The Quest For Fulfillment
© Copyright, Grantley Morris, 1985-1996.
For much more by the same author, see www.net-burst.net
No part of these writings may be sold, and no part may be copied in whole without citing this entire paragraph.
Chapter 5: Godís Radical Views
Waiting For Your Ministry
The Quest For Fulfillment
It is common in our society to refer to oneís leaders as Ďsuperiorsí.
No wonder we fall for the lie that some vocations are superior.
This delusion has so fogged our thinking that it would seem to
require thousands of words to clear our minds. Yet just one sentence
from Andrew Carnegieís epitaph almost does it. This man started
working for two cents an hour and ended up giving away $365 million.
His leadership ability was the key. Before he died he ensured
his tombstone read:
ĎHere lies one who knew how to gather around him men who were cleverer than himself.í
When referring to the leaders and big names of the Jerusalem church, Paul wrote:
Ď . . . those who seem to be something Ė whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man Ėí (Galatians 2:6, New King James Version)
Let the truth overwhelm you: Paul was writing about the so-called pillars of the church, including Peter, James and John. (Galatians 2:9) He had in mind the most intimate friends of Jesus when divinely moved to declare that God has no favorites.
Try the Amplified Bible:
Ď . . . those who were reputed to be something, though what was their individual position and whether they really were of importance or not makes no difference to me; God is not impressed with the positions that men hold and he is not partial and recognizes no external distinctions.í
One more time, remembering that Paul was referring to apostles ranked with the greatest and most spiritually gifted leaders the church has ever known:
Ď . . . as far as their reputed leaders were concerned (I neither know nor care what their exact position was: God is not impressed with a manís office) . . . í
And what of the great apostle himself? Paul reminded the Corinthians that he preached Jesus as Lord and himself, not merely as Christís servant but as their slave/servant. (2 Corinthians 4:5 Ė note also 1 Corinthians 3:4-7) Burn that into your brain.
Prominence in the church Ė even God-ordained prominence Ė does not imply prominence in the heart of God. Not even apostleship breaks this immutable rule.
Except perhaps for a malfunctioning part of our body, our hair usually receives more attention than any other physical part of us, even though it is the least important. This paradox, insisted Paul, is typical of the way God deliberately arranges honor, prominence and attention among the members of his church. (1 Corinthians 12:23-25)
Leadership is valuable, but there are a multitude of ministries of equal significance.
It is our carnal side that covets leadership. Few of us display the spirit of Francis of Assisi. When his followers had swollen to thousands they began to abandon his principles. He returned from Egypt to find that the men he had left in charge were forbidding the eating of meat and allowing the ownership of goods. His response to those wanting to usurp his authority was to humbly relinquish leadership of the order he had founded. The Friars selected another leader, to whom Francis submitted as a common brother. Even on his death-bed, some eight years later, Francis bowed to his Ďsuperiorísí directive that he stop singing and face death in a more Ďdignifiedí manner.
Centuries later, George Whitefield, declared, ĎI know my place . . . even to be servant of all.í Whitefield was the powerful founder of the Methodist movement. Today he is rarely credited with this honor. To foster love and unity between his followers and Wesleyís he abandoned his leadership rights and turned the entire ministry over to Wesley. To his horrified supporters he said, ĎLet my name be forgotten, let me be trodden under the feet of all men, if Jesus may thereby be glorified . . . í
ĎFame, said Emerson, Ďis proof that people are gullible.í Not the full harvest, perhaps, but those words are heavy with truth.
For instance, few Christians actually write the books they are credited with. Miss Hardwork could write a biography about Dr. Big-un and be the acknowledged author. Instead, Big-un might ask Hardwork to change the pronouns from he/him to I/me and call the book The Big-un Story by Dr. Big-un. It would not be unusual for Hardworkís name to appear no-where in the book, not even in the section where Prof. Swellhead is thanked for scratching his nose and Sister Jane for feeding the cat. And somehow most of the royalties end up in Big-unís bank account. Thatís fair. He has so many more expenses. Simple things like clothing cost a fortune when ten thousand eyes are on you. No one sees Miss Hardwork, so her five-year-old dress and shabby shoes are quite adequate.
