As those in various God-given ministries – pastoring and mothering and serving – ministry in all its beautiful shades and textures, we must remember that it is not service that rejuvenates us and keeps us fresh. Or duty. Or even faith. It is not performance, or others’ notice of it.
It is our brush with Jesus, the sudden and surprising encounters that we have in our histories, sticking out like pegs on which we’ve hung our all. He seems to light us up from the inside, deeply, noticeably, authentically.
It is those times we’ve heard Him speak and it is unavoidable and breathtaking. Knowing Him – that is the fountain of youth, the ready resilience, the triumph over evil and sin and death. The power of His resurrection. The willingness to suffer – to deny ourselves and embrace the loss of everything else in order to know Him best. His beauty compels us. His voice our true north.
We get caught up in the sidelines regularly, fighting against distraction, aiming for purposeful living, often weary and confused and sighing, but each of us knows we’d trade every peripheral thing for simply Him. For His true and steady good. His gentleness and strength. His vitality. His willingness to give His life away for people who hated Him.
We hope we’ll feel His presence. Sometimes, when we look around at the chaos and dismay, even the persistent darkness in our own hearts, it seems too good to be true – this hope that we have for His presence. This desire. Sometimes we misplace it. We see it in others’ faces and we miss it. We used to have it. It is a breathtaking thing in another person’s speech, intimacy with Jesus. We still have it sporadically. We want it continuously. We are like Moses, saying “what else would set us apart if not You?” We are like Peter, asking “but where else would we go – only You have the words.” It is a liveliness that keeps us hoping, on the hunt for fullness of joy, for more of what is immeasurable. It keeps us going. There is a hunger, a promise, that lives in our souls, for the righting of every wrong. For the kind of unity that only Jesus can bring. For supernatural love.
And sometimes this hunger turns into striving. Sometimes we forget what it feels like to be inspired like we once were. We grow weary and confused, perishable. Sometimes we lose that focus for a while, but one thing does not change: it was the reason we began, with service and duty and faith. We heard Him speak to us personally, and we glimpsed something of eternity and Heaven and Reality. Something of our destiny. Through a glass darkly, but with vision and power. He played strings in our hearts that only He had access to and it changed our trajectory.
“If you have received a ministry from the Lord Jesus, you will know that the need is never the call: the need is the opportunity. The call is loyalty to the ministry you received with you were in real touch with Him.” -Oswald Chambers
Personal connection with Jesus is the only real indicator of lasting purpose. Continued personal connection with Him is the only way not to burn out. Truly, we would rather be out on the edge with His voice and presence loud and clear, and be full of contagious life, than in the lap of comfort and deaf to His awakenings. We can get lost in the comfort, and the busy, in the mandate of other people’s seasons. We can become Martha and think that if we just prepare another meal…another social media account, another Bible study, another attempt to reach people, another service project.
But no. It is simplicity of seeking Jesus. Of more time spent at His feet, watching. Of quiet and listening and waiting. The more we seek Him, the more we find Him. It is easy not to do, for the clamoring world will tell you you’re wrong to need to get away, get quiet and focused, to meditate and ask and wait and press in and write and pray and sing. To hear. To see. After all, there is much work, much ministry, to be done. But we must learn this. We must seek Him first. This is the door. He is the Way.
Our unavoidable desire for relationship with the living God – and all its counterfeits – reveals our very real need for it. And this quiet pursuit that we must make real space for – in our days – is sometimes a people-lonely place, but it is the lifeblood to hearing, to creativity, to strength, to His presence. And these are the motivators to real service, faith, and ministry. To real help. To be fully alive and used by God, we must belong fully to Him. First.
Guard your relationship with Him above everything else.