One of the most important jobs of Christian leaders is to ask people to do the hard things they don’t want to do. We ask people to take the narrow, uphill road when it is easier to go down. We ask them to die to self when it is easier to live for self. We ask them to give, serve, and sacrifice, though none of those things come easily.
Following Jesus is not about taking the easy road. It is about doing the right thing, even though that is often the more difficult thing. If we are asking people to follow Jesus, we are asking them to take the harder path.
There is a reason we ask people to do the hard things. Not only do we ask them to do it because it is right. But we also know it is in their best interest to do so. People may think otherwise. They may tell themselves that it is okay to take the easier path rather than the better path. But it is always in their best interest to do the hard things God wants them to do. Always.
When my father passed away several years ago, it would have been much easier for my mother not to continue to go to her Sunday school class. Going there would mean she would have to respond to every condolence and answer the inevitable questions and be reminded that her husband was not with her. In other words, it would be a hard thing.
But, that hard thing was also the best thing. Going to her Sunday school class would mean being surrounded by people who cared for her, not to mention the spiritual nurture of God’s word. It was in her best interest to go and to do the hard thing.
So, that first Sunday after his death, she went to Sunday school in the company of a couple of her sons. She cried through most of the class, as did her family. But, she did the hard thing. And, the next week she did the hard thing alone. And the next and the next. And how glad she is, and we are, that she did. Ultimately, it was in her best interest to do the hard thing.
Ministry leader, don’t apologize for asking people to do the hard things that need to be done. Ask them to get up earlier to have a devotional life. Ask them to give some of their resources to the work of the Lord instead of just spending it on themselves. Ask them to miss a hobby to attend worship services. Ask them to forgive those who have wronged them. Ask them to love people who are hard to love. Ask them to risk a friendship by sharing the gospel. Ask them to do the hard things that God wants them to do.
The people you minister to might not want to do hard things, but they need to do hard things. It is in their best interest to do the hard things God wants them to do. And it is your responsibility to remind them of that truth. So, ask them, encourage them, and “spur them on to love and good deeds.”
Asking people to do hard things can itself be a hard thing for ministry leaders. We may find it easier to just tell people what they want to hear. People often want us to affirm them, not challenge them. But not only is it in the best interest of others to do the hard things, it is in our best interest to ask them to do them. That is what God calls us to do, and it is always right for us to do what God wants us to do. Even if that is a hard thing.
It was a hard thing for Jesus to go to the cross. It was a hard thing for the early church to witness in the face of persecution. It was a hard thing for Paul to write letters to the churches from prison. But the hard thing God wants is the right thing for us to do.
So, be willing to do the hard things God wants you to do even when you don’t want to do them. And be willing, ministry leaders, to ask others to do the hard things God wants them to do even when they don’t want to do them.
In eternity, you will be glad you did.
Doug Munton is pastor of First Baptist Church of O’Fallon. This column first appeared on his blog, DougMunton.com.