There have been many days in the last year that I’ve felt wholly unworthy of a ministry. Whether I was scared, confused, offended, hurt, bewildered, or just plain broken, I questioned my value to God’s kingdom. Why have you chosen me for anything, God?More than once I’ve been just a girl, standing in front of my God, asking Him, are you sure? His answers have come through Scripture, through the lyrics of songs, and once – in Israel as I came down the mountain where Jesus delivered His Sermon on the Mount – I felt God reassure me in my spirit that I’m walking in His will. I bawled with relief because I’ve been accosted by doubt, and all too often I’ve wanted to surrender to the struggle instead of believing in my ability to rise above it.
I’ve realized that us humans are quick to doubt – both God and ourselves. We give into the lie that we have nothing to offer. We believe the hype that unless we have it all together, we have no business helping others. We attribute our value to our unobtainable perfection instead of God’s plan for the gospel. And this keeps us from ministering to the broken people all around us just because we’ve fallen to pieces.
The Apostle Paul tells Timothy, Paul’s younger ministry partner who was assigned to the early Ephesian church, to give himself to ministry, to devote himself to sharing the gospel, and especially, to do it in the open so people who follow him might see his progress. The Message paraphrases it like this:Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity. Stay at your post reading Scripture, giving counsel, teaching… The people will all see you mature right before their eyes…Both you and those who hear you will experience salvation(1 Tim. 4:12-16 emphasis mine).
Paul told Timothy to:
- Be an example by his words, his actions, love, faith and integrity.
- Minister out in the open and in front of others so they might watch his transformation.
What can we infer from Paul’s command to Timothy?
- That Timothy, like each of us, had a lot of spiritual maturing to do and that he would, over time, mature and become an effective believer.
- That the people surrounding Timothy were paying very close attention to how he lived his life in service of the Lord.
- That salvation for Timothy was constant, active, as was his responsibility to share the seeds of salvation with others.
Notice, too, what Paul does NOT say to Timothy:
- He doesn’ttell Timothy only perfection is permitted when sharing the gospel.
- He doesn’ttell him to live out his life quietly and to keep the gift of salvation to himself.
- He doesn’tlet Timothy off the hook despite the daily challenges of living in the midst of the super sinful culture of Ephesus (think of the seedy side of Las Vegas on sin steroids).
Timothy, like Paul, was immersed in ministry. But before you come at me with an excuse that YOU’RE not in ministry, let me tell you that ministry is simply serving the Lord, and it’s as essential a part of your life as it is for those people you traditionally associate with ministry – you know, your pastor and all those Christian celebrities you follow on social media.
Your life is a ministry just as it’s a testimony. And just like Timothy, your ministry is not about perfection, but progress. You’ll save more people as you live openly in faith and struggle than you’ll ever save waiting to be perfect. Because perfection isn’t on this side of heaven. It’s a futile endeavor. (I should know. I’m the poster child for failed perfection.)You’ll save more people as you live openly in faith and struggle than you’ll ever save waiting to… Encourage a friend
One of my favorite places to savor in the Bible is 2 Corinthians 4:7-12, written again by Paul (can you tell I have a holy crush on him?). Read it in the NIV when you get a chance, but here’s the Message paraphrase that breaks it down in its simplest form:
If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus’ sake, which makes Jesus’ life all the more evident in us. While we’re going through the worst, you’re getting in on the best!
How amazing is that last line: while we’re going through the worst, you’re getting the best. This is true of each of us. When we’re struggling, at our very worst and wrecked, and we take that and live it out in front of other people –while still holding onto our faith and proclaiming Jesus –those weary souls watching us struggle are receiving the best: they’re receiving a seed of salvation. As we minster in the midst of our struggle, just as Timothy did, grace reaches more and more people, and God waters those seeds and produces an abundant harvest.
Ministry is its simplest form is serving God in front of others, planting seeds of hope in those around us, and allowing God to make those seeds grow (1 Cor. 3:5-9).
Nowhere in Scripture are we told we need to have it all together to serve those around us.Nowhere in Scripture are we told we need to have it all together to serve those around us. Encourage a friend
We just need to pick up what pieces of brokenness we can and love with an open heart even as ours is hurting. Your faith in the dark is a spark as much as it’s a seed. And God can do great things with little. But there’s nothing He can do when you’re waiting in the wings, carrying an obsession with perfection instead of sharing your patient, faithful – and sometimes painful – progress on the stage of this broken world.