The Lord encourages steadfastness. Christians are to work until the end of the "day." The Son of Man said - "I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work" (John 9:4). The Alpha and the Omega wrote to the church at Smyrna - "Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Rev. 2:10). Paul exhorted the Galatian saints - "And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart" (Gal. 6:9). To the young preacher Timothy, Paul wrote - "You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" (II Tim. 2:3). The Bible says so much about steadfastness, but nevertheless preachers sometimes quit. What are some possible reasons for this? Let us consider some reasons in our lessons this week.
SOME PREACHERS QUIT BECAUSE SOME PEOPLE (PARTICULARLY MEMBERS) DO NOT WANT THE TRUTH.
The preacher becomes discouraged because the people reject the truth. Attacks are made on the preacher. Solomon once wrote - "Buy the truth, and do not sell it. Also wisdom and instruction and understanding" (Prov. 23:23). If a man preaches the truth in love, he should be encouraged. Good brethren should hold up his hands. Aaron and Hur held up Moses' hands when the Israelites were fighting the Amalekites (cf. Exo. 17:8-16). As long as Moses' hands were held up, Israel was winning the day; but when he grew weary and his hands went down, they began to lose. If it had not been for Aaron and Hur, Moses could not have held up his hands. If Moses could not have held up his hands, the battle in Rephidim would have been lost. How many good preachers have been encouraged to keep on keeping on because of one or two people? When was the last time you said an encouraging word to the preacher?
A wise preacher will carefully consider every criticism that is made. Is the criticism just? Are there matters that the preacher could improve upon (e.g., sermon delivery, grammar, dress, mannerisms, conduct, attitude, etc.). The preacher should also carefully consider the source of the criticism. Does he or she have the interest of the church at heart? If the criticism is unfair, just put it behind you and go on. We may have a tendency to ignore those criticisms that come from our "enemies," but sometimes we owe more to our enemies than to our "friends" when it comes to criticism. A true friend will try to correct us. Again Solomon said - "Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful" (Prov. 27:6). A man who cannot take criticism had better find some other line of work than preaching.
Young men going into preaching have high hopes of reaching others with the gospel. There is no greater thrill in the work of preaching than to see an individual obey the gospel. It is the greatest of joys to see the spiritual progress of those whom one has taught. John wrote - "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth" (III John 4). Not only is there the reward here of seeing the fruit of one's labors, but there will be great rejoicing at the coming of the Lord. Paul wrote to the brethren at Thessalonica - "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy" (I Thess. 2:19,20). However, it is a reality--and one should not get discouraged because it is a reality--that not all will obey the gospel. Many will reject the truth.
The prophets of old had this same problem. God told Isaiah - "Go, and tell this people: 'Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.' Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and return and be healed" (Isa. 6:9,10). The people in Isaiah's day were not going to listen. In fact, they had closed their ears, eyes, and minds to the truth. If people are not going to listen, why should one preach? What did the Lord tell Isaiah as to how long he should continue to preach? "Until the cities are laid waste and without inhabitant, the houses are without a man, the land is utterly desolate, the LORD has removed men far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land" (Isa. 6:11,12). From the time that Isaiah began his prophetic work until Judah was carried into captivity was close to 200 years--longer than Isaiah would have lived. Thus, he was to keep preaching until his toes were pointing upward! He wasn't to give up--no matter what!
We will continue this series in our next lesson.