Rough roads ahead.
The other week I was traveling to the midlands for a meeting with a pastor when I passed a sign much like the one above. With all the talk about our infrastructure, dilapidated roads and highways, and the tax burden we'll all face to upgrade them I thought it would work on just about any travel route in South Carolina. The one I saw wasn't highlighted with a setting sun and the red scribble around the writing. But, this was close and made a certain editorial comment on the nature of hard passages.
it brought to mind something I've observed in the rear-view mirror lately and in times of counsel and coaching with my dear pastor colleagues. It's the simple wish someone would have posted a sign like that at the beginning of the journey, a very gentle reality check about the nature of ministry and some of the rough patches we'd encounter along the way. Then again, someone did do exactly that. Perhaps I was too immature or eager or positive or Scripture deficient to make note of those specific words. None of the people who were part of my application to seminary, ordination, and call to churches were negligent in celebrating this new venture in our lives. They rejoiced, held covered dish dinners, took up love offerings, and approved my application to seminary. No, those fine people aren't to blame. Neither is the one who spoke the words of warning. You see, Jesus spent a good bit of time talking to his disciples about the rough roads of serving him. Like me, many of us were too exhilarated to notice.
For example, there's John 15:18-16:4---
If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were
of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the
world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’
If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they
will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my
name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken
to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for
their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them
the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they
have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their
Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’ “But when the Helper
comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds
from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness,
because you have been with me from the beginning. “I have said all these things
to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues.
Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service
to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father,
nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may
remember that I told them to you. “I did not say these things to you from the
beginning, because I was with you.
Those verses are a pretty blunt assessment of ministry, a rough road sign if there ever was one. And, there are many more in Scripture---
Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false
Luke 6:26, ESV
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
2 Timothy 3:12, ESV
And, many more. But, these words about rough roads aren't the final words. There are more that should be spoken in the very next breath---
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you
will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
John 16:33, ESV
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of
Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV
They are the words of his provision for those called to serve. They're the counterpoint to truth about the rough roads, persecution, trials, sacrifice, and hardship. There are rough road signs. But, there are reminders of how he has prepared us for them---
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
2 Timothy 1:7, ESV
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who
have faith and preserve their souls.
Hebrews 10:39, ESV
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our
knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 1:3, NIV
Rough road ahead? Sure. But, he gives us what we need.