Why Is Ministry So Difficult?

The difficult side of serving God- the discouragement, the opposition, and resistance we will encounter- is not against you or me personally. The opposition is against the work.

by Cindy Hunnicutt
I

love serving God in the area to which He has called me-children’s ministry. It is a great work to bring the gospel on a child’s level and to see kids’ lives changed by the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.

However, this great work is not easy. If you are involved in ministry, no doubt you have discovered the same truth. Along with the joy of serving, there is opposition and resistance to the work God has called you to do. Satan does not want you to be successful in completing the great work to which you have been called.

God’s calling comes out of a burden. When Nehemiah heard how the wall around Jerusalem had been destroyed, it burdened him (Neh. 1:3-4). Out of that burden came his calling to rebuild the wall. Nehemiah left his plush palace job for his dangerous construction job, calling it a “great work” (6:3).

His job was building a wall, while my calling is building children’s lives. What has God burdened and called you to do? From the call of God, you have a great work to do. That’s where your assignment begins.

The difficult side of serving God—the discouragement, the opposition, and resistance we will encounter—is not against you or me personally. The opposition is against the work.

The Enemy is not concerned . . .
• when we have a burden to do ministry
• when we have a vision for ministry and tell others about it
• if we have the opportunity to do a great work for God.

Satan’s concern and the ensuing opposition comes when we begin the work.

Nehemiah experienced several attacks against the work of rebuilding the wall. All these attacks had one objective—to stop the work of God. His response to the attacks is an example for us to follow. He told his enemies, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down” (6:3 NASB). In other words, Nehemiah recognized the source of the opposition and had already determined in his heart that the resistance would not stop him from fulfilling the call of God on his life.

    Opposition Through Ridicule or Lack of Understanding

“When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became furious and very angry and mocked the Jews” (4:1 NASB).

Recently, my husband and I were at a dinner event at our church. It so happened that we were seated at a table with couples we didn’t know. As we all went around the table introducing ourselves and telling a bit about our families and our work, I mentioned that I direct the church’s children’s ministry. There was dead silence as everyone considered that fact. I could almost read their thoughts:

She directs the children’s ministry? What does that mean? Is she a Sunday school teacher? Is that some kind of weekday preschool program?

After a longer-than-normal pause, one of our dinner companions finally asked, “Is that a paid position?”

Situations of misunderstanding like this small incident used to cause me grief. Now I recognize the hand of the Enemy trying to discourage the work to which God has called me.

After my husband and I got in the car after the dinner, we had a good laugh.

Regardless of your area of ministry, expect ridicule and questioning to come. Satan will bring negative and condemning thoughts to discourage you from your work. Just as Sanballat made fun of Nehemiah’s workers and their building materials, Satan will remind you of your failures and weaknesses. Like Nehemiah, you must say, “I am doing a great work. I cannot come down.” You must decide in advance that you will not quit when mockers and questioners arise.

    Opposition Through Fear

“When Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repair of the walls of Jerusalem went on, and that the breaches began to be closed, they were very angry. All of them conspired together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause a disturbance in it” (vv. 7-8 NASB).

Nehemiah’s enemies tried to scare him from continuing the work. They did not want those walls repaired or built. His response was not to cower or run, but to pray and to put guards on duty day and night as he and his team continued the work. What a great example when things begin to go wrong in our own ministries.

On a recent Sunday in children’s worship, we were teaching from Acts 1 and 2. We talked about the unity of the early believers. We observed their evident love for one another. The kids marveled at the story of Pentecost. Everything was going great. Good teaching, children’s pastor! And then, I stepped over the line as far as the Enemy was concerned. I began to read Acts 2:2: “Suddenly a sound came from heaven. It was like a strong wind blowing. It filled the whole house where they were sitting” (NIRV).

At that moment, our sound system began to make terribly loud screeching noises. Kids were screaming and putting their hands over their ears. Several kids called out—some a little fearfully—“Is that the sound from heaven?” Our sound person got the situation settled down, but then annoying clicking sounds started coming from the microphone of a worship leader who was getting ready to sing. Next, my microphone had no sound. Someone handed me another. I continued to speak, and suddenly, it quit too.

We began singing, and both worship leaders lost their microphone sound during the first song. I picked up a corded microphone to speak between songs—no sound. The Enemy was burning with anger at the thought of children seeking the Holy Spirit and worshiping Jesus. He began to oppose us through fear and confusion.

I asked all the adults in the room to pray (stand guard) as we continued to minister to the kids. As we prayed and sang and prayed some more—with no amplification—it did not stop Jesus from doing His great work around our altars that day!

We must say with Nehemiah, “I am doing a great work. I cannot come down.” We must continue our work and our calling regardless of what our eyes see or our ears hear.

    Opposition Through Discouragement

The next attack against Nehemiah and the Jews was a double attack in that the workers became discouraged and weary (Neh. 4:10).

This sounds familiar. Sometimes there are not enough workers for the children’s ministry, and the workers we have are disheartened and weary.

While Nehemiah’s workers were discouraged, weary, and in confusion, the enemy threatened to rush in and kill them (v. 11). At this point we see the strength of Nehemiah’s leadership. In the face of threats and fatigue, Nehemiah did two things:

    1. He organized the people (v. 13).
    2. He spoke encouraging words, telling his workers to trust in the Lord (v. 14).

Our elementary-age children’s church supports a missionary with work all over the world. When I initially met with him, I told him our kids would pray for his family and their ministry and take a special monthly offering for them. I didn’t promise that the funds would be large, and I knew the children’s prayers would be simple. I told him our main ministry to him would be encouragement.

Our typical children’s church offering is around $10. It’s an opportunity for kids to worship God through giving, but it’s not going to make much of a dent in a missionary’s financial needs. However, each month we set aside a special Sunday to pray for and collect money for our missionary. Only once in more than a year has this offering been under $100! It’s an amazing occurrence each month, for we barely mention when the missionary offering is scheduled in our packed calendar of events.

Somehow, as we have organized our kids to give, spoken encouraging words to our missionary, and we’ve all trusted God, He has made our efforts succeed.

    Mark of Valor

Remember that the Enemy will not oppose you unless you are engaged in the work of God. I consider his opposition a badge of honor—a mark of valor.

The Enemy wants to discourage me? I must be a valuable worker on God’s team!

If you stay on the wall and do not come down, you will see the hand of God at work in your life, and God will be glorified. When discouragement, ridicule, or fear comes, tell the Enemy: “I am doing a great work. I cannot and will not quit.”