Interview with

Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Today we again highlight an excerpt from a Q&A Pastor John recently led with the students at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia. Here’s a question asked by one student.

Hey, Dr. Piper. I have a two-part question. The first part is: What are some of the most difficult challenges you have faced? And I mean the whole gamut: life, ministry, everything. And then, part two: What has sustained you through those?

I think the biggest challenges you will face in the ministry will very likely relate to your family, your marriage and your children. Maybe the wider family depending on what culture you are from. That certainly has been true for me. I have told my wife Noel, though we have been married 45 years, I said: All I need in the ministry from you is for you to be happy, because if momma ain't happy ... And we have gone through really hard times. I mean, we have spent one season 33 months in counseling together trying to figure out why do we hurt each other like this? Why do our mouths do this to each other? And then you get along for 10 years and you need to work on it again. We have had a pretty battled relationship. I love her like crazy and she me. She would say that. But why? I don’t know why? I can’t... I am baffled at age 68 as to why we have some of the issues we do.

But here is the point. When you walk through a church for 33 years and you have seasons where you get zero growth for four years and 230 people walk away and you are accused of everything under the sun when you did church discipline and what not, if the collapse at home or the stress at home happens at the same time as the stress at church you are just about a goner. But if home is making it you can handle anything at church. And if church is making it, you might get through a tough time at home. When they come together then you... {?} I mean it would take a miracle no matter what, but... So that is the main thing I would say is in the ministry you will have seasons of great difficulty in the church and you will have probably seasons of great difficulty in home. And if you think all is well, you have been married for 20 years and you have got a 15 year old, it just may not show up. He may be gone. And you don’t know here he is. You are going to be able to preach next Sunday? I have been there.

So there just aren’t any things harder than to keep pressing on in the ministry when there are broken pieces in the family. So work on that. I mean, prepare your soul to be a good husband, wife, so that you learn from Jesus how to do marriage and it is the greatest anvil of sanctification in the world. And that is no accident. That is no accident. Nothing has shown me my sin like marriage and nothing has given opportunities for grace like marriage. And so while it has been for me one of the hardest things, it has been one of the most glorious things.

So I a guy ever... I mean, I wrote a book on marriage. I was thinking: I have got to have a book on marriage some day, because I am a Christian Hedonist and I want to relate it to everything and marriage is a big deal. And I kept saying: I am not ready. It is not... We got a phone call one time from Christianity Today back in.... they had a book called Partnership. I don’t think it exists anymore. I mean a magazine. And they always had it featured of a smiley pastoral couple on the front. And they called me one time. We would like to put you and Noel on the front and do a special article on you. And I said: You would? Well, look, we are barely talking right now. So I think you better come back later. And they never called back.

Oh man, I had not heard that story. That was Pastor John, recently fielding questions from students at Westminster Theological Seminary. Related to this is the Ask Pastor John episode titled: “What Steals Your Joy?,” episode #256 in the archive. Worth checking out. … So what would Pastor John say to sermon listeners who are overly critical of their pastors and who tend to dwell on the faults of a sermon? We will talk about that on Monday. Until then, I’m your host Tony Reinke, have a great and worship-filled weekend.