Many people have a false impression of what it is like to go into public ministry as a Christian. They think that if they work hard and are faithful to God, that God will bless them by making their hard work and genuine service obvious to all, so that they earn respect from all around them, at least from all the Christians. But the opposite is often true. If you faithfully serve God in ministry you will probably be ridiculed, despised, teased, even by other Christians! When you become a public servant of Christ, God will allow your weaknesses to be exposed in front of everyone. The Apostle Paul put it this way:
For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. (I Corinthians 4:9)
Today the names of the twelve Apostles have become legend, so that they are usually spoken of with honor and respect. But such was not the case when they actually walked on Earth. They were despised by many, and even other Christians had contempt for them. They no doubt seemed to be almost comical figures, traveling across deserts and oceans to cultures they did not fully understand to speak of a dead person whom they claimed had been raised from the dead. They had to fight with many emotional and physical trials just like other humans, and they made mistakes. They were always under spiritual attack from Satan, and even some of those whom they led to Christ would later turn on them and mock them. Paul here gives a vivid picture of what it was like to be an apostle. He felt us if God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. In short, he felt like a prisoner who was being publicly humiliated before a gruesome execution. He felt that every eye looking at him judged him, despised him; was astonished at his ragged and desperate state of body and mind. That is what it was like to be an Apostle. It was not about being treated with respect, walking about with a visible halo around one’s head, and having people kneel willingly to kiss your hand. It was about being ridiculed by enemies, deserted by friends, and dismissed by intellectuals. That is what being a faithful minister of God is still like today. A godly minister will still be mistreated and misunderstood in the 21st century the same way that the original apostles were.
If you are a minister reading this right now, you no doubt know that what I am saying is true. I have never experienced it myself, but I have seen the trials that many others have had to undergo as vocational preachers, teachers, and missionaries. Anyone can see these trials if they pay attention and look close enough. To you who are not vocational ministers I give this charge: treat your ministers properly, with respect and love. Do not be one of those who snicker, making fun of their weaknesses or speech impediments behind their backs. Don’t slander their character or their hard work just because you may disagree with them on minor theological points. Know this: that these servants of God whom you mock and despise right now will someday be praised publicly by God for putting up with fools such as yourselves!
Here is some encouragement to all who have to put up with foolish people for the sake of the gospel:
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11-12)