CHAPTER 3   . . . Continued


Waiting For Your Ministry

The Quest For Fulfillment

Subjective assurance

A yearning for ministry can be tortuously manipulated by Satan. It can frustrate us and leave us feeling painfully unfulfilled. Nonetheless, its existence is yet another proof that God has a ministry lined up for us.

The Lord has written a blank check for his children: ‘Keep asking, (‘ . . . present tense, which indicates continuous, persistent prayer.’) Proof that this is exactly what Jesus meant is found in the context in which it appears in Luke (Luke 11:5-10) and further supported by his parable in Luke 18:1-8.) and you shall receive . . . ’ (Matthew 7:7) That’s his holy vow to you – the unbreakable promise of the unchangeable Lord. Our sole requirement is to keep asking. The only way our Savior could constrain us without desecrating his sacred oath would be by curbing our desires so that we don’t keep asking. The mere existence of a strong desire indicates that its fulfillment is inevitable, if it drives us to persist in relentless faith and prayer.

Our loving Father is not in the business of frustrating his children. He not only delights in granting our hearts’ desires, (Psalm 37:4; 145:19; John 16:24) he probably gave us those desires in the first place.

Not every whim is from God. (I might not end up a millionaire after all.) However, the longer our lives have been surrendered to God, the greater the certainty that our incessant yearnings are not self-generated, but of divine origin.

As we yield to him, our Maker and Savior molds our passions to fit, with increasing snugness, the ministry we were born for. (Compare 1 Kings 8:57-58; Ezra 1:5; 7:27; Psalm 141:4; Proverbs 21:1) And if he has placed the longing within us, he will bring it to fruition. In the words of Paul, ‘God . . .  works in you, both to will and to work of his good pleasure.’ (Philippians 2:13) God activates his work by the detonation of a desire divinely planted within you (a ‘will’) and it culminates in a supernatural empowering to attain that desire (a ‘work’). The Spirit imbeds in your desires his blueprint for your life, and then slowly, powerfully builds it into the concrete of your life.

Says John Haggai, ‘If God has put a desire in your heart, accept the presence of the desire as his oath that it can be realized . . . ’

Pure motives – not seeking ministry to gain prestige or an easier life – provide confirmation that God is behind our longings. Many people would be elated if offered a good wage to spend forty hours a week worshipping, praying, enjoying Christian music and receiving Bible teaching. Yet give them a player and a trucking job where they can do these things while driving . . .  The romance vanishes – along with the queue wanting the job.

Are we itching to serve, only because we have barely scratched the surface in assessing the personal cost?

I refer often in this book to success and fulfillment, not to pander an addiction to smug feelings but because, for genuine Christians, success and fulfillment are inseparably linked with the exaltation of God. They are therefore worth enormous sacrifice.

‘When God uses you,’ warned Bob Mumford, you’ll feel used.’

Jacob labored seven hard years for the woman of his dreams, only to find at the end of his stint that if he still wanted her, as many arduous years of labor lay ahead of him as he thought he faced at the very beginning. Reeling under that sickening blow, he could easily have yielded to despair or fury. But cruelly tricked or not, he reckoned his dream worthy of the cost. (Genesis 29:18-27)

We should long for a ministry as a woman longs for a child, knowing it will involve anguish and intense commitment as well as joy and satisfaction. If you think Bible heroes had a ball, you are right, but you’ll never win the spelling bee. They had a bawl so often they needed waterproof ink to write the Bible. Remember Jeremiah, the town crier? If he wasn’t filling buckets over his nation’s plight, he was howling over the ministry heaven had landed him with. (E.g. Jeremiah 9:1,10; 15:10,15,18; 20:7-10,18) If Jeremiah was a real stick-in-the-mud in the bottom of a hole, (Jeremiah 38:6) Paul – going to sleep a stone’s throw from death (Acts 14:19) – had rocks in his head. He made many a hasty exit and some people genuinely missed him. Others were more accurate. From the outset he knew persecution would shadow his ministry. (Acts 9:15-16) Tears and trials were his constant companions. (Acts 20:19 ff) Isaiah, from the moment of his call, knew his generation would reject his message. (Isaiah 6:9-10) Abraham had to endure the agony of almost killing his own flesh and blood. Jeremiah was not allowed a wife, let alone children. (Jeremiah 16:2) Ezekiel was not permitted to mourn the death of his darling. (Ezekiel 24:16-18) Hosea was condemned to heart-break, commanded by heaven to marry an adulteress. (Hosea 1:2; 3:1-3) Like Gideon, many faced such danger that it took all they had not to cower in terror. Isaiah had to strip and wander in public with his body exposed year after year. (Isaiah 20:2-4) Many had to suffer not just constant humiliation, but physical torment and a horrible death. Not surprisingly, in the prime of their ministries, suicide seemed attractive to not only Job, but to Moses, Elijah, Jonah and Jeremiah. (Job 3; Numbers 11:15; 1 Kings 19:4; Jeremiah 20:7-10,14-18; Jonah 4:8) Hoping for the milk of human kindness, all they got was stiff cheese. Yet each soldiered on, so proving the purity of their motives.

If their resolve mirrors your urge to serve, you’re on target.

I once heard a beautiful man of God ably expound how love for people must be our motivation for ministry. He was wrong. Though love for others towers above selfish desires, it is still inferior motivation.

How would you like Isaiah’s call?

‘Go, tell this people, Hear indeed, but understand not; and see indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they . . .  convert and be healed.’ (Isaiah 6:9-10)

Love for God must be our obsession.

Additional confirmation of our hopes often comes from people recognizing that God has given us gifts appropriate for what we suspect is our calling. By itself this test is not infallible. We’ll meet people in this book who achieved though no one saw their potential, and we’ll discover that God is not beyond by-passing a talent. Nevertheless, the presence or absence of a gift discernible to other people is often a useful clue.

