Sitting with the Seventh Day Baptist leaders in Bujumbura, Burundi, we talked and prayed about the struggles of doing ministry in their country. Neither the pastor that came with me nor I had little that compared with their challenges in our own ministries. However, as they shared about political struggles in their country, persecution of their ministers, and a lack of personal and ministry resources, we remembered a great example that we knew personally in our ministry alliance that had these challenges and more.
This minister of the gospel we thought of was also assigned to a developing world country that even had an occupying army of a foreign power. He did not have a supply of discipleship or training materials or Bibles to share in the local language. He had no computer or car of his own, nor ready access to a cell phone or internet. Many would have thought his ministry was a failure because at the end of his service he only had a dozen or so ready to take up the ministry; of them, one forsook the gospel while he was still in the country. Ultimately, he was killed by rival religious factions and displayed as an example for those that take the path that we are committed to follow.
Of course, the minister we were thinking of was our Lord, Jesus Christ. He had warned us that following Him means we should expect to be despised by the world and have a life with troubles. Reflecting on the challenges of our Lord put in perspective our problems. It reminds us of our dependence on Jesus for our strength in the circumstances that are intended to refine us like silver in a furnace.
If we read through the ninth chapter of Luke, we see the first disciples being prepared for ministry by going out with little provision, hearing the discouraging news of John the Baptist’s death, and being mobbed by needy people looking for provision for faith and food. At what must have been their breaking point physically, spiritually, and emotionally, Jesus tears loaves and fish fit for one poor boy’s lunch. He makes enough to feed thousands with a remaining basket for each disciple. The point seems to be that we can expect to be called upon to give more than we can endure on our own. Only through God’s provision can we expect to see people and circumstances in this world reflect our King’s sovereignty. Soon after this account in Luke, we find Jesus telling His disciples, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily.” With the help of the Holy Spirit, we each have to learn for ourselves the painful lessons of the cross if we are to grow in likeness and relationship with the One who bore the cross for us all.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it:
but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.
— Luke 9:24
~ Clinton R. Brown, Executive Director
- For the January 2016 Sabbath Recorder click HERE