For me, the three hardest aspects of ministry have been:
1. When I want spiritual growth and breakthrough for people more than they want it for themselves. Jesus encountered this too, though. Imagine how He must have felt when He was unable to do any miracles in a town because of the people’s unbelief.
2. Adhering to my ministry philosophy when it’s so different from the predominant western ministry philosophy. Sticking to my calling when there’s such great pressure to back off of it.
3. Judas. When the people whom you love and trust completely betray you for self-gain. There’s something woven in the fabric of our humanity that recognizes Judas characters as the deepest evil and the ones who cause the deepest hurt. For instance, the most sinister Shakespeare characters (Iago, Macbeth, Brutus, etc.) are Judases. And at root, Lucifer was a Judas. Everyone in ministry has encountered (or anticipates they will encounter) a Judas. Jesus did. And He said they will do to us what they did to Him, and worse. None of us want the Judas. Those of us who have faced him are still scarred by the burn of the kiss on the cheek. Still wounded by the stabs to the back.
Yes, Judas hurts. The worst kind of most terrible wouldn’t wish it on anyone hurt. But the real power of the enemy in Judas is getting us to dread him so much that we put ourselves in a place where we never risk encountering him. We pull out of ministry. We keep 10 feet between us in anyone to whom we’re ministering. “Don’t ever let anyone close enough to hurt you.” This temptation whispers in our mind like a song you can’t get out of your head. We start to really like and trust people we’re ministering to, but then we become crippled with fear and tormented with sleeplessness because we wonder just exactly when they’ll go for the jugular.
The problem is that when we keep ourselves away from Judas, we also keep ourselves away from Peter. We become so afraid of being hurt that we preclude our ability to identify, equip, and release “rocks” — leaders who are pillars for the Church.
The challenge is to value the Peters more than the Judases. To look for Peter, rather than Judas. To be more excited about Peter than worried about Judas. To embrace both because you’d rather be stabbed in the back by Judas than lose the opportunity to love Peter.
I suspect that the things I find hardest about ministry were some of the things Jesus found hardest about ministry, too…