"Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake." Acts 9:15
Jesus chooses and calls those He intends to use, as His instruments. Those who bear His name, as a badge of honor, need to remember, they were not chosen to serve, as an honor guard, at a cemetery, for the "Unknown Christian." They soon find out they have been drafted, into active duty, in a war against evil. Their enemy is real, ruthless, and relentless. There will be casualties and consequences. Wounded Warriors, indeed.
Posers, who anoint themselves, with the title of preacher or pastor, soon find out that it comes with a price. Those who campaigned for the job, rarely have a clue what it is going to cost them. What looked like a bright career to them, blinded them, from the sight of the cross.
Preaching is not a career choice. It is a calling from Jesus. Those who are called to it, will suffer in it. Seminary won't prepare a person for it. Only The Spirit of God can do that. What Ananias said to Saul, remains true for every person called to serve and suffer, as "an instrument of Mine."
"The Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road...has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." v. 17
The call of Saul began in the heart of God, at a time and place that is not revealed to us in The Scripture. We only know, when the call was revealed, on the Road to Damascus. When the Lord Jesus called him by name, it was unexpected by Saul, by those who sent him, by his traveling companions, and by those who feared him most. Behind every person who is called to preach, or pastor, is a group of surprised people. This only happens...EVERY TIME.
Those who are not called to preach, pastor or lead a local church, often launch a successful campaign, to do so. As a candidate, the task looks easy enough. Once their name is on the sign of the church, or the door on their office, they quickly complain about the painful consequences.
The perspective, from the pulpit, is quite different, from the view from the pew. From a padded seat, posers in waiting see parade passing them by, and run down the aisle, to get out ahead to lead it. From what they could tell, based on what they saw in the flaws of the person in front of them, anyone could do it. Posers never know, the parade they were racing to lead, was a march up Calvary's Hill.
The seismic shift from campaigning to complaining, is swift and earth-shaking. Too many people see preaching as a career, or a casting call to be rock star. The truth is this. It will rock your world.
WARNING: If you are called to lead His church, you are called to die, on your own cross. Take up your cross, personally. The pain is personal. It is real, and it is relentless. You aren't meant to survive the cross. You are meant to die on it. Suffering is a painful lesson, Saul would have to learn. He never forgot it. He said, "I die daily." Follow his lead.
In his call, Saul was told there would be a price to pay, for bearing the name of Jesus. It involved suffering. Today's brand of preacher fills their Facebook posts with pics of their latest meal, at the hippest restaurant, or images of people, under theatrical lighting and makeup, lifting hands and gazing intently in well-choreographed worship sets. No cross. No blood. No offense. No suffering. No truth. Don't believe a word they say.
In January 1975, I heard my father read this passage of Scripture to me, as I prepared to head off for my second semester in Seminary. We were sitting at the kitchen table of the parsonage in Kings Park, New York, sharing a cup of coffee. It was before dawn, and we were having a final word together, before I started the drive that would take me through New York City, and down the road, back to Fort Worth. Dad's verse for the new year was,...
"That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His suffering, being conformed to the image of His death." Philippians 3:10
Two weeks later Dad was in the ER, and his life was hanging in the balance, from an exploded colon. The subsequent infection that set in, led to three more surgeries, over a two year period. I saw a robust, powerful man reduced to less than 90 pounds, and plagued by three bags hanging from his stomach, to remove the waste from his system. The sight and smells of his suffering were vivid, and his scars linger still.
The result? It took Dad's prayer life to a new level, and the lives of thousands of people have been enriched, by the ministry that was birthed out of his suffering. How? The process was this. He took his suffering to the cross, and left it there. He walked hand in hand with Jesus, to the cross, and remained in intimate communication with Him, after the cross. He observed..
"Prayer is the intimate communication, between the Heavenly Father, and His child." Don Miller
Suffering was not something Saul was going to be able to avoid, if he stayed on the course The Lord Jesus called him to follow. Suffering is not a curse of the call, it is the key to effectiveness in it. Complaining about suffering is not the same thing as praying in it and through it. Complaining only magnifies the pain. It never reduces it.
Don't get me wrong. Prayer is not a spiritual form of pain management. Nor is it an insipid response, to intense suffering. Explaining suffering doesn't remove it, and complaining about it doesn't relieve it. Prayer puts it where it belongs, on the cross. The Lord Jesus, The Risen Christ, by His Spirit of Promise, resurrects the consequences of suffering, transforming a suffering saint into a changed person. It is a painful process, and it has a purpose.
Note to self: The Spirit of Christ, takes the name of Jesus, from the logo on your shirt, and moves HIM to the recesses of your heart. Pray when you suffer. You would be wise to stop trying to complain about it or explain it away. Never forget. If you are called to it, Jesus will see you through it.
Suffering doesn't make sense, unless it is nailed to The Cross, and left there, until Jesus does something with it. His Spirit is more than able to release His character into anyone who is suffering with their Savior, not just searching for a solution. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!
"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control..." Galatians 5:20