Life is Ministry – Lenten Season 2021
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1 NIV).
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:19,20 NIV).
7 Spiritual Laws of Success – Life is Ministry (Law #1)
My youngest daughter’s name is Michelle. She is now 18 years old and just finishing High School. Next year she wants to go to the University of British Colombia in Vancouver, B.C. Canada where her sister, Melanie, went. In fact, we all want to move to Canada next August if possible.
Michelle attends the Buenos Aires International Christian Academy (BAICA) here in San Fernando. It is not really a bilingual school, more like an 80/20 school (80% English and 20% Spanish). Michu (that’s her nickname) is totally bilingual. She has gone to that school most of her life. When she was younger she had a best friend who went to school there as well. They were inseparable. We thought they would be friends for life. Let’s call her friend, Lizzie.
Lizzie comes from a good, Christian family where both the father and mother are very involved in their church (even in leadership positions). Lizzie and Michu were part of a large class of 20 or so students at BAICA. I remember when they were around 12 years old, both Lizzie and Michu decided to befriend one of the other girls in the class who was shy and alone. They decided to minister to her by becoming friends.
For the next two or three years, the three of them were always seen together. Ministry became friendship and although there were tough moments (they ARE teenagers), they go through them with the help of the young people’s group at church and the prayers and supports of both sets of parents. Until….
It got messy.
This new friend, let’s call her Charlie, had emotional problems. We didn’t find out until much later that she had a rare form of dislexia (even her parents and the school had no idea). She decided that she was not normal, not happy, not worthy and started to try and take her life on multiple occassions. Those were difficult times to say the least. But then it got worse….
One day, when they were about 15 years old, Charlie confided in her two friends that she was bi-sexual. She liked girls. That was a bombshell, of course, and both girls, Lizzie and Michu, didn’t know what to think much less how to react. Michu and Lizzie came to us to talk and we encouraged Lizzie to go to her parents for advice (of course).
The upshot of this revelation was the breakup of the dynamic threesome. Ministry/Friendship didn’t matter. The risks were too high and Lizzie’s parents took measures to protect their girl from the dangers of an emotionally unstable girl who repeatedly tried to commit suicide and who was also bi-sexual.
Totally understandable. Totally wrong.
I don’t mean to be judgmental. I get it. It’s messy. Ministry (much less friendship) usually is. Why are we surprised?
I, for one, was already having trouble with the whole issue of suicide and the accompaning accusations and manipulations that the girls had to deal with on a regular basis. What happens if Charlie actually accomplishes the act? What then? What effect would that have on Michu, on Lizzie? What about this blame, guilt and manipulation cycle that they were constantly in, sometimes pitting Michu against Lizzie and vice versa?
It made for many talks and discussions about how to handle it from a biblical point of view.
Yes, ministry is messy. Life is ministry. Therefore life (especially spiritual life) is messy. What can I say?
This is not the time to abandon your ministry. What does that teach the girls? The fact that she is bi-sexual is a spiritual issue, but it isn’t contagious. Neither Michu nor Lizzie shared that particular proclivity. I was more concerned about the suicide attempts personally. But, either way, this was not the time to leave.
And Lizzie didn’t make it easy on Michu either. There were recriminations and accusations. The young people from the church (and school) took sides, mostly on the side of Lizzie once they heard the whole story. Michu and Charlie were ostracized and ignored. It was a high price to pay for Michu especially as a teenager and especially since she had to continue to go to school with many of these same kids. Ministry is risky.
My wife and I talk alot about the situation. We pray a lot as well. Ministry in the real world tends to make you pray. Have you noticed that? We can’t handle it alone. We worry what this will do to our daughter, but we remember that God loves her more than we do. He is our provider and our protector. He has a wonderful plan for her life so long as her life is dedicated to effective ministry.
You see, that’s the point.
The essence of our new relationship with God through Christ is that we have been bought with a price. We have chosen to sacrifice our lives for his pleasure which is our true spiritual worship. If a life of effective ministry in the context of your desire to please God above all else is not your definition of success, then you are on the wrong road.
Hear me on this. It’s important.