Iíll repent of my cynicism by pointing out that many conservative scholars believe the Bible has its share of ghost-writers Ė almost nameless people who, under an apostleís direction and the Spiritís anointing, used their own words to express the apostleís heart. Itís not for us to judge Big-un. But there is a Judge, and in the end everything will pan out. Meanwhile, letís try not to let some people shrink to nothing in our estimation while a few Big-uns fill the entire screen of our mind.
Nicky Cruz kindly insisted that Jamie Buckinghamís name appear on the book Jamie wrote for him. By the time the publisher was finished, the authorís name was not only smaller than Nickyís, but smaller than that of Billy Graham who merely Ďwroteí the foreword. (Actually, the foreword was written by Lee Fisher, Billyís ghost-writer.) Jamie was peeved about that cover until humbled by the realization that Godís name appeared no-where on the cover. After that, he decided to become a holy ghost-writer. His next book was called God Can Do It Again by Kathryn Kuhlman. (I always thought she wrote that.) Jamie had his wish: Godís name was on the cover.
As Jamie discovered, relative to our Savior, we donít get such a raw deal. If torrential rain on foolishly deforested land causes a flood, it is Ďan act of Godí. If the weather is perfect, who needs God? If someone smashes his thumb with a hammer, whose name gets cursed? If the hammer is on target Ė donít talk to me about God, Iíve got work to do.
Another fallacy Iíd like to pulverize is the notion that for a ministry to be important it must touch many lives.
Bible translators Des and Jenny Oatridge were so sure that God cares not just for the thousands but for the ones and twos that they resolved to bypass large language groups that needed the Bible and find a language known only by a tiny minority. They got their wish when they heard of a language on the verge of extinction in Papua New Guinea. It was spoken by just 111 people. To sacrificially spend oneís life for so few would be remarkable if that tiny population were stable, but their numbers were plummeting at a phenomenal rate. Moreover, relative to hundreds of language groups, their need was minor; the tribe already had a strong Christian witness in languages they half knew. Nonetheless, the Oatridges devoted more than a quarter of a century to the herculean task of putting Godís Word into the mother tongue of this dying tribe. The heart of God and the hope that a few primitives might more fully comprehend the Gospel spurred them year after year.
Many of us would feel failures if our sole ministry were to a few retarded people. Yet we would think we had Ďarrivedí if our ministry were to three billionaires. What twisted minds weíve got.
Letís push aside petty human concepts and rise to the challenge of thinking like God.
The Savior shed as much blood for a derelict as he did for the entire world. In the combined angelic and human hosts there might be a trillion objects of Godís love, yet our amazing Lord loves an individual, not with a trillionth of his love, but with all his love. Moreover, his love for that person is infinite. You canít exceed Ďallí, nor can you beat infinity. That makes it impossible for Godís collective love for a million, or a trillion, to exceed his love for one solitary person. Thatís perfect love.
So, as staggering as it seems, if you alone can reach a particular individual, your contribution is as vital to God as that of someone who can reach a million.
Moreover, people who on earth enjoy popularity are already receiving a portion of their reward. Other things being equal, if your labors are unrecognized, you are more blessed than the person made famous by the obvious success of reaching a million. Instead of receiving your reward now, youíre accumulating eternal wealth. Thatís great news because heavenís interest rates are out of this world. (Luke 14:12-14; 12:33; 1 Corinthians 9:18)
Forget the multitudes; you are blessed if, by being true to your call, you touch just one person.
In fact you can do seemingly even less and still accomplish much. Consider Scott and his team, who struggled to the South Pole only to discover their honor of being the first to reach the Pole was lost forever. Amundsen had beaten them by about a month. To add to the futility, they endured further blizzards, illness, frostbite and starvation only to perish; the last three dying just a few kilometers from safety. Yet today their miserable defeat ending with death in frozen isolation, witnessed by not a living soul, is hailed as one on the greatest ever epics of human exploration and endurance.
