_For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you--that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine. _
There are real costs to ministry. If you decide to give yourself in ministering to others (which seems more like a Biblical command than an option), it will cost your time, energy, money, sometimes even your reputation. Because it's often fighting an uphill battle, ministry tends to wear us down, and we end up hearing statistics about pastors leaving the pastorate and how hard it is to get people involved in real, spiritual ministry to each other.
Maybe a little selfishness is in order. Maybe we've spoken too much about the costs of ministry but not the blessings. It's good to hear the apostle Paul telling the Romans not only that he loved them and desperately wanted to minister to them but fully expected to be "mutually encouraged by each other's faith."
If you haven't worked to carve out time in your life for ministry to others, you are missing out. You are missing one of the great blessings God gives to His children by refusing front row seats to the working of the Holy Spirit.
In most ministry relationships, there's a Paul and a Timothy, someone who's teaching and someone who's taught. But when it's done right, with the right attitude, everyone gets blessed, everyone gets encouraged. To be a part of something eternal, to find someone else's growing faith challenging yours, to see how God works powerfully in hearts...these are blessings reserved for those willing to get on the front lines of ministry.
Perhaps it's due in part to our design. We weren't designed to be shut-ins, reclusive or self-centered. We were designed to live in community and to be focused on others, designed in the image of the God who is love. So often the lives we're told to live, living for ourselves or money or pleasure or fame, make us truly miserable people because we're fighting against our own design. But lives of ministry and service lead to the most joy because our purpose and designed is finally being fulfilled.
Perhaps it's the joy of knowing that God is actually using you for great things. Jesus reminded us that God could raise up the rocks to do His work in this world, but in reality He does something far more astounding: using sinful, broken and foolish people like us to do wonderful things in the lives of other people.
If you've been holding back because the costs of ministry are high, please reconsider. Be spiritually selfish for once and seek the extraordinary blessings of ministering to others.
p.s. - Pastors, could it be that when we talk (i.e., complain) about the difficulties of ministry but never publicly rejoice in the blessings, we are feeding the very problem we're trying to solve?