If you are not dedicating your life to effective ministry as your way to please God above all, then how can you even call yourself a Christian? Everywhere in Scripture, it tells you this fundamental truth.
Wait a minute. Isn’t that a bit harsh?
No, it’s not. This is not the kind of talk reserved for pastors and missionaries and the soup kitchen fanatics. This is normal Christianity (as uncommon as that might be).
It is the first spiritual law of success.
It covers all of the others of course. First laws often do that.
Your life is ministry because everything is spiritual. Therefore ambition is expected and discipline will be necessary. If your life is an act of ministry then Discipleship becomes warfare and Stewardship becomes simplicity (to save money for ministry) and Leadership becomes influence (rather than power). It is a natural consequence of the first spiritual law of success.
Life is Ministry. Success in life is effective, significant ministry in the context of pleasing God above all else. Without this first spiritual law fixed firmly in our minds and hearts, true, significant success that makes up our “wonderful life” of peace and joy and deep, abiding meaning will be lost in the clutter and distractions that confront us everyday.
What that looks like is, of course, different for everyone. You may become a pastor or a missionary or even a soup kitchen fanatic. But not necessarily so. God has given us gifts and interests that are so varied and different and unique that everyone will have to find their own path. A wonderful life awaits all of us so long as our life is dedicated to effective ministry. What that looks like is still an “undiscovered country.”
So why would I ever take that away from my daughter? I have no right to rob her of the difficulties and trials of her ministry. They are what shape her. They are the context for our ministry to her and her walk with God. Ministry takes faith. Ministry takes prayer. It forces you to get on your knees and cry out to God. Ministry is dangerous. For sure. There could be major consequences emotionally, physically, and mentally but that isn’t anything new. That is true for all of us.
But she’s only a kid, you say.
I know. More importantly, God knows. He loves her.
Still……she has to respond in faith, hope and love. She needs to follow God. This whole situation needs to bring her into closer fellowship with Him. If it doesn’t and she tries to go it alone, yes, she could break. She could have a traumatic experience. What happens when she leaves for Canada? Will Charlie try (and possibly succeed) in taking her life before she goes, as a final attempt at manipulation?
I don’t know…..
Discipleship is warfare. It is deadly serious business. There are consequences when you are involved in ministry and you try to do it on your own or you think you are strong enough or smart enough to handle it by yourself. If you try to handle it on a creational, friendship level, instead of on a redemptive, ministry level, the Devil may get a foothold. So true. And yes, she is just a kid. But God gave her this ministry. We have no right to take it away from her.
The interesting thing is that she didn’t want to run away from all of it. She had a couple of tough moments but she gets back in there and does the best she can. It isn’t just ministry for her anymore. It is a relationship. She loves Charlie (most days). And who is to say that this relationship is what keeps Charlie alive, what brings her into a relationship with Christ, what nourishes her own life ministry. And Charlie is worth it, isn’t she? God thinks so. Michu thinks so too.
She is learning (intuitively) how to move from ministry as an event to ministry as a relationship. That is the point of spiritual leadership being about influence. This is the best training in discipleship she will ever get even though her friends abandoned her, the church ignores her, and her best friend sometimes gets so depressed that she tries to take her own life.
How will this story end? I have no idea….
What I can tell you is that she is learning the most important lesson that can be taught. Life is ministry. It is dangerous. It takes faith. It is not for the fainthearted. Or did you think that the kind of wonderful life that God has in store for her would be easy and prosperous and without danger?
Have you read the gospels? Danger lurks around every corner. The Romans could round you up and crucify you at any time. The Pharisees can accuse you and the Scribes can get you into hot water. But Jesus is there. He will protect you eternally. You need to trust Him with what happens in this life.
The good. The bad. And the ugly. After all, how can you do effective ministry without getting your hands dirty? Like Jesus did….for you.
The Desert Warrior
Lord, I pray for Michu and Charlie. Protect both of them in Jesus’ name. I also pray for Lizzie and her family. Their choice also has consequences. I pray that you would bless them and help them to find the path that pleases you. Ministry is messy and dangerous. We need your protection. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.