We’ve had many years of experience in the ministry, both as staff and laypeople. My husband has been an assistant to three pastors, two officially and one unofficially. I have worked as a secretary in three churches and a teacher in two Christian schools. There have been many times where I just needed God to validate what I was doing, for I knew my heart was right, but others around me made me doubt. God has been very good to provide an answer to each situation or question. Often He let me go through the fire with unanswered questions, only to give the answer months or years later. This has strengthened my resolve to submit and trust without knowing why, when or how.
Be sure your life is right before God and that you are in His will. Do not rely on others for validation. Consider all others to be as important in God’s eyes as you are. Put others’ needs above your own. Be kind, loyal, faithful, reliable, patient and usable. Stay in the Word EVERY DAY! My walk with God took a more consistent tone when I was faithfully in His Word daily. Because I listen to the Bible on an MP3 every morning as I get ready for the day, I was able to mark a 5 year period where I didn’t miss one day of being in His Word. You too need to be consistent. Wonderful truths will be revealed to you if you are consistent, but don’t give up if you miss here and there. Just strive to be consistent.
If you are hated by others for your faithfulness in God’s ministry, remember, Paul went thought the same thing: “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16) I am an enemy to no one, but find that I have many enemies – even in the church. I work at putting others’ needs ahead of my own and aim to be a servant to others. Then perhaps I may ascertain that the person who hates me, or sets himself up as my enemy, must hate me because I give out the truth. I do my best to be true and faithful. I cannot be responsible for how others receive my message if my message is also God’s message. If we are on opposite ends and I know I’m on the side where God resides, what does that tell you about those who are my enemy?
Always put your family first in all ministry decisions. We left our first full-time ministry because it was best for our children. Our school had been shut down unexpectedly and we were left out in the cold. We refused to ignore our children’s educational needs in order to continue serving in the church end of the ministry in a full-time position. Though it was a heartbreak, we had to do what was best for our kids. We joined our next full-time ministry only when we knew our children were ready to move on.
When we were offered our positions of assistant-to-the pastor and full-time teacher, we were concerned it would be too hard on our eldest who was a senior the next year in school. We sought God’s direction and He moved our daughter to say to us unexpectedly, “Let’s move here!” We were flabergasted to say the least. When we thought it was time to leave that ministry, again our eldest at the time (different child) asked us to stay so she could graduate from the school in the church where I taught.
Even though Mark’s position had ended, we decided that for the best of all the kids we’d stay another year and a half and I would continue teaching. The Lord impressed on our hearts that even though we were hurt, we still had a job to do. It was the Lord’s voice we wanted to hear as to where and when we served. That was a very tough time, but looking back we are glad we honored her request. As you make your ministry decisions, keep your family as your priority. When times get tough, if you know you have always put your family ahead of ministry, you’ll not have regrets.
It is my hope that what I have learned will help you go through the fire with resolve. Just remember, some things take time. God’s timing is not our timing. Just because it appears God has not dealt with a man or situation doesn’t make it true. Fortunately God is longsuffering toward us and others. But that doesn’t mean He is not in control or is letting something slide. He knows what He’s doing! Too often we jump and make quick decisions because we are hurt, disappointed or offended.
We’ve also seen those in the ministry struggle with things for months and look at it as if it were years they have suffered. This is where I want to say, “Darlin’ if you only knew!” We have literally suffered for years but kept going because we looked around us and saw how others needed us to be strong and not quit. Let me encourage you to stick to it and wait for a clear call from God to come and go. Yet I caution you as well – too often we settle on a decision to go when it’s just our emotions telling us to flee the pain. My first inclination is to quit or run when I have heartache by another’s hand. As our pastor said, don’t make the mistake Saul made when he stepped over the line when he decided to offer a sacrifice in the stead of the prophet. If he’d just waited for God, he wouldn’t have lost it all by disobeying clear cut boundaries. Because Saul bowed to the pressure of man, he disappointed His God. Too often we jump when we should sit, pray, fast, and wait. Waiting is hard for me, especially when God has revealed things to me, I want to go fix everything based on what I know. It’s not in my nature to sit and wait on God! I am thankful for the Word – my supernatural communication with an ever-present and all-knowing God.
Below I have listed a few things I’ve learned along the way. I hope they will be helpful to you.
1. What if things are going on behind the scenes that are not right?
Luke 12:2,3 “For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.”
2. What should I do if people around me, including my authority, chastize me, penalize me, or even fire me for doing what I know God called me to do?
Luke 6:21-23 “Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.”
3. How do we handle the trouble others bring into our lives?
Galatians 6:7-9 “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”
4. Why does it seem that God prospers those who hurt those of us who faithfully serve Him? (Things are not always as they appear.)
Isaiah 54:17 “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.”
5. What is my responsibility toward those in our church who do not “fit the mold” of a typical Christian (talented, lovely, wise, smart, etc.)? Remember, few of us do fit this description. I know for sure that I don’t. You can tell the spiritual temperature of a ministry by the way they treat those who contribute little to the day to day operation of the church.
