What is this thing we do called ministry? For me it was a LIFELONG desire put in me by God to be set aside for service for His wishes and His wishes alone. The blessings of that call are the foundation that He puts in each of us who are called. Whether it be Charles Stanley, Billy Graham, or whoever, the core of the call is the same. It is almost unexplainable at times as day after day God continues to use you in a way that is specific for the talents He has given you combined with a desire to use them for Him. With the Holy Spirit in your life He makes it a very natural, not forced, way of doing His bidding as a minister of the gospel. Since it is a very personal and specific thing for the one being called we cannot explain fully what God is doing when He calls us or how He will use us, but we just learn to trust Him fully. For me the calling was one that is sprinkled with dedicated people who believed in me during my younger years after I accepted Christ. They believed that God wanted to use me in a most exceptional way and shared that with me. At that time I just looked at them with a blank stare, but inside my mind was bubbling over with excitement as to what the God of the universe would want me to do with the life He had given me. During High school my aspirations were centered around music and the many avenues I felt it would give me to follow God’s call on my life. I used my talents, but not really for God, and those years did not fulfill the burning in my heart. I graduated from high school and went to college as a music major and fell into a world of intellectuals trying to tell me how to become a better musician. The training was good, just not great. During those years God pursued me even more and backed me into a corner where I had to make a LIFELONG decision whether to serve Him and no one else or not. The pressure to make that decision almost overwhelmed me and led me straight to the Bible, with a great desire to know God more before making that decision. During this time I got married and started doing what everyone expects a person to do. You know, Job, wife, money, bills, life….But God started fine tuning that life to the point of decision about whether I would serve Him through my entire life or not. I accepted the call for that commitment and gave Him my total life for service. To some it may have seemed like a good ole church boy thing to do, but to those people….they have no clue!!! I was usually thought of by my older siblings, and parents to be immature and flighty, and from my past I can tell you they were probably right. But this was different…. To commit to something openly for LIFE, means I put all of my dreams, and desires, and goals out the door and invite God’s desires for my life to be my new goal. It was a very serious commitment, but I made it. When you make that commitment no one can understand the relationship God establishes with you at that point but you. You try to help others make sense of it, but it just doesn’t happen and the following years of trying are frustrating at best. I think that is why I relate to the struggles of the Apostle Paul and love his letters so much. In 2 Corinthians Paul writes
3 We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.
4 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses;
5 in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger;
6 in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love;
7 in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left;
8 through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors;
9 known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed;
10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing;poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
Everything changed in my life… EVERYTHING… I didn’t have a Damascus road experience, but God did take the scales off my eyes to see the world in a different way. I was no longer desiring for anything but Jesus, and Him alone. The commitment I made to the Gospel Ministry was a HUGE THING and if you don’t believe it….try it. Not just a commitment to your local town where everything is known and well pleasing, like a job. But a commitment to go wherever He calls. God sent me and my family after 6 years in Missouri to California for 4 years, back to Arkansas for 4 years, then on to Missouri for 6 more years and then to Florence, Alabama for 2 years, and then to Tuscaloosa, Alabama for 5 years, and then to Huntsville for 2 years, and then to Wilmington, North Carolina for 3 years, and back to Alexandria, Alabama for 3 years, and now in Sheffield, Alabama for 2 years. We have travelled well over 25,000 miles to follow the call of Jesus and He has not disappointed, even though that is not the point of the whole thing. The point for me is the purity of the call. In verse 6 of the scripture above, Paul shared his heart in what he was doing, and having a pure heart was one of those things. The pure heart of our calling is a huge thing when going through the actual motions of living that calling. In fact, it is what keeps you going. Not purity, like being a good person, or trying to live a holy life, even though those things are vital, but purity in the essence of the call. At your core is your heart pure in following His call? That’s what I believe it requires for each of us who are set aside to follow His call wherever it may take us. I have been misunderstood, misquoted, miswhatevered, and that is all part of the territory, but never misused by God. He has been with me every step of the way and I continue to rely on that fact. Like Paul, I have one thing after the other happen to confuse or restrict me from being all I need to be, but God continues to be faithful. His faithfulness is real, even when I don’t feel it.
So where does this put you? How do you respond to what God is calling you to do? Is your heart pure in your response? If not, back away and get your heart right with God. If it is, then step up and step forward for your marching orders. God can use a pure heart that is intent on following Him and Him alone. You can do it, but your heart must be right and your motives pure. The writer of Hebrews wrote this in Hebrews 13:7 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. God is still in the calling business, so keep your ears open and He may speak to your pure heart and give you the calling you know He has for your life. Whatever that calling may be is not the most important thing, but to have a pure heart in that calling is vital.
After a violent storm one night, a large tree, which over the years had become a stately giant, was found lying across the pathway in a park. Nothing but a splintered stump was left. Closer examination showed that is was rotten at the core because thousands of tiny insects had eaten away at its heart. The weakness of that tree was not brought on by the sudden storm; it began the very moment the first insect nested within its bark. With the Holy Spirit’s help, let’s be very careful to guard our purity.
Whatever heart you have when you make the commitment to follow Christ is a heart that must be protected at all costs. God will put people in your life to encourage and keep that call strong and pure. Honor and cherish those relationships because they will help you through many a struggle. I’m thankful for the people who have encouraged me and caused me to soar in my commitment to God. Thank you to all who have helped protect the purity of my calling to remain that way. Pure!!! I pray God’s richest blessings on you and glory in the love you have shown me through the years.
The Pilgrimage continues….