What Sustains Us Through Ministry Adversity?
Neal Cushman: Well, we’re doing a chapel series in the seminary called “Chosen and Equipped,” and I have Jim Berg here with me today. He preached on the life of Joseph, and gave us some great things to think about. I thought to myself as you were closing out today that I wish we could have had a lot more time. There’s just so much. And to that point, there are 14 chapters in Genesis on the life of Joseph, so how do you distill that down into a chapel message?
Jim Berg: Yes, well, it is a challenge. I used 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 as the structure for the message, where Paul says, “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet our inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more and exceeding weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; the things which are not seen are eternal.” And I structured the comments around, “What was Joseph’s unseen world, and what was his seen world?”
Obviously, we’re most familiar with all of the things in his seen world—the physical world he was living in—all of the betrayal and the rejection and the waiting for 13 years. And then we wonder, we always want to look at that and say, “What sustained a guy like this?” He’s betrayed, he’s rejected, he’s falsely accused of attempted rape, he is forgotten in prison, he works his way up through the ranks, so to speak, becomes a house steward, and all of that’s crashed on a by false accusation. And so, what sustains him? His “seen world” is not a pleasant world; his “unseen world,” however, was what he knew to be true about God.
And watching this man interact with the prisoners in chapter 40—where he’s bringing God into the picture in the interpretation of their dreams; where he’s interacting with Pharaoh, talking about, “God will give you an answer”; where he’s with his brothers, “God brought me here; God is behind all of that—don’t think evil of yourself. God intended this for good.” There’s an astonishing awareness of God that sustained him through all of these debilitating times.
Cushman: So, you’re sitting there in chapel, and we have people who are either in ministry or they’re preparing for pastoral or missions or some type of ministry. So what’s the practical application for those people?
Berg: Well, all of us face adversity, and everybody’s story is different. But because we’re on a fallen planet working with fallen people, and we’re fallen people ourselves, we have a lot of adversity. And we have to be committed to the truth that God is going to use that adversity to equip us to serve better. And certainly was true with Joseph. And I think one of the major lessons of Joseph is that it doesn’t matter what kind of family background you have or difficult circumstances you have—you can live honorably before God and others as Joseph did.
Cushman: Well, this is helpful. I think those of us that have been in ministry can resonate with that. We face many challenges and trials, and God sustains us just as he always promises to do in his Word. So, thank you for joining us today for our chapel series.