2 Truths for Church Planters to Remember In Hard Times

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Written by: Dan Steel 

Dan Steel serves as the senior pastor of Magdalen Road Church in Oxford, England. Before returning to his hometown of Oxford, he helped plant Grace Church Stirchley in Birmingham, England. He and his wife, Zoe, have four children. You can connect with him here.

This following content was originally published on Acts 29’s website, linked HERE.


Editor’s Note: This article is adapted from a talk given at Acts 29’s Help for the Journey conference in Spain in 2022.

A friend of mine works with church leaders to develop their spiritual health. He often asks them, “Do you functionally believe you have every spiritual blessing in Christ and have all you need?” This is a deeply introspective question and one the apostle Paul alludes to in the first chapter of Ephesians. But why is this question so important? 

As Christians, especially church leaders, we know we’ve received every spiritual blessing in Christ. But knowing the right answer and functionally believing it to be true are two different things. Often, we seek to engineer blessings from somewhere else as our hearts wander and run after the world’s empty promises. 

Our hearts idolize comfort. We’re often tricked into believing the grass is greener elsewhere in our longing to be accepted. We don’t know what to do when our comfortable lives and ministry are challenged. If we’re used to taking the path of least resistance, then when hardship arrives at our doorstep, we aren’t sure how to handle it. Pastoring and church planting offer plenty of moments of great joy and privilege, but it doesn’t come without deep challenges. 

There will always be a level of discomfort in the ministry of church planting. After all, we follow a crucified king. Let’s look at two observations from Psalm 94 to help us faithfully respond when our comfort is challenged, and hardship comes our way.  

God Defends His People

It’s striking how many of the psalms of lament involve direct oppression from outside forces. In Psalm 94:3–6, the opponents of Israel are described as wicked, arrogant, evildoers, boastful, and murderers. They didn’t believe in God’s power or deity and sought to destroy his people.As you face hardship, uncertainty, or anxiety, remember God defends and delivers his people. You can find comfort and joy in his steadfast love.CLICK TO TWEET

Have you ever been wronged by someone and wondered if they’ll ever receive due justice for the pain they caused? It could be someone outside your church, maybe unbelievers in your town who despise your gospel message. However, those inside our flock often inflict the most harm. No matter the situation, we long for justice when people intentionally hurt us. But as the psalmist reminds us, justice is not ours to wield. 

“For the Lord will not forsake his people;
    he will not abandon his heritage;
for justice will return to the righteous,
    and all the upright in heart will follow it” (Ps. 94:14–15).

Dear friends, those who’ve caused you harm have not gotten away with it. God knows and will handle it all in his perfect time and way. You can trust him. Remain calm amid chaos, and remember that God promises to protect his people; he promises to protect you.

God Delivers His People 

There are things about church planting that will always be hard. We’ll go through seasons of discomfort and pain, waiting for the suffering to subside. But one hardship blends into the next; before we know it, we’re drowning in frustration. When will we be free from pain and suffering? Who will fight for us when we can’t muster up the courage or energy to fight for ourselves? 

We find an answer in Psalm 94:18, “When I thought, ‘My food slips,’ your steadfast love, O LORD, held me up.” This is a beautiful reminder that God upholds us through our pain, anxieties, and failures. He’ll never leave or forsake us, and we can trust that he’ll deliver us.The problem with these fast fixes is that they aren’t a fix at all—they add to our anxiety rather than remedy it.CLICK TO TWEET

It’s easy, however, to say we believe that God will deliver us. It’s much harder to live it out. We may read Psalm 94:18 and say we trust God’s steadfast love, but instead of turning to him, we turn to social media, online shopping, or whatever else we can find to provide quick comfort. But the problem with these fast fixes is that they aren’t a fix at all—they add to our anxiety rather than remedy it. But when we come to the Lord seeking refuge and cast our cares on him, we find his steadfast love holds us fast.

The psalmist experienced great hardship, but God’s comfort brought him joy even in the depths of his anxiety. We’re reminded in Psalm 94:22, “The Lord has become my stronghold, and my God the rock of my refuge.” It is in God, and God alone, that we find safety. We’re united to Christ—it’s the most secure place we’ll ever be. 

As you face hardship, uncertainty, or anxiety, remember God defends and delivers his people. You can find comfort and joy in his steadfast love. So whatever hardships come (and they will), functionally look to him as the One who has given you everything you need in Christ. He will deliver and defend. He’s got you.