Over my various years in ministry, I have learned a few lessons. I would love to be able to say that I learned them all the easy way, but if you know me at all, you know that is just not possible :) I tend to have to learn things the hard way so I actually get the lesson hahaha! I know that no one else out there is like that :) But I will say, once I learn something the hard way, I learn it. Does this prayer sound familiar at all to anyone else...."Dear God, if you will just help me get out of this situation, I promise you I will never do this again!" :)
One "pearl of wisdom" I have gained through the years is learning to have the right motives behind the things that you do. I have been guilty of doing things for approval, recognition and more. I have wallowed in the sea of self pity when I didn't get "recognized" for the job that I did. I have fought to not swallow the seed of bitterness when I did not receive appreciation for hard work. That is all a part of life and happens whether you work in the ministry or not. It is built in our DNA to want to be appreciated and respected. I would like to say that it is always easy to respond like Christ when you are in those thankless situations, but let's be honest! God has heard more than one earful from me on the subject!!
But being down the road a little (oh Dear Lord! I am admitting I am old!), I have learned one thing. I can never ask the question "What's In It For Me!" when working in the ministry or helping other people. That is a sure way to sign yourself up for failure and disappointment. I have learned to approach each day of ministry with the knowledge that I am doing what I do because that is what God has called me to do. If at the end of each day, I can lay my head down and feel secure in the knowledge that I have done my best to fulfill what was laid before me that day, then I have been a success in the eyes of God. Notice I said the eyes of God and not people. Another thing I have learned is that people are fickle. What is great one day, may not be the next. What is the happening thing this year is sure to change by next. So if you do what you do to please man, you will be on a nonstop roller coaster ride of change. If you work hard and do your job to find the approval of people, then you will always feel like you are a "day late and a dollar short!".
Looking back over my journey thus far, I have experienced many great moments. I can't say that I have never been appreciated for my job. I have received many pats on the back, accolades from the stage, letters of appreciation and so much more! And I have been so grateful for each and every experience like that. I am just saying that does not happen all the time. The "gas in your tank" would run bone dry if you counted on those moments to get you by day to day. One example I can share from my own experience... I dedicated about 18 years of my life to a particular ministry. I experienced many great moments of "success" in this job. I met wonderful people, made what I thought were lasting life long relationships and made what I felt was a difference in the lives of many young people. Then a big life moment happened to me and it was one day in and the next day out. There is a lot of truth to "out of sight, out of mind". There was no "going away party", no gift to celebrate your 18 years of service, no "induction into the ministry hall of fame" :) There was just nothing. That particular ministry is still up and going and I can pretty much guarantee that all those involved for the most part, don't even have a clue who I am! Much less talk about what I contributed to the ministry :) Those lifelong relationships? Haven't really heard from very many of those people! I just walked through what was single handedly the most devastating, hardest thing I have ever faced in my entire life and with the exception of a few, the lines of communication have stayed silent! You may say, you sound bitter. I really am not! I am just pointing out a very simple life lesson..life goes on for people. I truly don't feel like people purposely ignored me or dropped me, they were just busy in their own lives. I have been guilty of this myself!! Many times I have had good intentions..I will make that call, or send that letter, or give a little money to this missions trip..and have completely gotten caught up and have forgotten. It's called life and it happens. Which is why you will constantly fight a feeling of disappointment if you do what you do for man. Only God is able to keep a real record of our lives! And He is..
I know that I helped to make a difference in the lives of young people over the years, I know that I was able to contribute to a worthy ministry and that I fulfilled my purpose in being a part of it. I know that good seeds were planted and those who were a part of that ministry "under my watch" have in turned started doing what it is God has called them to do and they are making a difference in their world. I find GREAT SATISFACTION in that and I have worked to move on to my next! God has opened a new door of ministry for me at a local church and I would do them a great disservice to allow any bitterness or disappointment to be in me from a past experience. I am taking my past "experiences" and using them to help me to do the best job for God that I can in my present. "What's in it for me?" The opportunity to do what I love for some great people, all the while, serving the one that I love..my God. Don't let your work be done in vain. Don't find your approval in a certificate, an award or a promotion. Those things are all great but in the grand scope of your life...just a blip. Do things because you want your life to be a witness to those who don't know Christ. Your want your job performance to reflect His excellence. You want your personality to draw people who otherwise feel unloved. Every day is a new day to do something great for God. There will always be a person ready to step up and sing better than you or speak with more eloquence or broker a better business deal. BUT there will never be another you! YOLO they say these days! They are right..You Only Live Once! Make it count for Christ and He will make sure you receive the greatest blessings!
In this thing called life with you my friends!