I have a special phrase posted near the top of my Facebook profile page that reads:
“The happiest people in the world are those who have discovered what God wants them to do with their lives.”
This is much more than a feel-good saying; it is a deep conviction that drives me as I work with students and pastors.
When a person begins experiencing God’s call, one of the first things he or she realizes is that “I need some help with this and some training in order to do it well!” When I talk with people who are experiencing God’s call and wondering what to do next, I encourage them to get some training, as I say it: “in Word and deed” – in Word, meaning biblical and theological grounding, and in deed, meaning to learn strategies and sharpen skills.
As you consider God’s call and His plans for your life – as you anticipate the exciting experiences and carefully prepare for the challenges that await you in ministry – here are some key things to consider:
Calling is simply what God wants you to do with your life.
First, your calling is simply what God wants you to do with your life, and it is the key to life’s deepest level of contentment and satisfaction. I hope one of your primary goals is to eventually look back on your life and be able to say that you did what God created you to do. Long time pastor Rick Ezell told me recently that no higher place of service exists than doing what God has called you to do.
The calling into ministry can be something that is both extremely rewarding and immensely challenging. Those difficult days will come. That is when you are likely to see someone working 9 to 5 and think, “That would be a lot easier and a lot less stressful than what I’m doing.”
“The greatest joy in ministry (for me) is sharing God’s Word with His people. The closest I feel to God is when I stand up in front of a group of people to share what He has taught me. Anyone can come up with a sermon, but sharing a message that you have received from God is exhilarating!”Jamie DuncanBut despite the highs and lows of ministry, at the end of the day a called minister of the Gospel can reflect and conclude: “I am doing exactly what God put me on this earth to do, and as long as I’m faithful, God can use it to impact lives all over the world.” Ministers are the most powerful communicators in the world because their words are backed by the Holy Spirit. It brings me incredible joy to know that when I minister the Word, then the words I speak are not empty or void, but have life-changing potential and power.
I emailed several pastors I know to get their take on what it means to experience joy in ministry. Jamie Duncan, a young pastor, told me, “The greatest joy in ministry (for me) is sharing God’s Word with His people. The closest I feel to God is when I stand up in front of a group of people to share what He has taught me. Anyone can come up with a sermon, but sharing a message that you have received from God is exhilarating!”
Another young pastor (and my son), Nathan Cline, said, “The joy of ministry is knowing that you’re making a difference, that your labor and toil are not done in vain, and that you have the opportunity to convey the life changing message of Jesus to a world that desperately needs to hear it.”
What’s more, the joy of ministry is knowing that no matter how good or bad you did that day, when you put your head on the pillow at night, you are assured that God is sufficient and can take your menial service and use it to change the world and bring Him glory.
Joy Comes from Knowing Your Work has Eternal Benefits
Second, there is joy in knowing the reward of our work goes beyond tangible results… it has eternal benefits. While the ministry requires us to be tough and resilient, the rewards have a greater significance than any other profession on the planet!
As a minister what you do impacts people’s lives for eternity. You can spend your life building up a business and when you die, it’s gone. You can make a lot of money, but when your time is up, it will simply be passed on to someone else. However, when we minister the Word and invest it in people’s lives, we are doing things that will last forever. We have a role in changing people’s lives and thereby changing the world!
Joy vs. Happiness
Third, when I speak of joy in ministry, it is important to keep in mind the difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is the feeling we get when our circumstances are good; joy is the sense of contentment we have when we are at peace with our purpose. Happiness can be primarily a surface experience, while joy is something deep – so deep that surface issues can’t take it away or overcome it.
Focusing on joy over happiness helps you maintain balance when ministry hurts you, people resist you, and spiritual leadership is hard. Joy is that deep sense of contentment and satisfaction that comes from obeying God and fulfilling your calling as opposed to a fleeting sense of happiness that comes and goes, depending on the circumstances around you.
...for the joy set before him, (Christ) endured the cross... -Hebrews12:2
Hebrews 12:2 states that “for the joy set before him, (Christ) endured the cross…” While this is referring to Christ’s willingness to suffer during His time here on earth for the sake of far greater rewards in heaven, it still expresses a great truth that we should be highly motivated because there is joy set before us too. It is the joy of hearing God’s divine approval and the joy of seeing our ministry make a real difference in someone’s life.
The joy of ministry is not in a life that is pain-free, unobstructed, with no hard decisions, and where bigger is always better. It is in knowing that faith and obedience matter more to Him than duty and performance. It is celebrating what God has done more than what you have done. It is seeing Jesus increase even as we decrease. It is in knowing that from the beginning in your mother’s womb, God called you to this task (Isaiah 49:1). It is pressing on toward the prize of the upward calling of God (Philippians 3:14).
The Joy of Ministry is an excerpt from Called | Understanding the Call to Ministry, a free book provided by Anderson University. Available upon request.