“Even though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).
We hear of it too frequently.
“He used to be a pastor. But the people in the churches were so mean–undercutting him, criticizing, backbiting, slandering, and then kicking him out–that it ruined him forever. He vows he’ll never enter a church again.”
“If this is how God’s churches are, I want nothing to do with any of them.”
“Makes me wonder if the Lord even cares.”
The variations on that sad theme are endless.
But the result, while tragic, is needless: Some of these “wounded warriors” have given up on the Lord and His church.
No one should ever quit Jesus when God’s people mistreat him.
The Lord told us to expect this. “The servant is not above his master. The pupil is not above his teacher. If they called the Master a devil, how much more should His disciples expect it.” (see Matthew 10)
The Lord was crucified by the religious people, convinced they were doing God’s work.
Okay, perhaps not all were convinced they were doing the Lord’s work. But many were.
What would knock you out of the game?
So what would it take, we ask the Christian workers in the audience, for you to walk away from the Lord’s work and cause you to turn your back on Him?
How badly would they have to treat you to make you give up on Jesus?
That is not theoretical nor is the question rhetorical. It’s a real issue, one each of us should face and answer.
I have heard of people who were mistreated by a sibling and who, as a result, wrote off the entire family. One man told me, “He won’t even call our parents. They long to hear from this son of theirs, but he acts as if they don’t exist.”
My parents had six children. While our parents were living, I would make this point: Even if one of my three brothers or two sisters did something to end our contact, there is nothing a sibling can do that would make me quit loving my parents and going to see them.
So, how is it that someone mistreated by a church can walk away from the Lord Jesus?
Someone says, “I’m not leaving the Lord, just His church.”
Same difference, my friend.
Show me anyone in Scripture who managed to separate Jesus from His Body.
He said numerous times, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (See John 14 and 15)
To love Jesus does not mean getting all goose-bumpy about Him, but obeying Him.
Obedience: that’s the Lord’s love language.
In the book of Job, God and Satan were discussing this very issue, what it would take for a champion of the Lord to desert Him . “Job is faithful to you because you take such good care of him,” the devil said to the Almighty.
The loss of everything dear to Job would do the trick, said Satan. “Take it all away and he will curse you to your face.” When that was proven not to be the case, Satan said, “Let him think he’s losing his life.” Nothing dearer to people than their lives, right? (see chapters 1-2 of Job. But don’t miss chapter 42.)
In all this, Job did not sin, we read.
Job was a keeper. “Even though He slay me, yet will I trust Him,” he said.
That’s the kind of faithfulness that honors God, blesses people, and will shine like diamonds for eternity.
What would it take for you to stop going to church, quit reading your Bible, and put a stop to your prayers?
It doesn’t take much for some of us.
It didn’t take much for some people.
A little opposition, a little harassment, some betrayals, and one would think we were going through the holocaust. “Why me, Lord?”
God’s people need to grow up and quit their belly-aching.
God’s preachers need to lose their Pollyanna expectation that serving Jesus was meant to be easy, churches are always going to do the right thing, denominations are the great security blanket, and if God loved you, He would give you what you pray for every time.
At the end of their first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas decided to retrace their steps and return to the Christians they’d birthed and the churches they had started. “Let’s encourage them in the Lord,” they said. “And let’s tell them that it is through much tribulation that we enter the kingdom.” (see Acts 14)
“Much tribulation.” Expect it.
The problem for most is that we expect it from the world, but not from within the house of God.
The crowd that welcomed Jesus into the city on Sunday with cries of “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” must have been largely the same bunch calling out “Crucify Him!” by the end of the week.
In Paul’s first missionary journey, the citizens of a town were so impressed by the miracle of healing he performed, they were ready to worship him and Barnabas as gods. Shortly thereafter, when troublemakers arrived to slander the apostle, the crowd turned to stone him.
We would do well to keep our faith in Jesus but not in the Lord’s people. They are His flock and our assignment. They are His children and our field of service. We must not look to them for affirmation, validation, or a proof of our authenticity. When they show appreciation and respond well to our ministry, well and good. But when they do not, we must not conclude the Lord has betrayed us.
And so, to the victim of mistreatment at the hands of the Lord’s people, we offer this small counsel:
–If you are as human as the rest of us, you were not entirely blameless in the work which ended so badly. The person who blames everyone else for his woes without taking any of the responsibility for any portion of it himself is probably into denial. Don’t let that happen to you.
–Keep your eyes on the Lord Jesus. He is both the Author and Finisher of your salvation. Which is to say, He started it and He will end it–in His own time and way. So, keep trusting Him.
–If no church will consider you now after the way the last congregation dismissed you. start a ministry. Perhaps the Lord wants you to birth a church in your living room, or to minister at the jail or in hospitals as a chaplain. No one on earth can keep you from ministering in the name of Jesus, even if they are able to prevent you from getting a paid position with an established church.
–Many a pastor has found freedom in being bi-vocational–that is, having a full-time job during the week that pays the bills while pastoring a church at night and on weekends. In most cases, these churches are smaller than the larger, more impressive congregations. But not always. Even so, you would do well to get over having to have a full-time, paid position. Look for ways to carry out the calling God has given you.
Paul told Timothy to “fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5).
–Pray God will help you to get past the mistreatment at the hands of His people. No church is going to want an angry pastor. No search committee wants a preacher who is still licking his wounds from the last place he served. They’re looking for a healthy, loving pastor, and rightly so.
–Ask the Lord to use this suffering in your life to bring about good things. He specializes in that very thing.
–You are finally learning what it means to share the sufferings of Jesus. Do not miss this privilege, one not given to everyone. Let your sufferings be an offering of love to the One who redeemed you from sin and called you into His service. (See Philippians 3:10).
We must not quit. We have been given an incredible promise. “Be thou faithful unto death,” Jesus said, “and I will give you a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
Two reasons not to quit
Here’s how Paul put it. “Therefore, since we have received this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart” (or quit). God has shown us mercy. God has called us into His ministry. (2 Corinthians 4:1).
Mercy and ministry. He’s been so good to you, not dealing with you according to your sins and not rewarding you according to your iniquities (Psalm 103:10). That’s His mercy. And having called you into His service, He gave you spiritual gifts to enable you to do the work. That’s your ministry.
You will stand before Him some day and give account. You want to go with confidence and not shame. So, claim this promise from 2 Corinthians 4:16-17: “Therefore we do not lose heart (and quit). For even though our outer man is decaying, yet the inner man is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is working for us an exceeding weight of glory, far beyond all comparison.”
It will be worth it all, friend. As Paul said, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
So many reasons not to become a statistic, preacher. But the best one is simply: you love Jesus.
You. Love. Jesus.