A Ministry Full of Woe by Ron Wofford

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Isaiah 6:1-8 “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.”

Isaiah found himself in a place that he experienced an incredible depth of woe. Yet there was no way, at this point anyway, for him to realize the incredible woe yet to come upon him.

There are many things that go into building a successful ministry. Indeed a successful ministry has a great cost attached to it. There are many aspects to the cost you will have to pay along the way. There is the preparation of a dedicated life before you was ever called. There was something in you that God saw that He desired to use. Then there was the day, or days, of calling themselves. Following that were the days of careful, laborious preparation that encompassed:

Prayer – “Lord, teach us to pray.”
Fasting – “This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.”
Study – “Study to show thyself approved unto God. A workman that needeth not be shamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.”

All of these are necessary if you are going to accomplish anything significant in the kingdom of God. But there is one aspect that must reside in you if you are going to endure the years of ministry ahead of you. There is one aspect that will carry you when you cannot find the words to pray. There is an aspect that will drive you when there is no desire to push away from the table for an extended season of time. It is there when you are weary in mind and it seems that much learning is actually making you insane.

Somewhere along the way there must be the birth of God given passion into your spirit. Without a birth of passion all of the other components of ministry will someday fail you. Passion is not learned in some classroom; you do not read enough about it in a textbook; it is not some mantle that a mentor lays on your shoulders and automatically becomes a part of your life.

Rather, it shows up in moments that are God ordained. There will be those moments of clarifying passion. For Moses it was a burning bush in the wilderness; And a Red Sea crossing when all seemed hopeless and futile. For Elijah it was a still, small voice in a solitary mountainside cave; For Elisha it was a mantle that falls in a dusty field on a hot summer day. For Isaiah it was a vision of the heavenlies when sorrow and despair sets in. For Simon Peter it was a moment beside a fire of forgiveness. For me it was an altar service where I begged God for a double portion of anointing.

Passion is oh so necessary, because it ignites in you an eternal flame that will propel you into the realm of ministry that God has always intended for you to be a part of.

Without passion the trials and tests and woes that come into your life will turn you aside and defeat and destroy you.

The Woes Of Ministry:
I well realize that there are great dreams of ministry that dance in your head and live in your imagination. Those ought to be there because I believe with everything inside of me that you have the potential to do phenomenal things in and for the kingdom of God.

But I have got to be honest with you and tell you that alongside those dreams and visions there are also some great woes ahead for most of you. It just goes with the territory, I suppose. I am not trying to paint a picture of doom and gloom, but I am wanting to be gut level honest.
There are going to be days that the woes are going to be great in your life. And some of you are going to want to quit. Indeed, some of you will quit. The fact is some of you may need to go ahead and quit now.
Why? Because as of yet, you have not found that moment of clarifying, defining passion. You have not been seized by a passion that burns so violently within you that it ravishes the heart of God towards you. Without God given passion you are not going to survive the days of trial.

We are never really told what Demas loved so much about the world that caused him to turn aside. It could have been any number of things that began to call to him. But I am convinced that it is not what Demas saw, but what he lacked that caused him to forsake Paul. Demas never had that moment of clarifying passion. That moment that would define everything about his future. And we all know that without such moments it is so easy to forsake and turn aside.

He should have learned the valuable lesson of passion from Paul. He knew that trials would come. Romans 8:18 “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Hang in there, there is a great reward coming!

And indeed the man had his share of woes in life: II Corinthians 11:23-30 “Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant…”

Paul, why don’t you just quit with the woe of hard work upon you?
Why, Paul? Why?

“In stripes above measure…” What man in his right mind would endure such woe?

“In prisons more frequent…” The woe of captivity. Paul is it really worth it?

“In deaths oft.” There is no woe like the woe of death. Surely this calling is not worth enduring death for?

“Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one…” What an incredible woe to be beaten with a whip.

“Thrice was I beaten with rods…” Even more woe as the rod pounds across your body.

Why, Paul? Why?

“Once was I stoned,…” The painful woe of hurled stones. Paul, when is enough really enough?

“Thrice I suffered shipwreck…” The woe of not knowing if you will ever be rescued. Tell me again how much God cares when you are left hopeless and alone.

“A night and a day I have been in the deep;” There is the woe of desolation and despair.

“In journeyings often…” The incredible woe of being road weary. Go ahead and hang up the sandal Paul. Take a break…

“In perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;” As if woes alone are not enough they now give way to perils that surround him. Paul, why even bother? Can’t you see that wherever you go people despise you?

“In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.” The woes that sacrificial ministry can bring to the physical body. Paul, I just don’t get it. Is it worth losing your health over?

Why, Paul? Why?

“Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.” The pressure that comes with compassion and concern for the body of Christ can be filled with woe.
“Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?” And weakness and offense bring woes that nothing else can compare to.

Why, Paul? Why?

“If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.” Wait a second! How can you make such a statement in the face of the overwhelming woes you have endured?

What makes an Apostle Paul keep on getting up in the morning and entering into the fray after living a life of such woes? What is it that passionately drives him beyond the miserable woes of beatings, shipwrecks, deaths, trials, perils and physical punishment?

It was because there was an even greater woe that was pushing him. There was a woe born out of passion placed deep within his spirit somewhere between the Damascus Road and 3 years in the desert. It was a woe that made all of the others pale in comparison. It was a woe that drove him beyond endurance and pushed him when he felt like quitting.

I Corinthians 9:16 “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!”

Paul learned that there is no glory in really ministering the Gospel, but there is incredible woe in the spirit if it is not done.

Successful ministry will be filled with woes. There will be:

Heartache; but woe is me…
Pressures, but woe is me…
Trials and tests, but woe is me…
People will forsake you, but woe is me…
Why, preacher? Why? Why, singer and musician? Why? Why, teacher?


Because “Woe is me if I preach not the Gospel of Christ!"


Ron Wofford is the Dean of Theology for Texas Bible College

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