May 21, 2018
Something Greater than College Ministry Success
Darrick Smith reminds us that God desires something greater for us than college ministry success and that it often requires experiencing hardship to get there.
Frances Jane Crosby was a famous hymn writer in the mid 1800’s. Fanny, as she was known, wrote many famous hymns including Blessed Assurance and Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior. Fanny’s hymns were a blessing to the Church. Her hymns were saturated with gospel truths and stirred many hearts toward greater joy in Christ. In her lifetime, Fanny was one of the best known women in the United States. To this day, the vast majority of American hymnals contain her work.
But there’s something you may not know about Fanny. When she was six weeks of age, she caught a cold that caused inflammation in her eyes and made her blind for the rest of her life. Her life was characterized by pain and suffering. Imagine what it would be like to never have one of your five senses working… To grow up as a teenager never having the opportunity to see and enjoy the beauties of creation.
We’ve all been through, are going through, or will go through dark moments in life. Moments when life seems to be beyond your control. Moments when everything seems to be falling apart or not working. Moments of pain, suffering, trials, and frustration. Moments when it feels like God is far away and that he has forgotten about you. Sometimes those moments are deeply personal. Sometimes they are related to the success (or failure) of our ministry.
As I’ve been reading through the Old Testament I have concluded that God’s glory and power is best revealed in times of weakness. In times of trouble, heartache, suffering, and affliction, God’s glory and power is made more visible to you and to a watching world. From the onset of Genesis, God has been about his name, glory, and fame spreading throughout the world. The creation mandate was for our first parents, Adam and Eve to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth. Why? So that the earth might be filled with image-bearers- men and women who were created in the image of God who would worship God only. God is about his glory.
When God used Moses who had a speech problem to release the Israelites from captivity; it was for his name’s sake. When God used Ehud, a man with a disabled right hand mightily; it was for his glory. When God used David, a short red-headed shepherd boy to do great things; it was for his glory. When God used countless flawed and sinful men and women like Jeremiah, Rahab, Gideon, and Paul; it was for his glory.
God uses our momentary suffering, trials, and affliction to mainly accomplish one thing:
Deeper dependence and joy in Christ!
God has a vision for our lives and it has nothing to do with large college ministries and a great following. It has more to do with our conformity to the beauty of Jesus. The will of God for our lives is that we would be conformed into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). God’s primary way of shaping us into the image of Jesus is through hardships, trials, suffering, and weaknesses. Don’t get me wrong, those things don’t have to happen in order for us to be conformed into the image of Christ, but Scripture consistently demonstrates that God does his best work in and through us in moments of weakness and affliction. This is so that we might see our utter need for him and the beauty of his Son.
It is the moments of weakness, struggle, suffering, and failure that we tap into a deeper joy. A joy that isn’t based off good circumstances but based in a Good Savior. A joy that isn’t subject to change, but constant. So, when the ministry challenges arise, when students become flaky, when the strategy fails, and when numbers are low; remember that God is using it to bring himself glory, mold you into the image of Christ, and teach you that Christ is better.
Editor’s note: Jesus desires his followers to be present with one another in the midst of suffering. We are not designed to travel through hardships alone. Many ministers are undone by trying to fight for joy in isolation. Please ask for help from friends, your local church, or medical and counseling professionals. – Chase Abner