I remember when I first saved! I had a zeal and enthusiasm that could move mountains! I had come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, and I was on fire for the Lord. I would challenge, debate, and argue with everyone and anyone who would differ even slightly from my newly-found Faith. I had gone from “indifferent agnostic” to “belligerent zealot” basically overnight.
Things were straightforward. Either you were with us, or you were against us. I lost no opportunity, took every bait, and left no stone unturned to let everyone know that Jesus is Lord, that He’s coming back to judge the living and the dead, and one day soon He will rapture His Church. It’s safe to say that my approach created very few converts, meaning none at all. As a consolation prize, though, the Bible teaches I was in good company.
Road to Damascus
Everyone knows about Paul’s “Road to Damascus” story: how Jesus forcibly interrupted Paul’s mission and life and completed the Work all the Scripture he ever learned had started in his life. Paul went from the lead Prosecutor and Persecutor of the Church to the Chief Proponent and Apologist for the Church in one day.
His encounter with the long-awaited Messiah gave his zeal and commitment to the Faith an anchor heavier and more profound than he ever had as a Scribe of the Law. Paul’s conversion had such a deep and complete effect on him that he could not keep himself from sharing it with all of his Jewish brethren, so much so that his ministry had to be put on hold for his safety, and Paul’s first missionary voyage would not take place until 13 years after his Damascus Road experience.
Similarly, in the Old Testament, the period between David’s anointing as the next King and his coronation took approximately 13 years. Thirteen years of dealing with his brothers called him a shepherd boy, thirteen years of escaping Saul’s attempts on his life while not acting on his opportunities to kill Saul. Thirteen years of tending sheep and living in caves while fighting foes on both sides of the battle lines.
Undoubtedly those years were not wasted on either one of them. In those thirteen years, God molded and melded and purified and polished and chipped and rounded and smoothed and sanded them into the vessels of honor He wanted them to be. Neither of them had asked for such a blessing or burden on their lives, but both accepted it, in their heart, as their true purpose and Call on their lives: David would aspire to build the Temple and Paul to preach the Good News to all flesh.
Many times, as Christians, when God “calls us out” of the old way and “into” something new, beautiful, exciting, and scary, we are also overtaken with zeal. We have our own “Road to Damascus” experience, or a man of God speaks Truth and Power into our lives and alters the course of our life.
We tend to run ahead of God and skip the planning and growth stages in this newfound purpose. We go and tell everyone about the new ministry “God gave us,” spend all of our energy on trivialities such as logos and slogans and how to put our name on the ministry and “brand it.”
Our visions of grandeur fill our eyes and minds, and we begin picturing ourselves simulcasting around the world in many languages at the center of a ministry that blesses hundreds of thousands. We exhaust ourselves in the process. We get discouraged when the connections don’t work out. The funding is never enough or, better yet, non-existent.
Our reach is limited, the messages are lackluster, the anointing is lacking, and the ministry won’t grow. The results we expected are light-years away. Dazed and confused, we strain once more, by the force of our own will, to “make it work,” putting undue stress on all the other parts of our lives: we let relationships wither, our work-life suffer, and health deteriorate for the sake of our new purpose. Things get more challenging still:
- The schedule is never proper.
- People disappoint.
- Funding falls through.
- Other items require your time.
Feeling the weight of it all, we fall back on what we knew was true before and preach to ourselves with catchy phrases like “name it and claim it,” “little is much when God is in it,” or more historical like “God wills it!” We convince ourselves and say, “Yes, it hasn’t worked because I have not been committed enough!” We then rededicate ourselves to the Cause, further straining relationships, resources, and time. Still, nothing changes, and our impulsiveness, stubbornness, lack of patience, and lackluster results turn into despair.
Imagine the arrogance of starting a ministry with no preparation, no shaping or molding, and little to no prayer. We often quote David and Paul and Timothy and all the rest thinking that their lives happened at the speed of the text in the Bible.
