Dear Leader, part 11 (Ministerial Depression and Jesus)

This exercise is a continuation of a series we started at Grace with our leadership while I served as interim there. For those who are not pastors or deacons, but who lead in some capacity in any arena of life, these books are a tremendous resource in Scripture. I encourage all of those who would be called leaders or who oversee to take advantage of these notes geared specifically toward leadership or roles with much responsibility.

2 Timothy 1

v. 8

Paul begins to apply this truth, the truth that Christ is our rest and we are not of this world. He is instructing Timothy, who is suffering a great degree of ministerial depression, on how he might rekindle the gift of God that is in him (the regenerate heart and/or the Holy Spirit). He encourages Timothy not to be ashamed of the testimony about Christ. Romans 1:16 echoes throughout Paul’s entire ministry. This must be the resolution of those serving in ministry. We will not be ashamed of the Gospel. In the Gospel is the power of salvation. We cannot change our message because people would rather hear some prosperity Gospel or because people would rather believe that they can contribute in some way to their salvation. There is only one Gospel.

Instead of being ashamed of the Gospel, Paul instructs Timothy to share in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God. When we are dedicated to a genuine Gospel, we will suffer as Christ suffered. We get to share in that suffering. We need to be honest about this. Genuine ministry will bring sorrow. We can either be ashamed of the genuine Gospel or share in suffering for the Gospel. In ministry, then, we become willing sufferers with Christ. Ministerial depression comes with the job on this earth. That’s a fact. The only way to escape ministerial depression is to sell out and embrace a false gospel.

v. 9-12

We can be encouraged even in our sorrow. Let us not forget the Gospel that we have embraced. Christ “has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began” (v. 9). This is the Gospel, and it has been made evident through the appearing of Jesus Christ. He is the one who abolished death, bringing life and immortality to light through the Gospel. Jesus suffered. Jesus had sorrow as He looked over Jerusalem. Jesus was in anguish in Gethsemane. Jesus explained the things of Heaven only to have no one truly understand. Jesus was crucified, literally. When we do His work in ministry, we become fellow sufferers with Him.

That is why Paul claimed to suffer the things that he suffered. Still, he was not ashamed. Still, he encouraged Timothy not to be ashamed. Why? Christ is able to guard the gift that has been entrusted to His servants until that day.

Our salvation is secure according to the true Gospel. Christ guards that. It is not because of our works. We remind ourselves of this grace. Our ministerial depression does not mean that we are somehow no longer secure. Our inability to please all people is not a reflection of God’s grace in our lives. Even if we are crucified (metaphorical for some and literal for others), Christ guards us. Not even a pastor’s suicide can separate him from Christ’s gift. Christ is able to guard what has been entrusted. Why do we forget that it isn’t by works? This gift is only by God’s own “purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began” (v. 9).

It is only by grace that we even get to serve the way that we do. It is not by our works. This, too, was given to us before time began. I have a friend who is experiencing some sadness partly because his heart is in ministry but he doesn’t get much, if any, opportunity. We can take comfort in this truth. It is why we rekindle the gift that is in us by reminding ourselves of the true Gospel and not being ashamed of it. We do not deserve to be in vocational ministry. We are not in vocational ministry because of our own works. It is a gift of God. Suffering with Christ as an elder (pastor) or a deacon is a gift of God given even before time began. Any position or place of service we will have in the resurrection is a gift of God given before time (discrete time) began. Let that truth draw us to wonder at the beauty of the creator. Let it serve to remind us all of who God is and of the true Gospel. Only by grace. There is some profound encouragement, there. Did you see it? There is great security in what God is doing even in the midst of the circumstances of this wretched earth. What joy is this!

For those who know someone who has committed suicide, there is encouragement for us. Since salvation is by grace through faith, not even suicide can separate those who are saved from God. The only thing suicide accomplishes is our removal from this earth, pain for those who love us, and removal from our own participation in God’s work on this earth. We listen to Paul as he encouraged Timothy. Share in suffering for the Gospel, relying on the power of God. In Christ, we are secure, not in the ways and patterns of this world. There’s one class I missed in Seminary: Suffering Well. I didn’t see it on the roster.

 

*Please take time to pray for the families of the rising number of pastors who have committed suicide due to ministerial depression. The enemy is at work, and he is at work especially against those who do genuine, Gospel-centered ministry. Rekindle.

*please note, if you experience depression because of a mental illness or because of a chemical imbalance, please seek medical help. If depression is constant, please seek the help of a good psychologist. Circumstantial depression (which I am addressing here) is not the same as clinical depression.

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