do I?...):
Don’t you dare waste even one minute feeling sorry for yourself! You have been so blessed by God in your short life you have no reason to waste any time feeling sorry for yourself. You keep on loving people. Love the people of this church with reckless abandon. Love them in a way that you do not hesitate to risk your own reputation or money or feelings to authentically express that love. Love them in a way that you do not hesitate to risk hurting their feelings if it means helping them grow to be more like Christ. You have seen lives changed by God’s Spirit right before your eyes. Few spiritual leaders in this world have seen that kind of transformation as regularly as you have. God has chosen to bless you with that because of His good pleasure. He has given you that blessing every year that you have served Him in ministry!
You may have your feelings hurt from time to time. Big deal, life isn’t fair, get over it, suck it up. Remember Jesus Christ and His suffering on your behalf. Deep suffering, not just physical but soul deep spiritual abandonment suffering that was the punishment you deserve. You have only had passing glimpses of abandonment. What you really know is how deeply you belong to your loving Father. How deeply He loves you. You know what you have done in your life to deserve His judgment. We won’t go into it now, but you know! So, don’t feel sorry for yourself when you go through a little momentary pain in this life. You have so much more reason to rejoice than you do pity yourself! You have the grace that gives you the power to overcome little setbacks and press on! You can risk being hurt again, and again, and again because you know what He did for you.
Keep on being faithful to your family, to your calling, to your friends! God will provide the increase. You can’t make that happen. You can’t even get in the way of it if He chooses to make it happen. If He wants to, He will find someone else to fill your shoes. Until He does that you remain faithful. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Don’t try to be the kind of leader God did not wire you up to be! You be a faithful, hardworking man of integrity and God will do the rest.
Be bold and courageous!
As I read it all these years later I still find a lot of truth I need to apply to my work. I hope you do to.