Monday, August 9, 2010

The Joy of Serving with an Inexhaustible God

Ministry for God can be exhausting and frustrating. Ministry with God is one of the most energizing experiences we will ever know. The apostle Paul gives us a glimpse of this distinction when he writes, “To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.” (Colossians 1:29)

This is good news for pastors who feel like they have run out of sermon ideas; great news for those who are trying to love difficult spouses, children, or parents and who feel like they have run out of love; wonderful news for anyone called to any ministry at all. If we learn to be dependent on, and draw from, God, we never need to fear running out of ideas, love, or energy, for God offers to become an inexhaustible source for all.

Jean-Pierre de Caussade was a French Jesuit spiritual director who lived in the early eighteenth century. He left behind a “late blooming” classic entitled Abandonment to Divine Providence that wasn’t popularly discovered or widely disseminated until long after he died. In it, de Caussade captures dependence on the divine like few other authors I have ever read. Speaking of God he writes:

“Your inexhaustible action is the infinite source of new thoughts, new sufferings, new actions, new patriarchs, new prophets, new apostles, new saints. [We] do not need to copy each other’s lives and writing, but simply live in a perpetual abandonment to your secret operations.”

In other words, while we have much to learn from the great examples of successful parents and ministers, we shouldn’t feel the need to slavishly follow their methods. God, by his own power and inspiration, is raising up “new patriarchs, new prophets, new apostles, new saints.” While we would be foolish not to draw deeply from the wisdom of those who have gone before us, we also need to be careful about talking about the “old times”—even the very recent “old times”—as if they occurred with a different God at the helm or one who has lost his zeal for what is happening today.

De Caussade again: “We hear perpetually of the ‘early centuries’ and ‘the times of the saints.’ What a way to talk! Are not all times the successive effects of the divine activity that pours itself forth on all the instants of time, filling them, sanctifying them, and elevating them all?”

The same God who raised up Francis of Assisi, Teresa of Avila, Martin Luther, John Wesley and Charles Spurgeon, today has raised up Rick Warren, Beth Moore, Ed Young, and Mark Driscoll. The same God raised them all, and He is neither limited nor tired nor running out of creative energy. Just because he has blessed Rick, Beth, Ed and Mark doesn’t mean he is spent, taking a break, or has inspired his “best sermon.” He’s got plenty more where that came from—the inexhaustible well of divine energy, provision, wisdom, love, and gifting.

Let’s rest in God—in whatever ministry we find ourselves in. If we are truly relying on him, we can’t grow weary, we can’t run out of ideas, we can’t be incapable of serving, because no matter how naturally gifted Rick, Beth, Ed or Mark might be, none of them can even approach the creative genius, never-ending mercy, and ever-flowing love of God.

De Caussade counsels, “Had the saints of the first days any other secret than that of becoming moment by moment what the divine action wished to make of them? And will that divine action fail to shed its glory until the end of the world on those who abandon themselves to it without reserve?”

If your church is 50 strong; there’s nothing holding it back from becoming 500 strong. Even if your church is already 25,000 strong, there’s nothing holding it back from becoming 50,000 strong. You might have preached your best stuff, but God has more. You might have already launched the most effective evangelistic methods you’ve ever employed—God has newer and better ones. You might have tried everything you can think of to repair your marriage or reach out to a rebellious child or kick an addiction. God’s not done, He’s not retired and He's not even weary. On the contrary, He is an inexhaustible source, just waiting for dependent souls to tap into his love, wisdom and enabling power.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, My!! Thank you. If only you knew what a wonderful reminder and encouragement this post was.

    Thanking God for you and the work He does through you...and you for surrendering to His call and direction.