The Reformed Life

Equipping followers of Christ to live in a manner worthy of their calling

A Letter to a Discouraged Pastor

Dear Brother Pastor,

I am writing this letter because I have heard that you’re having a hard time in the ministry and you feel as if the weight of the world is upon your shoulders. You feel as if you’re going to give out at any moment. I’m sorry that it has been and is a difficult time for you.

I know that you are struggling because you feel as if you’re not seeing any fruit from your labor and you feel as if your labors are in vain. You pour yourself into the Word of God week after week and when you preach, you feel as if you’re preaching to an empty room. You give yourself to diligent study of God’s Word and do everything you can to be faithful to the text, but you feel as if nothing is happening. Yet, you see other churches compromising and it seems that people are flocking to their services. People characterize you as being too rigid with the Word and not relevant enough.

That hurts. You simply love the Word of God and know that the Word is the means by which God sanctifies His people. You look around at other places of worship and they are filled on the Lord’s Day, yet you’re struggling. My advice to you is this: be watchful. Satan prowls around like a lion seeking someone to devour, and a despairing pastor is easy prey. Young Timothy faced something similar. Did you know that? When the Apostle Paul was writing his final letter to Timothy, he gave him some beautifully wise words. Want to know what they were? He said, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).”

I know what you’re thinking. “That passage speaks to the inerrancy of God’s Word, what does that have to do with me and my situation?” Well, it does speak to the inerrancy of God’s Word. That’s true. But in context, it’s dealing with the sufficiency of God’s Word. I’d encourage you to go read that passage in context, brother. You see, Paul was leaving. His time was up. He had finished the race and was soon going to be with His Lord and Savior. It’s in this last letter that he gives some beautiful advice to young Timothy. It’s as if Paul was saying to him,

“You know Timothy, my time is almost up. I’m leaving, but you’re still here. You have a task to shepherd those people in Ephesus. You’re their leader. They need you. It’s okay, brother, you’re going to be okay. But look, there’s going to come a time when ministry may not go the way you’d desire it to go. There’s going to come a time when people don’t desire to hear from the Word of God but would rather hear what makes them feel good about themselves. I know, I don’t get it either. It’s in these moments when you’ll look around and see people flocking to the false teachers and you may be tempted to despair and give up. Hey, you might be tempted to compromise. But listen, Timothy, the Word of God is enough. It’s enough. I know this to be true. I’ve been beaten, shipwrecked, imprisoned, and here I am saying, ‘it’s enough.’ So, stick to the Word of God. It never returns void. It never loses its value. Stick to it. When you stand before God in glory and give an account for how you shepherded your people, you’ll be glad you did.”

Brother pastor, the Word of God is enough. Keep preaching the Word of God. You’re not responsible for the results. Success isn’t measured by results, but by faithfulness. Be faithful. You may plant or you may water, but in the end, it’s God who gives the growth. Don’t put a weight on your shoulders that you were never meant to carry. Give it to the Lord.

I also heard that you’ve been hurt by others. You’ve been slandered, gossiped about, and hated. I get it. That hurts your heart. Whoever created that phrase “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is ridiculousness. Words hurt. I know they do. They keep you up at night. It hurts when you’re trying to be faithful in the task that the Lord has given you, only to be hated by the ones you are loving.

Sounds a lot like our Lord and Savior doesn’t it? He was crucified brother! He was hated. He was reviled. He was persecuted. He was killed. Yet, even as He was hanging on the cross, He was praying for those who were killing Him. Model Christ. Show patience and forgiveness. Show love. It’s hard, I know, but God gives us the strength and grace we need to be faithful to the tasks He has called us to. Run to Him. Your identity is not found in the fruit of your labor or the praise of man, but in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Your worth is not measured by man’s opinion. When the world disowns you, and when people abandon you, be strengthened knowing that the Lord has adopted you.

I know you’re struggling because you feel neglected. You’re praying for others, caring for others, but nobody checks on you. No one is asking how they can pray for you and your family, but they expect you to care and pray for them. I get it. It’s hard. It’s discouraging. People aren’t thanking you for your faithfulness in the ministry. You feel taken advantage of and used. You feel as if you’re not loved. No one knows your pain and frustration except your wife. No one knows the hard conversations that you and she have had through the nights. They don’t know how close you’ve come to giving up and leaving. It’s as if they have forgotten that you’re a human too. Sounds crazy, but it’s a reality. I understand. Listen to me, brother, you’re not alone.

You’re indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God. Pray. Draw strength from the fountain of everlasting grace and love. Look to Jesus. Set your heart on the joy that is before you; that inheritance that is undefiled and unfading. Look ahead to glory and being with your Lord and Savior. Let that be your hope in the hard times. That day is coming. One day you will be with Jesus. Be faithful. Don’t let Satan rob you of your joy in Christ. Continue to model biblical encouragement to your people. Don’t stop. Keep loving them.

Brother pastor, there’s probably more that I should say. I wish I could make your situation better. I can’t. I wish I could erase your pain and suffering. I can’t. But here’s what I know: God is good. You know that. You preach that. But you need to sit down and reflect on that. God is good. He is a loving Father. He has not abandoned you. He has not given up on you. He has not stopped loving you. He is with you. He cares for you. He loves you. Think about that. God loves you. Wow! The God who spoke everything into existence; who created the stars and the planets, the trees, the grass, and mountains. He loves you. He redeemed you. You’re not worthless. Be encouraged in the gospel, brother. Take heart in God’s grace and mercy. Run to Him. Cry out to Him. Let Him know your pain (He already does!). Drink from the fountain of His comfort. Run the race. Don’t stop. When you stand before God in glory, you’ll be glad that you did. It’s worth it.


Your Brother in Christ

Soli Deo Gloria, 

Josh Chambers

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