Many of our hurts and frustrations can be traced to three misconceptions:
1. Unless we have a ministry, we are of little value
2. A fulfilling ministry may forever elude us
3. Only a few types of service are of real worth.
Having exploded the first two myths, it’s time for number three. It has been left until last because it could lull us into mediocrity unless we realize that a craving for a particular ministry is probably of divine origin. We must grasp the new truth without loosening our grip on the others. I don’t want you settling for less than the best. The problem is, worldly views are so bewitching that we may not even recognize the best. After facing this critical issue we will be ready to plunge into another major section of the book: grappling with reasons why ministries get delayed.
Come with me to Rephidim. Join a rabble of run-away slaves trudging through the scorched terrain. The Israelites have just escaped Pharaoh’s sword. Sinai still lies ahead. They are barely organized and not yet hardened to desert conditions. Some are nearing exhaustion. Dazed by arid bleakness, they plod in eerie silence.
Suddenly, from the rear a blood-curdling shriek splits the desert stillness. Still reeling, your ears are hit by an escalating babble of anguished cries, bleating sheep, shouted orders and pounding hooves. Swords glisten through the swirling dust. Arrows darken the skies. Blood stains the ground.
The fierce Amalekites have attacked.
With agonizing slowness, Israel’s fighting men try to regroup. The fate of the nation rests with them. Or so it seems.
An elderly man clambers up a near-by hill, a staff in his hands. Reaching the summit, he holds his staff aloft. You know the story. The key to Israel’s survival was that little old man on the hill, right? Wrong.
The octogenarian quickly tired. The staff began to lower. Immediately, the Amalekites gained the advantage. Israel was staring defeat in the face. Someone hastily found a rock for Moses to sit on and ushered him to it. Instantly, the battle turned. An usher had saved the day.
If that’s the first time God used an usher, he was merely setting a precedent. It’s been repeated times without number.a
Before long, however, Moses’ arms began to tire. The battle had barely started. Israel was doomed. Then someone had a brainwave – hardly einsteinian, but on it hung the new nation’s very existence. Why not support the old man’s arms? This they did. It was they, as much as big-shot Moses and muscle-bound Joshua who saved Israel. An entire nation was indebted to two men helping an old man hold a stick.b
‘Anyone could do that!’ you object. ‘Who’d applaud such a lightweight act?’ How distorted our thinking is. We, not heaven, are the ones who exalt trivia. Do seraphim turn cartwheels when the latest sports sensation kicks or hits a piece of leather? Do angels drool when a shapely distribution of body fat saunters by, or sigh in envy at a billionaire’s greed?
Neither is God awed by the nature of the gift he has given us – it’s his anyway. Whether our ability is rare or common is of no consequence to God’s evaluation of our worth.
With the Almighty pulsing within you, a stunning victory, an earth-shaking sermon, the sweetest music, are no more beyond your grasp than polishing the church floor. All that matters is what particular privilege the Lord gives you. (And all service is a privilege.)
Without God, nothing is significant; with him, nothing is insignificant.a
A Cup of Water?
Now for some free verse – no one would pay for it.
I can’t evangelize or speak;
Can’t even wash people’s feet.
I sing like a sea-sick crow.
When I arrive, people go.
As a shepherd I’d lose the sheep.
When I pray, heaven falls asleep.
No one could be
So useless as me.
I can do nothing at all.
Life for me is so sinister –
(Pardon while I answer this call.)
Yes, Mr. President – er – Prime Minister.
Have you read any more of the Bible?
Yes, I’ll pray for revival.
The prince wants to see me on Sunday,
I could squeeze you in on Monday . . .
What was I saying before that call?
O now I remember it all!
No one could be
So useless as me.
I can do nothing at all.
You’re sure you’re achieving nothing, but I wonder if heaven finds your lamentations a bigger joke than my poetry. There are no angelic chuckles over your pain – heaven weeps – but how laughable is your logic? (Jesus said nothing about having the brains of a mustard seed.) How oblivious are you to your triumphs? There are a thousand important ways of serving besides the few that at present get all the attention.
Take hospitality. Though Scripture exalts this prized ministry, we downgrade it.b It has been both received,c and engaged in, by such glorious beings as angelsd and even Christ himself.e A cup of water offered in love? We might despise it. Heaven doesn’t.f
Of all the people Elijah could have gone to during the famine, he sought the ministry of a hopelessly impoverished widow – and a Gentile one at that. Her ministry of hospitality was so precious to the Lord that he turned it into a spectacular miracle.g
Of course, we’re too spiritual to regard dressmaking as a beautiful ministry. We’re more spiritual than God! Read the touching story of the raising to life of Dorcas.b We are left with the impression that her needlework warmed the heart of God. Sewing can be a chore, a chance to boast, or an opportunity to bless. You know this lady’s choice. The world may miss it, but whenever God sees a twentieth century Dorcas, beauty is in the eye of a needle.
Amid the throng that flocked to Jesus was a select band. Early in Luke’s Gospel we read of them. There was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna and many others, who materially supported Jesus and his disciples.c Luke had already drawn attention to Jesus’ mother, whose incessant labors for her son must have been as immense as those of most of mothers. Their ranks swelled to include Martha, her sister, and probably many more. One of them wove his seamless robe. Another perfumed his feet. Some cooked his meals. Others gave from their purse. Precious ministries. When things got so tough that even Christ’s most loyal followers fell away, the world beheld these women’s glory and the majesty of their seemingly mundane ministry. They were with their Master to the last, comforting and supporting him. They prepared his body and visited his grave; serving when everyone else had given up. No wonder it was to them that the risen Lord first appeared.
Even today there are treasured saints who cook Christ’s meals, wash his clothes and nurse him through sickness. They take the homeless into their homes. They clothe derelicts. They hug AIDS patients. ‘Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it to me.’d
We are forever overlooking the joys of apparently menial tasks. When Jesus turned water into wine, the master of ceremonies was oblivious to the miracle. He didn’t even know it had once been water. ‘But the servants who had drawn the water knew.’e
Heaven is as moved by Miss Nameless cleaning vomit from a drunk, as by Rev. Bigstar preaching the greatest sermon ever heard.
‘How do you do manage to do the work of two men?’ David Livingstone asked C. H. Spurgeon.
‘You have forgotten there are two of us,’ replied the preacher, thinking of his wife, ‘and the one you see the least of often does the most work.’9
This rule extends far beyond the Spurgeons.
I expect the upper echelons of heaven to be dominated by women. Though things are slowly changing, historically it has been women who are the great servers, the kingdom’s unseen, unthanked power. The last shall be first.f