Written as a devotion for a gathering of Women’s Ministry leaders from around South Texas, I pray that this is an encouragement to any who are in ministry to look for the ancient paths, the good way; and walk in it…
Last Fall I was having some issues with back pain, so my doctor recommended physical therapy. As I sat there in my first appointment for evaluation, I was overwhelmed with the feeling that I didn’t belong there. I know so many people who have had major accidents—car crashes, falling off a ladder, slipping on ice and breaking an arm—or who have chronic issues—my mother and other beloved women in our church suffer from chronic back pain. These all have earned the right to go to physical therapy. Comparing myself to them, I had convinced myself that I was wasting the therapist’s time by sitting there in her office. She soon put those fears to rest and explained that by coming in when I had, I might be preventing worse issues down the road.
My pain qualified me for physical therapy.
Do you ever feel inadequate to the task of ministry? I do. In fact, the sense of my own inadequacy is so overwhelming at times that I feel like an imposter walking out my calling. But I must not compare myself to others. Doing so will cripple me, tossing me to and fro by the waves of everyone else’s opinions and carried about by everyone else’s methods. I must keep my eyes on my Master who has qualified me, is the ground of my confidence, and has given me the strength to do what He has called me to do:
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. — Eph. 4:11-14
So, what qualifies us for ministry? Coming from a long line of godly family? Growing up in church? Education—possibly a seminary degree? All of these are fine supports to ministry, and a blessing to have. But they are not what qualifies someone for ministry.
[T]hough I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— Philippians 3:4-9
All of Paul’s qualifications, from his impeccable lineage to his superior education, he considered to be rubbish compared to Christ: knowing Christ, following Christ, being found in Christ. But, this is the Apostle Paul.
What about our qualification, then?
Paul shines a spotlight on the origin of qualification for ministry in his letter to the Ephesians, where he tells us that faith is not only a gift of grace, it is a gift with a purpose:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. — Ephesians 2:8-10
We are God’s workmanship, he created us for the good works—the ministries—that he prepared for us beforehand—before we were saved, before we were born, before creation. God prepared these things for us to walk in—ministries for us to do. Good works for us to do. Tailor-made for each of us by the God who saved us. This is what qualifies us for ministry.
Our faith in Christ, “the righteousness from God that depends on faith,” comes from God alone. That is what qualified Paul to preach Christ. His native gifts and his skills honed by his education and experience prior to his conversion gave him the ability to speak as well as he did, but his confidence was not in them. Nor should our confidence—or lack thereof—rest in any natural abilities or blessings of education or experience that we may or may not have. As Paul tells the Corinthian believers:
For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. — 2 Corinthians 4:5-7
And to the believers in Rome:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith… — Romans 1:16-17
When Paul writes that he’s “not ashamed of the gospel,” the word he’s using here doesn’t mean “not embarrassed,” but “not disappointed.” Paul knows that he won’t be disappointed by the gospel because the God behind the gospel is a keeper of Covenant promises, trustworthy, faithful, and true. Paul isn’t trusting himself as the messenger, for he realizes he is merely a “jar of clay,” but he trusts the One who commissioned him to take the message and will supply the power. God had promised that his words would not return void, but would accomplish that for which he had sent them (Isaiah 55:11). This is the God who created the cosmos by the power of his word, and by that very same power has shone in our hearts the gospel of his Son, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
The God who gives us not only the ministry to do, but empowers us by his Holy Spirit to will and to work for his good pleasure (Phil. 3:13), and pledges to complete the good work he is doing in us (Phil. 1:6), is faithful to keep his word. Our confidence is safe when placed in him.
The result? Moving from Paul to Peter—a less-educated man than the Pharisees and scribes, and who was so intimidated and frightened by them that he denied Jesus and fled to save his own skin—Peter gained confidence from what he knew to be true, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, was able to mount a masterful defense of the faith.
Now when they [the council of rulers, elders & scribes with the high priest] saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. — Acts 4:13
We too need to “be with Jesus” if we are going to minister well in the spheres of ministry where God has placed us. We need the strength that we can only derive from him when the demands of ministry, the fear of man, the tyranny of the urgent, and the needs of our families and non-ministry responsibilities mount higher and higher. Peter and the rest of the disciples learned this early in following the Lord after he had sent them out to minister in his name. When they returned they were excited about what they had accomplished in his name and for his kingdom, but they were also weary.
The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” — Mark 6:30-31 (NIV)
Rest in the Lord does indeed give us strength, as Isaiah prophesied:
For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
“In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” — Isaiah 30:15
And this rest for our souls, in the Lord, is found in reminding ourselves—because we need reminding—that we aren’t re-inventing the wheel in our ministries, but we are doing what we do, with quiet trust in the Lord, in order to bring our women to the same ancient path of life to which believers in every age have been called. To Jesus, who IS The Way, The Truth, and The Life.
Thus says the Lord:
“Stand by the roads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls. — Jeremiah 6:16
How do we come away with Jesus to a quiet place to find rest; how do we walk in the good, ancient path of life? We know the answer to this. It’s the very things we counsel other women to do: prayer; time in the word to read, study, and meditate; worship; sitting under the preaching of the word; and simple fellowship with other believers (I say “simple” because I don’t mean another activity for which you need to plan and gather volunteers and resources.)
Fellow weary ministry woman, are you taking your own advice? We need to have our own cups filled by the Lord before we can pour out anything of value to others. This isn’t “self-care,” it’s soul-care. Entrust yourselves to him, dear sister in ministry, for he cares for you.
Dear Father, create in me a yearning for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Help me, for his sake, to count gaining Christ and being found in him as my highest goal. For the sake of your glory, draw me closer into Christ, in quietness and rest, so that when I minister to others it is in your strength and not my own. Give me confidence to speak your words of life, allowing your light to shine through the many cracks in my clay, that by my own inadequacies your surpassing power and glory would testify to the gospel of your Son, pointing not to me, but only and always to him. In the precious, name of Christ I pray, Amen