Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Spiritual Battles And Being Like Jesus
Somedays being in ministry does not seem rewarding. Let's admit it; ours is a thankless task. We work with adolescents. They are big jumbled mess of hormones, acne, and emotion. They are too young to fly solo but too old for training wheels. They are desperately trying to find their place in the world.

Fortunately for them God has given them us. We are the beacon of light in the darkness. We are the hope in the struggle. We are the miracle cure to all their problems provided by the almighty creator of the universe! Too bad they don't appreciate us. Too bad they don't realize the immense impact we are having on their lives. Too bad they don't understand that we have chosen to spend extra time with them to teach them and show them the way.
I suppose now would be a good time to turn of my special "saracastic font" and step back into reality.Lest we get puffed up let's remember why we do this job in the first place. 2 Corinthians 10:31 says whatever we do we should be doing it to glorify God. As much as they may help, we are not in this for the accolades involved. We are chosen by God to lead others.

I remember the spiritual warfare retreat I did with one youth group. The two-day adventure was going to be great. We would take a small band of weary kids to an out of the way cabin in the woods and would return them to the city as vibrant vessels of God fit for war. We had large group times planned. We had small groups assigned. We had powerful praise and worship. We had intense role playing where the students would actually battle Satan and his cronies with nothing but prayer and the word of God. The one thing we were not prepared for was the grumbling in the ranks. I had not planned that one student felt forced to go on the trip by his best friend when he would rather be on a date with his latest girlfriend. I had not prepared for the emotional outburst of a senior high student who yelled at me and then took off without telling anyone. I was equally unready for weary adult leaders who just wanted to pack everyone up, go home and resign from our ministry. All these things cycled out of control and I just stood, mouth agape, wondering what had happened to all those great plans we had.

Fortunately, a friend who had come along as a small group leader reminded me that we are always in the midst of spiritual warfare. I was reminded that these events were real life portrayals of the topic for the retreat. Yet, I questioned my value. I questioned my call. I even questioned my leadership abilities. I mean these thankless brats had gotten a two day trip away from home during winter break, five great meals, loving leadership and a sweatshirt to boot. They should be groveling at my feet thanking me for all I had done for them, right?

But suddenly I am reminded of another leader at another time. He came to work with thankless people. He had a small band of soldiers who he taught regularly. There were twelve. The same as the number of students that I had brought on the retreat. Those twelve guys watched Him heal the sick. They watched Him raise the dead. They watched Him feed multitudes with morsels. Still, in the crunch, they were thankless. They wanted to know who He loved most. They wanted to have earthly power. In a phrase, they just didn't "get it". At one point they deserted Him. They denied they ever knew Him. They walked away from all He had taught them.

Still, this leader did not give up. He was in the battle for the long haul. He was willing to trust them with the most important task and message the world has ever known. Physically, He was not there to witness their shining moments. He had returned home. Yet, that ragtag group of thankless men went on to take the time, love, and wisdom invested in them and set the world on fire. Apparently they had been listening. Evidently they took some of the three years of modeling and applied it.

Somedays in ministry I just want to pack my bags and give up. I wonder how often Jesus felt like that. I wonder how many times He grew frustrated with Peter being bullheaded or John and James wanting all the attention. Still, He loved them and continued to serve them even unto death.

There is a lot a minister can learn from the Master's example. Ours may be a thankless task but the eternal rewards of faithfulness is the best thanks we could ever earn.

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