Sometimes I can’t help but look around my little church and think that I’m missing God’s blessing. What I mean by that is this, when I read in the Bible about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, when I read about how God blessed the work of Joseph’s hands, when I see the apostle Paul’s ministry and the increase that the early church experienced, I can’t help but wonder why, despite my best efforts and desire to follow God’s lead, I don’t see him blessing the work of my hands. It’s like a constant uphill battle with little or no reward. I find myself asking God if I’m off track, or if I’m pouring myself out like this for nothing. God is so patient with me and my childish antics. My six-year-old doesn’t like salad. We always give her some, and it’s always the same routine. The instruction is, “eat your salad.” She always comes back with salad on her plate and asks, “How’s this?” Well, she ate a leaf of lettuce, but “eat your salad, dear.” She’ll come back again–maybe she ate another leaf, or maybe she just stirred it around on her plate–but she still has salad on her plate. “How’s this?” and so it continues. This is how I can be with God when it comes to my calling. Maybe you can relate. God called me and ordained me to pastor my church, to preach the word of God faithfully, and to shepherd these people. I don’t see the results I expect so I keep coming back, “Father, is this good?” “How’s this?” expecting something to change. All the while, God is telling me, “The instruction was to shepherd these people. Go back and do so.” We all want to have successful ministry. I don’t mean like some preachers who have tens of thousands attending and twice that watching on TV while living in a fourteen bedroom house with three pools. I mean we simply want to know we are making a difference. We want to see that God is pleased and blessing the work of our hands. We want a Abraham increase, a Joseph influence, or an Acts church display of God’s Spirit. But what if this is what God called us to? What if we are appointed to break our backs laboring in hard rocky soil and never know the far-reaching, eternal impact of our ministry? Obviously, we wouldn’t sign up for such a thing, but what if our calling is like the part of Abraham’s life where he’s waiting for decades before realizing the promise of God, or of David who is living in caves on the run? What if our ministry is like Gideon whose numbers God had to shrink in order to glorify himself through that work, or like seven of the twelve apostles who we never hear a single thing about? Would you still love and obey God with joy and gladness if your ministry is meant to be small and seemingly insignificant? It’s His church and you are His servant. Times are hard and He chose you to lead your flock in this time of drought and famine. The church to which you belong is not a reflection of you. It is a reflection of Christ; at least it had better be. We can only measure our success through our obedience to God, not by outcomes. There is no such thing, in the upside-down and backwards kingdom of God, as unsuccessful ministry. Your ministry is blessed beyond your ability to see it and has farther reaching impact than you will ever know this side of heaven. The question is, “Are you content in Christ? Does he fulfill you, or do you need something other than Christ?” As long as we need numbers, results, and outcomes to fulfill us, then we are still living int he flesh and we will miss the true blessings of our calling. In fact, it may be that, until we die to ourselves, this is what is best for us all. Another thing I’ve noticed in myself, is that I can get so focused on what I feel is missing, or on the “what if,” that I miss “what is.” I want to encourage you to make note of and to celebrate the blessings and victories you do have, no matter how small they may seem to you. Whether it’s a member’s testimony, a visitor (even a one-time visitor), people attending a group or class, a baptism; whatever it is, thank God for that blessing. People under your care are growing, and the kingdom is advancing. God’s work is never done in vain! Moses wandered the wilderness with a whole nation full of people who did little but whine, complain, grumble, and get off track. Was his ministry a failure? He might have thought so at times. Joshua probably thought that marching around a city playing music was no way to win a battle, and maybe felt foolish come day five. You can’t read the New Testament either without understanding Paul’s frustrations in the synagogues, or at Mars Hill. You are blessed by God’s hand. You are called, ordained, anointed, and empowered to minister right where you are. God may call you to move on (maybe even when things are just starting to get good). Your success will be measured by your faithfulness and obedience. Leave your name and the name of your church in the comments below, and I’d be honored to pray for you.
Blessed by His Hand