“I have been crucified with Christ.” Galatians 2:20
So you’re a faithful pastor. You’re walking with the Lord. You’re preaching the gospel. You’re loving the people. You’re trying to evangelize, teach, pray, be an example, lead, do your job. You’re not perfect, and you admit it, but your heart is given to the Lord. And there is a faction in your church set against you.
Nothing you do satisfies them. They find fault with you continually. After all, they have to justify their rejection of you somehow. So they look for more and more reasons to criticize you, and they’re good at it. They also recruit others in the church. Their negativity spreads through the gossip network, intensifying in ridiculous ways. You are made into the personification of everything worthy to be damned. And your actual crime? You’re a faithful pastor. You represent Jesus. His rule is becoming more real through you. And that is not what they bargained for when they called you.
They will probably succeed in their purpose. You will be crucified. It will be a public shaming and shunning. The only reason it doesn’t escalate to physical violence is not the restraints in their hearts, for you wonder if such exist, but the restraints of our historical situation. If we were in another time or place, they might literally crucify you, because you really are a threat to their religion. They honestly don’t realize that their religion is not Christianity but common human moralism, which always turns immoral.
So this thought rightly enters your mind: I don’t deserve this.
As events unfold and it gets worse, the Lord himself remains faithful to you, and something else starts happening at a deeper level. The Lord has not forsaken you — not at all. And gradually, down underneath the public appearance of things, your heart comes to realize something else in a wonderful way. You are following Christ. You are walking down his path. Your Christianity is not theoretical but intensely real and personal as you make your small but sincere contribution to filling up what is lacking in his afflictions (Colossians 1:24). He told you he was sending you out as a lamb among wolves (Luke 10:3). He told you people would kill you in order to do God a favor (John 16:2). His story told you that people close to you would cave to social pressure and distance themselves when everything was on the line for you (John 9:22). He did not recruit you on false pretenses. He told you this would happen. And now it’s happening. But you are also beginning to see that, because it’s all ultimately about him, it is a grace, a privilege, an honor he is giving you, as you follow him down a path already stained with his priceless blood.
So this new thought rightly enters your mind: I don’t deserve this.
The privilege of ministry is Jesus — serving Jesus, standing for Jesus, representing Jesus, laying down your life for Jesus, and through it all knowing Jesus more intimately. To have anything at all to do with him is a privilege none of us deserves.
I don’t know how it’s going to turn out for you, except this. You are being led into a profound place with Jesus, and that can only end well.
“But if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John 12:24