Anyone who is committed to a life of ministry will have the “opportunity” to deliver a challenging, perhaps difficult message to a person or persons.
While there are plenty of encouraging words and hopeful promises to give to Jesus-followers (after all, the Greek for “Gospel” is euangellion – “good message,” specifically), there are also words that can only be described as hard. Ever dealt with ones like these?
Don’t you know that wicked people won’t inherit the kingdom of God? Stop deceiving yourselves! People who continue to commit sexual sins, who worship false gods, those who commit adultery, homosexuals, or thieves, those who are greedy or drunk, who use abusive language, or who rob people will not inherit the kingdom of God. That’s what some of you were! (1 Corinthians 6:9-11-19, GWT)
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the person who does what my Father in heaven wants. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name? Didn’t we force out demons and do many miracles by the power and authority of your name?’ Then I will tell them publicly, ‘I’ve never known you. Get away from me, you evil people.’ (Matthew 7:21-23, GWT)
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings. (Jeremiah 17:9-10, NKJV)
Since most ministers realize they can’t only deal with happy ideas if they are to be true to the whole of God’s Word, a philosophy of tough is needed.
I suggest you consider the approach of Stephanie Decker.
It was March 2, 2012. On that day more than 140 tornadoes were reported across the Midwest. In the basement of her home in Henryville, Indiana, Stephanie knew that bad things were going to happen. So she threw herself on top of both of her children – 8 year-old Dominick and 5-year-old Reese – as her home came tumbling down.
She saved their lives.
Stephanie suffered broken ribs and a punctured lung. She also lost most of both legs.
This tough mom provides a wonderful picture of the pastor delivering a tough word. She did what she knew she had to do in a hard moment. But what drove her was a soft heart – a heart so full of love that the sacrifice seemed small. Stephanie later said, “If the worst thing that ever happened is me losing my legs, I’m good.”
That’s a pretty good philosophy. If you have to deliver a hard word, do it from a soft heart, one of protection not punishment, care and not condemnation. If you can’t hold back tears while preaching on the wages of sin, you’ve got it about right.