Most folks, young and old, when they first hear the call to ministry, get excited. The thought that God would use them to affect His loving and life-changing work brings great joy. The wounded will find healing; the dead-in-sin will come to life-in-Christ; the helpless and hopeless will find new meaning and a family of faith to lean on. And God will bring this to pass through His chosen instrument – me! I'm going to make a difference in the world. I'm going to be an agent of spiritual revival. This is awesome!
And then … you meet the people. Yes, they are wounded, but they also wound. And the dead-in-sin often persist in their insensitivity to your service. And the helpless and hopeless have given up a long time ago on what you’re offering them. And they frustrate you. And hurt you. And drive you to the brink of …
Well, like Paul says, “I’ve made a fool of myself, and you drove me to it.” I’ll admit, I Google-mapped the words “brink,” “drink,” and “insanity,” to see if I could actually be driven there. Paul has invested so much in bringing the gospel of love and life to the Corinthians and they are still so unappreciative, skeptical and unruly. What a miserable list of anticipated findings Paul makes. “I fear that [when I arrive] there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorder.” That doesn’t sound like he’s going to visit a church, it sounds like he’s going to check on “The Real Housewives of New Jersey!” Or does it? People are still people twenty centuries later, so you may find all of this in the church you serve.
At times like that, you have to go back to the calling. Not back to the rosey-lensed fantasy; those spectacles have been shattered by another kind of spectacle. You go back to the fact that it was God that tapped you on the shoulder. He’s the One who put Christ in you, for the challenge of befriending the world, for the sake of their souls. Like Paul said, “We have been speaking in the sight of God as those in Christ; and everything we do, dear friends, is for your strengthening.” We must come to grips with the rugged nature of the call - not just to labor for Jesus, but to labor AS Jesus. Can we say about the ornery people before us, ‘So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself for you?’ After all, that IS what Jesus did for us.
Pray: My Jesus, steadfast and unswerving, help me to love the unlovely and the unloving. Only You can make me persevere in a hostile environment. Only You can bring out of me good for evil, blessing for cursing, love for hate. Transform me, even as I plead for You to transform those before me. Yes, You certainly are making me over in Your image.