The madness of ministry
How easy it would be for us to think that our ministry doesn’t really matter. Ministry can be so frustrating, so discouraging at times. It’s frustrating to give all you have to a people who sometimes seem so indifferent and apathetic to the gospel and its claim upon our lives, so unaware of the vision and what God is doing through you, especially during this postmodern time, when anything and everything goes and some are coming to simply be entertained.
It is frustrating to say the same things over and over again to the same folks and wonder if they got it. It is disheartening to be aware of our own human limitations to change their lives, which constantly eats away at our self-confidence. This is crazy, you know. We couldn’t and can’t change ourselves -- what makes us think we can change anyone else?
We are not supermen or women; we cannot do everything, be all things to all people, and please everyone. We will make mistakes.
We will disappoint others and ourselves. We cannot possibly live up to everyone’s expectations, so we need to stop trying. We have to reach a point where we are no longer trying to prove ourselves and defend who we are. We cannot make everyone happy. We are not called to make folks happy; we are called to make them holy.
We have been called, chosen for this ministry, not because we have it all together, because we always know what to say, how to say it and what to do. We were not chosen because we are perfect.
Nor are we in ministry by accident. Our ministry is by divine appointment. It was God’s choice. I just told you, God knew what he was getting when he chose us. When I think about who and what I was when God called me, I am clear that God is merciful. God loved me enough to forgive me and use me. Hallelujah! It’s deep!
One songwriter put it this way:
“Something beautiful, something good
All my confusion; he understood
All I had to offer him was brokenness and strife
And he made something beautiful of my life.”
I know all too well and so do you the condition that we were in when God found us. God loved us when no one else would and saved me when no one else could.
When Paul considered what God had done for him through his love and mercy, he became clear that he could not give up. No matter what anyone said, he said in Romans 8:31-39, “If God is for us, who can be against us? … Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died -- more than that, who was raised to life -- is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”
Therefore, he needed to do all that he could in response to God’s having loved, forgiven and redeemed him, a blasphemer. He said as much in 1 Timothy 1:14:
“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out upon me abundantly.”
God in his mercy had granted him the privilege to be in ministry. Ministry is a privilege.
Therefore, like Paul, we have every reason to be confident in our ministry. 2 Corinthians 3:4-6:
“Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant -- not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
We have this ministry through God’s mercy. As [UMC] Bishop [Greg] Palmer told us yesterday, it’s not about us. It is by God’s mercy that we have been called into ministry.
Our validation for ministry comes from God. He chose us, handpicked us out of a crowd for a major assignment. You may not think your ministry assignment is major, but there are no minor assignments in the kingdom. Every assignment is designed to make the world in which we live different.
Paul goes on to say that our ministry is not only by divine appointment, but also by divine empowerment.
“We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”
The King James says, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels.”
The reason why we often lose the right perspective of ministry that leads to discouragement is that we focus on ourselves, rather than God. And people do the same thing. People are looking at us and not God. Expecting us to act like God, perform our ministries like God, flawless and faultless. Ain’t no way!
In an effort to help the people get the right focus, Paul said in verse 5, “For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.’”
Our responsibility is to help others see Jesus. We must preach Christ. It is through the preaching of Jesus that people’s lives are changed and rearranged. When we preach Jesus, broken hearts and homes are put back together again, people are set free, healed and made whole.
There is no other name given among men and women whereby they must be saved. There is healing in the name of Jesus, there is deliverance in the name of Jesus, demons tremble at the mention of that name. There is power in his name!
It is through the preaching of Jesus that transformation takes place. We need to help the people see and follow him.