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Preparation and Ministry December 26, 2014

Posted by TJ Friend in Encouragements.
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I want to talk today about the importance of preparation. Too often our desire is to rush into the ministry God has for us thinking that that is what is important. What we fail to realize though is that if we are not fully ready we are susceptible to all types of attacks from the enemy. James 3:1 says, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly”. Those in leadership, teachers, or others in authority over others, will be judged by a higher standard, because they are not only responsible for themselves but all those under them. God’s desire is not that people would fail their area of ministry. Unfortunately, there are many leaders who have lost their position of leadership due to things like hidden sin or burn out. God allows us to go through seasons of preparation so that we will be able to sustain the calling he has for us, so that we don’t fall into these traps. I want to look at two biblical examples of people that God took through seasons of preparation.

Joseph (Gen 37-50)

Joseph’s story is fairly well known, so I don’t want to recap the whole thing. I just want to hit a few highlights. God gave Joseph two dreams when he was younger (Gen 37:5-10) both showing that his family would bow down to him. God was showing Joseph a glimpse of the future he had for him as a ruler in Egypt. It is interesting to see what type of preparation God thinks is important for those who would lead a nation. In Joseph’s case, he was sold into slavery (Gen 37:28) and eventually thrown in jail (Gen 39), before he was made second in command of all Egypt. What strikes me though is Joseph’s faithfulness and integrity in the midst of all he went through. As a slave, he did his duties so well that the master (Potiphar) put him in charge of the whole house. Joseph even resisted the temptation to sleep with Potiphar’s wife, which is what eventually got him thrown in jail.

When he was in jail he remained faithful. The Lord gave him favor and Joseph was placed in charge of other prisoners. Joseph didn’t give up, and he didn’t shrink back from what God had for him in that season. He wasn’t focused on the future so that he saw his current situation as a “stepping stone” to future ministry. He was present and did his duties with excellence. The text never records him complaining on doubting God. He was simply faithfully doing whatever was put in front of him.

I believe God allowed Joseph to go through this time so that when he would eventually be elevated to a place of prominence he would have the character and wisdom to rule justly.

Moses

The main story of Moses is found in Exodus, but there is a recap in Acts 7. According to Acts 7:23-30, Moses was forty years old when he fled to Midian and spent forty years there before he saw the burning bush.

23 “As he was approaching the age of 40, he decided to visit his brothers, the Israelites. 24 When he saw one of them being mistreated, he came to his rescue and avenged the oppressed man by striking down the Egyptian. 25 He assumed his brothers would understand that God would give them deliverance through him, but they did not understand. 26 The next day he showed up while they were fighting and tried to reconcile them peacefully, saying, ‘Men, you are brothers. Why are you mistreating each other?’

27 “But the one who was mistreating his neighbor pushed him away, saying:

Who appointed you a ruler and a judge over us? 28 Do you want to kill me, the same way you killed the Egyptian yesterday?

29 “At this disclosure, Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he fathered two sons. 30 After 40 years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning bush.

According to this passage Moses had a desire to free his people (v. 25). Apparently God had already spoken something to him about him delivering the Israelites. In trying to do things his own way though, he ended up killing someone, alienating his own people and going on the run for his life.

Moses spent forty years in the desert of Midian. While there he got married and had a family. As a shepherd, he spent most of his time wandering around the countryside looking for food for the sheep. Not much is said about this part of his life. Whatever happened though, brought him to the place where he was willing to follow God’s plan for setting the Israelites free. I think it was this 40 year desert season that formed his character. I think it was because of this that Moses was called the most humble man on the face of the earth (Num 12:3).

When I look at Moses and Joseph, I see two great leaders who God took through long seasons of insignificance before they were placed in positions of prominence. Even Jesus himself didn’t start his ministry until he was 30 (Luke 3:23). Seasons of preparation are usually necessary for us to go through to form our character. James 1 talks about rejoicing in trials because they ultimately form our character.

2 Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.

This is where we have missed it in our view of leadership in the Church. People are too anxious to get into positions of leadership before they are ready. Gifting and calling do not trump character. In 1 Tim 3 and Titus 1 Paul gives instruction for selecting the leaders of the churches. What he talks about are character traits. He doesn’t talk about schooling or spiritual gifts or charisma or business savy. What he talks about are people who live holy, righteous lives and are faithful to the truth of the Gospel.

Developing patience

I believe in God. I believe his promises are true and I believe that his timing is perfect. Sometimes (oftentimes) God speaks a promise over someone’s life that is for the distant future. We get ourselves in trouble when we try to make the promise come true by our own efforts. God spoke a huge promise to Abraham (then Abram) that he would be the father of many nations and would inherit a land that he had never been to. But, instead of waiting and allowing God to fulfill the promise his way, Abraham took matters into his own hands. Basically, because his wife was barren, Abraham (taking his wife’s advice) got one of the servant girls pregnant so that his line would continue through their offspring. The consequences of that decision are still being felt to this day. Instead of waiting, Abraham tried to force something that should never have been.

The time between receiving a promise and the fulfillment of that promise is a crucial time. It is in this time where we grow in patience. It allows our faith to grow. Faith is believing something even when we can’t see any evidence that it will happen (Heb 11:1).

Don’t despise small beginnings

Why am I saying all this? I know a lot of people who are anxious to get into ministry. They want to serve God and be used to change people’s lives. This is definitely admirable and for a lot of people this desire is from God. The problem comes when we are dissatisfied with where we are because it is not where we think we should be. We have bought into the lie that some ministries are more important than others, either because they are bigger or more influential. What we fail to realize is that as Christians we are ministers wherever we go and whatever we do. Whatever stage of the journey you are on, God has you there for a reason. If you are a youth leader, for instance, and you feel like God has called you to be a pastor, don’t slack on your duties or blame God that He has not fulfilled His promises. God will allow you to go through seasons of training and development to get you ready for future positions. It all comes back to the principle that whoever is faithful with little will be given much. Take whatever is before you and work at it with all your heart. Look at your role as if it was the most important role you could have been given, because it is. Leading 5 youth is no more important than leading a congregation of 5,000. Success is not based on numbers, but how you impact the people God has put in front of you.

I realize for a lot of us there are things God has called us to that seem impossible based on our current situation. God’s not looking for people who are exceptionally gifted, or talented. He is looking for people who are faithful to where they are at. Even if you are not in any professional ministry at all, do the best wherever you are. Be the best employee at your job. Be the best parent or spouse you can be. Your present situation is your ministry. Even if it’s small or seemingly insignificant it is of utmost importance. Not only do you have the opportunity to deeply impact those around you, but you also are in a place to grow your character. Instead of worrying about the future, focus your energy on the present. How can you best serve those around you right now?

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