Ministry is equal parts glory and grief, Mohler tells fall graduates

Communications Staff — December 16, 2003

There is both glory and grief in the Christian ministry, Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said Friday at the school’s fall graduation ceremony.

Preaching from Luke 2:22-35 at the seminary’s 192nd commencement, Mohler said there is much glory in the ministry when the Gospel is preached, sinners are saved, and believers are nourished in the faith. And the glory does not belong to the minister, but to God.

“This isn’t about us, it is about God,” Mohler told the graduating class of 131 students.

“Whatever is in us that commends us has come from God. Whatever calling and gift in us is God’s gift and our stewardship. Whatever passion is in our hearts is a God-given passion…Ministers of the Gospel are not the volunteer corps, but the called. The ministry is not a profession, it is so much more than that.”

Above all else, the ministry is to be centered upon the full-orbed message of salvation through Christ alone, Mohler said. A temptation that is particularly alluring during Christmas is to proclaim the infant Jesus of the cradle without preaching the Christ of the cross, he said. It is one ministers must resist.

“The Gospel is at the center of the Christian ministry and that means that most fundamentally our task is an evangelistic ministry,” he said.

“We understand there is more than that, but there is never less than that…The Gospel is not merely the message of how we may be saved, but it is the comprehensive truth of how God brings glory to Himself in the salvation of sinners. It reveals the very character of God.”

While seeing God work in human hearts through His Gospel is glorious, Mohler warned graduates that the ministry is often fraught with grief. Mohler reminded them that many will reject the message of salvation in Christ alone and in so doing will bring eternal ruin upon themselves.

Mohler pointed out that Simeon, in Luke 2, balanced his recognition that salvation had come to Israel and the nations in the birth of the Messiah with the sobering truth that Christ is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to those who reject Him. All authentic Gospel ministers will face this difficult dual reality, he said.

“If there is glory in seeing obedience to the Word of God, there is grief in seeing obstinate disobedience to God’s Word,” he said. “There is grief in seeing work begun that does not well end, in seeing hard-heartedness rather than receptivity to the Gospel, in seeing hostility to the precious things of God rather than love and adoration and worship.

“There is grief in seeing even those who claim to be God’s people take God’s truth as such a triviality [and] in seeing those who claim to be God’s people who live like pagans. There is also grief in knowing that so long as we walk this rocky soil, our feet will sometimes stumble. There is grief in knowing that not one of us will go through our ministry without pain, without sorrow, without disappointment.”

Though there is grief, God is ultimately glorified in it, Mohler pointed out, because what appears to be grievous to the human mind still resounds to the glory of God. Mohler said ministers must always take courage in the truth of God’s sovereignty over circumstances and outcomes that appear to be negative. All of them fall within God’s redemptive plan, he said.

“[There is glory in] knowing that these things happen to us…not by some pattern of some cosmic accident, but by the plan of God,” he said. “All things work together of the good of those who are in Christ Jesus…Preachers and teachers of God’s word must keep that ever in mind.

“When you preach, you will preach in the name of the One was from the very beginning for the rise and the fall of many in Israel. You will also preach knowing that that name will be for the rise and fall of many in your ministry.

“Many lives will be healed through the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and you will have the opportunity to see that. But as you preach the Word of God and as you tell the Gospel, [you must] know that it will also break some. They will dash themselves in their disobedience upon the Rock that is the stone of stumbling. You cannot prevent that.”

Amid both glory and grief, Mohler said ministers must view their calling in light of God’s eternal glory and not in light of their own standing before man.

“For you must not anticipate the resume you will build, nor the record you will leave behind, but the fulfillment of all things to God’s glory by His sovereign will according to His plan in His own name,” Mohler said. “We share together the glad task of the call that has been addressed and given to us and there is glory in that.”

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