It’s a sad truth that minister’s families often struggle. Pastor’s kids (or pk’s as they’re referred to in ministry circles) are sometimes viewed as the most rebellious; and we’ve all heard of a ministry family somewhere that fell apart. But why?
How does this happen? Especially when they’re the ones God has called and used to bring healing and truth to so many other families, how is it that they themselves are not kept by the same things in which they minister?
This post is longer than I usually share on my blog, but I believe the fourth chapter of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians answers much of this question. So I want to look at it for understanding and as a means of prayer for those whom God has called to minister to His children–for they themselves are also His very own.
“Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Corinthians 4:1-2).
Using myself as an example, I don’t believe the majority of God-fearing ministers ever intentionally use God’s Word as manipulation. But as we’ll see as we keep reading, when the devil can’t get us to fall into obvious sin because of our calling and love for God, then he’ll use what we do have against us and those we love–God’s Word.
It becomes a sword in our mouth. It can be meant sincerely at first, but in a pressure situation, God’s Word can become twisted to suit ourselves or manipulate the outcome of our cause–all in the name of convincing the other to see our point of view.
I have done this unknowingly. In an attempt to make my case, I have brought up God’s Word in a heated discussion, only to realize later the devil used the height of our emotions to twist the scriptures into a knife. It’s a slippery and shameful slope–but one that many a minister’s family have fallen into.
“But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God should shine on them” (verses 3-4).
Here we have Satan’s goal. Lest the light of God’s amazing Word should shine on dark hearts, he works hard to get the minister’s family to struggle in an area they would otherwise be able to help someone else.
“For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us” (verses 5-7).
It’s not about us. It’s about God. But when God’s servants struggle against attacks of the flesh and the mind, it’s a consuming thought of “How can God use me?” We can forget that in these “adorned clay pots” (the Message Translation of our earthen vessels, or bodies) is the power of Almighty God, ready to use the same light that shines in our darkness to help someone else’s darkness.
Instead, the devil repeats the same nagging question, “What makes you think you can minister to others?”
“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken, cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh” (verses 8-11).
You’d think we’d remember the fight of faith is just that… a fight. But when troubled on every side, weariness can set in; the flesh can overtake us; emotions get escalated; and we fall by the same sword we were trained to use in fighting the devil.
“So then–death is working in us, but life in you” (verse 12).
Ironically, God’s intent is for ministers to use these trials to help others find life in Jesus through our own transparency. But this is easier said than done because shame and “I should’ve known better” set in and cause us to withdraw behind a mask.
“We have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, I believed, and therefore have spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; knowing that He which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise us up also by Jesus, and present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might though the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God” (verses 13-15).
God has given us all the same measure of faith–ministers and lay people alike. But not everyone is called to live their walk with God transparent and open before whole congregations. It’s easier for a regular God-fearing Joe to work through his family or personal issues behind the scenes than for the Pastor or man of God whose whole life is in the spotlight.
But… notice what Paul said: “All of this [our personal struggles] are for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory” (NLT). This alone would give the devil enough reason to shut the mouths of ministers. He doesn’t want God to receive any more glory, much less allow God’s grace to reach one more person.
“For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (verses 16-18).
At first, the trials we face are overcome one by one by our sheer focus on eternal things. But as with every person, the devil uses our past to build up each and every “light affliction” into a heavy pile of guilt, condemnation, and frustration. And the only way out of it is to keep “our gaze fixed on things that cannot be seen”–which is the promises of God.
I’m certain much of this applies to every family–regardless if they’re in ministry or not. And the devil’s goal would be the same too: destroy families and lessen the light of God’s glory in the earth. But for those set apart to minister the Gospel, the onslaught is a tougher fight for we realize people are effected by the outcome of our win or loss.
And this however, may be our saving grace. When we’re tempted to quit or throw in the towel, we remember the faces of those who could be caused to fall in our wake. And as long as our love for God remains stronger, we continue fighting the enemy one more day. And the good news? God always wins. Therefore God’s servants always win. But the fight of faith never lessens.
So would you please pray for those in ministry today? God has called them to a fight you may never know. But the outcome of their lives effects more than a few.