Wednesday, December 16, 2009

How not to be destroyed by ministry!

Good morning my friends. I had an opportunity to sleep a bit longer today and took it. My apologie for the tardiness of my post.

I have noticed an interesting thing about opposition and disappointments; they either break your spirit or spur you on to greater things. Some people would say the difference lies in the decision we make, which I agree with but I also believe it goes deeper than that. Why do we make the decisions we make? What causes us to look beyond this moment to the possibility of better moments to come? What gives us the belief that this one decision we make can cause a difference in our lives and the lives of the people we are involved with? Much of it has to do with perspective and where our perspective comes from. Perspective determines how we see ourselves, other people, the world and even our purpose in this world. In this way our decisions are sometimes already determined for us according to our perspective.

I think most of us are amazed at the life and accomplishments of the apostle Paul. One of the things we marvel at is how much he did manage to accomplish in the face of such great opposition. His ministry in Thessalonica was no different than many of the places he ministered. He preached, some people accepted Jesus and then a large crowd rose up and Paul had to flee from the city. In many cases it was other people who convinced him to go because Paul would rather have stayed to face the crowd. His adventure in Thessalonica is found in Acts 17.

Now read what he had to say about it:

You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure. (1 Thessalonians 2:1)

Not a failure he says. Run out of town by an angry mob before he could establish the church, having to trust others to finish the job he had barely begun. Not a failure! Read on:

We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition. v. 2

Paul and Silas really did have a bad time of it in Phillipi, which you can read about here, Acts 16. So they came from a bad situation in Phillipi and soon faced another bad situation in Thessalonica but Paul did not consider it a failure. How could Paul do this? It was a matter of perspective, a perspective I would dearly love to capture and gain myself:

For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. vs. 3-4

Paul had gained the perspective that this ministry was not about him, it was not dependent on him, he did not own it, the message did not originate with him, that he had not chosen to do this. Paul was given a message to share and convince others of. He was chosen by God. He did not make it up. He did not profit from it. He had not chosen to do this himself. He was part of the larger plan that the Father is working on. Paul knew that he would not be held accountable for how people received the message but instead he would be held accountable to his faithfulness to his mission. "We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts."

This is the reason why sometimes we are not able to make the decision to push on when facing trying times, because our perspective is all wrong. Our perspective is wrong because we are not convinced we have been called to the task by God. We wonder if we chose to do it from our own will. That is a tough thing. I know for myself that the ministries I wrestled over, resisted until I was convinced it was God's doing are the ones in which I have had endurance. I have been able to face apparent failure, opposition, trials, heartache, personal pain and grief and still be able to push on. I was able to do this because I kept remembering back to my calling. There were definite moments when God made it crystal clear that he had called me to that specific task in the mission. I had not chosen this for myself, it was God who chose me.

I have to remind myself of this especially when I feel rejection from those I have been called to serve. That is really hard until I remember that I do not own this ministry. This is God's work and my only responsibility is to be faithful to my part of the mission. I am not responsible for people's reactions to the message and to the service. However, I am responsible for my heart which God will examine and judge. Are my motives pure? Do I give and serve because of his love? Am I holding anything back? Am I an asset to this ministry or is my attitude and lack of work taking away from God's glory?

We are a people who tend to focus on our failings and the failings of others. We can look at Paul's time in Thessalonica, see the fact he was chased out and consider it a failure. Or we can look at the fact that in his brief stay, "Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women." There was the seeds of the church of Thessalonica. I encourage you to get your eyes off of the failures because they are brief in their passing and effect. Instead get your eyes on Jesus who will enable the proper perspective to rule in your mind. Realizing that he is willing his plan through you and that he has chosen you will enable you to gain the right perspective. If in your self-examination you realize you are not where he wants you to be, that you were not called to it, that you are being destroyed where you are, get out. Stop what you are doing and desire his will to be revealed. If not, you will be destroyed by living a calling that is not yours.

May he give us ears to hear and a heart to understand that his Kingdom is not about sword and shield, the strength and abilities of man, but about the Father's will. Stay in that will and you will not be destroyed by trials and oppositions, instead you will see beyond them to greater things to come.

1 comment:

Chris said...

Great post Brother. One I certainly needed to hear, many times on the surface our ministries look a lot like failures. The key to always remember is that the worlds definition of success and failure is much different than Gods. God's definition of success is simply obedience to what He is calling you to do. Thanks again for the reminder, God bless you.