Hopefully, every preacher does receive regular encouragement from his spouse and parishioners. But I believe our greatest gratification will come when we arrive in heaven. Paul says of the Thessalonians, "For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?" (1 Thess. 2:19) How I long to see my flock standing in the presence of Christ, perfected in glory, and to feel the joy of having been an instrument used by God! But that day is still in the distant future.
Preaching is, by and large, an act of faith. Rarely -- if ever -- do I immediately see the full fruit of my labor. Nevertheless, over the long haul, preaching is one of the most fundamental and important aspects of my ministry as a pastor.
When I study, pray, and preach, I'm trusting that God will use His Word to convict, convert, encourage, and accomplish all His divine purposes. The results may not be instantaneous, but as the years go by, I can expect that God will progressively sanctify people through the preaching of His Word. Some effects, I may witness in my lifetime. Other effects, I may never see this side of heaven. But this much I know: God will use His Word to bring results:
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. (Is. 55:10-11)
I am watching over My word to perform it. (Jer. 1:12)For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Cor. 1:18)
For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe. (1 Thess. 2:13)