Ministry, most of the time, is a joyous part of my life. It is my life. God called me to vocational ministry 40 years ago. I have no doubt His hand directed me in that call, through that call, and to where I have served and am presently serving. That ministry has been displayed through the genre of music but, more than that, music has been a tool with which I have been able to connect with countless people of all ages: preschoolers, children, youth, college, adults and senior adults. It is through these connections that God has blessed with innumerous physical and spiritual benefits that cannot be measured in dollar signs, prestige, titles or positional status. These personal connections are lifelong – eternal!
With all the blessings that being in full-time vocational ministry brings, there are many stresses, strains, hardships – those battle-scared moments that can derail even the most determined and sincerest of leaders. I have had an extensive educational background and many hours of continued training over these 40-plus years. However, there are situations in which I have found myself that no amount of training or education equipped me to handle – moments when I wanted to walk away from it all, not walk away from Christ, but away from vocational ministry.
What can we do when we hit a wall and all the platitudes we may have recited in the past leave us empty? Where do we turn when friends abandon us, when a tsunami of pain eats at the core of who we are, when all that once seemed stable about our position, role, status and security itself shifts with earthquaking upheaval? Where do we go? What do we do?
Do we turn to trusted friends, mentors, co-workers, co-pastors, teachers or trained counselors? Maybe all of those are OK choices, but first we must turn to God.
Our church has been going through the updated version of “Experiencing God” by Henry Blackaby, his son Richard, and his grandson Mike Blackaby. There are many gems of wisdom sprinkled throughout the study, but basic to each one is the opening Scripture memory verse –John 15:5 (Jesus speaking): “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me.”
One of the Scriptural illustrations from Unit 7 (The Crisis of Belief), Day 3, is taken from 2 Chronicles 20. It is the story of Jehoshaphat. Jehoshaphat was the fourth king of Judah. He succeeded his father Asa, who was considered a good king. The chapter shows a test of Jehosaphat’s leadership and faith. A vast army (Moabites, Ammonites and Edomites) came to attack the nation. King Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast and led the people to seek God’s counsel. He prayed, “Our God … we are powerless before this vast number that comes to fight against us. We do not know what to do, but we look to you” (2 Chronicles 20:12). God answers the prayers of Jehosaphat. 2 Chronicles 20:15 says, “…Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast number, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” Verse 17 is so powerful. I like the New King James Version: “You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you.”
God delivered! The next day when they went into battle, guess who led the army? A choir! (Verse 21) They sang songs of praise and thanksgiving as they led the soldiers into battle. God went ahead of them and routed the enemy. (See verses 22-23 for the details.) When the children of God arrived, they found only dead men lying on the ground. It took three days to carry off all the plunder from the battle. On the fourth day, they gathered once more and praised God in worship. Resultant from this, word spread across the surrounding nations that Israel’s God had delivered them mightily, so mightily that the nation was at peace for the remainder of Jehoshaphat’s reign as king. He was wise enough to recognize his frailty and the inadequacy of fighting the vast army that was at bay. He immediately went to God for deliverance, and God showed up and showed out. He displayed His might and power in working things for the good of His people.
As I read the passage this morning, I thought of a choir anthem we are preparing for worship in the coming weeks, “I Shall Not be Afraid,” written by Phil Barfoot and Cliff Duren. It is a well-written piece with powerful lyrics.
Be gracious to me, O God.
The enemy oppresses me, pursues me the whole day long,
In their pride assailing me.
When I cry out to You, my enemies turn back.
For this I know: My God is for me.
When I am afraid, I put my trust in You.
In God, whose word I praise,
In God I trust. I shall not be afraid.
Instead of trusting God in our most stressful and uncertain moments, we often work harder, to achieve satisfaction in our own strength. In our frenetic state, we ping pong emotionally and spiritually, driven by a tidal wave of highs and lows. In this frenzied, hectic and uncertain condition we push harder, work longer, striving incessantly to reach the goal we think we can achieve. However, we only dig deeper into a pit of despair with crumbling walls that pile down upon us like a mudslide. We may consult God’s Word, but in our confusion, we seldom rest on His Word and in Him.
God says. “You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you … Do not fear or be dismayed for the Lord is with you.”
When we realize that there are super-sized obstacles ahead of us and we need a Super-Sized God to overcome them, then will we reach a spirit of rest, of standing still amid adversity. The Lord is with us. He will win the battle. It is not ours to win. He wishes to work through us and perform a miracle of sorts, so that the world will see it was He who delivered and not our own ingenuity or wisdom.
Whatever battle you are facing, God is stronger. Whatever circumstance presents itself, God has the answer. Whatever burden you are carrying, God can lift it. Stand still, know that He is God. Praise Him in the storm, trust Him and follow on.
“Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God … is with you. He won’t leave you or abandon you until all the work for the service of the Lord’s house is finished” (1 Chronicles 28:20).
All Scripture quotations above, unless otherwise indicated, are fromThe Christian Standard Bible. Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible®, and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers, all rights reserved.
Keith Pate serves as minister of music at Eastern Hills Baptist Church, Montgomery.