- (By CP Cartoonist Rod Anderson)
If you have been given a particular calling and ministry from the Lord, I hope it burns within your soul and provides you with much passion for service everyday. That tends to be the way it plays out for a Spirit-led and Spirit-filled believer who is called and gifted to serve in God's kingdom. But there are plenty of obstacles along the way, as I am sure you have probably already discovered.
For one thing, we easily forget that our "calling" is not our first priority in God's kingdom. While it is very important to the Lord that we do not "neglect our gift" for service, it is even more important to Him that we realize what our first calling entails. You see, before you were called into a ministry, you were called into a family. You were called into a relationship with the King of Kings. And you were called to trust Him, plain and simple.
In our passion and zeal to use the gifts He has given us for service, we can lose sight of the fact that the One who called us into His family is more than capable of working out the details of our secondary calling. Who do we think set it up this way in the first place? God saw us before our parents saw us. He loved us before our parents loved us. And He gave us the free gift of salvation before He gave us gifts for service. It is good for us to remember these things.
There are many stressful matters in life, and that certainly includes the stresses of fulfilling our calling in the Lord's service. All of Christ's disciples go through times of struggle, anxiety and pressure. It is par for the course. And yet, we are constantly compelled to carry out the work He has given us to do. Sometimes, we start to carry more than He wants us to carry. Our first priority is to trust Him, plain and simple. And if I can trust Him for my eternal well-being in paradise, perhaps I can also choose to trust Him for the work He has planned for me to do here on earth.
This brings us to the privilege of prayer. We are invited to bring everything to the Lord in prayer, including the desires of our heart as it relates to serving Him. The more we pray about it, the more God shapes our desires and works out the details in accordance with His will for us. If we stop praying about it, we really begin to carry the work around our neck and upon our heart. It feels heavy on the inside. But the Lord isn't producing the heaviness. We are causing it by the mental pressure we are placing on ourselves.
The Lord has not promised that we won't have heavy issues on the outside, but He has promised to be our peace in all things. (see John 16:33) In other words, God will keep us calm on the inside if we trust Him. The apostle Paul had many struggles outwardly. But what did he say about it? "In all our troubles my joy knows no bounds." (2 Cor. 7:4) Are you kidding me? Seriously? How? Why? Who? I mean what in the world could produce joy for Paul in the midst of such pressure? Here was a guy who had some serious obstacles. (see 2 Cor. 11:23-33) And yet there it was - joy for the journey. An inner peace. And a Christian who never forgot his first calling.
How is it with you my friend? As a pastor for the past 24 years, I have had the opportunity to interact with plenty of God's servants over the years on this issue. It touches all of us who serve in the kingdom. We are tempted over and over again to carry that thing which the Lord has told us He will carry. And we are tempted over and over again to make our secondary calling our primary focus. But it isn't, or at least it doesn't need to be our primary focus. We have a higher calling. Did you catch that? You have a higher calling. God will handle your ministry needs, and details, and logistics. Meanwhile, it's up to you to keep the main thing the main thing.
Memo to you and me as servants in Christ's kingdom: "Your first calling is to trust God." One more time. "Your first calling is to trust God." We need to preach this message to our soul everyday. After all, you and I trusted Him when we entered His family. We placed our faith in Christ to forgive our sins. And now the Lord calls us to trust Him in ministry, even when we are "bursting at the seams" to reach the world for Christ.
We already have a Savior. He did just fine without our assistance. He doesn't need a "co-redeemer" to help Him save our soul or to fulfill our ministry. He will do it, if we trust Him. Just like we trusted Him when we first believed, and everyday since then with the knowledge that heaven is our home.
So what do you say? Shall we give this thing a go? Shall we carry out the ministry He has given us in the same spirit with which we trust Him everyday to forgive our sins? The God who forgives sins is the same God who makes a way for His servants to fulfill their calling. And that includes you if you have been given a calling in the kingdom.
God's job? Provide the fire and the holy love for His children to serve others. Our job? "Don't put out the Spirit's fire." (1 Thess. 5:19) Everything else is just a potential distraction and substitute for your first calling. And those substitutes are not very good at producing peace in the hearts of the Lord's disciples, unless of course they are being carried out in the right order.
Trust God always. And do ministry second. Because if we can't or won't trust God in the ministry, it really isn't going to produce lasting fruit anyway. No wonder this "calling" we have been given is so radically different from the way the world understands "getting work done." Remember - you are serving in Christ's kingdom. Things work differently here.
So hang in there my friend. God isn't through with you yet. And when your work on earth is complete, you will be ushered into paradise where you will never again be tempted to "handle it all by yourself." May the Lord produce His joy and peace in us as we trust Him to do His work through us. And as we stay focused on our first calling.