I’ve learned something over the years about ministry: It comes with a price…it just might cost me something.
True ministry isn’t really an easy thing. It can certainly be fun, but it isn’t always. It isn’t glamorous. It’s not about fame. Or fortune. It’s not about advancing a career. It takes work, patience, and determination. I’ll get out of it what I put into it. The blessings are spiritual and the rewards eternal because true ministry is really a labor of love.
The word ministry is actually derived from a Greek word meaning, “a person who serves.” We get our English word “deacon” from it. It’s a service role, but we’re all called to be servants, to be involved in the lives of people…meeting needs, showing kindness……..and loving well. Ministry isn’t just for pastors. We’re all called to be ‘ministers’ right where God places us.
I was watching the farmer plow his tobacco field the other morning across the street from my house. The last of the tobacco leaves were picked last weekend. The sun was rising brightly above the tree line, shooting rays of light across the clay dirt. I heard in my spirit, “the hope of the harvest,” and thought to myself, “What a beautiful picture of ministry!”
The farmer plants thousands of seeds, but he doesn’t get a plant off of every single seed. Still he labors on. He lives off hope. He knows it takes many seeds to produce a harvest. He doesn’t cut corners. He doesn’t count costs. He was born to work the fields. It’s in his blood. He loves it. He can’t imagine doing anything else.
Year after year the farmer plows his fields, preps his soil, plants his seeds, fertilizes and then he waits. He prays to God for rain to water his fields. Sometimes God answers yes. Sometimes, no. Sometimes God says not now because not every year is a profitable year. Yet, the farmer can’t imagine doing anything else. Even after a bad year, he’ll do it all over again the next season. He does it over and over again for the thrill of working the land.
And…because he has hope…because sometimes the harvest is plentiful and when it is, it’s worth all the hard work, all the disappointments, all the heartache.
Ministry is like that. If I minister to others for any other reason than to see God bring forth a harvest of people who love Him and bring Him glory, then maybe I’m not serving for the right reason. I’ve gotta love it, but I’ve gotta love God more because He’s the One for whom I labor. He’s the One who brings forth the harvest. I’m just the farmer, the vessel, and I have to be empty of all self-promotion, personal agendas, and self-gratification.
Yes, sometimes, I’m going to work hard, but I remember my labor isn’t in vain. Sometimes I might be disappointed, but I remember that God is never disappointed in me when I give Him my very best. Sometimes I might have heartache, but I remember that God brings joy out of sorrow. Sometimes I might grow impatient and wonder if I’ll ever see the fruit of my labor, but I remember that God isn’t on my time table. He’ll water what I plant in time. There’s only One Water of Life.
Have you ever seen a farmer come in out of the fields clean and spotless? He’s most likely covered in dirt and sweat. Sometimes ministry means I’m going to get my hands dirty. I might have to dig a little deeper, plow a little farther, and stay on my knees a little longer. I think the most valuable sacrifice made in ministry is time–and prayer. As busy as everyone seems to be these days, time is the thing we all seem to hoard, but it’s what we most need to give away.
Because I’m hearing impaired, I enjoy mentoring, discipling, and teaching Bible study. I haven’t always done it well. I haven’t always had a lot of time to give. I haven’t always been faithful, but I’ve found that I most enjoy spending time with other women one-on-one, whether in my home, over a restaurant table, at the Pregnancy Care Center or on a park bench, pouring over Scripture, holding hands in prayer, sharing a listening ear and most likely a few tears. Time just seems to stand still and I always feel so blessed. It’s true…true ministry isn’t just for the one I’m pouring into. God is pouring into us both. We bless each other.
“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us to do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Galations 6:7-10
Jesus’ whole ministry on this earth was a sacrifice. He gave up all the glory of heaven to live, breathe and walk among us. He labored among us, He taught us, listened to us, prayed with us, ate with us, laughed with us, cried with us, and, above all….He truly loved us. Because He loved His Father.
I’m coming to understand that our lives are meant to be lived as a beautiful offering. There are people in my little part of the world that need to know God cares, God forgives, God heals, God comforts, God gives joy, and best of all…God loves them madly. I can minister in Jesus’ name right where I am. One person at a time. One day at a time. One season at a time.
For the glory of God and…
for the hope of the harvest.