One of my pastoral teachers and heroes, Bill Hughes, said goodbye to his beloved wife of over 60 years this past week who met her Savior in glory and is no longer suffering. Bill spent most of his long and faithful ministry serving in Scotland. Thinking about and praying for Bill this week reminded me of a simple, but profound truth I learned from him about how to endure through the constant struggles of pastoral ministry. In an exposition of 2 Corinthians 4 I once heard Bill Hughes preach, he made this observation to answer the nagging question, “How do I endure through the difficulties of pastoral ministry?”
“Never forget the debt to mercy we owe.”
See what I mean? Simple. Stunningly true. Yet, when measured against anything we might face as pastors, it produces endurance in every trial, struggle, and difficulty. Bill instructed that when we remember who we once were and the amazing debt to mercy we owe to our Savior, we will be more patient, gracious, and merciful to even the most stubborn and petty of conflicts and complaints we experience in the church. Likewise, if we forget who we once were and presume upon this debt to mercy in the gospel, those same petty people and issues will eat us up and will destroy us and our ministry.
Dear brothers, if you find yourself discouraged, angry, wondering why some of your people do and say what they do and you can’t take it any more…do not forget the debt to mercy you owe. It is a debt greater than you and I could ever payback. It is a debt that should weigh heavier on our joyful hearts than the most difficult person in our church. Apply this truth that I was so powerfully taught to me by this sweet and faithful man and see if you then find the hope and perspective you need for that struggling person or circumstance you face in your ministry.