My wife's grandma shared with us one of the most fearful stories I have ever heard about their ministry. Through the decades, they have faced some incredibly tough stuff. I don't know if I could have the same resolve and faithfulness to God's call if I had been in their shoes. The truth is everyone in ministry faces really difficult obstacles, hurt from congregants, physical and emotional attack from the devil and more than most could imagine or endure.
Not all ministry is bad or tough, but in every great endeavor we face challenges. In the eternal endeavor of preaching the Good News, the challenges could never be greater - not only is humanity against us at time, but also all of hell rages against the servant of God.
Local church ministry is no different. Mrs. Denyes has shared with us about a seven year "desert" she faced over her years in ministry. Also, at many different times they faced seemingly insurmountable trials.
One such challenge was a group of members early on in their ministry that tried to keep their compensation to an unlivable rate. This group of men claimed to have measured what various church congregants made from their jobs and averaged it out, but there was something untruthful about what they were saying. When the church finally raised their pay, one key leader from this group threatened to bring their compensation back down. Bottom line, they were just trying to make enough to survive and feed their kids ... we're talking about pennies. Over the next few years, every single one of these men, one by one, strangely encountered life threatening diseases and died years before their time. Only one survived.
Another story she shared with us was a woman who viciously gossiped and slandered them and their ministry (yet these people somehow remain in the church they attack). This woman would literally cross out things in the weekly church bulletin and make corrections each week and hand them to the Pastor's wife. She would also make corrections to the Pastor's sermon and give them to him each week. After several years of this, she goes on to share that this is the only woman she ever knew to die of cancer of the tongue!
As I heard these stories, the fear of God hit me. We must be careful to obey the full Word of God in our own lives and to serve and pray for our spiritual leaders. Who knows, when we disrespect them, we may just be disrespecting God!
In all this, she shares that they have learned over and over again that they can trust the Lord. They can lean on God. He will sustain them, provide for them and comfort them. I pray we can learn this through our lives too.