>The Gospel in Hardship

>It’s funny how out of all the pastoral ministry books I’ve read and considered, I can’t think of one that speaks of how a good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. Pastoral ministry has been likened to shepherding, but rarely do I hear anything about the sacrificial nature of being a shepherd. More often than not, the role of shepherd as guide, reprover, corrector, protector, and leader are emphasized, and the idea of a suffering shepherd is quietly dismissed.

We end up with a distorted picture of a shepherd who manhandles his sheep (albeit with the most loving of motives), prodding, pulling, and taking sheep where they are too dumb to go themselves. Funny thing is that the most enduring image of Jesus as a shepherd that I can think of is his sacrifice. Indeed, the Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep (John 10:11). If I am called to shepherd the flock that is the people of God, should my job description be any less?

As noble as a suffering shepherd sounds, I was reminded of how painful this actually is through the sufferings of two beloved friends and partners in separate Gospel ministries. I saw their hurt, felt their tears, and mourned their situations with them in tough, undesirable circumstances – circumstances that in our day and age of profession ministers, would warrant any reasonable and sane minister to move on. But that’s not what they’re choosing to do, and for that they are suffering even more. When everyone and everything else is telling them, “are you crazy? Go to a different church!” they are holding on, CHOOSING suffering for the sake of the flock that has been entrusted to them. They are living out an exegesis of Col. 1:24

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church…”

They’re doing it with tears, frustrations, borderline anger, and a lot of uncertainty, but they’re doing it nonetheless. After all, lay down your life and gain it, but seek to save your life and lose it. Keep on enduring, friends, you are in my prayers, and your example of patient suffering is encouraging me and challenging me more than you know.

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