In spite of the dangers associated with my previous labors, the work I do now requires more caution than anything I have ever done. How can that be when we know the sermon I preach next Sunday isn't going to cause the audience to be crushed, blown to pieces, or infected with E.coli? While all of those dangers are serious and the consequences dire, the truth is there are worse things than injury, illness, or even death.
Every one of us must suffer the death of our physical bodies. Likewise, we all know we will endure sickness and injury to varying degrees during our earthly lives. Sadly, these are the harsh realities of living in a fallen world (cf. Rom. 5:12). However, there is hope in spite of these things. We have the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ which allows us to triumph in the face of the death and decay of this earthly life. As Paul put it, "Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day" (2 Cor. 4:16). The reason Paul could make this bold statement was his understanding that there will be a resurrection of the dead in which those who die in Christ will be raised to eternal life (1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:51-58).
The key to Paul's confidence (and ours) is the phrase "in Christ." In Ephesians 1:3, Paul made it clear that all spiritual blessings are "in Christ." He went on to name some of the blessings which we have "in Christ." These blessings included redemption and forgiveness of sins (Eph. 1:7) which enables us to receive an inheritance (Eph. 1:11-14). This inheritance is none other than eternal life in heaven (cf. 1 Pet. 1:3-5).
What, you may ask, does this have to do with the weight of responsibility I feel in my work as a gospel preacher/teacher? In 1 Peter 1:5, Peter makes an important point concerning our imperishable inheritance. The point he makes is that it is through faith we are guarded for salvation. Paul warned young Timothy "Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you" (1 Tim. 4:16). This is not only true for the preacher; it is true of all who teach the gospel (cf. Jas. 3:1). Truly our preaching and teaching will not cause a person's earthly demise. However, if done improperly, it may well cause people to be subject to the second death which is a fate far worse than any other (Rev. 20:14-15). Let us therefore heed Paul's words and "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15).