I had been at the church for just over a month when the student ministry assistant pulled me out of Sunday night service. There was some bad news. There was a terrible wreck. Three teenagers, all connected to our students and one connected to our church. All three had passed away.
Seven months later I woke up to turn my phone alarm off to see a text message from the vice-principal of our local high school. More bad news. One of our students passed away during the night. Simply went to sleep and never woke up. No explanation. No obvious cause. Just pain. Hurt. Sadness.
These are some heavy moments in ministry that I will never forget. They are moments when we grieve, cry, mourn, and comfort families the best we know how. But I think these moments push us to breaking points. We wonder, “Is sin and darkness winning?” Our faith can become weak and we question God.
We ask ourselves "is ministry worth all the pain and suffering?"
It is in these times that I need the resurrection more than ever. I need to see a savior conquering sin, pain, hurt, and even death. I need a savior stronger than me to look to and to hope in.
I need the resurrected Jesus. We all do. Here are three verses to be encouraging to you in this post-Easter season and when you feel that sin and death are winning.
And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.
This single passage tells of the truth that makes salvation possible and ministry not in vain. The angel with the message is clear to inform those looking for Jesus that, “He has risen; he is not here.” This is a pronouncement of victory, hope, and faithfulness. In tough times of ministry, I need to know that Christ has won. I need to know I believe in, read about, and preach about a risen savior. I desperately need hope. In a world that seems hopeless, the resurrection proclaims that this world is not all there is. Because of the resurrection, Christ will redeem all things, including His world. And lastly, I need faithfulness. I have to be reminded I serve a savior who keeps His promises and shows what faithful obedience looks like to the will of God.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Paul is teasing out various implications of the death and resurrection in his letter to the Romans, and here he displays the blow to sin Jesus’ death and resurrection has made. In Christ the enslavement to sin that we witness in ministry and struggle with in ourselves has been destroyed. If you are in Christ, we have died with him and can experience freedom that death to sin brings. Furthermore, if we have died with Jesus we also get to live with him forever. Paul reminds us that “death no longer has dominion over him”. We worship and serve a savior for whom death is not a problem. In a world filled with pain and death, this is the savior we need, and he invites us into his life and resurrection. Robert Mounce reminds us that, “It is the resurrection that makes the news good news. Rising triumphant over Satan’s ultimate show of force, Jesus Christ is forever crowned King of kings and Lord of lords. Join the triumphal parade!” It is in these times of hard ministry that we must be reminded of Christ’s triumph.
1 Peter 1:3-5
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
When Peter needs to encourage believers who find themselves in a growing hostile environment, he references the resurrection. When Peter needs to recall to these believers the truth of their faith, the foundation of their faith, he refers to the resurrection. From the resurrection we are born again to a new life and new world where Christ is our king and we are his servants. From the resurrection we are guaranteed an inheritance that will never be stolen, waste away, or be removed. From the resurrection we are ultimately saved from judgment and are enabled to enter into the dwelling place of God. While we are here in the world of sin and death, we must remember we have been born again to something, “a living hope.” Our hope lives, and he is alive because he has conquered sin and death.
As ministry goes on, we will experience the results of sin in our lives and all around us. We will grieve and mourn the loss of loved ones with tears and pain. We will see news stories about this broken world, but we are also privileged to know a risen savior, one who has changed our lives and is changing the lives of students in your ministry; one who is victorious and faithful whom we have the privilege to serve. So don’t give up; “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in season we will reap if we do not give up.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: ANDREW HARPER
Andrew is the husband to Amber, a graduate of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and the student pastor at First Baptist church of Altus, OK. He spends his time reading, drinking coffee, and schooling students in ping pong. His goal is to see students find their place in the mission of God.