Gospel workers experiencing hardship in ministry is not uncommon. It comes to everyone in many ways. In this article I focus on two things needed to overcome difficulty, especially within environments of economic hardship. Countless challenges and problems occur amid economic challenges; from lack of services, illiteracy, to unemployment. All of which affects the livelihood of communities, and therefore those serving Christ in among them. I experienced some of these issues when I was serving in Lesotho and Madagascar. But in this article, I will focus on my time in Madagascar.

As a missionary in Madagascar I worked with two people groups: the Antakarana and Sakalava. The Antakarana are based in Nosy Mitsio; the Sakalava in Nosy Be. But for most of my time I was in Nosy Be.

Hardship in ministry is not uncommon. It comes to everyone in many ways.

Nosy Be is a slightly bigger and more developed island than Nosy Mitsio. The latter is made up of about 25 villages and boasts a wealth of natural beauty. However, Nosy Mitsio doesn’t have electricity. There is no transport system or hospital on the island and just one school. Most of its inhabitants are farmers or fishermen. Their houses are mostly made of mokoty and fallafa. To shop, residents of Nosy Mitsio must travel by boat to Nosy Be. The trip takes around 12 hours, five by speedboat. Nosy Be is only slightly more developed and better resourced. But living is more expensive because it’s a tourist destination.

Economic hardships and related issues aren’t unique to those two islands. They’re the reality for the majority of African villages. Sure, in Lesotho I didn’t have to cross an ocean to go to the hospital. But the drive or walk was still really far. These and other related issues can make ministry incredibly difficult.

You Need More Than Money

In most cases, when gospel workers are faced with these issues we’re tempted to think: more money would make these problems go away. And this is true, in part. Money can alleviate some of these issues and help you cope with some of the challenges. But it isn’t the primary answer to these problems. Nor is more money all that those serving in these areas need.

As long as we depend on money, we will always need more.

Of course, it isn’t easy for those serving in these environments to have a stable salary to sustain them. The Sunday offering might not be enough. On the other hand, it’s possible to have a stable salary but still be drastically affected by the socio-economic challenges and issues. Furthermore, it’s possible to have an income without joy and contentment in the work of the Lord.

Thus, the question becomes: how much money is enough to silence the heart’s discontentment with the environments God has sovereignly assigned for us to serve him in? My answer to this question is that while money is necessary in these environmental challenges, it isn’t enough to silence the challenges or circumstances. For as long as we depend on money, we will always need more. Thus we need something beyond money. Something greater. We need a reason to serve that transcends physical resources.

There are many, but from here I will focus on two.

1. You Need a Passion for People’s Salvation

The first one, I discovered upon arrival in Madagascar. It is a passion for the salvation of the lost people. A desire to see the people you’re serving come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. This passionate desire enabled me to continue serving, with contentment, regardless of the various economic challenges in both Nosy Mitsio and Nosy Be.

Paul speaks about this desire in 2 Timothy 2:3. He exhorts Timothy to “share in suffering” so that the elect might obtain salvation. This hope enabled Timothy to endure persecution.

This passion enabled Paul to endure the challenges he faced in ministry.

Thus a few verses on he writes: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:8-10). This passion enabled Paul to endure the challenges he faced in ministry. The same should be true of us. For the sake of seeing the unreached in both Lesotho and Madagascar come to salvation, I was able to endure various hardships.

2. You Need to Be Fuelled by the Gospel

Secondly, you also need that same gospel. For this is what empowers or fuels sacrificial service. We cannot merely be aware of the people’s need; we must remember our own. Thus Paul reminded Timothy of the gospel (2 Timothy 2:8), as he exhorted him to suffer like a good soldier of Christ (2 Timothy 2:3). Christ’s affliction buoys believers in theirs.

Christ’s affliction buoys believers in theirs.

2 Corinthians 4 communicates as much. There Paul describes how his personal hope in Christ enables him and his companions to endure much persecution in ministry. “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

This hope enabled Paul in his resolve to endure the affliction (2 Corinthians 4:1-2, 7-12). It is what made him conclude that all his sufferings are nothing but momentary when compared to eternal glory.

From this we learn that our appreciation for the gospel can fuel our endurance in ministry. We must look forward to our eternal home with Christ, remembering that whatever challenging environment we find ourselves in it won’t last forever. In eternity there will be no sickness. No poverty. What God has promised us is incomparably more worthy than the momentary comforts of this life.