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despair……………….
It is not very often that you hear people talk about, or concern themselves with, the hardships that their spiritual leaders face. As a matter of fact, it is a rare thing that people discuss their spiritual leaders at all, unless it is to tear them apart for the poor decisions they have made or for the way they mispronounced a word during their latest sermon series. The sad reality is: once Sunday service is over, most people forget all about the spiritual leader(s) in their life until they are faced with a crisis or until the next church meeting – whichever of the two happens to come first.

Growing up in a pastor’s home, and now being in ministry myself, I have seen the truth of what ministry really is. Beings that my husband and I attended another church for a while when my parents took a hiatus from ministry, I have actually seen ministry from both sides – the parsonage and the pew. My conclusion? The average Sunday Christian – well, even the average faithful, hard-working church member – really has no clue, at all, what the life of a spiritual leader really looks like.

It is a sad fact that the typical church attendee sees their spiritual leader(s) one time a week – a few times, at best. For an average of about 2 hours a week, the moderate congregant sees – from a distance – a happy, insightful, wise, and helpful man/woman of God whom they look up to for spiritual guidance. From where the pewman sits, this leader seems to have it all together and appears to have a handle on every situation that could ever possibly arise, having no personal problems of their own as a result. A warm affection is stirred towards this man/women of God and people exit stage right ‘loving’ their spiritual leader(s).

Because respect, admiration, and trust is built during the display of God’s anointing upon His servant in the pulpit, Christians develop a view of their spiritual leader(s) that, more often than not, is simply not realistic. Most spiritual leaders are looked upon as “super-heroes” – caped and able to leap big demons in a single bound, able to see with x-ray vision through lies to discern real danger, and able to fly through the air on the wings of the Spirit unable to be touched by life’s circumstances.

While being viewed as a super-hero is flattering, indeed, its unrealistic ideology often leaves ministers lonely, hurting, and discouraged. Just who does the “go-to leader” go to when they are in need? Yes, believe it or not, spiritual leaders have needs of their own and are very often faced with problems that are too big for them to handle alone. While spiritual leaders may appear to have it all together and as though they live without problems, the fact is: they do NOT have it all together and they DO have problems! Spiritual leaders have needs and troubles just like everyone else. As a matter of fact, by way of the divine call, they have MORE troubles than everyone else.

One of the greatest spiritual leaders in the first century church eloquently and candidly enlightens us to the hardships spiritual leaders face and the emotions they feel when he said: “For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves…..we are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken, struck down, but not destroyed.” (II Corinthians 1:8-9a, 4:8-9) The apostle Paul revealed to the church at Corinth exactly how much “ministry” had caused him to suffer. Again he says to Timothy, “…..according to my gospel for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains.” (II Timothy 2:8b-9a). Paul knew what it was like to suffer and he knew what it was like to feel discouragement.

Friend, whether you realize it or not, the spiritual leader(s) in your life is under constant attack from the enemy. Satan would love nothing more than to trip them up and hinder every good work God has called them to: “For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” (I Corinthians 16:9) They face a barrage of attacks every single day of their lives and they need your encouragement, your support, your love, and your prayers!

Anyone who understands military concepts at all (which is what the Lord likens our spiritual walk to) knows that the men/women on the front lines of a battle are the ones who suffer the most during an attack. These “front men” are the ones who fight the enemy in such an aggressive way as to keep that enemy from advancing beyond them to the rank and file behind them protecting the camp. So it is with spiritual leaders within the kingdom of God. They are the “front men” and they take a whooping every day. Even though they are victorious most of the time, victory does not come without fatigue – as evidenced when Elijah slew the prophets of Baal and ended up in a cave needing a good meal and a nap. ((see I Kings 19)

So, I want to encourage you that before you take your spiritual leader for granted – before you pick up the phone or pull up their email address to inform them of yet another crisis in your life – stop for a moment and appreciate what they may be going through. Say a prayer for them. Fight with them in the spirit realm. Their job is much much bigger than three sermons a week. They are fighting the enemy for the souls of those under their leadership. Appreciate them. Love on them. Call them just to encourage them. Send an email wishing them well. And most importantly, pray for them: “Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you…..they watch out for your souls as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” (Hebrew 13:7a, 17b)

Being a leader in the kingdom of God is a great privilege and it brings many rewards. But, make no mistake about it, it brings many hardships, pain, and suffering as well. Don’t be guilty of ignoring this fact concerning the special leader(s) in your life. Appreciate them in a whole new way and help relieve the burden they sometimes carry.  They love you so much – and love helping you so much – that it is rare you will hear them discuss their own problems.  Nevertheless, they exist.  Be an encourager.  As you encourage the spiritual leader in your life, there will exist mutual benefits.

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