One of the Most Valuable Lessons You’ll Ever Learn About Ministry

this treasure

I will never forget the first Ladies’ Retreat that Camp JIM hosted after our family joined the staff.  It was the first time I had ever helped plan a retreat, and to say I learned a lot would be an understatement!

Our theme that year was “Beauty for All Seasons,” and our speaker, a pastor’s wife, was sharing about how God works in the different seasons of our lives. Little did I know she was in a very difficult season herself, and it was because of this that she unintentionally shared one of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever learned about ministry.

That year was one of the biggest retreats we’ve ever had, and to be honest, I think quite a few of the women were there to check out the new director and size up the direction the ministry might take.  Many seemed guarded, and the mood was pretty serious, though I noticed some “reunions” taking place as old campers were seeing each other for the first time in years. We had a hilarious group of older women sing as a special Saturday event, and their comedic music was the bright spot in the afternoon.  All in all, it was pretty standard, for a ladies’ retreat.

And then, something happened that changed everything.  During our Saturday evening session our speaker got real.  As she talked about the autumn of our lives, the season she was living, she began to share the struggles her family was going through.  They were the kind of struggles that no one wishes to experience.  The kind you don’t get through without faith.  The kind you can’t talk about without sobbing.  The kind that showcases God’s glory because He is right there in the middle of the mess, rolling up His sleeves and working side by side with you–pruning your life and polishing all your rough places.

As she struggled to speak through gutteral tears, every protective wall in the room came down that night,  like Jericho, truth spilling and stories tumbling out as the pretense and fear of being “less than” fell away.  Those women stayed up all night sharing their stories; every woman had one.

Every woman HAS one.

You have a story.

Your story has been instrumental in shaping you, but it doesn’t define you;

it changes you, but it doesn’t make you.

Your story is God’s glory.

 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;  always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”  2 Corinthians 4:7-10

You are an overcomer through Christ.  And the thing is that your story, God’s glory, isn’t meant to be hidden away, but shared because someone else is right now walking a similar path to the one you have already grown familiar.

Have you overcome depression?  Someone else is experiencing despair.

Are you experiencing the freedom of forgiveness?  Someone else is living in shame.

Have you recovered from a financial disaster?  Someone else has lost everything.

Have you survived miscarriage?  Someone else has empty arms.

Was your daughter among the 1 in 3 who is sexually assaulted, and you have walked that path with her?  Someone else’s world just caved in.

Have you forgiven the unforgivable?  Someone else is embittered.

Have you lost a loved one to cancer?  Someone else’s beloved is still in the battle.

Been abandoned?  Broken?

Isn’t it out of our brokenness that God does a new thing?  He said to comfort others with the comfort you have received.  2 Corinthians 1:4

What is your story?

Sharing your story, comforting someone else with the comfort Christ has given you, it reaffirms your victory in Christ.

It softens hearts.

It breaks down walls.

It establishes safe zones.

It declares hope.

It precedes victory.

It cleanses wounds.

Treasure in Jars of Clay.  One of the most valuable lessons you’ll ever learn about ministry?  Be REAL.  TRANSPARENT.  Your story becomes your testimony.  You are not “less than” because of what has happened to you; you are “more than” because of the Christ treasure in you.  Instead of pretense that showcases how great you are, your brokenness allows others see HIM.  And that is what ministry is all about.

 

Photo credit goes to Pixabay.

 

How to Minister to the Lord

Several years ago, a women’s pastor who sometimes spoke at our camp Ladies’ Retreats was in the area and stopped by my home for a brief visit.  When I asked her how she was doing she glowed, explaining that she had just returned from a quiet retreat where she had fasted and prayed, “and,” she said, “just really ministered to the Lord.”

Ministered to the Lord…

I got stuck right there.  I had never heard anyone say that before.  Of course, God ministers to us and we minister to others on His behalf, but to minister to a God who already has everything and doesn’t need anything captured my attention…

earnestly I seek you photo

This week Ella came to me asking, “Mom, was Lazarus good?”

I knew she had just finished her devotions but, not knowing what she was searching out, I let her question settle while saying a prayer for His guidance.

“He was a sinner, just like us,” I ventured.

She was quiet a moment.  “But,” she continued, “he was Jesus’s friend.  Jesus cried when Lazarus died.”

“Yes, he was Jesus’ friend.  When Jesus traveled to his town, he and his sisters gave Him a place to stay.  They provided His meals… I’m sure they laughed together.  They sat at His feet and He taught them.”

I smiled.  There it was, on the tip of my tongue.  “They ministered to the Lord.”

None of us are good.  The Bible tells us that the heart of man is desperately wicked. (Jeremiah 17:9)  Yet, Jesus took our punishment for our sin and gave us His righteousness in order to make us friends of God.  This is the gift of God (Ephesians 2), not a result of anything we can ever do, but God’s grace extended to us.  His Holy Spirit lives with those who are saved.  He our counselor, our comforter, our Friend.  When we choose to sin~to live like we’re still spiritually dead~he is grieved like Jesus was when Lazarus died, but we bless Him when we choose to walk by His Spirit, seeking His will for our lives, and ABIDING in Him (John 15).

John tells us we love God because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)  He is our friend and, like Lazarus, we can minister to Him!

We minister to Him when we remember His greatness,

“Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.”  Psalm 103

when we seek Him,

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”  Psalm 63:1     

when we sing to Him,

“Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth!”  Psalm 96:1

when we praise Him,

“Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good; sing to his name, for it is pleasant!”  Psalm 135:3

when we talk with Him,

“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.” Jeremiah 29:12 (Read here for context.)

when we obey Him,

“Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.'” John 14:23

when we follow His example,
“For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.” John 13:15

 

when we serve others…

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”  Matthew 25:40

We can minister to the Lord.  Today, many of you will be meeting with your local church assembly.  You will hear God’s Word, have opportunity to encourage and help your brothers and sisters, praise God through song… let it not just be an act of going through the motions and checking it off of your to-do list.  Be aware of the attitude you put on. Make it your goal to minister to the Lord!  You also will be blessed when you do.