Over the last 28 years, I have had the privilege of serving the Lord Jesus Christ in vocational ministry. For the first 20 years of my ministry I served in student ministry. I am currently in my 8th year of pastoring. Someone asked me one time, “What’s the difference between student ministry and pastoral ministry?” My answer is always the same: “The only difference that I’ve seen is that adults have more money and insurance. Other than that, people are just people.” In other words, through the years I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly (not necessarily in that order).
Now I have to admit something. In all of these years, even through the bad and the ugly, there is no greater thing for which a man to be a part than that of ministry. I have the opportunity to share Jesus Christ mostly on a daily basis. I get to minister to those who are already part of the Church. I get to study daily the Word of God and bask in what I learn from the Words of Life. I get to go to hospitals and pray for the dying and cry with the living. Ministry has its advantages. But ministry also has its disadvantages.
It seems that over these 28 years of ministry, the church has had a radical shift in the way that ministers are treated. They are no longer treated with the respect they once held. Early in my ministry, when someone asked me what I did for a living, once they found out that I was a minister, they had a way of changing the way they behaved in front of me. Their language changed. Their demeanor changed. Their attitude changed. I would go so far as to say, whether they knew it or not, they were following what the writer of Hebrews says:
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. (Hebrews 13:17)
Nowadays, it seems that no matter what you do to minister to people, there are so many who cause ministry to suffer by the way that they treat their ministers. And they do this sort of thing not realizing how unprofitable it is for them. Don’t misunderstand me with this post. After all, there are plenty of “ministers” who are doing things to cause the ministry to suffer just the same. There is no doubt in my mind that I have caused ministry to suffer at times.
But I have heard of friends of mine who are really going through the storm. They have called on me for advice or for someone to just listen to all that they are going through. Many of them are dealing with people in their congregations that for some reason think that they are in charge of ensuring that the pastor or ministers in their congregation is “humbled.” And they do this under the auspices of spirituality or because they claim to be a “Biblicist.” Some go so far as to jokingly say that they have been sent to stir up things to keep the “man of God” in his place. Why I’ve even heard as of late where even the children of ministers is being attacked because they are not being the example to their own children who are hooligans. Firestorms are raging in the church of Jesus Christ and some even justify this sort of behavior saying that if the devil is attacking that means that God is doing something. Huh?!? What does that even mean? The winds blow here and there and the people seem to go where it blows.
Admittedly, in my 28 years of ministry, I have seen some storms. And I have asked the question, “God, for what reason am I going through this? What have I done to deserve this?” The answer always come to my mind,
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. (James 1:2, 3)
You see, God is the God of the storm. No, it’s not that He is necessarily causing the storm, although there are times that He does (consider that He sent an evil spirit to torment King Saul in 1 Samuel 18:10). Sometimes we cause our own storms. Sometimes others cause our storms. The fact is, God uses whatever storms in our lives so we might consider it all joy. The God of the storm affords us the opportunity to go through these storms knowing that the testing of our faith produces endurance. It is the idea that we can keep going through whatever comes our way knowing that God is helping us to go through the pains, the stains of blood, sweat and tears, and all the while He is helping us to endure more and more.
It never ceases to amaze me when God takes each of us to what we think are our limits and He stretches us even more. Thanks be to the God of the storm…He is worthy of all glory, honor, praise and blessing!