Most of us think we have to come up with our ministry. We think we have to identify a problem, come up with a solution, and then deliver the solution. We think our clever ideas and our hard work analyzing the world around us will lead us to success. I’ve never seen two worse key components for success when it comes to God’s people: our ideas and our works. And talk about a misdirected focus: analyzing the world around us. But that’s what we do!
We take our passion and the glimpses of vision God gives us, and out of fear we will lose that thing we once saw, we try to implement it ourselves. So we attach to our own idea of what sounds good and then we get the latest books and talks and statistics about that thing and we unveil a ten-point plan for our vision’s success, based on everything but the Word of God and the work He’s doing in our lives. If ministry is in your future, and it’s in everyone’s future, you’ve GOT to get your face out of the latest books and read the oldest book– the Bible.
You want earth-shattering ministries? You‘ve got an earth-shattering God, get to know Him. You want a ministry that transforms lives? You‘ve got a life-transforming God, get to know Him. You want to reach those who have suffered the worst injustices? You‘ve got a Lord who suffered the worst injustice on the cross, and then He went on to be King and save your life and soul– so get to know Him. A ministry without a Savior is just another rehab center, and God isn’t in the business of re-doing anything, He makes all things brand spankin’ new. If you want a redo, go get some self help books. Go get a 10-month diet plan. Go listen to your favorite inspirational speaker. But if you want an entirely new person, a clean, free and better one, then get after Jesus. Get to know Him! If He can conquer death He can conquer your fears about the ministry. If He can conquer the odds of success against His legacy in a world where His message was stomped on yet still spread all over the world with no internet, no news media, no marketing, and still spreads across the earth 2,000 years later and transforms lives and saves lives and makes brand new humans out of used, abused and lost lives, then He is more than able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that you can ask or think in growing and nourishing and prospering your ministry. He can blossom your ministry and open impossible doors for you in His sleep, but He never sleeps– so while you sleep! He’s that good! He is the one you want to study, not the problems of the people you minister to. Study the solution! Get close to it, be best friends with it. Learn how to hear and see the solution, to keep it close to you at all times. God is your answer and He is your solution.
Instead of saying, “I WANT a ministry,” or “WHERE is my ministry?” Start saying, “TODAY is my ministry.”
Remember, the calling on your life is not going to look like the calling on the lives of those you respect. Each calling is as unique as the individual; if you judge your calling by the ministries of others, you’re telling God that human standards are above His standard, which is not true, and you will most likely never lock into your calling because your vision is off on what others are doing or have done, instead of looking dead ahead of YOU and going in THAT direction.
We do not need two ministries doing the exact same thing. We do not need two Christine Caines! We do not need two Beth Moore’s! That would be a waste of human flesh. We’ve already got one– we don’t need another! We need whatever specificity God has on your life to lock into its position in the larger sphere around you, so that there is not a lack where there is supposed to be a fulfillment.
When you move according to your comfort or according to what others have done before you, you can be sure you’re off mark! Because your calling is unique and there is not one like it, it is going to be unfamiliar to you at first. You’re not going to have seen anything like it, heard anything like it, or done anything like it before. Your calling will drive you to Jesus more than it will drive others to Him. You will see more importance on learning to hear His voice than telling others what He says. Your calling will be thoroughly yours to find and uncover; next to Jesus Christ it’s God’s greatest mystery to you. Have courage. Be brave. You will be walking ground no one else has walked, so instead of being self-focused and wondering if you’re doing everything right, look at the ground you’re walking on and glean some lessons to give to others. You’re where you’re supposed to be. Stop thinking that your ministry and the journey with it has anything to do with you. The whole thing couldn’t be any less about you!
Journey: Not a Detour
Even the journey to get where you’re going, is part of your calling. You were called to not just a destiny, but to the ground attached to it. Don’t discount the importance of today– right where you are now– in the making of your destiny. The journey is not an unfortunate accident. The journey is not a detour before the glory. Let me tell you, you’ll miss the glory entirely if you don’t glory in the blessed breathes God’s granting you today right smack in the middle of the road you’re on.
Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades? -Job 38:31
When you remember you exist to influence all people and make a difference for good in this world, your capacity for grace and passion in the day-to-day expands. Focusing on the influence God created you for, makes the cares of today– that you will forget tomorrow anyway– get swallowed in the vortex of the injustices around you in the world that you are called and equipped to stop tolerating. You are created for influence and to function as an agent of light, transforming into good that meant for harm.