Matthew 25:35-40 “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
6. Why should I be content to sit idly by while others hurt me? How can God use my pain?
I Peter 4:12-16 “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.”
Philippians 3:8-10 “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know Him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.”
7. Why do people seem to hate me when I’ve done all that I can to serve others?
“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” I John 4:20
8. Is it wrong to be glad God removed you from a hurtful situation? I’m the type of person that doesn’t ever want to quit. I stick with a situation until God makes it impossible for me to be there any more. Faithfulness and loyalty are very important. Each time I’ve had to leave a ministry it’s been through heartache brought on by another person, someone I loved and was loyal to. I believe God uses that to separate my heart so I am more willing to follow His leading away.
I guess God is acting like a surgeon; I know He doesn’t enjoy hurting me but there’s no other way to bring health into my life than to cut out the offending part. The good news is that each time He’s moved me, He’s given me something better and has always healed my heart in the process, bringing me a greater ministry. That is what I hold on to. Yet, I have always allowed God to call me away, not the offending person or situation. That is key. Never have I quit when things got tough, and never have I fled a hurtful situation just to get peace and rest.
Mark 6:11 “And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.”
9. How do I handle another brother coming to me asking me to do something I don’t agree with? This is a hard one because each person is “fully persuaded” as to their opinion and may even have Scripture that they used as a spring board to their decision. Yet, often we see other good, abiding Christians have differing opinions. What should we do? First, we must consider unity in our church.
Psalm 133:1 “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”
Then keep in mind that we don’t have all the answers and all of us need to grow and learn, so perhaps the other brother has been used of God to point something out, or show us another way that is contrary to our own set course. This is hard because it involves our pride – ouch! It is especially hard when we have Scripture to back up our position.
A wise pastor told me that if he was in that situation, he’d aquiesse to that other brother as long as it didn’t violate Scripture. This was a new thought to me because I come from a background that pushed the “pastor on the pedestal” belief. It also brought to me a new respect for that pastor. Wow. A pastor without a huge ego! He said that if we both turn the other cheek, we can’t possibly be fighting because we’d be looking down the road together. Unity is very important to a church – more so than our own desires and opinions. The verses below have taken on a new meaning for me. I had always looked at these verses as what to do when someone hurt me. It never occurred to me that it might be applied to church unity or criticism of my good intentions.
Matthew 5:39 “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
Luke 6:29 “And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also.”
10. How do I make myself continue to love when that love is often disregarded or counted not valuable enough to be considered? It is hard when you love people who do not love you back the same way and with the expected loyalty. I have encountered this in my ministry life as well as family life. Because of our family size and the type of children we’ve parented, we’ve been socked in the heart more times than I can count. Yet I determine to continue loving them wholeheartedly though it IS hard sometimes.
The many ministries we’ve been a part of have caused great distress in our hearts as well, yet I still desire to serve in the ministry even when I’m currently not a full-time staffer. Why? How do I keep from letting bitterness creep in and camping out? Why do I keep going back and trying to love more and determine to be more compassionate? Am I glutton for punishment (sometimes I think so!)
I want my life to be blameless and pleasing to God:
Ephesians 5:2 “And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.”
I am a prisoner of Jesus Christ – if I truly want what He wants, His love will flow through me:
Philemon 1:9 “Yet for love’s sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ.”
I want to be in a postion that allows me to reap the benefits of God’s work in my own life as well as those whom I love:
Luke 15:20-25 “And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.”
I used to think that if I served people, was always available to them to help when they needed me, and was faithful, not critical, understanding, gave to them, sacrificed for them, loved, cared, and supported them… then I would be loved back. I would be cherished. I would be considered. I would have the loyalty toward me that I gave to them. Yet, the more I love, the more I see I am mistaken. No matter how many times I push on and commit to live that way, it seems I am discarded. Why is that? And how is it that it continually happens to me?
I’m not sure that in this life time I’ll have the answer, but I am still convinced that my determination to put others first must continue. Love and loyalty is paramount. I am also determined not to allow other’s actions dictate my own. I do desire to be as Christ and I strive to be so more and more like Him each day. Yet I must confess I am tired of heartache. Heaven becomes more of a reality and desire of mine with each passing day, each passing hurt, and with each passing disappointment. Thank the Lord that this is not my home and I am ready to move on.
Hebrews 11:16 “But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.”
Titus 2:13 “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;”
I have been experiencing the things you describe and am very grateful to have read “ministry” It isn’t easy to experience the ingratitude of others but it has helped me to realize what our Heavenly Father must feel and think when I treat Him the way I have been treated by others who I deem should respond in a way that is appreciative of the sacrifices I have made for them but instead I am belittled or ignored. I can see His hand in the whittling away of the things that take my focus off of His will. Thank you for listening to Christ and for sharing what you hear with others…
Val, wished I had your wisdom a few years ago. Thanks so much for putting our needs into words that can direct us to the Comforter. Love you.
I am sorry you have had to go through so much. I am glad that God has proven himself faithful to you and that through your hard times you can now be used to minister to others who are hurting.