The challenge of walking with the God who knows me
Names changed throughout except in some cases where the person involved has been or is in ministry.
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. 2 Cor 5:17
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1 Thessalonians 2:4b
“On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.”
One of the great fights of Spiritual ministry is the fight against trying to justify ones’ own existence. Living in a secular world where God is considered irrelevant to most people, this attitude is passed on to me. If God is not important for life, then obviously neither is his servant. When the world sees me as God’s servant then all it can see is some relic from a past age not really suited for contemporary life.
This ‘not fitting in’ has consequences in life. There is a difficulty in terms of feeling useless. What purpose do I fulfil in a world where every ones worth is judged by the work they do. In ministry there is no task that readily fits any of the available pigeon holes of our society. Ministry, though extremely busy, is in many ways more ‘being’ than ‘doing’. Being a friend to people is not really a job title but it seemed that our main task was to love people and share our lives with them. (1 Thessalonians 2:8) Being open enough about who I am that they can see the reality instead of some mask. In that way my life is some kind of example (1 Thessalonians 2:10) that can be really followed. This is all very well, but again it is something that does not work well as a job description. There was also a dimension of encouraging people onwards, to live lives worthy of God. Much time was spent urging people onwards. (1 Thessalonians 2:12) Probably the most active role was as a Bible teacher (1 Thessalonians 2:2). We were concerned to help people discover for themselves the principles of following Jesus. We encouraged students to study the Bible for themselves and then provided a study group where our discoveries could be shared and where we could benefit from the broadening experience of hearing the discoveries of others.
I once went to a seminar on Christian leadership. I imagined that it would contain much about styles of leadership, functions of leaders and things like that. Instead I discovered that it was all about our security in Christ. The wise lady finished off by observing that every problem or conflict in church leadership she had ever encountered had its root in the leaders failing to appreciate their security in Christ. Without that security, we bully people, or we distort the truth or we push people aside, all with the end of providing some sort of identity that is valued by those we depend upon for our position. In the end I know that for me the struggle is to be content with only the praise of God, that I would be able to say with Paul: “We are not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else.” (1 Thessalonians 2:6)
It is wonderful to have realised I do not need to justify my existence. Yet even with this realisation it is a constant struggle of faith: To live as I believe, that Jesus is enough; faith that I don’t need a big following to achieve what Jesus desires of me; faith that in the end the great summary will be Jesus, not what people thought of me; faith that it is Jesus who provides all, not the people I try to impress.