Day-to-day events that test your patience, grace, and passion are not mundane or exhaustible moments in your life. You are equipped through Christ to rope in any and every daily circumstance so that you impress passion and unrelenting, unstoppable love upon every effort to squelch it. Evil always gives up before good does. Good outlasts evils. When darkness and light are both present, the darkness in the one retreating, not the light.
My search for solitude started when I was a young girl. My neighbor’s large pine trees provided the perfect escape. Pine needles in enough horizontal layers make a bed. The long, low branches of the old trees create a cavernous dwelling between the sticky branches and green needles. Here in the arms of the pines I spent afternoons napping, dreaming, and managing my pretend home. Many times I would “run away” from home, and I ran with my poorly packed duffel bag to the great pines.
High school taught me to nestle in Barnes & Noble bookstores. Rain, snow, or sun, I left my mother worried at the door in the wake of my determination to get to my place of solitude. I took thunderstorms and snowstorms head on to sit next to the large pane of glass inside the bookstore cafe. I sat reading, writing, and dreaming that one day I might write something that actually mattered.
My four and a half years in undergrad located in west Tennessee taught me to find solitude on the country roads. For hours I’d go driving (until my dad took my gas card away). Windows down, worship music turned up (primarily Phil Wickham), and a clove cigarette crackling at my fingertips. I wrote poetry, music, and stories, trying my hand at each to see where my niche at writing was. Often I parked my SUV somewhere on the brink of a landscape and I’d sit in the back of my vehicle and strum my guitar and sing my heart out to God.
After college my approach for solitude grew cliche. I became part of the majority population that is surrounded by a social life yet existing in an inner solitude characterized by isolation and loneliness. I sought the company of like-minded individuals and young dreamers and thinkers like myself more than I sought my own well being. The idea of solitude frightened me, and I never stopped being in the presence of others in order to avoid myself.
I’m just over a quarter of a century old now. Pine trees don’t appeal to me immediately as a place of comfort to go. Barnes & Noble still charms me, but only occasionally. I no longer have a car so going on long drives isn’t even an option. However, I still have friends… Yet even in that sphere I find myself indifferent. I at least can have solitude again and not fear it as I did in my early twenties. That is wonderful.
Still, peace in the solitude is not the most wonderful. I’ve been blessed to discover that presence in the solitude is the best. God’s presence. His presence transforms solitude into solace.
Often times if a friend or acquaintance or someone I live with is trying to get ahold of me or find me at home, most likely they will find me on the floor in my bedroom.
“What are you doing?” I’ve been asked by curious faces entering my room. A myriad of explanations flow through my mind as I look at them staring at me on the floor:
Talking with my Dad. Worshipping the King. Quietly basking in the glory of God. Imagining I’m kneeling at the feet of Jesus. Talking to God about my brokenness, my hurts, and confusions. Letting go of myself. Confessing. Remembering and laughing with Yahweh. Pleading for an intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit.
I’m never sure who would understand such things if I said them (most of the people I live with that knock on my door don’t believe in Jesus), so I keep my reply Christian cliche, “Oh just praying.”
The truth is, I’m in my new solitude. The presence of God is my new safe place, my new refuge. I crave it; think about getting to it; can hardly wait for it. I say no to other activities so I can get on my floor and feel on my skin the presence of the only One that matters.
The presence of God descends and there is no better feeling place on earth. I am free to rest, and absorb His supernatural healing presence. I am enveloped in an atmosphere flooding with truth evidencing how big and honest and loving and good this God is. The reality of His presence is a confirmation of all I believe about God in the common moments of life when I can’t be on my bedroom floor. Getting on my floor and welcoming the presence of God is like coming home. It never gets old.
My solitude is different than it’s ever been. Mainly because God transformed it to solace by His presence. God loves me too much to let me find a refuge in myself or in isolation. No matter the methods or walls I build around myself to medicate myself, God barrels through them and gives me His presence as the solace I seek.
God is the solace of solitude. I craved to get alone as a young girl because I was looking for something I couldn’t find in anything around me. There is hardly a greater cry for God than that. God found me in my solitude, and He transformed that space into solace.
Hello! I partook in an interesting activity last night. I stood in my favorite section of the bookstore yesterday for about 45 minutes. I stood. Oh wait I forgot– I also looked. I stood and looked.
Occasionally I picked up a book familiar to me and flipped through the pages reading a paragraph here or there. I saw at least five books I intended to buy the preceding six months before last night.
