“Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the LORD promised on oath to your ancestors. 2 Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. 3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 8:1-3)
Many of those who find themselves in ministry will have been through some really tough times. Indeed it is difficult for someone to empathise with the broken, unless they themselves have experienced brokenness. Whatever the Lord places before us, His desire is for us to learn that:
“Man shall not live on bread alone…” (Matthew 4:4)
Why is it so important to learn this truth? Bread is the substance that physically feeds us, this represents our earthly life as it is fed and nourished by food in the purely physical realm. But, since Gods work is a spiritual work, we cannot simply use material strength and God given gifts to accomplish His works. We require spiritual food, which we obtain through His Word:
“…but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Matthew 4:4))
In order to get us to the place where we rely on God and the truths in His Word (ie. that God is an, “ever present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1), or that we should, “trust in the LORD with all your heart, and…not lean on [our] own understanding. In all [our] ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight [our] paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6)), our hearts must be prepared. The only effective way for the Lord to achieve this in us, is by our going through something whereby we literally have no choice but to trust and rely upon Him completely. The only circumstances where this is possible is in situations beyond our own means to solve; that is for example, during trials, suffering and hardship. Only then will be adequately equipped to deal with all that working in the Lords service will bring our way.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.” (Psalm 46:1-3)
For many years, financial hardship caused us to have to trust in the Lord, since the outgoings always exceeded the income, never balancing in such a way as to make ends meet. But, having said that, we always seem to have what we needed, when we needed it. During another crisis, in which I thought the work I am doing in His service looked like it was coming to an end, before it had even started, I was forced into a set of circumstances in which I had no choice but to trust in His calling and in His ability to do the seemingly impossible in order to keep me in place. Suffice to say, at the ‘eleventh hour’ as it were, the Lord came through, and the rest is history. There have been many instances where I have had to entirely trust in Him, through trials and hardships, and all these things have served to get my heart in the right place. Had I not suffered in these ways, I would not have lasted in ministry; this is no exaggeration.
Our hearts must therefore be in the right place, because in ministry character always comes before our ability; its our character that will win people over, not our professionalism, qualifications and strong persuasive arguments. You may indeed have all the skills and abilities you think you may require, but without the right character and heart attitude, you will likely misappropriate them or perhaps be less fruitful than you might have been.
“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4)
It’s our hope in the Lord that provides the necessary strength, just as the wilderness-wandering Jews had to trust in hope and learn to obey His every Word, that preceded from His mouth, and learn that while doing so that God provided for their every need, thus training their hearts to continue to trust in Him going forward; we likewise, have to weather the hard times and allow them to teach us how to do the same during our own wilderness-wandering experiences.
“Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.” (Deuteronomy 8:4-5)
Don’t lose heart when suffering in these ways. In some way you must embrace or endure them as necessary and remember that God is always bigger than whatever it is you face, He is never caught off guard and, like the storms which the disciples faced on Galilee, and the wilderness the Hebrews wandered in, The Lord has lead us into them, and then carries us safely on to the other side, with a heart that is better prepared, having learned to trust all the more in Him.
So far in this series we have learned that we cannot miss Gods calling, in Be Ready – Hearing Your Calling (1/5), that He will equip us accordingly, in Be Ready – God Equips the Called (2/5), and that He will prepare our hearts and our character for service (3/5). In the next blog, Be Ready – Let God Lead (4/5), we will learn how to let God go before us into all that He has prepared for us to do.