Every fiber of my being is convinced that their glory is just a shadow of what you can achieve. Though you suffer in isolation and apparent futility, the depths of your trial known to no one on earth, your name could be blazed in heavenís lights, honored forever by heavenís throngs for your epic struggle with illness, bereavement, or whatever. The day is coming when what is endured in secret will be shouted from the housetops. Look at Job: bewildered, maligned, misunderstood; battling not some heroic foe but essentially common things Ė a financial reversal, bereavement, illness; Ė not cheered on by screaming fans, just booed by some one-time friends. If even on this crazy planet Job is honored today, I canít imagine the acclaim awaiting you when all is revealed. Your battle with lifeís miseries can be as daring as Davidís encounter with Goliath. Donít worry that others donít understand this at present. One day they will.
A further reason why some of us undervalue our ministry is because we have not received a call of the thunder and lightning variety. Godís call is his selecting and empowering an individual for a specific task. The response he expects is not necessarily to do anything new. Youíve asked for Godís guidance havenít you? Donít you think God just might be smart enough to have maneuvered events so that your divine assignment is right in front of you? If so, he simply expects you to plunge into what you are already doing. Donít conclude you have a second-rate ministry just because you have no need for angels in luminescent nighties to boom something stirring like, ĎYou should be doing something else, O great and mighty blockhead.í There are Christians like Thomas who believe only because of a divine visitation. Yet, contrary to the way we often feel, Jesus affirmed that the people to be envied are those who believe without such displays. (John 20:29)
So long have I been tinkering with this book that it was years after penning the above that I sank into perhaps the blackest time of my spiritual life. It lasted for over a year and it was largely because I forgot the truth of the above paragraph.
I craved greater intimacy with God and more spiritual power. My one passion Ė my one reason for living Ė was to know Jesus and bring him glory. To allow more time for seeking the Lord I stopped my habitual revising of the book. I knew that my brain needed continual refilling with the words of this book or its truths would slowly seep from my mind, but I hoped the resulting frustration and lowered faith levels would merely intensify my drive to seek God. Heavenís steely silence was devastating. Nearly every day I seemed to slump deeper until I was forced to re-read the book for my own survival. It worked. Meditating on the book revealed that my search for a spiritual breakthrough had degenerated into an excuse for unbelief. I had been edging closer and closer to refusing to believe God has great plans for me or even that he loves me unless he gave me an undeniably supernatural experience on which to hang my faith. How could I be so stupid? (Donít answer that.) I was on dangerous ground. The omnipotent Lord, whose word is impossible to break, has gone to the extreme of putting his promises in writing. How dare I imply that even that is not enough!
Do I need a flock of angels on my roof, or an all-expense paid trip to heaven and back before I will accept that God thinks I am important to him? Christís shed blood proves Godís pledge of total commitment to me. Am I to pronounce that sacrifice inadequate and demand additional proof? Must God send a bolt of spiritual electricity through me before Iíll believe he wants to powerfully use me?
In his grace God might do something extra for me, as he has done for thousands, but to so focus on this possibility as to not believe unless he does it, is the height of impertinence.
If every non-Christian on this planet had amazing (though phony) spiritual encounters and every Christian received divine visitations every day, and I alone in all humanity experienced nothing, it could never diminish the infinitude of Godís devotion to me. If in his wisdom God decides to cut me off from such experiences in order to toughen my faith Ė that essential ingredient of spiritual life, more valuable than earthís treasures Ė it is yet another demonstration of his love.
Faith in the unchangeable character of God is the only bedrock upon which a personís ministry call can be founded. We have no need for God to write in the sky because he has written in a book. And Jesus taught that people who fail to believe the Bible would not believe even if they experienced the ultimate miracle of someone they knew returning from the dead and warning them. (Luke 16:27-31)
I dare not slacken my quest for a deeper spiritual experience. I will welcome any manifestation of the Spirit of God in my life and not proudly assume I donít need it, but if God decides not to use such means to prop up my spiritual life, it merely proves the depth of his confidence in me. He obviously believes I have the grit to tough it out by raw faith.
Our call needs not spectacular confirmation but spectacular commitment.