Having discussed the discouragements of ministry, Bridges lists out six encouragements of the work. Yet, none of the encouragements pertain to the personal ease and rest of the minister. Rather, each “encouragement” actually entails throwing oneself into the work and seeking nothing beyond Christ’s glory.
First, anyone who actually knows the work and understands the impossible demands the ministry may despair. When a married couple comes into the office tottering on divorce; when a parent comes weeping over a child’s life, the minister willing to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15), fears that he too will break. When professing believers bite and devour (Galatians 5:15), the grief seems that it will overwhelm. Yet, as Bridges notes:
“How encouraging is the recollection of our office, as the ordinance of Christ, and as the standing proof of his love to his Church. For will he not honour his own institution, and secure its appointed end in the glory of his name and the happiness of his Church?”
Christ’s will complete his work; therefore, Christ’s minister need not despair.
Second, and related, Christ does not build his church through our human efforts alone — as if our skill and wisdom would raise the spiritually dead. Yet, as Bridges notes, it is the Spirit who works through us to perform our ends, “The life-giving Spirit” employs our Ministry as the vehicle of conveying his Divine influence “to open the blind eyes,” and to quicken the spiritually dead.”
This is not too much to say, for note, as Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:12, that the Holy Spirit communicates to God’s people through ministers of the Word, “It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.”
Third, if we are true ministers, then our greatest joy will be Christ’s glory — indeed that will be our true hope and seeing our Lord exalted will be our pleasure, “The blessed fruits of the Ministry in winning sinners to Christ, and stamping his holy image upon their hearts, are most refreshing. The subsequent walk also of this renewed people in the faith, hope, and love of the Gospel, forms our ground of unceasing thanksgiving to God, our chief joy, and the very life of our life.”
We see this very joy and encouragement exemplified in Paul who rejoices in the Gospel proclamation. Paul, speaks of his imprisonment as a positive good, because “what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel” (1 Peter 1:12).
Here is the key to such encouragement, Paul defined his good in terms of Christ’s glory. Therefore, the advance of the Gospel brought Paul joy. Thus, the encouragement of the Christian minister can only lie in the glory of God in Jesus Christ. If we seek encouragement in personal ease, or comfort or praise, we will be continually discouraged. Thus, like Paul, we must pursue the work without complete, willingly spending our lives for Christ, knowing that our work is not in vain:
14 Do all things without grumbling or questioning, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. Philippians 2:14-18.
A moment’s reflection should help to draw out his encouragement: imagine a man or woman who comes to the end of life and wonders, What was the point of all my work, “What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?” Ecclesiastes 1:3.
The creation subjected to futility (Romans 8:20), throws up work which can never profit. But work done for the glory of the Creator cannot be lost: we can rejoice in our labor, because it is not in vain (Philippians 2:16). By seeking our good and encouragement beyond ourselves, the Christian can rejoice in all his labor.
A further point: such minister is not restricted to the “pastor” — it is a promise to all Christian service to Christ. The Christian who graciously bears the brutality of a painful job and vicious employer knows, “that from The Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving The Lord Christ” (Col. 3:24). The wife who graciously lives with a husband who “does not obey the word” are “in God’s sight very precious” (1 Peter 3:4). The child who honors his parents for the Lord’s sake will receive a promise fulfilled (Ephesians 6:1-3).