Tough Ministry and The Strong Minister

Lew Millett leading the chargeAt times it is good to be reminded that even great theologians of the past, whose volumes calmly line the shelves of many a pastor’s study, were painfully aware of the struggles of Christian life and ministry and their own weakness. In October of 1555, some in Geneva were accusing Calvin of being in the ministry for the money, as he lived in bare frugality. In response to other critics and pressures, including ones from his friend and fellow pastor William Farel, John Calvin penned the following letter:

Though, my dear Farel, I may justly glory in these reproaches which envenomed and petulant tongues heap upon me, since they defame nothing in me except what I know to be approved of by God and angels; yet I wish I could hide myself in some retreat, to see if their fury would perchance be softened which my presence seems to inflame. I do not speak of the rabble whom I learned long ago to despise as they deserve, but what not without reason gives me pain, is that now from hatred of me the heavens are continually warred upon by these giants. Let us endure, however, when we know that it is not by chance that we are tossed about by such violent tempests. Westphal has published a savage pamphlet against me, to which I know not if it will be expedient to make an answer. My friends indeed beg of me to do so when I shall have read it over. The Lord will suggest counsel. You too, as if I could beget and bring forth books at the same moment, wish to see me send out several commentaries, which the course of a long life spent in perfect leisure, would scarcely afford time for writing. But in truth, how much vacant time do you think remains on my hands? I wish others rather would take up these tasks. I shall most keenly spur Philip on. But you know very well how slow he is. Farewell, best and worthiest brother. May the Lord always stand by you, protect and support you. My friends and brethren warmly salute you, and among these our brother Beza, who is now with me. –Yours,

John Calvin

What a relief to know as imperfect ministers called to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12), facing giants within and without, that there is the perfect Christ, who is our perfect Redeemer and all-powerful King. The One who understands the struggles of  life and ministry in this world intimately knows us and our situations perfectly, far better than we do. The One who was tempted and tried in every way we are, yet without sin, fought the good fight and gained the victory. “Therefore since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)