strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said.
I have been the Minister of Discipleship at Southside UMC since 1999. During that time I have discovered as each year goes by, my ministry seems to evolve in exciting ways… some I expected and others I did not. But there are some constants that keep me grounded and focused. Those “constants” are the heart and soul of what I pray my ministry is all about.
I described one of those constants when I wrote about one of my heroes, Ezra. His was a ministry of the Word…one that I hope I am able to emulate in and through my life.
Today’s scripture emphasizes another area of my ministry that I also regard as its heart and soul. Acts 14:22 says that after Paul and Barnabas preached the gospel and won a large number to Christ, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch to “strengthen the disciples and to encourage them to remain true to the faith.” Why? Because “we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”
Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount that the path of discipleship is narrow and hard. It is not for the weak-of-heart, nor for the half-hearted. There are obstacles around every turn, as the character, Christian, discovered in Pilgrim’s Progress. And we know this much is true: many who begin, do not make it to the end.
That is why a ministry of “strengthening and encouraging” is so vital. We need to be constantly built up in our faith and reminded of the joy set before us that makes all of the trials and tribulations worth our effort.
I count it as a singular blessing and privilege to be able to minister to fellow travelers as we walk this pilgrim’s path together. To be allowed to help strengthen and encourage followers of Christ to persevere on their journey is a calling for which I thank God with all my heart.
But you don’t have to be ordained clergy to serve others in this way. Every Christian is called to come alongside his or her brother or sister in Christ and aid them in their pursuit of the Celestial City (which is reason #102 why you should read Pilgrim’s Progress). To act as an agent or ambassador of God’s grace in the life of another is a holy honor indeed.
So let me encourage you to open your eyes. Look for those people in your life whose gait has slowed of late and whose feet appear to be stumbling more than usual. Walk alongside them and build them back up in the faith. Remind them of their gracious and sovereign Lord who loves them and promises them that their arduous labor will bear glorious and everlasting fruit