Work Hard and Stay Hungry


It’s exhilarating to watch the best athletes compete. They understand that the glory of a game is found in those who “leave it all on the field,” whether they win or lose. So they train their bodies and develop their skills.

That is how I want to fulfill my ministry, as did the apostle Paul. He traveled from Jerusalem to Illyricum sharing the gospel and planting churches until he could say that he had fulfilled his ministry in those regions (Rom. 15:19). He preached the whole counsel of God, holding nothing back (Acts 20:26–27). Then, having fulfilled his ministry, he knew “the time of his departure had come” (2 Tim. 4:6). Paul left it all on the field.

If we’re not vigilant as years in the ministry pass, though, the greater the possibility that the monotony of our routines, the burdens of pastoring, or the busyness of ministry will become excuses for neglecting our primary task: preaching the Word. Jesus builds his church by his Word, in the power of the Spirit, through the preaching of a foolish message, from the mouths of weak men. Let us then work hard at preaching and stay hungry for the Word, remembering how we got here in the first place.

Remember Your Call

Paul viewed his call as both an obligation to God and a stewardship from God. The word “obligation” in Romans 1:14 is a financial term that can be translated “debt.” While saved by grace alone, Paul understood he owed a debt of gratitude to God. This gratitude fueled Paul’s ministry and zeal for the glory of Christ (Rom. 15:20).

Paul did not volunteer for this ministry. He did not choose his vocation. He was not set apart for the work by men.

He was called by God. By the grace of God, then, Paul was a steward of the gospel of God that revealed the Son of God (Eph. 3:1–2, 7–9). And he knew that one day he would give an account to the Master (Rom. 14:12).

Brothers, if we are to work hard and stay hungry, we must remember our call. Preaching is not a vocational choice; it is a calling. We are under obligation to preach Christ because God has saved us and set us apart for ministry as his mouthpieces. We are compelled to shepherd the flock of God among us by feeding Jesus’s lambs with the Word of God.

Of course, none of us is sufficient for these things. Our sufficiency comes from the God who set us apart for ministry (2 Cor. 3:5). He alone is enough to get us to the finish line. But he is more than enough.

Struggling with All His Energy

Though Paul understood he worked only by the grace of God in him, he could still say he worked harder than anyone else (1 Cor. 15:10). Paul toiled to present everyone mature in Christ, “struggling with all [Christ’s] energy that he powerfully works in me” (Col. 1:29).

The ministry to which God has set us apart is to preach the gospel. This gospel is the power of God for salvation (Rom. 1:16), the Word by which Jesus is sanctifying his church (Eph. 4:11–16). Brother pastors, to fulfill this preaching ministry we must do our best (cf. 2 Tim. 2:15).

The work of preaching begins with the work of preparation. That means communing with our Lord Jesus by his Word and prayer in reliance on the Spirit. Our ministry should be an overflow of our communion with the Lord. Ask God to maintain your hunger for his Word and a joy in his fellowship.

Second, we must prepare our sermon. Faithful preaching requires we work hard at “getting the text right.” Be diligent to show yourself an approved workman in the task of exegesis, week in and week out. Ask as many questions of the text as possible, praying in the Spirit for illumination. Work to understand the context of the original audience, the argument the author was making to them, and how your text connects to the life-giving gospel. We have not prepared well until we know how to apply the sermon to the flock of God among us.

Third, like a good athlete, work hard at developing your “skill.” In the words of Paul to Timothy, “do not neglect the gift you have” (1 Tim. 4:14). We should be constant readers. Reading cultivates a hunger for learning. We need to read all kinds of literature, not just theological books. For example, reading fiction stirs our imagination, which makes us better preachers. And reading non-Christian authors can provide insights into an unbeliever’s perspective on human nature.

Finally, regularly evaluate your progress. Listen to your sermons and give yourself feedback. Invite others to give you feedback—maybe a group of local pastors or members of your church. Attend a Simeon Trust workshop. Consider the Chicago Course on Preaching. Pursue continuing education. Like a good athlete, never stop training. Until you’re in glory, you haven’t arrived.


Brother pastors, don’t be complacent. Work hard and stay hungry. Remember your call. And struggle with all Christ’s energy to preach the Word increasingly well, so that when you come to the end of your ministry you too can say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7–8).

Juan Sanchez

Juan Sanchez is the senior pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas.

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