Today marks 18 years of Servants of Grace has been around. I started Servants of Grace at the age of 19 fresh out of high school. I thought I “knew” everything and was that kid you know the one who could answer your theological questions and would let everyone know they could. Boy, did I have a lot to learn, and I still do! Over the years, the Lord has mellowed me out a lot and continues to grow me in grace, in holiness, and humility before His face.
Ministry has a way of pummeling you. Some people think of ministry as something where everything will be well and go well. And sometimes it is, maybe even, most of the time. When ministry is going well, it feels like, “Wow, I can do no wrong” and sometimes that’s true. Equally so, and more often true, the ministry is where you are hurt, misunderstood, and mistreated. It is where that difficult person is the Lord’s instrument in your life for your good. Notice I said for your good. Not their good your good.
Several men in my previous church in Southern Idaho were such men to me. After a horrific sermon by the then youth pastor (not the one they currently have) I said to the head of the deacon board that was an awful sermon. He rebuked me, and I’m quite sure my response to him wasn’t very good or godly. The next day while praying the Lord brought to remembrance this situation and convicted me of my sin, and I repented. Well, then I called the head of the deacon board and apologized. He accepted my apology but then said we needed to meet to discuss it.
What happened next at the meeting is he felt the need to talk to me about the importance of submission to authority and more. This felt more like an attack to me, but I sat there and patiently listened intently. I was interested in what this man said because he was my friend. I knew he had my best interest in mind. It was my turn to respond now, and I did and asked him some questions which he didn’t answer well at all. I left this conversation frustrated and confused. There wasn’t much clarity to conclude that conversation. It felt to me more like him wanting to make his points than talking through them and working through them together to help me grow. That was why I went; I wanted to grow. I also wanted to hear what this man had to say to me. But I also wanted to ask questions; I wanted to interact. I wanted to have a conversation so that I would understand and grow. While we did have a good discussion and a productive one, I still left this conversation confused and still am about his intent in talking to me.
Perhaps that’s you today. You’ve had a difficult person or situation or several or multiples of that recently. We all have them. There’s another story with another man that helped me get fresh eyes to this situation I just described. This man was in the Bible study I led at my previous church. He was challenging one of the most challenging people I’ve encountered. I had no idea in my natural mind how to deal with him. I was at a complete loss. But my pastor said I needed to pray and to see him through the Chief Shepherd’s eyes. So I prayed. Over time, the Lord changed my heart and mind. He changed the way I saw this person. And as that happened the previous gentleman who I had a problem with, well, I began to see him differently also.
And then it hit me. I had truthfully seen difficult people as people to be opposed not loved and cared for, not as opportunities for growth and change but as me being the instrument of growth and change in that person’s life. It’s easy to point the finger and say, “Hey you need to change” but it’s far harder to point the finger at ourselves and say, “Hey you in the mirror, you change by the grace of God.” Well, as I did change, so did my approach to others. I became softer, far more gentle, less apt to get angry, and far less defensive. Those difficult people weren’t as difficult. Why was that? It was because I was changing by the grace of God.
I’m convinced that ministry hurts still and it hurts a lot. But mingled with the hurt is grace. Mingled with suffering is the knowledge of God in Christ. My identity does not derive from my performance with people. Instead, it derives from Christ. When I hurt others, I eat humble pie, apologize and confess my sin specifically to people. I commit myself to the care of Christ. I aim to live my life by the grace of God by making sure I keep short accounts, confess sin, and apologize to others when I wrong them.
Life hurts. My parents got divorced as a high school student. My wife’s dad died twenty years ago of a murder homicide. Her mother died a little more than 12 years ago from stage four colon cancer. I’ve experienced multiple instances of spiritual abuse in ministry, and emotional and mental abuse growing up in my childhood. My father has slowly developing dementia and lives in an assisted living facility. I know well that life hurts. Jesus didn’t promise a bed of roses. Instead, He said that in this world there will be tribulation and challenging people.
You and I in ministry will face challenging people and challenging situations. They will be hard. In 18 years of ministry as of today, I’ve been there. I’ve been there on a college campus, on the streets, in the local church and I’ve seen it in my work as a broadcaster, podcaster, counselor, preacher, speaker, writer, and editor. All around you are people who are hurting. And the greatest news for me and you is the gospel of grace that gives real hope and helps people like me who get hurt, discouraged, and need hope that is found only in the gospel.
So now instead of pointing fingers at people, instead of keeping long lists of people’s wrongs against me, and repeating them in my head and heart over and over again, I forgive. I desire to be at peace with people. I desire to be humble, holy, and faithful before the Lord. I desire to pray that the Lord will work out what He needs to in people’s lives and entrust them to the Holy Spirit to help them work out their salvation with fear and trembling before His face. My job is to be a faithful and holy instrument.
So to sum up all of this up, I’m still growing, I’m still learning, and still praying even after 18 years of ministry and close to 32 years of following Christ that the Lord would use me, that He would help me be holy, humble, and faithful to the calling He has placed on my life.
Thank you for reading this article friends and for supporting Servants of Grace this long. Our readers are a gift from the Lord to me. The future is bright here at Servants of Grace. I’m more excited about this ministry now than I ever have been and am excited about what the Lord is doing first in me and then through the team here at Servants of Grace to grow us in His grace and for His glory.
18 years is a long time to be in one ministry. But I’m not going anywhere. I’m planning if the Lord allows to lead this ministry for the rest of my life down to the very last day I die and be with Him. Thank you for continuing to pray for this ministry and utilize the resources we put out each day for the glory of Christ.
In Christ Alone,
Founder and Executive Director, Servants of Grace Ministries