Litton at Gateway chapel: ‘Ministry is a painful business’
SBC President Ed Litton asked attendees to “embrace the pain God has called [them] to,” during Gateway Seminary’s chapel service February 24, 2022.
Litton preached on Paul’s experience of pain in Second Corinthians 12. Titled “The gift no one wants, everyone gets, and few embrace,” his sermon encouraged listeners to grasp the pain that comes with ministry leadership.
“There is no progress without pain,” he said.
“The difference between where I am and where I need to be spiritually, emotionally, physically, psychologically, can be measured in pain.”
Litton said ministers will experience different types of pain: personal pain, pain in leadership, congregational pain, and community pain. He shared some of the grief he has experienced in his family and ministry, including the death of his wife, Tammy, in 2007.
“What does the gift of pain do for us? First of all, it humbles us,” he said.
Litton referred back to Paul’s description of the thorn in his flesh in verse seven.
“He is not saying pain is good,” Litton said. “The pain is useful.”
“It helps us to remember how utterly dependent we are upon the Lord.”
Litton shared that Paul pleaded three times with God to remove the thorn in verse eight. He admitted he too pleaded with God while grieving for the loss of his wife.
“There's times where you're tempted to think ‘Lord haven't I been through enough?’” he said.
Litton continued to verse nine where Paul describes the answer to Paul’s prayer: “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (ESV).
“‘My grace is sufficient for you.’ Take that personally,” Litton said.
Litton then shared his own struggle to have a consistent quiet time as a younger minister. A difficult staff conflict at his church drove him to fully committing to the practice. By nothing but the grace of God, he said, his quiet time began to change.
“I began to have deeper intimacy with God,” he said.
The habit served a humbling role in Litton’s life as he dealt with his loss, a potent reminder of the sufficiency of God’s grace in Litton’s weakness.
“The next morning [after Tammy’s death] I woke up and I didn't know what to do but what I had been doing.”
“Your pain may be so bad, you may be thinking of leaving, quitting or ending this life - I want to tell you something: Just do the next thing. Do the next discipline God, by His grace, has given you the wisdom to see,” he said.
Litton said Paul’s boasting in weakness in the second half of verse nine “makes zero sense to a lost world… but it makes sense to God.”
“Pain drove Paul like a nail into Jesus. Let pain drive you like a nail into Jesus.”
He concluded the sermon by asking those in attendance to “embrace the pain of [their] lives…and lead [their] people to abandon their comforts, take up their crosses and follow Jesus."
“This is how a watching world sees His power move - through our weakness; not our strength.”
Watch Ed Litton’s full sermon here.