A small tug,
A small twist-
A minor altercation.
“No one will notice this,”
Says a person.
A little lick,
A small taste-
A single piece of indulgence.
“If not, it would be a waste!”
Says a person.
One splash here,
Another dash there-
A sprinkle of the smallest kind.
“It won’t change a thing!”
Says a mind.
“One time won’t hurt!”
Says idle jargon.
Thousands of heads bob up and down as Jesus looks across the hillside at those gathering to hear him teach. Young and old, sick and well, rich and poor. Masses of people followed him from the previous town, and eagerly congregate, anticipating his next teaching.
Jesus in the midst of many, was only truly known by one. His Father, Yahweh. Jesus spoke to the masses and he loved the masses, but his heart knew that only One was fully present with him. His heavenly Father. His real audience was an audience of one.
You and I stand before an audience, our lives being the platform. We speak and do in front of the world… and yet, really we do all things in front of an audience of One: God. The crowd goes home after the gathering; people are absent for the struggle; friends don’t know the suffering. Who really, do we fully live in front of other than God? No one. We live, and there’s an audience of One. Thankfully, God is the one that matters.
Hebrews 11 chronicles feats of faith. Giant steps of normal humans. Hearts of vision larger than eyes of sight. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, and Rahab to name a few of the faith-filled individuals Hebrews recounts. Each person lived in front of the audience of their time and now the audience of the world for ages, and yet, what mattered was how they interacted with their true audience of one, God. The decisions they contemplated (e.g. Abel and the type of sacrifice he would make), their responses to knowledge (e.g. Noah and his divine warning of danger), and their steps (literally) into a new life and land they could not see or comprehend (e.g. Abraham and Sarah) were the pivotal moments in each of their lives, and they didn’t carry such moments out sitting in front of crowds of people. The decisions they made were kneaded within their hearts in the solitude of their tents and the open space of the fields. These witnesses of faith communed with their audience of One. These witnesses of faith each made their life-altering decisions based on their audience of One. Their decisions counted the audience of One as present, and their faith flowed from that. Hebrews 11 says, “he who comes to God must believe that He is…” (11:6, italics added). The faith that pleases God starts by believing He is; He exists; He is present.
Several months ago I stood in my living room and faced the fireplace. My heart churned deeply and my mind felt refreshed by my new beautiful house and the new place of provision God brought me in to. I was finally living a stable life externally, so I zealously figured I’d start manifesting my calling by practicing preaching. My action came from a good heart, although as usual, I was ahead of myself. As I paced throughout my living room “preaching,” imagining a future audience, God reminded me that not only right then, but always, I was first and foremost talking in front of an audience of one–Him. Such a revelation quickly halted my unrestrained zeal and highlighted the minimality of all that I am. I thought, boy, I better know what I’m talking about and I better be saying the right things about God, especially if I’m talking about Him and He is listening to me. Similarily, these witnesses of faith in Hebrews 11 knew before their faith journey began that God was their primary audience. They addressed God in their hearts and worked things out with Him there, and from that moved forward in faith.
Evidence of these giants of the faith quietly making their life-altering decisions in front of their audience of one is in Hebrews 11. “By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised” (11:11). Sarah judged God as faithful. Sarah contemplated what she knew of God before deciding, judging, God was who He said He was and faithful. The Word says Sarah had the faith to receive strength for pregnancy because she judged God. The Hebrew word in this passage for the English word “judged” is hégeomai, meaning “I think; I consider; I am of the opinion of; I esteem.” Sarah thought about the situation before she arrived at her conclusion God was faithful. She weighed the visible reality of her and Abraham’s old age and the invisible miracle they would conceive a child. There was thinking before the faith. The point that’s important, is that she concluded her thinking in the judgement that, yes, God is faithful. Therefore, her faith was birthed and that invisible blossom of faith led to the birth of her son Isaac, a very visible boy. Faith doesn’t mean: No brain. Faith comes after we consider to either believe or not believe God is who He says He is– that He is (11:6)– and we decide: Yes indeed, He is.
Jesus looked at the thousands of bobbing heads on the hillside knowing he really stood in front of an audience of one. Only one truly saw him. Those witnesses we have of faith-filled feats kneaded their minds in with what they knew in their hearts of God, and like Sarah, judged God as the real deal. Thus, her audience of One, has turned into an audience of millions as worlds since have read her story written in the Bible.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather start before an audience of One, than an audience of thousands. We are each constantly before an audience of one. God. May we believe He is there (here) with us, and from that may the promises of heaven be knit in our hearts as we step in faith before the world, and always in front of the One.
