The "Why" of Ministry

A life without love is like a year without summer..png

This morning I received a notification that someone had unsubscribed from my daily blog. This is nothing new. Unfortunately, here lately it seems like I receive three times more unsubscribes than subscribes. The unusual thing was this was someone I know personally, someone I thought enjoyed my daily devotions. Naturally, when I saw the email, my heart sank, and I began to ask a dozen questions. Did I offend her? Did I say something she didn’t agree with? Have my devotions been too whiny or needy? Have they been too predictable or commonplace? Doesn’t she like me anymore?  (Of course, it’s probably none of these things, but you know how the mind is drawn toward the worst case scenario.)

Sometimes, the ministry is difficult. I try to do the right things for the right reasons, but the results are not always what I expect. And in times like these, I have to step back and remind myself of the “why.” Why am I in this ministry? Why do I write? Why do I send out daily devotions? What’s the point? The purpose? Is it so others will like me? Is it to receive compliments or praise? Do I do it to feel better about myself? Why?

On the surface, I do it because I want to encourage others. There is something within me that is compelled to help others, to offer a kind word or a listening ear. There is a drive within me that pushes me to encourage anyone, anytime, anywhere. I guess God made me that way, and as wonderful as that sounds, it’s not enough. Longing to be an encouragement is a great thing, but it’s not the best thing, or you could say it’s only part of the best thing.  If my focus in only on encouraging others, what happens when others aren’t encouraged?  My feelings are hurt. My efforts seem wasted. My ministry seems fruitless. Yes, hanging my hopes on the response of others is a surefire way to disappointment and despair.

If, however, I follow God’s command and write for His glory, I will be much better off. I must do what I do for God, not for others. This ministry is all about Him. Not me, and sorry, but not you. Therefore, I must follow His leading in all things regarding my writing rather than trying to cater to the wants and needs of the people. And, if the people unsubscribe, well, that’s just the way it is. I can’t help that, but neither am I responsible for it. I am accountable to God and God alone, and in any area of ministry, that’s a hard thing to remember.

You are my peeps, my friends, and my faithful readers. I often feel responsible to you. Many of you have shared with me how much you look forward to my daily devotions, and when something comes up, and I can’t post anything that day, I feel like I’ve let you down. I want each of you to know I love and respect you, and I want to be here for you. I want you to feel you can depend on me. But, ultimately, my primary goal is to glorify Christ. So, if I’m running behind and throw something together at the last minute just so I’ll have a post for the day, that’s unacceptable. It’s not fair to you, and it is not glorifying to God because I didn’t give it my best, my all.

I say all of this for a couple of reasons. First off, I hope this post will serve as a reminder to all of you involved in ministry. Your number-one priority is to glorify God. If you do that, everything will work out as it should. Maybe not as you thought it would, but the way it should. We have to stop trying to please everyone and not take it personally when someone we’re trying to help walks away.

My second reason for this post is to say my daily devotions may not be out every day. I certainly intend to try, but with being on the road more and more for deputation, it is getting harder to find the time and energy to put out these daily devotions. And I don’t want to throw things together so that I don’t let you down. I want to glorify Christ in my writing, and if that means that some days I don’t write, then so be it. Doesn’t Ecclesiastes tell us there’s a time for everything? “A time to write and a time to not write” may not be listed in the passage, but the teaching is there.  

I thank all of you who have stuck with me through the thick and thin. Thank you for listening to my rants and hearing my heartfelt cries. Thank you for letting me know how much these daily devotions mean to you. That is an encouragement to my heart.  As I said, by God’s grace, I will be able to continue regular posting, but if a post is missing here or there, know that I was hindered in some way and I’m doing my best to do the right things for the right reasons. Thank you for understanding and for loving me despite my many failings!  Y’all are the best!

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
— I Corinthians 10:31

When You're Tempted to Quit

God has to keep away encouraging results until we learn to trust without them, and then He loves to make His Word read in fact as well as faith.-2.png

There has been a common thread running through my quiet times with the Lord. From sermons, songs, devotions, Bible verses and more, God has been reminding me to keep on keeping on. Don’t quit when things don’t look the way I imagine they should. Don’t give up when I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. Don’t give in when the road is long and hard.

