The Call to Ministry
Hebrews 5:4 says “No man takes this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God” (KJV). No one should even think of entering the ministry unless they are convinced they have been called of God. To enter the ministry without being called by God is to do an injustice to the church, the cause of Christ and one’s self. If you are not absolutely sure of the call of God on your life to full time ministry, the best thing you can do is get a good profession and get behind a particular church or ministry and support it with everything you have.
The ministry can be full of joy and excitement and it can also be very difficult. Only those called of God will survive it and even at that there are those getting out of the ministry at alarming numbers. The ministry should be entered into with great caution. The following are some reasons we should be sure God has called us before entering the ministry, whether it be as a pastor, evangelist, musician, missionary or any other form of ministry or church leadership.
“I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15 NASB).
Greater judgment. The call to the ministry is both an honor (Hebrews 5:4) and a grave responsibility. According to James 3:1 those who have yielded to the call to preach and teach the Word of God will be held to a higher standard of judgment. This is why no one must ever take on this responsibility lightly. We must enter our calling with the understanding that God will hold us accountable for what we preach, teach and do. That is why it is so important we don’t just preach what we hear from another, get our message from a book, or just throw something together. We must “Study to show thyself (ourselves) approved, a workman that needs not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV). We are to equip ourselves through prayer, study (research), and meditation “As good stewards of the manifold grace of God”, that when we speak, we do so “As the oracles (utterances) of God” (1 Peter 4:10-11 KJV).
In our day it is getting increasingly more difficult to minister the clear and unadulterated Word of God. Paul prophetically stated, “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires” (2 Timothy 4:3 NASB). I recently watched a Christian program that was interviewing ministers. There were many who were pastors of large churches saying people simply were not interested in hearing about the judgment of God or anything that was offensive. As a result, they chose to give them what they wanted. I was glad to hear R. C. Sproul say, we must not offend for the sake of offense, but we must also be careful not to take away the offense that is clearly in the Word of God.
Jesus often offended (John 6:60 and 66). This is why Paul charged Timothy and us who are called to preach to, “Preach the word; be instant in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort with all longsuffering (patience) and doctrine.” (2 Timothy 4:2 KJV) Paul also said, “But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men but God, which tries (examines) our hearts”(1 Thessalonians 2:4 KJV). We must be able to stand before God and say the same.
There is not only greater judgment before God but also man. When you accept the call to follow the Lord in full time ministry you will find you are suddenly under man’s magnifying glass and scrutiny. People will criticize, condemn and talk about you for the least little thing. They don’t like this or that; the way you did something or a decision you made. You will have to come to your own convictions and determine not to bend to man’s every whim. Remember, “Not as pleasing men but God which tries (examines) our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:4 KJV). Paul said, “For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10 KJV). This must be our stand and yet with a heart of love for those to whom we minister, “Imparting not the gospel of God only but also our own souls because you (they) are dear unto us” (1 Thessalonians 2:8 KJV).
It is also important that we take great care not to offend if we can keep from it. James wrote, “If any man offend not in word the same is a perfect man” (James 3:2 KJV). We mustn’t be offensive if we can help it. If we offend some one in our congregation and lose them, we have cut off all opportunity to minister into their life. Let’s be careful not to offend unless truth or the vision God has given us is at stake. Our main purpose is first and foremost to please the Lord and then to encourage and grow our people in their faith.
The spiritual battle. We are all in a spiritual battle. The moment we get saved we are in a fight with spiritual wickedness in high places. The Bible says, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12 KJV). When you decide to get involved and let God use you to make an impact for His kingdom, you enter another level of spiritual conflict. When one yields to the call of God on their life to full time ministry, with a passion for doing the will of God at all cost, that is when you begin fighting the battle in the spiritual realm at the highest level. The powers of darkness are upset when you get saved and even more so when you decide to get off the sidelines to let God use you. When you surrender all your life to God’s service in a full time capacity, Satan is really ticked off.
I think of Moses, the moment he decided God was leading him to deliver the children of Israel from the bondage they were under, he immediately came under attack. Paul, shortly after his Damascus Road experience, began proclaiming Christ boldly and the battle started and never quit. Peter was so committed to the cause of Christ he was ready to go to prison and even die for Him (Luke 22:33). Though he fail short of his commitment, I believe he meant what he said and proved it years later by laying down his life for Christ. It was because of his commitment to following and being used of God that Jesus said, “Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat” (Luke 22:31 KJV). If you have committed your life to His service, to doing the will of God for your life at all cost, Satan desires the same for you.
The good news is what Jesus said afterwards, “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not, and when you are converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32 KJV). Let me encourage you. When you dedicate your life to the service of the Master you have the guarantee He is praying for you. “Wither (Where) the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus” (Hebrews 6:20 KJV). “Wherefore He is able also to save (deliver) them to the uttermost (forever and completely) that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25 KJV). “Who is he that condemns, it is Christ that died, yes rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” (Romans 8:34 KJV). He’s praying for you as you fight the battle and you can be sure that His prayers are answered.
So much so that even if you go through some failure as did Peter, you can be sure Jesus’ prayers will see you through it to ultimate victory and He will continue to use you. Get the words of Jesus, “When you are converted (have turned) strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:32b KJV). You see, often we have to go through the battle and even failure before we are adequately equipped to do what Jesus has called us to do. It’s only after we have been schooled in life’s difficulties, by the Holy Spirit, that we are really ready to strengthen our brethren “With the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 KJV).
Disappointment and discouragement. One of the greatest battles those in the ministry fight is disappointment and discouragement. Nearly all God’s prophets and ministers fought with this at times. Elijah said, “Lord they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine alters; and I am left alone, and they seek my life” (Romans 11:3 KJV and 1 Kings 19:10, 14). After a great victory, Elijah fled from Jezebel and laid under a juniper tree and said, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers” (1 Kings 19:4 KJV).
After many battles and set backs on his second missionary journey, Paul fell into some discouragement after arriving at Corinth. Though discouraged, He continued ministering as we also must do. There will be times when you slip into the pit of despair and yet you must keep pressing on regardless of the way you feel. It may be from criticism, things not turning out or coming along as well as you had hoped (unfulfilled vision), personal problems, or failure but in the midst of it all the call of God does not change (Romans 11:29).
The devil’s biggest job is to get us to give up but that is not an option. Jesus said, “No one having put his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62 NKJ). We must keep pressing on toward the purpose for which God has called us and the goal (vision) He has given us (Philippians 3:12-14). Paul told the elders of Ephesus the Holy Spirit testified to him that in every city bonds and afflictions awaited him. After which he said, “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, that I might finish my course (race) with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify of the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). God has a course for you. You must not let anything move, sway or detour you from that course. You must continue pursuing the course and ministry you received from Him.
When at Corinth God brought three things to Paul in order to encourage him and bring him out of his pit:
- Friends (Acts 18:1-3).
- Fruit (Acts 18:8).
- Fresh vision or word from God (Acts 18:9-10 NASB).
I’m sure the friends and fruit helped Paul, but it just didn’t seem to be enough. Sometimes we get so far down that not even great friends and fruitfulness in our ministry can bring us out of it – and God has to intervene. “The lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city” (Acts 18:9-10 NASB).
Though there will be times of discouragement in the ministry, God will do whatever is necessary to keep you on course. It may not be until you are in your night (darkest) hour and nothing seems to help, but you can be sure God will speak to you bringing a word and freshness of vision that only He can bring.
Next article in this series: Ethics in Ministry: The Pastor’s Responsibility to the Church