Last weekend I had the privilege of returning to my alma mater, Ouachita Baptist University, to speak at its second annual Called 2 Ministry retreat for high school students. I was very impressed by the execution and content of this retreat, and could only imagine what an impact something like this would have had on my life when I was in high school discerning a call. (Youth ministers, pastors, parents: send your called to ministry kids to it next year!) I was asked to give the devotional Friday morning and to speak to the female students that afternoon, and the entire experience was a huge blessing.
One of the unexpected experiences after publishing my book has been an onset of feeling completely unworthy to write on this topic and to be a minister of the gospel at all. Almost every day I have battled the devil reminding me of all the reasons I shouldn't be in ministry. I have felt like Martin Luther, who often wrote about his struggles with Satan, who reminded him of his sins. Then, of course, there's the famous story of Luther throwing his inkwell at the devil. Whether or not that story is true, I wouldn't mind throwing my own inkwell at the devil if only I knew it would cripple him!
Leading up to my trip to Ouachita, I especially was reminded of all the stupid things I did in college, all the things I wish were put under the rug and forever forgotten. The devil was once again reminding me of my past sins and failures, but Luther offers a good word, a truth that we find in Scripture and one that I cling to every day. Here's what Luther says:
“When the devil throws our sins up to us and declares we deserve death and hell, we ought to speak thus: ‘I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? Does this mean that I shall be sentenced to eternal damnation? By no means. For I know One who suffered and made a satisfaction in my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Where he is, there I shall be also.'"
The truth is that apart from the work of God's grace in my life, the devil is correct. I do not deserve to a be a minister of the gospel based on my own merit, just like I don't deserve to be a child of God based on my own merit. The same is true for you, too. But in Christ, the devil's tactics fail and his words ring hollow. By grace we have been saved, by grace we have been called, and by grace we serve Jesus Christ because he is good and he loves us. This is good news!
So in preparing for my trip to Ouachita, the Lord led me to Ephesians 3:7-10. Here Paul, I believe, addresses a key question for us: What does it mean to be a minister of the gospel? The devotional I gave was based on this text and formed around this question.
What does it mean to be a minister of the gospel? In summary, here is what I believe the Holy Spirit is saying through Paul. To be a minister of the gospel means:
1. Being called by the Living Triune God. (Our calls begin and originate with God and not ourselves.)
2. Being a servant of the Living God.
3. Being a recipient of the grace of God through the working of his power.
The grace of God is not some magical substance out there, but it is God himself empowering us to do his work though we don’t even deserve to be a servant for him.
If you are reading this and you, too, feel like you don't deserve to be a minister of or for God, then you're in good company. However, there is power in God's grace and God is gracious to use sinners like you and me. We are walking, living testimonies to others about what God is able to do. With our lives we can proclaim that we are forgiven sinners. To be a minister of this gospel is to be one sinner telling another sinner how to find their Savior.
So let us go forth in peace and confidence in the grace and love of Jesus Christ to serve him with our lives today and every day.