Have You Got What It Takes?

“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ “For many are invited, but few are chosen.” – Matthew 22:11-14 (NIV)

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. – Galatians 6:9 (KJV)

At least once per week, I have a discussion with someone similar to the one found below.

Someone: Greetings, Apostle!
Me: Blessings!
Someone: How are you doing?
Me: I am doing fine, thank you.
Someone: That’s great.
Me: Great!
Someone: Where is your church? And how big is it? And where is it located?
Me: I am an apostle. I do not have a church. I am not a pastor. My ministry is located wherever God sends me.
Someone: Oh. God’s called me to be a (fill in ministry here). I’m in training. God’s given me so many gifts. I know He’s going to use me mightily.
Me: I see. That’s wonderful.
Someone: Do you have any suggestions on how I can get started in ministry?
Me: Go and pray and seek God before you ever tell people you are called. Make sure you are chosen.

Then the conversation gets quiet. They didn’t like that answer. If I am “unfriended” by the next day, I will not be surprised. Every now and then I get a message telling me how “unencouraging” what I said was. Hmmm.

I often feel bad for my lack of enthusiasm when somebody tells me they’ve been called to ministry. I admit that, much of the time, I am less than convinced. I can usually tell by the Spirit when someone is genuinely chosen for God’s ministry. Nobody has to tell me. When people come to me and feel like they have to tell me about it, it raises my eyebrow. Maybe they are just excited. Maybe they are just overly enthusiastic. Maybe they are very open to suggestion, and are filled to the brim with words someone spoke to them out of season, or the wrong way, or maybe…just maybe…they aren’t chosen in the way they think. Maybe there are too many ‘maybes,’ and maybe these past fifteen years or so in ministry have taught me more discernment about people’s claims than I’d like to admit.

What I am often discerning in those who are newly called to ministry is naiveté. People who are often first discerning a call to ministry are taken in by the glitz and glamour of ministry and don’t understand the often hard and trying work that goes on behind it. I think we have the misguided notion today that ministry is what happens in a 30-minute television program. We think ministry is a glamorous lifestyle akin to “Christian Hollywood” where everyone has a make-up crew, a television crew, a full house every time they show up in a city to minister, designer shoes, a personal pilot, and a picture-perfect family life. Everybody wants to minister to millions of people, go all over the world, and be a “household word.” We forget that ministry is seldom what it seems like on a television show. In ministry, sacrifices have to be made; time is pinched; finances are often strained to the penny; tensions run high in households; ministers try to pursue God’s call and balance that fine line between the natural and the spiritual; and life is sometimes just as hard as everyone else’s. Travel is a hassle; television ministry is a hassle; writing is often a hassle; publication is a hassle; people don’t understand what you go through as a person, and often don’t even care; event planning is a hassle; and every level of ministry, especially as it grows, has its own unique complications and challenges.

I’m not going to blame television ministers for these unrealistic concepts, no. I blame the modern-day, fantasy-pursuing church for these concepts. We’re the ones who have glorified the concept of media ministry with no consideration to its extensive expense and intricate level of challenge. As a result, we think ministry is the “godly” avenue to stardom. No matter what we may think about television ministers or their teachings, they all paid a price to be where they are. Nobody came to them and dropped a ministry out of the sky on their heads. Many of them worked for years to be where they are. We can judge them for where they are and judge them for the struggles they go through, or we can realize they are just publically going through what many of us have the grace to go through privately. They have had to sacrifice time, relationships, and other pursuits to be where they are. While we may think their lives are desirable, we aren’t looking deeper than the surface.

I don’t want to hear that this note is “negative.” I don’t want to hear a bunch of pie-in-the-sky replies that just make it sound like I don’t have enough faith. The things that are in ministry are what are and accepting reality is a part of accepting truth. It’s an awesome thing to be trusted by God to carry the Gospel, but there are realities of that call that we too often try to pretend just don’t exist. We act like God is just going to take care of all our ministry issues and problems while we go outside and pick daisies in the field. If we truly are called to do any aspect of ministry that functions internationally, we should pass from the idealistic phase of ministry to a more practical understanding of ministry life. This means that, over time, we come to see God in a practical sense, understanding His system of governing and system of empowerment instead of just treating God like He’s got nothing better to do than rain money out of the sky.

Every minister WILL encounter certain struggles. They are universal signs of opposition to God’s chosen ones and, therefore, will be things that every truly chosen minister will experience. Do we persevere through the difficult times? Do we keep going, faithful to what God has called us to do, or do we shift directions every time it gets too hard? Do we endure, or do we faint? Do we trust God when we don’t see answers in the natural, and maybe don’t even perceive them in the spiritual?

So I ask: do you have what it takes?

Don’t make the mistake of thinking God will NOT ask you to do something you don’t want to do. Usually that thing you just don’t want to do because you don’t want to do it will be the very thing God requires of you. And, for the record, He will require it of you over and over again, in different circumstances, until you reach the point where you can do it without whining or complaining AND you do it and learn the lesson God is teaching you from it.

