A Minister's Burden

John Newton understood very well the inner life of a pastor. His gifts of creativity and eloquence combine to express his insights well in the following poem.

To serve as a shepherd to the flock of God is a high and holy calling. It is an amazing privilege and a testimony to the grace of God and to the faithfulness of Jesus Christ who said, “I will build My church.” Surely He calls them men He does and places them as He wills in order to demonstrate the reality of that promise.

I have returned to this poem countless times over the last 30+ years to be reminded that the inner contradictions that at times war in my soul are common to the work of pastoral ministry. They are inevitable and they provide deeper encouragement to resort back to the only source of real help that exists. The stewardship is ours but the work belongs to One who died and has been resurrected from the dead. He will make sure that His church is finished and that His people make it safely home.

A Minister’s Burden

What contradictions meet
In ministers’ employ!
It is a bitter sweet,
A sorrow full of joy:
No other post affords a place
For equal honor or disgrace.

Who can describe the pain
Which faithful preachers feel,
Constrained to speak in vain,
To hearts as hard as steel?
Or who can tell the pleasures felt,
When stubborn hearts begin to melt?

The Savior’s dying love,
The soul’s amazing worth,
Their utmost efforts move,
And draw their bowels forth;
They pray and strive, the rest departs,
Till Christ be formed in sinners’ hearts.

If some small hope appears,
They still are not content,
But with a jealous fear,
They watch for the event:
Too oft they find their hopes deceived.
Then how their inmost souls are grieved!

But when their pains succeed,
And from the tender blade
The ripening ears proceed,
Their toils are overpaid:
No harvest-joy can equal theirs,
To find the fruit of all their cares.

On what has now been sown,
Thy blessing, Lord, bestow;
The power is Thine alone,
To make it spring and grow:
Do Thou the gracious harvest raise,
And Thou alone shalt have the praise.

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