Sometimes we convince ourselves to settle right where we are and relax in the ministry we already have: the elderly neighbor, the little ones that call us Mom, the hard-working man we married, the neighborhood children with no one to look after them. That is fulfilling, meaningful servant hood with eternal purpose.
It is also hard. Yes, I said it. Ministry is not always fun. It only rarely brings affirmation and pats on the back. Real ministry isn't really about shaking hands with clamoring fans and receiving awards. Sometimes the thought snakes through my mind, "Is it really worth it?"
My mind has been on Jonah lately. Reticent and rebellious, his ministry didn't get off to a good start. Although he finally obeyed God after a bit of a detour, it really didn't finish well, either. He ended up pouting under a withering plant while revival broke out in Nineveh.
Idealistic visions of cuddling babies and tossing the softball with a teenager turn to sleepless nights and volleying sarcasm. The women's Bible study you begin turns into a study of the lives of others, and the cookies you lovingly baked are returned because they aren't 100% organic. Affirmations become accusations, and your very best appears to be lacking in the opinions of those for whom are spending your life.
I confess I have asked God, "Why?" "Why did you trust me with these kids, these friends, these responsibilities? I'm a total failure at ministering to them and working for You."
That's my Jonah posture. The sniveling, self-centered kind of ministry that is all about me and immediate results. However, I can't expect an eternal and transcendent God to be interested in a microwaveable ministry. He's observing over 6,000 years of history and endless years into the future. When I cry, "Nothing's happening!", He's smiling and saying, "But you don't see what I see."
Though comforting, that thought isn't always enough to make me put on my happy face. The really hard times come. It's my attitude that matters most. Instead of a pouting Jonah, I want to assume the posture of our precious Lord.
What ministry is more fulfilling and meaningful than the Cross? It is, or should be, the essence of all other ministry. Yet, in my mind, I kneel beside Him as He drops sweat tinged with blood. Alone, on the verge of one of the most horrible deaths known to man, with full knowledge of what His suffering would be. He doesn't ask why. He knows why. He only asks, "If it be possible, let this cup pass. But, nevertheless, Thy. Will. Be. Done."
Yes, it's about Him. About His purpose. But my favorite part? The angel.
At the nod of the Omnipotent God, he rushes to His side. Does the angel take away the pain? No, His pain is only just beginning. Does he ease His suffering, whisper encouragement? No, no words are spoken. I'm not even sure that he touched Him. His sole purpose in visiting the Savior of the world on the eve of His death is to give Him strength.
Strength. When my ministry is lagging and I want nothing more than to sit under the plant and scowl at Nineveh, God sends strength. He holds out His Hand and says, "Get up, Child! You are influencing Eternity. Now get back out there because it's not about you."
Ministry. It's a word that has nothing to do with my self-worth. Not even close.