We don’t picture Paul working as a Tanner dealing with everyday issues: disgruntled customers, taxes, flawed fleeces, and every other mundane issue under the Sun, not to mention his time in the Arabian wilderness! We don’t picture Luke practicing medicine or James carving wood to raise a family and support his aging mother: we don’t even stop and realize that Jesus Himself started His ministry at the age of 30 and that He spent the more significant part of His life-shaping, shaving and carving wood for the family business.
Was he incapable of preaching and teaching and healing as a thirteen-year-old boy or as a twenty-one-year-old man, or any other time before the age of 30? Or did He not tell His mother, “My time has not come” at the wedding in Canaan?
The problem with us humans has always been the same: fickle and weak-minded with no true sense of what vision is and a poor understanding of what God can indeed do when we let Him, no matter how many years you think you’ve wasted chasing your pleasures or how many we have left on Earth! God gives us a ministry, and we think legacy; God provides us with a vision, we think well-being. We never stop and think of the valleys between where we are and where God wants us to reach.
Tired and defeated, we are finally reminded that the roadmap, the vision, the ministry were not our own but God’s. At this point, our internal sermon becomes “God makes all things beautiful in His time!” We start the slow and painstaking process of letting God put all the pieces together, both of our lives and our Calling, remembering that growth, preparation, and prayer are still part of the equation: what a novel concept!
The problem is that, as humans, as Christians, we want the reach of Paul’s ministry without his trials; we want the power of Peter’s ministry without his testing and failures; we want the affluence of David, not his heartbreaks. We want the mountaintop experiences only, forgetting that the growth, the foliage, the green pastures, the still waters, the milk, and the honey are all found in the valleys. In the valleys where sometimes the Sun is either blocked out by the storm clouds, or it’s so strong that it scorches the Earth, leaving nothing but dry bones.
No matter what your ministry is, there is no way you will ever reach it without a triple dose of God’s patient, loving-kindness. He is patient and kind and loving and patient and kind and loving and patient and kind and loving. But, thankfully, God is the God of both the hills and the valleys. Not everyone is called to a total revamping of their lives, not everyone is called thousands of miles away to parts unknown, but everyone is called to share the Gospel message.
The trouble is precisely that: we are touched by the initial zeal of our convergence but have yet to learn how to pray, and hear from and wait on God, thinks that come with a relationship built over time with a heart toward discipleship. Unfortunately, many churches today are too busy making converts and not busy enough making disciples! We prefer quantity of Sunday mornings rather than a handful of Spirit-filled believers thinking that if we don’t have crowds, the Church cannot sustain itself! The Church is not ours, the Church belongs to God, and He can close it or keep it open as He wills!
The Scriptures teach us that many are called, but few are chosen. It is not my intent to discourage anyone from going full-blown, all-out, sold-out for Jesus, but I intend to warn the Body to prayerfully consider the ministry to which you have been called. The Church has had its fair share of well-intentioned Christians who “feel” they are called to a specific ministry or mission field make a mockery of their “calling” and are a stumbling block for those who would otherwise have come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Our admonishment to all Christians is to “mind the gap”! Be aware of the necessary periods necessary and essential between Calling and ministry. Be aware that, if Jesus started His ministry at 30 years old, having complete knowledge of the Word, your ministry cannot and will not be any different: God has his ways of doing things, and He doesn’t need our advice nor our intellect to ensure the fulfillment of his Word; He doesn’t need us, He wants us to participate and be blessed from the furtherance of His Kingdom.
Bondservant to Jesus Christ, Married to Michele, Dad to Madelyn, Claudia, and Joseph and educator by trade, apologist by calling and saved by Grace. Antonio loves to read, write, and discuss all-things-apologetics. He has many passions in life including reaching, teaching, and keeping men for Jesus Christ. Waiting on God’s big reveal: Antonio knows He has something beautiful in mind.