Do you remember the feeling that you experienced when you first heard the call to ministry?
Even now, try to recall the wonder that was overwhelming as you laid down your life for the body of Christ. Can you remember the humility that came rushing in ... or the honor you felt you somehow didn't deserve ... and the pure joy that just flooded your soul for the sake of the call?
"What? God has called me to ministry? God wants to partner with me? I get to partner with God in loving His people?"
And then ... ministry happened.
Perhaps between the time of that first monumental call to ministry and today, when you have found yourself slogging through the swamp of messy ministry, something precious has been stolen from you.
The years of the mundane ... of no growth ... of dealing with difficult people ... of being criticized and wounded ... have snatched something valuable from you.
Those years of frustration may have stolen your wonder. They have traumatized you to the extent that you now suffer from "ministry amnesia." You are unable to remember where the true joy of the ministry is located. It's gone. And you are powerless to do anything about it.
How well I know that feeling! How intimately acquainted I am with the dissatisfaction of giving all that I am and all that I have to the work of the kingdom and then seeing nothing visible change!
I know the maddening frustration that happens when churches or ministries don't grow ... when people leave the church over misunderstandings or disappointments ... and when once again you find yourself being criticized for things that lack eternal substance.
In those moments of human discouragement and of wondering if I have ever made any difference at all in anyone's life, these are the tenets that I maintain in order to encourage myself in the Lord and in ministry:
1. God knows my heart. He knows my weaknesses and my strengths, and yet He calls me still.
2. I have been called to walk by faith and not by sight, even in ministry situations. I must not grade myself based on numbers but upon faithful living and obedience to the call of Christ.
3. I can learn from people, from failures and from criticism. I can humble myself and remind myself to do things differently next time. I can embrace difficult situations as an opportunity for growth in leadership and in service.
4. I must remind myself that people did not call me to the ministry but God was the One who opened the door to this extraordinary challenge of loving and encouraging the body of Christ. God is the One to whom I must answer and He understands my human pain. He cheers me on when I am too weak to place one foot in front of the other. He embraces me when everyone else is critiquing me, and He loves me when others have deserted me.
5. I must not compare myself to others who seem more successful or suited for ministry. Comparison will always steal my joy and rob me of my self-worth.
6. I must spend time daily with the One in whose presence there is always fullness of joy! When people drain me and situations confuse me, I can still go to Jesus and find inexpressible and abundant joy! I must look to Him to be my complete fulfillment regardless of successes or failures. I must keep my eyes on Jesus and not focused on people or events.
For those of you who are weary today, from one soldier to another, let me encourage you to press on. We serve a God who is faithful to complete the work that He has started in you and through you.
"And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not give up" (Gal. 6:9, MEV).
Carol McLeod is an author and popular speaker at women's conferences and retreats, where she teaches the Word of God with great joy and enthusiasm. Carol encourages and empowers women with passionate and practical biblical messages mixed with her own special brand of hope and humor. She has written five books, including No More Ordinary, Holy Estrogen!, The Rooms of a Woman's Heart and Defiant Joy! Her most recent book, Refined: Finding Joy in the Midst of the Fire, was released last August. Her teaching DVD The Rooms of a Woman's Heart won the Telly Award, a prestigious industry award for excellence in religious programming. You can also listen to Carol's "A Jolt of Joy" program daily on the Charisma Podcast Network.
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