Sowing Seeds: No pain? No gain!

Published 5:39 pm Friday, February 18, 2022

Zig Ziglar used to say: “There is no elevator to the top. You’re going to have to take the stairs.” I learned that in sales, if I sit at my desk, there are few problems but there are also few sales, few commissions, little income and eventually — no job!

Or as my dear old grandpa used to say: No pain? no gain!

Looking back, I realize that ultimate success, no matter what area: money, work, sports, family or faith often offers choices: settle for less or work harder and sweat more for a greater reward.

As a pastor, I received 10 days of training before moving to my first church. At first, I was especially afraid of funerals. I experienced only a few deaths in my family, so I had no idea what to do, what to say, how to offer comfort, I wasn’t even sure what a funeral service looked like.

On moving day, a prominent church member died. I was asked to lead the funeral service two days later on Saturday, the day before my first Sunday. The church was filled with mourners ready to hear me talk about someone I never met but they dearly loved.

Three days later, another member died in an automobile accident and four days after that another died of a heart attack. Before my first month, I led five funerals and before the end of my first year, I buried 11 people from that little church. I never worried about leading funerals again.

You would think 11 people dying in a small church dramatically reduced attendance. But, by the end of the year, attendance actually increased. Why? It seems that family members and friends who drifted away over the years came back. Several spoke of rediscovered faith.

What’s the lesson? Over the next 30 years, I learned over and over again how obstacles, crisis, and tragedy despite their painful circumstances, also played a critical role in renewing our faith.

• My tragic divorce led to starting a divorce recovery ministry that helped others.

• A young man facing terminal illness led his entire family back to God and the church.

• Families needing Christmas aid led to “Christmas Parent” which helped hundreds.

• Helping a church destroyed by tornado brought many from the community to our church.

• A family needing furniture led to our church forming a furniture bank helping many more.

No pain? No gain! Often applies to ministry opportunities. You have a choice: settle for less or make a change, trust God, pay the price, pick up a cross and follow. 

Lee Jampolsky wrote: “Ask yourself what is really important and then have the wisdom and courage to build your life around the answer.”

Jesus not only teaches this lesson, but he demonstrates what it means as opposition, criticism, harassment and other challenges appear. He resolutely walks toward Jerusalem, knowing this road leads to the cross. His mission was not just to teach or perform miracles or heal although that was important. Jesus came to die and rise from the grave to point us toward God.

Jesus said: “The Son of Man must suffer many terrible things. He will be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He will be killed, but on the third day he will be raised from the dead.” – Luke 9:22

Ministry presents a choice: settle for less or take a risk, trust God, pick up a cross and follow.

Jesus didn’t say, “Take up your cross and follow me” as a slogan to memorize or because he wanted you to experience pain. “Take up your cross and follow me” is a call to true discipleship. Jesus says, “What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed?”

I still like what grandpa said: “No pain? No gain!”

Rev. Larry E. Davies can be reached at larrydavies@vaumc.org.