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I few weeks ago I was talking to a lady who is angry with God.

30 years ago she and her husband moved to a part of the world where they confidently believed God would bring revival through their ministry.  Despite much prayer and labour, and many false dawns, there has been no breakthrough.  Moreover, her husband has a debilitating illness from which he has not been healed, and their only son has turned his back on God.

She is angry with God, because they haven’t succeeded, and life is not as sweet as she thinks it should be.

Yet she has a high standard of living, financial security, and is not persecuted for her faith – unlike most of the global church, which is far more accustomed to poverty, oppression, suffering and death.  As were the earliest Christians, many of whom would have been slaves.  Much of the rest would have been poor, and were accustomed to their property being confiscated, or facing death if they did not renounce their faith.  And yet the writers of the new testament insist that this is normal.

So, if like my angry friend, we feel tired and fed up in our ministry, what encouragement is there for us?

Jesus calls us to be faithful.  He promises the faithful a welcome into his kingdom.  Faithfulness is not synonymous with success.  In fact, it is possible to be faithful without being successful at all.  Faithfulness is persevering in a calling despite failure, discouragement and defeat.  Faithfulness is doggedly persisting when common sense is telling you to give up.  The martyrs in Revelation 12 suffered death, but we are told that they overcame.  What looked like defeat God considered victory, because they refused to give up even when it cost them their lives.

Faithfulness leads to fruitfulness.  Fruit is godly character produced under adverse circumstances.  I once met a man who had spent 18 years in prison for being a Christian.  Each day he was made to stand chest-deep in human sewage as he shovelled out the cesspit.  And the fruit of that labour showed in the joy and godliness of his life.  He spoke of his experience as if he were in a garden with the Lord, as the smell kept people away and he was able to sing praises to God at the top of his voice while he shovelled.

I draw encouragement from saints like these, for whom the grace of God which they have experienced is so much more important than their immediate circumstances.

” I did not labour in vain even if I am being poured out as an offering…”