A yearning for ministry can be tortuously manipulated by Satan. It can frustrate us and leave us feeling painfully unfulfilled. Nonetheless, its existence is yet another proof that God has a ministry lined up for us.
The Lord has written a blank check for his children: ‘Keep asking,a and you shall receive . . .’b That’s his holy vow to you – the unbreakable promise of the unchangeable Lord. Our sole requirement is to keep asking. The only way our Savior could constrain us without desecrating his sacred oath would be by curbing our desires so that we don’t keep asking. The mere existence of a strong desire indicates that its fulfillment is inevitable, if it drives us to persist in relentless faith and prayer.
Our loving Father is not in the business of frustrating his children. He not only delights in granting our hearts’ desires,c he probably gave us those desires in the first place.
Not every whim is from God. (I might not end up a millionaire after all.) However, the longer our lives have been surrendered to God, the greater the certainty that our incessant yearnings are not self-generated, but of divine origin.
As we yield to him, our Maker and Savior molds our passions to fit, with increasing snugness, the ministry we were born for.d And if he has placed the longing within us, he will bring it to fruition. In the words of Paul, ‘God ... works in you, both to will and to work of his good pleasure.’e God activates his work by the detonation of a desire divinely planted within you (a ‘will’) and it culminates in a supernatural empowering to attain that desire (a ‘work’). The Spirit imbeds in your desires his blueprint for your life, then slowly, powerfully builds it into the concrete of your life.
Says John Haggai, ‘If God has put a desire in your heart, accept the presence of the desire as his oath that it can be realized . . .’6
Pure motives – not seeking ministry to gain prestige or an easier life – provide confirmation that God is behind our longings. Many people would be elated if offered a good wage to spend forty hours a week worshipping, praying, enjoying Christian music and receiving Bible teaching. Yet give them an iphone and a trucking job where they can do these things while driving . . . The romance vanishes – along with the queue wanting the job.
Are we itching to serve, only because we have barely scratched the surface in assessing the personal cost?
I refer often in this book to success and fulfillment, not to pander an addiction to smug feelings but because, for genuine Christians, success and fulfillment are inseparably linked with the exaltation of God. They are therefore worth enormous sacrifice.
‘When God uses you,’ warned Bob Mumford, you’ll feel used.’
Jacob labored seven hard years for the woman of his dreams, only to find at the end of his stint that if he still wanted her, as many arduous years of labor lay ahead of him as he thought he faced at the very beginning. Reeling under that sickening blow, he could easily have yielded to despair or fury. But cruelly tricked or not, he reckoned his dream worthy of the cost.f
We should long for a ministry as a woman longs for a child, knowing it will involve anguish and intense commitment as well as joy and satisfaction. If you think Bible heroes had a ball, you are right, but you’ll never win the spelling bee. They had a bawl so often they needed waterproof ink to write the Bible. Remember Jeremiah, the town crier? If he wasn’t filling buckets over his nation’s plight, he was howling over the ministry heaven had landed him with.g If Jeremiah was a real stick-in-the-mud in the bottom of a hole,a Paul – going to sleep a stone’s throw from deathb – had rocks in his head. He made many a hasty exit and some people genuinely missed him. Others were more accurate. From the outset he knew persecution would shadow his ministry.c Tears and trials were his constant companions.d Isaiah, from the moment of his call, knew his generation would reject his message.e Abraham had to endure the agony of almost killing his own flesh and blood. Jeremiah was not allowed a wife, let alone children.f Ezekiel was not permitted to mourn the death of his darling.g Hosea was condemned to heart-break, commanded by heaven to marry an adulteress.h Like Gideon, many faced such danger that it took all they had not to cower in terror. Isaiah had to strip and wander in public with his body exposed year after year.i Many had to suffer not just constant humiliation, but physical torment and a horrible death. Not surprisingly, in the prime of their ministries, suicide seemed attractive to not only Job, but to Moses, Elijah, Jonah and Jeremiah.j Hoping for the milk of human kindness, all they got was stiff cheese. Yet each soldiered on, so proving the purity of their motives.
If their resolve mirrors your urge to serve, you’re on target.
I once heard a beautiful man of God ably expound how love for people must be our motivation for ministry. He was wrong. Though love for others towers above selfish desires, it is still inferior motivation.
How would you like Isaiah’s call?
‘Go, tell this people, Hear indeed, but understand not; and see indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they ... convert and be healed.’k
Love for God must be our obsession.
Additional confirmation of our hopes often comes from people recognizing that God has given us gifts appropriate for what we suspect is our calling. By itself this test is not infallible. We’ll meet people in this book who achieved though no one saw their potential, and we’ll discover that God is not beyond by-passing a talent. Nevertheless, the presence or absence of a gift discernible to other people is often a useful clue.