1 Corinthians 15:58
Ministry is hard.
Many times over the past year I have had the opportunity to share my testimony. From growing up, to salvation, to God’s call in my life, to the places God has taken myself and my family—it has all been a blessing, but it has not all been easy. Why? The people. Now before you start thinking I am going to blast people that have been mean or have said rude things, that is not anywhere on my mind for this blog (because people are people, and we are all messed up, emotional heaps of flesh and blood).
When God calls us to something, He gives us all we need to fulfill that calling, and he equips us along the way to work out that calling. Think of it as a toolbox. God adds tools to it with every life experience-
Each mountaintop high, each valley traveled, every success, and every hard lesson learned- all these things are tools placed lovingly in our toolbox by our Father- ready to be used by us to minister to another person. We are eager and excited to use some tools in the box because we can see how they can and will be used- then, there are some that do not make sense and we might not know how they’ll ever be used- but they will. All of those tools will stay in the box forever. Some will be used often and others will be pulled out for specific, difficult jobs, but every single tool in that toolbox will be used at some point because EVERY tool has a specific purpose!
When Paul starts out chapter 15, he starts off strongly encouraging the Corinthians to not forget about their faith, particularly the faith he preached to them. Paul sees that the Corinthians have started substituting their faith in Jesus for faith in other things, and honestly, have gotten distracted. They have lost focus, and he loves them so much that it hurts him to see what they are doing to themselves. So he gets to this part of his letter to remind them of their hope in Christ, and at the end, keep focused on the one who had called them: Jesus. Even when life gets hard, even when death is looming, do not loose focus because they are not living this life out on their own accord. They have a higher purpose, a higher calling; a wild, fun, exciting journey with the creator of the universe. And he says the things he does not to condemn them, but encourage them, because of his deep love for them.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “Don’t take things so personal?” When people say that to you, it is usually because something or someone has hurt you. In most situations, those words are correct- you just need to move on and not take things to heart. But when God calls you to something, specifically ministry, sometimes you cannot help it. Why? Because this is your life- your calling. You wake up everyday and ask God to show you where to move and go and how to get things done. You pray for guidance on how to lead, how to live, and how to love- and how to do it well. And you do this for people. You go into work everyday, not to fix a car or build a house, but to serve people- and if serving people means fixing a car or building a house, well, there are you tube tutorials out there to teach us how to help them get it done! You pour and give and love over and over and over, no reserves, and when something messes up, it hurts, and sometimes does not make a lick of sense.
Then that saying comes around…”don’t take _________ so personal!”
…like you are supposed to move on when someone hurts you. Like it does not matter or like it did not hurt.
I am sorry, but that saying does not fit in MY toolbox.
Because of love. My wife often says jokingly, “church work would be so much easier if it didn’t involve people.” People are hard to serve and love sometimes. We’re messy and moody and needy- but I love them. I LOVE people. I often tell people that I do not have a job at a church, that I have the opportunity to do what I love, day in and day out! And honestly I would not change it. But a lot of times it is hard. It is hard to serve people, and the hardest part of ministry is when the people you pour and love and care for over and over forget about Jesus, then forget about the one who poured Jesus into them. Paul saw it. He lived it and he wrote all about it. He started the church- blood, sweat, tears, and prayers went into building the ministry he started, and the people turned their back on not only on him, but Jesus as well. “Ryan, you are putting a lot of emphasis on Paul instead of putting it all on Jesus.” Well, Paul’s struggles and hardships are a tool that God uses to work on me when I am struggling. It comforts me to know that I’m not alone. It’s a huge thing to surrender everything for the sake of the Call. The many sacrifices, the late night conversations, the time away from home, the countless meetings, laughing/crying/listening/encouraging- these are just a few things Paul gave to the ministries God called him to. And at the end of chapter 15, Paul says to do all this stuff so that you will “know” your labor is not in vain.
Man, I wish I was more like Paul!
For me, that is the hardest part- to “know” that what I am doing makes a difference. When people leave their first love (Jesus). When people slap you in the face. When people act like you have never existed in their lives. I connect with Paul and his relational hardships because, like Paul, I have fully given my life to this ministry calling. I gotta “know.”
Keep on working. Keep on serving. Keep on loving.
It would be easy to say, “Bump this! I’m out- No one deserves to be treated like this. It’s not even worth it.” But oh contraire mon frère, it IS worth it. Like Paul, I can see the potential in a persons life, and will to die trying to pull that out through the help of the Holy Spirit—even through the pain. Even through the hurt.
Keep on serving. Keep on loving.
Now, back to the toolbox.
You see, WE are the toolbox. God puts the tools inside of us to get the job done, and the outside may be dented a bit, rusty in the corners, beaten up and tattered, it still works. And we never get a new toolbox because honestly, this one works great. That is why we do not, “labor in vain,” because God still wants to use this toolbox, no matter how beaten up it/we get. That is why we do not throw in the towel when people kick us, turn their back on us, or proverbially forget about us; we stand firm. And we do this because God is holding the handle of our toolbox (our hand) and ultimately will do the repair work in a persons life. Is it still hard? Yep. Will it still hurt? Absolutely. Is it worth it? Every single day.
Time to get up and go to work.