Just this morning, I was reminded of the children of Israel as they marched around the walls of Jericho. Day after day, they followed God’s command, yet to the eyes of Israel, nothing was happening, other than the fact that the inhabitants of Jericho were probably laughing their heads off at the ridiculous “antics” of God’s chosen people. What if the people had given up on the fifth day? What if Joshua—discouraged by a lack of progress and results—decided he had had enough and he would fight the battle his way? Would Jericho have been destroyed?  

I think, too, of Naaman, the leper who sought healing from God’s prophet, Elisha. Despite Naaman’s lousy attitude and resentment over Elisha’s prescribed remedy, the nobleman followed through and began dipping himself in the waters of the Jordan. What if he had stopped after the fourth dunk or even the sixth? What if he had examined his leprous skin each time after immersing himself in the water and determined the process didn't work? What if he stopped obeying because he didn’t see immediate results?

With these thoughts on my mind, I prayed about what the Lord would have me share with you today, and He directed me to this quote I scribbled in my journal several weeks ago. It went so beautifully with everything else God was speaking to my heart I knew I had my topic for today’s devotion.

God has to keep away encouraging results until we learn to trust without them, and then He loves to make His Word real in fact as well as faith.
— A.B. Simpson

Wow! Think about it. Faith is the evidence of things unseen. If we see results, that’s not faith. It’s sight. But the Bible tells us the just shall live by faith. God is working in our lives to help us trust Him whether or not we see results. He encourages us to be faithful even when we don’t understand. It is His will that we keep going despite our progress or lack thereof.  

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve prayed, “God, I would do much better if I knew this was actually working. Let me see something. Shew me some results, some fruit from my labor. Help me to know I’m on the right track here.” Now, I realize how small-minded that prayer is. God sees the bigger picture and has a higher plan in place. Instead of fueling my obedience with visible results, He’s teaching me to trust Him without them. He is increasing my faith (which, ironically, has been near the top of my prayer list for quite some time).

I don’t know what you’re facing today or how weary you are with the journey, but I know this—God has a plan for you. Don’t give up. Keep marching around those walls. Keep dipping in those waters. Or as Dory says, “Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.” Whatever God has called you to do, please don’t let the lack of progress or results keep you from continuing in obedience. God is working even when we can’t see. Trust in that and keep on keeping on!

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
— Galatians 6:9

The Demands of Discipline

DanaRongione.com.png

In my devotion time this morning, I came across an excellent definition of the word "discipline."  According to Charles Swindoll, discipline is "doing what we don't want to do so we can accomplish what we've always wanted."  Sounds about right to me.  After all, it seems that I've had to discipline myself in many areas lately.

One must have discipline to work from home.  Otherwise, nothing would get done.  There are always distractions and other obligations.  There are always excuses for not getting to a particular task.  And while I love to write, there are specific areas (like marketing, formatting, and editing) that are a necessary part of my ministry, yet ones I despise doing.  But if I want to accomplish what I've always wanted, I have to be willing to do some of the things I don't want to do.

I've also called upon discipline in my journey toward better health.  The road has been long and hard and involves many things that I would rather not do.  I don't like to exercise.  I don't enjoy making myself get out of bed at 6:00 in the morning so I can do my three-and-a-half-mile walk.  I don't want to eat a salad instead of a plate of fajita nachos from my favorite Mexican restaurant.  I don't want to drink water instead of soda.  I don't want to do stretches and Pilates and strength training.  But each of these things is necessary if I am ever to accomplish what I've always wanted--optimal health.

Then there's the housework.  Scrubbing bathrooms is no fun at all.  Having to give up some of my precious writing or reading time to do the dishes is misery.  Folding laundry.  Running errands.  Cooking.  Cleaning.  These tasks hold no joy for me at all, yet I know that if I don't discipline myself to do them (and do them regularly), I will never achieve a relaxing and peaceful abode.

Now, we've added into the mix the many tasks involved in getting ready for deputation.  I had no idea how much time and effort were involved before even booking our first meeting.  It's crazy!  The process has required discipline and time management, having to choose what needs to be done over what I want to do.

I guess, in the end, it all boils down to this question:  How badly do I want it?  How badly do you want it?  Whatever it is that you're trying to achieve, do you want it badly enough to implement discipline into your daily routine?  Is your goal desirable enough that you're willing to do the things you don't enjoy to obtain the thing you've always wanted?  It won't be easy, and you may find your discipline wavers from day to day.  But hang tough and be strong.  And imagine the joy that is awaiting you when you finally reach the thing for which you have strived.

He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.
— Proverbs 25:28