Do you have what it takes?

Can you obey God, even when it hurts? As we walk in the flesh, the pursuit of the Spirit means we die to the flesh. It doesn’t mean we cease to be human, which means a lot of what we go through will hurt. It will mean we lose friends, family members, yes, even people who were once really important to us. It will mean God will put you in places, situations, and circumstances that may be hard for you as a person because they have a greater purpose. You will outgrow people who meant the world to you and who were once the signposts of faith and truth to you. Why? Because not everyone has the same call on their lives and not everyone is growing as they should be in God. If you find a leader, a friend, a family member, a mentor, etc. who keeps growing in the Spirit, you are very blessed, indeed. If not…and at some point you will encounter someone who’s not…

Do you have what it takes?

Can you follow God, even if it means you don’t get rescued from every single situation you find yourself in that’s difficult or unseemly? Can you deal with the sting of being disliked? Betrayed? Can you deal with being excluded from the group? Can you handle being the subject of gossip?

Do you have what it takes?

Can you deal with the gift of discernment in ministry? I’m not just talking about discerning spirits in situations or for casting out, I’m talking about discernment when dealing with others who claim to be in ministry! I’m talking about walking into a room and knowing what everyone in there is thinking – and still having to hold a respectable composure? Can you handle knowing when you are being lied to – and having to be the only one in that room who knows you’re being lied to? Can you handle having the revelations of God that change relationships, interactions, and yes, even the way God’s Word is delivered in groups? Can you handle obeying God when it means disobeying men?

Do you have what it takes?

Can you handle the sting of being different – and pay the price for doing things God’s way versus doing them the way everyone else does them or the way you think they should be done? Can you discern yourself from God, and refrain from pursuing the things you want versus the things that are God’s will for you? Can you stick to God’s course even when everything about it – finances, circumstances, and peripherals – go against everything that the world tells you SHOULD be when you’re in ministry?

Do you have what it takes?

Can you handle living a family life that is less than stellar? Let’s stop pretending that ministers don’t have family issues. Let’s stop pretending that ministers don’t struggle with their parents, siblings, children, husbands, and often, extended family members. Can you handle the attacks that come from those closest to you, and make the choice to walk away from relationships that keep you from God?

Do you have what it takes?

What will you do when you encounter trials? Can you suffer silently – go over in your corner, talk to a confidant, and walk back out to minister to others? What about when you get battle weary and tired? Does that affect your ministry? Do you have to tell everyone about it?

Do you have what it takes?

There’s a reason the Bible tells us that “Many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14) The Bible indicates many will show up where they shouldn’t, inappropriately presented and unprepared. Many people will look over the gifts they have – or the gifts others tell them they have – and think they are something they are not. Even though they pursue a ministry ambition, it never becomes quite what they hope it will be. If someone isn’t chosen for ministry, we need to encourage them as they have been called, and encourage them not to faint where God has called them. If they don’t have what it takes to be in ministry, that’s because they have what it takes to do something that those of us in ministry can’t do. That’s laudable, empowering, and a true Kingdom vision across the board.

As for those of us who are chosen, many pursue things they shouldn’t, because it gets too hard somewhere along the way and nobody encourages them to continue on in perseverance. We are told to encourage each other…but we need to make sure we are encouraging one another unto obedience. There is a reason the Bible tells us that we are known by our fruit, rather than our gifts. There’s more than one way to “faint” in ministry. We think of “fainting” as giving up all together…but there are many ways that we can “give up” in ministry. We can faint by disobedience, by pursuit of our own convenience and way, by distorting God to others, or just living in a place of denial about the realities God attempts to teach us. If we are to remain in this ministry, we need to have what it takes. We need to encourage each other in knowing that fact and encourage each other to pursue and persevere beyond fairy tale notions about ministry. We need to be there for one another when things are difficult out of love, not just because we think they can better our work. We need to be a hand up to help them have what it takes instead of a permanently dead end.

In ministry, it takes a lot more than a winning smile and a good suit to ‘have what it takes.’ It takes a walk with God that reaches outward in divine outreach to others. It takes a lot of study, work, endurance, and hope, despite discouragement. It means loving our ministry neighbor, even if they advance in ministry faster or differently than we do. Above all, it means we obey God…even when it hurts…even when it means we don’t get what we want…and trusting God with such intensity that even if we are never delivered from our issues, our dislikes, or our struggles…we will still serve God, just the way things are. Every one of God’s people throughout history “went through” because “going through” is a part of being chosen. Jesus didn’t get rescued from the cross. The Apostle Paul didn’t get rescued from having to serve prison time. Moses didn’t get rescued from the Israelites. Being chosen means we pay a persevering price to serve God no matter how hard it gets or how much we don’t want to do some part of it. In persevering, we prove that we are in this to “faint not.” Through perseverance, we prove that God is the Author of this ministry – and that through Him, we have what it takes to handle anything asked of Him to proclaim His Gospel worldwide…the Excellency being of God, and not of us.

“Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not.” – 2 Corinthians 4:1 (KJV)

© 2012 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.

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