Working for the Heavenly Father bears no resemblance to working for any kind of earthly administrator. When you work for the Father, your family often writes you off as slightly mentally ill for even considering doing the things that you do. Regardless of this, each one of us will have to take up our cross and follow Christ. We will experience at least one thorn in our lives. We will be called to carry a Heaven-sent burden of the eternal love of God for a special group of people while here on the earth.
Matthew 16:24-27 states, “Then Jesus said to His disciple, 'If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of his Father and with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.'”(NKJV)
Taking up our cross to follow Jesus into the ministry is not a suggestion, it is a requirement. It starts with a true salvation experience, which requires us to truly die to ourselves, to our will, to our dreams, and to our personal goals as we begin to seek first the Kingdom of God above all else.
I cannot tell you how many individuals I've known throughout the years who gave up professional careers to obey the calling to become ministers. They were doctors, lawyers, engineers, and even everyday common men — as were the disciples — who were called to lay down their careers to follow Jesus.
Not only must we take up our cross in a general way for our whole lives, but we must also take up our cross on a daily basis, denying ourselves and following Christ. Probably this will short circuit your own personal inner-wiring because, whether you realize it or not, clever marketing and a culture based on secular humanism and self-entitlement philosophies have systematically indoctrinated you throughout your whole life. Because of this, everything within you might scream, “Yes but I want…..!” Meanwhile, that still small voice of the Holy Spirit replies, “Yes but I need you to…”
Unfortunately, even your parents may have raised you to put yourself first, then give from whatever is left! Jesus says, “If you are going to serve me, you have to follow me by denying yourself and taking up your own cross both in regard to your life ambitions and in your everyday choices.” Obeying will be difficult, but we can do all things through Christ, who gives us strength (Philippians 4:13).
Each of us in ministry will experience a thorn in our lives. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul teaches, “And lest I should be exalted above measure, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said unto me ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’”
You see it is a very honorable thing to serve the Living God. However, but we all have a battle of within ourselves. We battle our own tendencies to become prideful about our accomplishments, and as Paul says here, “Lest I should be exalted above measure,” I had to endure being humbled by this thorn!
By nature, people tend to be enamored by leaders. Many people are looking for a superstar or someone they can put up on a pedestal. The truth is, God must allow challenges in our lives to remind both us, and those around us, that we are imperfect humans. Isaiah 42:8a states, “I am the Lord, and that is my name, and my glory I will not give to another.” Since God takes this matter very seriously, He makes sure our callings include a thorn, which ensures He gets the credit for what He does.
As we are to take up our cross and endure a God-permitted thorn, we are also called to carry a burden. Galatians 6:2 instructs, “Carry each others’ burdens, and in this way you fulfill the law of Christ.” God’s love will fill the heart of anyone called by Him with an unexplainable heavenly love. This love will be your personal burden. You will carry this love daily. For pastors, it is a love for your congregation and a burden to see each member grow spiritually. For missionaries, it is a tremendous love for the people of a foreign country. For those who are evangelists, it is to see the masses come to Christ. For those in true prophetic ministry, it is a burden for revival. The burden will be deep in your heart. Even though many around you will not understand your burden, it will strongly affect your life’s choices. It will cause you to put God’s kingdom first in all you do.
These difficulties and pains are just endorsements of the value of the eternal work we are called to. Just how much is one eternal soul worth? In Romans 8:18, Paul said, “For I consider that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.” Any day that your cross seems too heavy, your thorn too painful to bear, and your burden too heavy to carry, remember the hymn lyric that tells us “It will be worth it all when we see Jesus!”
Rev Nolan J Harkness is the President and CEO of Nolan Harkness Evangelistic Ministries Inc. since 1985. He spent most of his adult life working in youth ministry. He also felt the calling of Evangelist/Revivalist and traveled as the door was open holding evangelistic meetings in churches throughout the Northeast. His website is www.verticalsound.org.