It is Monday morning. Last week, you spent hours preparing sermons for Sunday. Yesterday, you felt God’s help as you shared truth from His Word. Then late last night, you received a text: “Pastor, I hope you won’t be disappointed, but we have decided to move to XYZ Church. We like your preaching, so don’t feel bad. But their worship is more upbeat, and they have a great program for our teens. By the way, thanks for helping our family when I was out of work. And your wife was such a help to our children while Sally was in the hospital last month. Thanks for everything and keep encouraged!”
This morning, you type a resignation letter. Ministry seems hopeless. You study; you pray; you visit; you preach; but the church doesn’t grow. You feel that you are fighting a losing battle.
You remember when you were excited about ministry. You were ready to fulfill Jesus’ Great Commission in your community. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” But today, you pastor a small congregation that shares none of your vision for evangelism. You are ready to quit.
Please stop! Before you submit that resignation, reread the Great Commission. But this time, don’t stop with verse 19. Read the last sentence in the Gospel of Matthew. It is a word of hope: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Making disciples was never easy, even in the first century. We read Acts and are thrilled by 3000 converts on the Day of Pentecost. We rejoice when Cornelius is converted; when churches are planted in new cities; and when Paul, the most zealous opponent of the church, is saved. But we must not forget the stoning of Stephen, Peter’s imprisonment, and Paul’s beatings. Perhaps more relevant to our ministry, we must not forget the days on which there was no persecution, but neither were there any conversions. Even in the first century, there were many days when little happened.
On both difficult days and ordinary days, the apostles lived with this promise: “I am with you always.”
On both difficult days and ordinary days, the apostles lived with this promise: “I am with you always.” These words gave hope when the religious leaders beat them, hope when Roman officials arrested them, and hope when they preached but saw no fruit.
The book of Acts begins with Jesus’ commission. “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Jesus gave his followers an enormous task, but he promised that the Holy Spirit would give the apostles power to accomplish the work.
The book of Acts ends with the Holy Spirit continuing to give the power to accomplish the Great Commission. Even under house arrest, Paul was “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance” (Acts 28:31). The promise, “I am with you always,” was being fulfilled even in Rome.
Today, you may preach and find opposition. You may share the gospel and be mocked. More likely, you may preach to people who politely nod and go away unchanged. You may share the gospel and get a simple, “No, thanks.” Regardless of the response, don’t lose hope. You are not doing this on your own! The same Jesus who commissioned you to make disciples promised to be with you always. You are not alone.