The ministry is much like a roller coaster ride. It is simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying. Learn how to stay faithful and focused during the ups and downs of God’s work.
Ministry life has plenty of ups and downs with twists and turns. It is exciting until things start to get complicated, and you say to yourself, “What was I thinking?!”
In October 2019, I decided to take my three children to Six Flags New England in Agawam, MA. I realized that with the busyness of ministry and the complications with my wife’s health, we hadn’t done anything special with the children during the summer.“We must learn to manage the ups and downs of life to succeed in God’s will. ” Click To Tweet
Six Flags had a big sale where I could get season tickets for next year (and unlimited access this year) for the price of a one day visit. It seemed like a no-brainer, so I bought the tickets and set a date.
When we drove up to the park, the first thing we could see was the steel backbones of roller coasters rising into the sky. The kids were excited and wanted to ride them first.
I must confess that I don’t really like roller coasters.
It’s not that I can’t ride them. In fact, over the years, I’ve taken teenagers in our Youth Ministry to parks with roller coasters, including Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN, Kings Island in Mason, OH, and (the granddaddy of them all) Cedar Point in Sandusky, OH.
I’ve ridden coasters many times when I didn’t want to do it. Why? I’d rather die a terrible death at high speed than allow a geeky teenage boy to display more courage than me. LOL.
Usually, I will ride the coasters just enough times to keep my credibility. Then I say I’m done riding for the day and I’m happy to watch them and hold their stuff. (Shhh. Don’t tell the teens.) After all, Jesus said the servant is the greatest!
Some of you may really enjoy roller coasters. That will probably change as you get older. It seems that you reach a point in life where risking your life for a few moments of adrenaline is no longer as fun as it used to be.
While we were standing in line for a ride, I looked thoughtfully at the different coasters around the park. Each coaster had a theme with differing levels of difficulty and unique ups and downs with twists and turns. I couldn’t help but think how much the ministry is like a roller coaster.
I love being in the ministry. Every day I’m amazed that God counted me faithful and put me in His work. What a privilege it is to serve the King of kings and Lord of lords!
The best days of my life have been serving God. But wait. Some of the worst days of my life have been serving God.
You see, the work of the Lord is not always a bed of roses. It has its ups and downs with twists and turns. One moment you can be at the height of rejoicing over a victory and the next moment plunging towards the depths of defeat. The joy of speed can quickly turn into fear as life races out of control.
Longevity in God’s work is dependent upon how you handle the hard times.
Everyone enjoys the mountaintop experiences and the feeling of victory as you overcome problems to rest on the peaks of life. It is exhilarating to stand where the air is crisp and the vision is clear.
However, no one can live on the top of the mountain. Vegetation is scarce for a reason. The highest peaks are beautiful to look at from afar but are barren and cold once you arrive.
There is a valley on either side of a mountain. This implies that there are usually two valleys for each mountain top experience in your life.
We must learn to manage these ups and downs of life to succeed in God’s will.
The Apostle Paul was the greatest Christian in the Bible. His life story was not one of ease and comfort. On the contrary, the testimony of the Apostle Paul could be likened to a roller coaster.
Consider these verses.
2 Corinthians 1:8–10
“For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life:”
“But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead:”
“Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us;”
2 Corinthians 4:7–12
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”
“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;”
“Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;”
“Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.”
“For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.”
“So then death worketh in us, but life in you.”
2 Corinthians 11:23–28
“Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.”
“Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.”
“Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;”
“In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;”
“In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.”
“Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.”
“Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:”
“Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;”
“Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.”
“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.”
“Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,”
“And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:”
“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;”
Don’t forget that while Paul was winning thousands, starting churches, and changing the world, he faced incredible hardships.
Ministry is like a roller coaster.
This axiom will be true in your life as it was in Paul’s life. “The higher the mountain, the lower the valleys.”
Enjoy the days of high attendance, but refuse to be discouraged when few people come.
Rejoice when souls are saved, but keep going when hearts are hard.
Appreciate good health, but remain faithful during sickness and suffering.
Love the fun moments of ministry, but serve joyfully during the monotony of hot summers and frigid winters.
Delight when people express their love for you but stay true to the Book in spite of critics and scorners.
Relish when God uses you mightily, but keep trusting and obeying when you don’t see results.
We must learn to stay focused during the ups and downs of life and ministry! Don’t despair! It is the twists and turns that remind us that we are alive. The heights demonstrate the greatness of our God. The depths remind us of how much we need Him.
Ministry wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable without the excitement of the roller coaster.
I don’t prefer roller coasters, but I’ve learned how to enjoy them. These principles will help you conquer the ministry roller coaster.
Many people watch the roller coaster from afar. They hear the shouts of joy and the screams of fear from the safety of the ground.
You will never experience it for yourself unless you get on the ride.
Don’t let fear keep you from doing what you know to do. Fear paralyzes. Faith moves us forward in spite of doubt.
Imagine how much better your life would be if you simply did what you know to do!
No more excuses. Stop asking “What if?” Get on the roller coaster of God’s will and buckle up!“Longevity in God’s work is dependent upon how you handle the hard times.” Click To Tweet
Open Your Eyes
Once you get on the coaster, decide to keep your eyes open.
Fear will cause you to close your eyes and miss the moment.
If you keep your eyes open, you will see things that others miss. The highest roller coasters have the best view. Don’t miss the incredible scenery for fear of the impending drop.
In ministry, we must keep our eyes on Jesus. Don’t let fear or overwhelm take your eyes off the Lord. Be on the lookout for lessons to be learned, instructions to be received, and blessings to be gained.
Trust The Process
A lot of time and money goes into safety during the design and operation of roller coasters. Others have survived and you will too. Worst case scenario, you die and go to Heaven with your last moments on the front page of the newspaper. I can think of worse ways to go!
The Bible still works in 2020. Work the plan! Preach the Gospel. Win souls. Baptize believers. Preach the whole Counsel of God. Love people. Live by faith. Be like Jesus.
Trust the process and stay at it!
On a coaster, some fly around with their hands in the air, but most hold on for dear life. Even those brave souls with hands held high, quickly grab on when things get scary.
God knows what He is doing. He has every detail of your life in hand. When it feels like your life is spinning out of control, trust the Lord. Hang on to Christ for dear life. He will get you through.
Serving God is the best way to live. What a life!
Yes, there will be tense and tumultuous moments, but the good times will outweigh the bad by far.
Have fun in life. Enjoy serving God with your family and church. Smile. Count your blessings. Fill your mouth and heart with thanksgiving.
Longevity in God’s work is dependent upon how you handle the ups and downs.
Life is a gift and ministry is a privilege. Enjoy the ride!
This article was originally published in the December 2019 issue of the Save New England Quarterly Magazine. Learn more about this ministry or subscribe to the magazine at SaveNewEngland.org.