I’m not giving up. I won’t be held back by old, deficient ways of thinking. I won’t tolerate comfortable lies. I will walk in righteousness no matter the outcome, because it does my soul good. Your ways are better, and Your ways last. I’m tired of being tired. I’m sick of living with an ache in my chest–so now I get down in the dust and wait for You. I love You. You’re all I want and need.
Your Daughter, from a grateful, surrendered heart,
I think I could write a book by that title.
The story could begin when I was a little girl and ran to my dad’s bedside after waking up from a nightmare. He laid on his back with his eyes still closed and said, “Let’s pray.”
A deep gurgle came out of the darkness where I barely saw the outline of his face.
I urgently whispered as I shook his shoulder. He resumed his words as though no sleep, or snoring, had passed, “God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.”
The first Bible verse I memorized was not John 3:16, it was 2 Timothy 1:7, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” As a little girl I didn’t know what most of the words in that verse meant, but I understood God did not give fear. So that was good news.
Fast forward approximately 15 years and the storyline of my hypothetical book, “No Fear” could instead start when I was a young adult at 24-years-old. I couldn’t run to my daddy anymore. We weren’t living in the same house, the same state, or even on the same piece of land. I moved to an island– little did I know that was symbolic of the breaking away that was about to occur between myself and my roots in fear. Yet, God’s Word is constant and unfailing, and the word of 2 Timothy 1:7 from my dad, stayed with me even though our relationship fell away. But God’s Word did not.
I’m whelmed up in gratitude that God’s Word stayed with me since the time I was that tender, resilient little girl, because as a young adult I surely needed to know that fear did not have the right to authority in my life.
Life stared at me with a decision when I was 24: choose fear or choose love. I chose love.
I recently found a picture of a small child I love. I told a friend that I couldn’t look at the picture of the precious child I love if I had listened to the voice of fear when I was 24. The picture brought tears to my eyes. I suddenly knew my battle with fear as a young adult was all worth it. I chose to say no to fear in order to fully love this little child. Even though loving the child meant losing everything for me, it is for love that I am now free. I would be overwhelmed with guilt to look at the picture should I have chosen fear over the love this child deserved. Fear was my main obstacle in bringing to light the darkness of my past, but I knew I had to in order to love this child and ensure the best possible life for this sweet individual. I sent the picture I found to my friend with the message, “Knowing I loved her instead of fearing for myself made it all worth it–she is worth it. There is soul satisfaction in rejecting fear.”
The Bible says perfect love casts out fear. I understand that now. My situation wasn’t composed of people and circumstances, it was a medley of fear and love. Two tunes weaving throughout time and wondering which I would grab hold of during my moments on this earth. I heard the echoes of the fear in my nightmares as a little girl. I heard the echoes of love in church as a little girl. At 24, the melodies were clamoring for dominance in my life and I was forced to choose. I chose love.
ONLY love provided the supernatural power, persuasion, and passion I needed to overcome fear. ONLY love. I know the fear that sought me out, I felt the fear rise up at me after years of simmering in my heart, I experienced the repercussions fear delighted in battering me with. I knew fear well. I knew that choosing to go against fear unarmed by love was impossible. So I received God’s love for me, and through that love, I was able to love this child to the extent of overcoming. Perfect love truly does cast out fear.
Now that I think about it, the first song/poem I ever wrote I was about 8 or 10 years old. I remember stepping over clothes I’d strewn atop the pastel green carpet of my bedroom floor and suddenly thinking, I have something to say. As clear as a bell I had that thought. I grabbed a piece of paper and pencil, sat down in the middle of my messy floor and without hesitation wrote the following:
The melodies are moving,
One light and one dark,
Pushing you forward,
Invading your heart.
The infamous fork in the road,
Where will you choose to rest your soul?
How can you choose,
Between left and right;
Is there a middle,
An end to this fight?
Then I hear it, sweet, light melody,
Calling my heart’s strings.
I can hear you, I can feel you,
Let me fall back dreaming so I can see you.
No doubt as a little girl, before I hit the double digits, I felt the pull of two forces on my heart. Love and fear.
God’s Word is unchanging. Today my life verse remains 2 Timothy 1:7, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
Praise God, and choose love.