This is especially to all of us who have accepted God’s Call; but I believe there are implications for all the Saints, as well.
This morning I realized how much time and attention I’ve needed to give recently to matters affecting my life – in fact my very survival. It occurred to me that every second I must spend worrying about how I’m going to “make it” through the next few days, weeks, months, wastes a whole MINUTE that I should be devoting to Ministry.
Ministry is outward. Our adversary keeps us from ministry by forcing us to turn our attention inward. His strategy is to trick us into being so distracted by our own problems that we can’t pay attention to the work we need to do for God.
The strange thing about what I am about to say is while I was writing the first part of this message – I started because I wanted to send some words of encouragement to a dear friend who was feeling a bit discouraged, today – the Spirit kept whispering the word “martyr” into my spirit. I am not clear on all He wants me to say about this word … but it certainly occurred to me that we who are engaged in ministry on any level often have to sacrifice so much for the Kingdom: I wondered if sometimes some of the things we lack are not by-products of God needing us to focus our attention elsewhere? If so, maybe ministry is a corridor to a sort of martyrdom for many of us.
What is a martyr? It is commonly known that a martyr is somebody who suffers persecution and death for refusing to renounce a belief or cause; but this meaning of the word is more recent. In the original meaning a martus [μάρτυς] conveys a broader meaning, namely to be a witness, to bear witness, i.e. to affirm that one has seen or heard or experienced something, or that he knows it because taught by divine revelation or inspiration. In either event the word conveys the idea of sacrifice, which is why – I think – it comes to mind in this discussion.
All of us who have chosen ministry have either consciously or unconsciously agreed to make huge sacrifices for Christ: time, privacy, adulation and adoration, popularity, even wealth. People who do ministry because it draws attention to themselves are not really doing ministry at all – which is why I am not at all impressed by the burgeoning number of people running around calling themselves “Apostle –this,” or “Evangelist- that” or “Psalmist-theother” -- everybody in the Church now, it seems, has a title in front of their names. But the true ministers of God are identified by what they do, not by what they call themselves; and very often don’t have any kind of title.
And many times they are identified by their suffering.
After all, what is the greatest threat to the kingdom of satan? I would argue that satan is most threatened by a diligent servant of God: the kind of person who most people don’t recognize, because they aren’t trying to draw attention to themselves, and to what they are doing to advance God’s Kingdom – their peers don’ notice them but God does.
Look at Job: satan totally ignored him, until God said: "Have you considered My servant Job …?" (1:8, 2:3) Then, as my sister would say, it was on and poppin’. I reckon that boils from head to toe, all of your children dying, and losing the family farm would paint a clear picture that we are under attack from the Enemy; but I can see satan working against us in more subtle ways as well – especially against someone who would just bunker down harder from a very obvious attack. Instead he hits us in other ways where we are vulnerable: something different for each person: loneliness, depression, debt, homelessness or near-homelessness, sickness, people in the church back-stabbing us – I suspect he even uses the wrongdoings of others in the Body of Christ to get us so focused on that person’s wrong that we can’t pay attention to the work that God needs us to do.
God gave me this message today for anyone “going through” – dealing with something so tedious that it hampers your ability to focus on either your ministry or your ministry gift: be encouraged today, IT’S JUST A DISTRACTON! In Tyler Perry’s movie, “Meet the Browns” there was a woman named Miss Ruby who said something to Brenda that I’d heard hundreds of times before, but it never stuck – but this time it ministered to my spirit when she said “when God lets you go through somethin’ it means you about to get a breakthrough.”
Believe me I know it’s hard to avoid being distracted by the difficulties facing us – took Job an entire 42 chapters before he could finally say, "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You;” and only then could he finally get down to the business of being a blessing to the people around him.
God sent me to you today to give you a message of encouragement: not because I am so profound and wise, but because I am the one “going through” … I am the one needing encouragement; and he knows that as I minister to you I am ministering to myself. His message is simple:
"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." John 16:33