This morning, a friend of mine invited me to participate in a YouVersion Bible Reading plan(YouVersion is an awesome app if you haven’t downloaded it). Today’s reading revolved around Romans 8:15-17.
5 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
This is a powerful passage but what jumped out at me, that I am ashamed to say I have never noticed before was the phrase, “—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings“.
I, like many of you I am sure, have taught many of my students about the new life we have in Christ, the blessings that brings, how we are part of God’s family, and fellow heirs. Unfortunately I fail to mention the suffering.
Suffering can mean many things, and with a little research you will find that commentators go back and forth on what it means here. But here is what the Spirit said to me as I read that this morning, whether that is what Paul meant or not.
Far too often we forget living the Christian life effectively involves putting the work. Whether that is being a better youth pastor, better spouse, better parent, enacting the vision for a ministry opportunity God has given us, etc. doing that in a way that glorifies God and is successful is going to take a lot of work on a daily basis. The goals we want to reach, and the blessings we may receive for doing big things will not just be handed to us.
Take Paul for example: beaten, arrested, shipwrecked, imprisoned, persecuted. The work he was doing, impact he was having, and legacy he was leaving did not come easily. It took a lot of sacrifice and a lot of grinding.
I fully realize that I am preaching to the choir. Most of you reading are youth workers and you are often the hardest working people in the church. But I do think there are still some powerful reminders in this passage.
- Do not fall victim to the start-up phenomena.
It seems like every day a new start-up appears. In fact many of those start-up leaders reach celebrity status and even have movies made about them. This happens so often that we can fall into the trap of thinking that big success must be easy and must happen overnight. You can see how this can be dangerous as we form big dreams for our students, families, and ministries. We can easily think that success should come quickly. Then when it does not we feel frustrated and even quit. Instead, we must ask ourselves, have we put the work in and have we put in the time, sacrifice, and effort that is needed to accomplish the goal.
2. Work smarter not harder.
As I mentioned before. I know that you are the choir. You do work hard. But if you are not seeing success in your ministry you may want to think about how you are working hard and if changes can be made that will make your ministry more successful. For example, are you doing everything on your own and there are roles an adult or student leader who could take on some of those responsibilities. Another way I have seen this play out is when youth pastors invest their time in the wrong places. Let’s say you spend 8-16 hours on your mid-week sermon. It might be a great sermon but does it have any more impact than a sermon you download from the Internet? Then you could take those 8-16 hours and spend time praying, connecting with students, building community partnerships, sharing the Gospel, or even hanging out with your family. So maybe your frustration levels may not be not working enough but instead needing to work differently.
3. Do not sugar coat the Christian life for your students.
God loves us and has a wonderful plan for our lives. This is a true statement. But if that is the only picture you give your students of the Christian life, what will they do when things get hard? They will quit because they are not seeing the wonderful plan. So just like we have to make sacrifices and work hard, we need to model that for our students and communicate the truth that the Christian life can be hard and making a difference in the world around us will take a lot of work, investment, and sacrifice.
I applaud you for all the work you do. We probably do not say this enough but Jamie and I are involved in youth ministry just like you, and we do this because we want you to be encouraged and see more students reached for Christ. So every post, every tool, and every resource comes from us. No staff, no bots, no board of directors.
I say that so hopefully this will have more meaning. We value you and the work you are doing. We continue to feel many of the frustrations and struggles you do, but also get just as excited about the wins. And we hope this post, like all the others, will play a small part in making your ministry even more effective so that more students are reached for Christ.