I am a pastor—no one you’ve ever heard of and, by every statistic I have read, that’s most pastors.
Probably like many of you, it was in my teenage years I heard the good news of the gospel and became a follower of Jesus.
In the next few years, watching the life of my student pastor and going through Bible studies and being taught how to share the gospel, I became determined that the only way I could find real fulfillment in life was to enter ministry, so (as my home church expressed it) “I answered the call” to serve God wherever he might lead.
In those days I had big dreams, from adventures across the globe as a missionary to pastoring a church in which scores of people would meet Jesus!
And it has happened—just not on the scale I first imagined.
Could I be doing more for Jesus?
One blessing I never even considered was the joy of having great friends in the ministry, and I am thankful for the pastor friendships God has given me: servants of Jesus who inspire me to keep going and to believe great things for God.
I find a commonality in every friendship. I can say without a doubt, every pastor I know well has at their core the hope expressed in Psalm 90:17: “May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands.”
I suspect that the drive to a worthwhile life is somewhere in the heart of every person, but pastors never get far away from this hope:
- “Will my life make a difference?”
- “Could I be doing more for Jesus?”
- “Where can I have the most impact?”
Pastors don’t just think of that at retirement or the end of our days, but it is often the catalyst that launches us into ministry. Or, as I heard my first pastor often say:
“Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.”
Am I making a difference?
And as I work to make a difference for Christ, I also struggle with “loss,” my dreaded enemy. That hasn’t kept me from experiencing it, but I sure do try to avoid it.
From throwing away food past its due date to finding a hole in a sweater, to missed opportunities, for God I still want to live a life that is gaining, not stagnant, and not losing ground.
Loss is what we have seen this week with images of buildings destroyed in Ukraine, vehicles burning, impassible rubble with wide-eyed wandering survivors, and worst of all, those who didn’t survive.
This is real loss. This is real tragedy, when people made in the image of God are taken from our world because of evil and disregard for the God who made them.
And I question: Am I making a difference when there is so much evil in the world?
A psalm of pain and loss—and gain
The writer of Psalm 90, Moses, knew loss.
We think about God turning his little basket in the bullrushes into life with Pharaoh’s family, but, at one point, he finds everyone turns against him, he loses home and family, and he finds himself in the desert with another man’s sheep to tend.
That is a good insight into Psalm 90, which appears as his one psalm to testify of loss and pain. Man is frail; we too have a due date. We were frail then and, if we begin to forget, those images this week in the news remind us that we still are just as frail.
Psalm 90 is best understood against a reading of Numbers 20, where Moses loses his sister, loses his “promised land” because of his sin, and then loses his brother—loss and human frailty.
If I am being honest, it sounds a bit like our last two years during the pandemic, but I am encouraged that Moses didn’t choose bitterness, doubt, anger, or pessimism.
He even finishes his psalm with what I need to hear, and maybe you too: It is the grace of God that makes what we have been trying to do for him worthwhile, established—not a loss, but a gain.
That is the encouragement that I need to hear today.
Pastor: You are making a difference
My life is making a difference. It might not look that way to anyone else, and, to be honest, sometimes not even to you and me, but our God pours grace over our efforts.
He evaluates with the heart of a loving Father and is always faithful and kind-hearted, and he understands us like no one except the One who lived a life in human flesh can understand.
Is what you are doing really making a difference?
The answer, of course, is yes, and one reason is precisely because of what Psalm 90 points out: the frailty of man. You and I are called to be life-givers when frail mankind desperately needs life, and God is doing more with the work of your hands than you can see.
As evidence that you don’t begin to realize how God is making your life count, take a moment to realize that by asking the question of your ministry impact it does not say you are failing, but that you are succeeding because you just keep serving.
You aren’t losing; you are gaining.
It is not unnatural for us to find ourselves in those times of doubt—just don’t stay there. Let the promise of 1 Corinthians 15:58 encourage you: “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
Yes, it’s worthwhile.