What the world thinks, what other Christians think, what you think, is irrelevant. Nothing matters except God’s approval. It is the sole measure of a ministry.
Don’t be too hasty is despising what you imagine to be your flaws and weaknesses.
The Mocker glares at you. ‘Cracked pot!’ he snarls. You shrink inside, unable to hear the adoration of people in the age to come. ‘Exquisite vessel, perfectly formed to touch our lives!’ they cry to you. ‘Through that crack God’s oil flowed out to us.’
Paul’s epistles seem a desperate reaction to the annoyance of distance or prison keeping him from his ‘real’ mission. (Romans 1:10-13; 15:22-23; Philippians 4:1a; 1 Thessalonians 2:17-18; 3:10) He might have felt as frustrated as an injured sportsman reduced to urging his team from the sidelines. Yet it is this ‘side-line’ ministry, rather than his ‘real’ one, that has snowballed down the hills of time. According to Andrew Bonar, we have gained more from Paul’s imprisonment than from his visit to the third heaven.
We seem the object of ridicule, yet we’re the focus of infinite love. We’re fruit growing sweeter, wine gaining value; not milk going sour. We’re not cardboard caving, colors fading, under the weight of time; we’re concrete drying stronger, trees growing higher, dawn glowing brighter.
Though the pool of examples seems bottomless, to dip further is superfluous. ‘In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.’ (2 Corinthians 13:1; Deuteronomy 19:15) The case is proved: we may be mightily used of God when least aware of it. What seems an infuriating hindrance to service could actually be eliciting vital ministry.
See Jesus naked on the cross, scorned by demons, soldiers and Jews. To even his supporters his failure was undeniable. Thousands were ashamed of him. We, too, may be pounded within and without by accusations that we are weak, ineffectual, useless.
We have no right to imagine we have failed unless heaven expressly reveals it to us.
It’s scary being different. We’d rather hide, trying to clone someone else’s ministry. But there’s simply no demand for more impersonators. There is, however, a demand for your unique contribution.
Resist the pressure to conform. You may die of embarrassment, but you’ll live in glory. The world needs your distinctive ministry.
The most powerful ministry is probably intercession. And the world’s greatest intercessor could be the ‘no-body’ sitting next to you in church last Sunday. Only the spirit-realm comprehends what Christ’s sacred service agents accomplish behind closed doors and behind enemy lines.
No one who always surrenders to criticism will achieve anything significant for God. There is no type of music, for example, which appeals to every Christian. Suppose ninety-nine percent of people find your ministry atrocious. If your band played at an anti-nuclear rally, they wouldn’t know whether to ban the bomb or bomb the band. What should you do? Assuming they are reacting to your style, and not spurning spiritual truth, it would seem desirable to serenade the one percent when the others were out of earshot.
If you appeal only to a minority, it could well be a minority that is not being reached by other means. If so, the church would be poorer without your specialized ministry. Heaven’s approval outlasts earth’s applause.
Though bent by Adam’s crash and bashed by my own sin, God gave me my personality with its tastes, and for years I’ve been looking to him to mold me. So I believe that somewhere are people with cerebral plumbing like mine. They will appreciate my style and are most likely the ones God has called me to minister to. Should there be millions of them, I’ll be famous; if only a few, I’ll blend with the wallpaper. But it won’t affect God’s view of me. If popularity is a valid measure of success, our deserted Lord was a failure. Ah, but wait, three days later, what the world saw as a failure-rose from the dead! There will come a day, when, though it does not appear what we will be here, the word of God tells us, we will be like Him, and see Him as He is. Our minds, in this world, cannot comprehend this; but we can put our entire trust in the truth of it. The risen Christ, is our assurance.
‘Experts’ regularly berate the simplicity of Fanny Crosby’s hymns. It is said she had the literary skill to silence her critics but she deliberately simplified her songs to meet more powerfully the needs of the distressed, the infirm and the poorly educated.
That does not mean I can be lax. To limit oneself to a particular style can be very demanding but because Fanny considered it the most effective way to reach her target audience she strove for perfection within this framework.
We are often so over-awed by God’s moral standards that we overlook other aspects of his nature. Our Lord is Creator as well as Savior, and the Maker of rainbows and nightingales didn’t suddenly lose his creative urge at the close of Day Six. God’s creativity is inexhaustible. And you were made for him. He longs to express his creativity through you. As an instrument and musician together make beautiful music, you and your Lord can unite to create exquisite beauty. What you can do together defies imagination. You make an awesome team.
Yield to Christ, like a brush to the artist, and from your life will flow unearthly beauty.
Too often I think and act as if the darkness of my inadequacy could extinguish the brilliance of Christ. I have seen myself as a failure and I have seen the results of such thinking. Now I endeavor to see myself as a born failure, born again a success. That’s scriptural. Without Christ I am brain-frozen with inadequacy. But I am not without Christ. I am tired of being hauled through the sludge by my former view of myself. I had backed off so far from the monster of pride that I had almost fallen into the ditch of despair, dragging God’s glory with me. Though I hate egotism, I must hate doubt with equal passion.
‘It seems as though everything I do is wrong,’ cried Gladys Aylward in a letter from China. Great men and women of God often long to quit, but they wobble on. (E.g., Jeremiah 20:7-8) When they are hit, they bounce – like flat footballs usually, but enough to stay in the game. After a while they are pumped up again and their erratic zigzag course resumes that vaguely goalward trajectory that sends angelic cheer-leaders wild.
Success is failure that tried one more time. As we look to God and courageously move ahead, stumbling blocks turn to stepping stones to a beautiful ministry. Not only are apparent failures rarely the disasters we imagine, they are often not even failures. God’s definition of success may be far more generous than you imagine.
If your life is on ‘hold’, the hands holding you bear love-prints and they’re nestling you close to the Father’s heart.
Glorious things are ahead.
Not to be sold. © Copyright, Grantley Morris, 1985-1996, 2015. For much more by the same author, see www.net-burst.net No part of these writings may be copied without citing this entire paragraph.
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Lorna Couillard-Two Sparrows Ministry