Bringing it together

If you have abandoned control of your life, casting it upon Christ, you are being divinely groomed for missions of eternal significance as Almighty God’s co-worker. The specifics may be hazy, but as you look to God, a future, fulfilling ministry is guaranteed.

‘Yea, and soya milk comes from Chinese cows,’ I almost hear you say. My words are like gems – hard to swallow. The more you need this book the less believable it will seem. Our thoughts have flowed in the one direction for so long that changing them takes enormous commitment. Let’s review the reasons for making bold statements about your future service.

Your Maker will give you a ministry for eight irrefutable reasons:

* His Word declares it. (1 Peter 4:10)

* It is in his best interest. (John 15:8)

* You were created and redeemed for it. (John 15:16, Romans 7:4; Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 2:14) God has staked his Son’s life on your success.

* The church needs it. (1 Corinthians 12:21-26)

* The primary function of his Word and his ministers is to endow you for it. (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Ephesians 4:12)

* He has bound himself to granting your heart’s desire. (Romans 8:32; Psalm 37:4; Matthew 7:11)

* He loves you and longs to bless you in every conceivable way. (1 John 3:16; 4:10; Ephesians 1:3; Romans 8:35-39)

* He has commanded you to minister. (Romans 12:5-8; 1 Peter 4:10)

So powerful are these reasons that any one of them is sufficient to make ministry certain.

Why are you anxious about ministry?

        Consider the vines of the vineyard,
        How they grow;
        They neither toil nor strive,
        Yet, I tell you,
        Even man with all his technology
        Cannot produce fruit like one of these.
        If God so fruits the vine,
        Which today is alive
        And tomorrow is cast into the fire,
        Will he not more surely
        Produce fruit in your life,
        O you of little faith?

        So do not fret, saying:
        ‘How shall I achieve something worthwhile?’
        Or, ‘How shall I leave my mark on this world?’
        For after such fulfillment the heathen crave,
        And your heavenly Father knows your need of it.
        Who among you,
        When your son asks if he can help,
        Would always spurn his offers?
        Or, if he wants to achieve something worthwhile,
        Would you let him waste his life,
        Rather than help him succeed?
        If you then, being evil,
        Know how to love your children,
        How much more shall your Father in heaven
        Give a ministry to those who seek it.

        ‘Abide in Me . . . 
        And you shall bear much fruit . . . 
        And My Father shall be glorified.’ (John 15:5,8)

The exception

I know what you’re thinking. There must be exceptions. All right, have your way. Create in your mind someone incapable of ministry. Make him unable to read, write or speak.

‘What about sign language?’ you ask. Okay, rule that out too. Just to be sure, we’ll imagine he is blind and suffers severe mental retardation. If you insist, we’ll say he’s had these limitations since birth.

You want to pile on even more disabilities? This is ridiculous. How about making him spastic – so handicapped he can’t even wriggle out of bed by himself? Maybe he could use his hands. We had better make him incapable of even holding a spoon.

By now we have surely blocked every possibility. He can’t read, write, talk, sign or see; unable even to think straight or move properly. We have created in our imagination a hideously handicapped person utterly incapable of ministry, right? Hogwash. I’ve been describing Leslie Lemke, a man so powerfully used of God that you have probably heard of him. Steve Bergelin – who has worked with Bob Hope, Robert Schuller, Paul Harvey and many others – claims to have seen no one touch an audience the way Leslie does.

After sixteen years with not a glint of the most rudimentary potential for any ministry, Leslie was suddenly empowered to play the piano. Using fingers incapable of the simplest task, he played intricate pieces like a professional. Later, years before he could speak, he began to sing. He need only hear a piece once before he can reproduce it flawlessly, with skillful embellishments. He’s now world-famous and has been instrumental in leading many to the Lord.

Robert Reed’s speech is slurred. He has twisted hands and useless feet. By himself he cannot bathe, eat, brush teeth, comb his hair or put on his underwear.

He is a missionary in Portugal.

Bob Byers, besides being tormented by total blindness and poor hearing, was so paralyzed that not only was he completely immobilized below the neck, his front teeth had to be extracted to force liquefied food past his locked jaw. He could not read, write, see or move. You could fill a chapter detailing fundamental things this man could not do, but you could fill a book with things this founder of Mission to the Blind Overseas achieved for the glory of God.

Ministry is for everyone. Don’t ever let Satan call you an exception.

A mental asylum inmate grabbed a canvas and painted. In his saner days he had attempted theological studies and missionary work. He apparently failed at both. Added to this was the torment of repeated failures at romantic love. Now he was attempting to paint. He seemed to like the result. But who could appreciate the product of a twisted mind? Can a tortured soul produce beauty?

In 1987 a canvas changed hands. It fetched $US 53.9 million – a world record for any painting. The previous record belonged to another painting by that same impoverished man. A third work of his changed hands for $US 20.2 million.

Obviously, the artist is now famous. But do not let van Gogh’s present-day fame blind you to the fact that those treasured works of art are by a mental patient who died in obscurity; a luckless madman who suicided after living only half his life.

From humanity’s sludge comes the finest gold.

It would take quite a library to detail the achievements of spiritual giants like Catherine Booth, Frances Havergal, Charlotte Elliott, David Livingstone and Amy Carmichael weighed down by chronic health problems; of Christians like Alexander Cruden and William Cowper afflicted by bouts of insanity; and of the legions like Gladys Aylward (It is speculated that Miss Aylward had ‘a profound learning disability’) who with God soared above their intellectual limitations.

Or are you too ordinary? That’s another myth we’ll sink before this book ends.

Every physical and mental barrier to ministry crumbles at the name of Jesus.


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