Failure, ingratitude, and exhaustion are things that can cause us to slip—even in our life of faith. In a divine service for ministers, the Chief Apostle offered a psalm full of encouragement and inspiration that really applies to all of us.
“We appreciate your ministration and are very, very grateful for it,” Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider said during a divine service on 4 November 2023 in Aldeia dos Palheiros, which was directed at active and retired ministers in Portugal.
When you slip
Such a commitment is not always easy. The Chief Apostle conceded that this could cause one to slip. There are many reasons for this, he said.
- You do not see any success. You have served for years, you have prayed and worked and hoped for some visible success, but there is nothing. You ask yourself: “Is this all in vain?”
- There is no gratitude. If you do something wrong, there is immediate criticism. But everything else you do and all the trouble you go to, nobody notices. It takes forever before you receive a thank-you.
- You respond inappropriately because you are exhausted. Your reaction was absolutely off the mark. You stumbled. And of course you cannot help but think: it’s time to quit. You’re far too weak.
- You lose interest. Suddenly something else in life seems much more important and much more interesting than serving God. You are close to falling.
How God catches us
The Bible text used in the divine service offers encouragement: “If I say, ‘My foot slips,’ Your mercy, O Lord, will hold me up” (Psalm 94: 18). The Chief Apostle went on to explain what exactly God gives out of mercy and kindness.
- Jesus Christ died for us. This is not just something to preach in church. It applies to all of us personally. We are reminded of this every time we celebrate Holy Communion: it is given for you.
- Jesus Christ forgives sins. He has so much patience with us. No one knows how often and how much Jesus Christ has already forgiven us. But I am absolutely certain that it is far more than we actually think and realise.
- God trusts us. This is pure grace! Nobody can earn that: in His kindness, God trusts us. He has entrusted us with a ministry or a responsibility in His work.
- God wants to give us even more. You small, imperfect human being can become the image of Jesus Christ and enter His kingdom, His glory.
“If you are close to giving up, it is worth giving it some serious thought and asking yourself: do you really have a reason to call it quits?” the Chief Apostle urged. He reminded the ministers how much joy can come from a ministry. You experience God in a special way in divine service, you experience closeness with fellow believers, and “your own serving is even a blessing for yourself”, the Chief Apostle said.
God does most of the work
“Let us continue to serve the Lord out of love for our fellow human beings,” the Chief Apostle said. The congregation is a place where brothers and sisters feel loved. “Even if nobody accepts me any more, here I am accepted and loved. The world needs places like this.” That should motivate us to keep going: “If we quit, these places will no longer exist.” Places where the glory of God and a wonderful future are preached. “This is the place of hope. We owe it to future generations that there will continue to be a place where hope is preached and not just crises and the end of the world. And that is your mission.”
“Our work is imperfect,” the Chief Apostle said. God sees to the most important part. “If you serve the Lord, you can be sure that it will end well. Even if your work is clearly not successful, the work will be completed because it is God’s work,” the Chief Apostle said. “Let us see and truly recognise the grace and kindness of God. This is where we find the strength and courage to continue our ministration.”