If you want to know what having a baby is like, you could ask any mother…or any faithful Pastor. And before I’m clobbered for even daring to suggest a comparison, my authority is the apostle Paul, who wrote to the Galatians: “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you…” (Gal. 4:19).

Paul had been the spiritual mother of the Galatians (Acts 13, 14). God had used him to turn the Galatians from “ceremony-salvation” to Gospel salvation, a painful and traumatic experience which he likened to having a baby. But just when Paul thought that the Galatians had been delivered from the suffocating womb of ritualism and were now breathing the pure life-giving oxygen of Christ’s grace, he discovers to his horror that they are reversing back up the birth canal, and turning back to circumcision and other ceremonies as a way of salvation.

So Paul re-enters the labor suite and starts pushing them back to grace. In between the agonizing pangs, he can be heard whispering, “My little children, of whom I travail in birth until Christ be formed in you.” There are piercing contractions, baffling complications, stubborn obstructions, and constant resistance. But he won’t give up or give in until he sees Christ formed in them. He’s going to push and persevere and fight for their lives until they take the shape of Christ, until their whole being proclaims Christ, until they look like Christ, sound like Christ and live like Christ. As John Calvin said, “If ministers wish to do any good, let them labor to form Christ, not to form themselves, in their hearers.”

Is it any wonder, pastors, that you feel so exhausted this Monday morning? You’ve been in the labor suite again. Indeed, do you ever leave it?