If the apostle Paul knew fatigue, anger, and anxiety in his ministry, what makes us think we can avoid them in ours?
North American Christians have paid special attention to the suffering of Christians in the Global South ever since 1996, when a coalition of Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish activists began raising awareness about the persecution of Christians outside the West. When Christians, especially in the West, have shown concern for the persecution of majority-world believers, they have often approached it through the lens of human rights. In this installment of the Global Conversation, Sri Lankan pastor and evangelist Ajith Fernando helps us focus on suffering as an essential part of Christian discipleship, but especially for those called to be church leaders.
The New Testament is clear that those who work for Christ will suffer because of their work. Tiredness, stress, and strain may be the cross God calls us to. Paul often spoke about the physical hardships his ministry brought him, including emotional strain (Gal. 4:19; 2 Cor. 11:28), anger (2 Cor. 11:29), sleepless nights and hunger (2 Cor. 6:5), affliction and perplexity (2 Cor. 4:8), and toiling—working to the point of weariness (Col. 1:29). In statements radically countercultural in today’s „body conscious” society, he said, „Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16); and, „For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you” (2 Cor. 4:11-12). I fear that many Christians approach these texts only with an academic interest, not seriously asking how the verses should apply in their lives.
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