This year I decided to walk again through Oswald Chambers’ devotional masterpiece, My Utmost for His Highest. It is consistently both inspiring and convicting in this season of walking ever closer to the Lord. I’ve read these messages many times in past years, but this time I see them in a new way. They speak to me of the high calling to Christlikeness of a mature disciple.
Last week I came to this passage based on 2 Corinthians 4:2–
“You know that God will only let you work in one way; be careful never to catch people the other way. God’s blight will be on you if you do. Others are doing things which to you would be walking in craftiness, but it may not be so with them. God has given you another standpoint. Never blunt the sense of your utmost for His highest.
I had to chew on this for a while to reach understanding and find application to my own life and ministry.
I work in a ministry to felons coming out of Texas prisons, and lead a Bible study and prayer ministry for women in transit at one of the TDCJ units in Huntsville. My husband is also deeply involved in prison ministry, and we often talk at the end of the day about how honored we are to serve this population. We’ve received such favor, from God and from those leaders who guide, protect and give us access to “the least of these.”
It is incredibly satisfying to know that we can do something Jesus explicitly tells us he wants done. In truth it has ruined both of us for traditional, comfortable church settings. We want to be with those who are desperately hungry for God’s presence and love. These were the kind of folks Jesus was drawn to the most.
This kingdom work keeps our eyes on Jesus, and it makes other “things of earth grow strangely dim.” God has us in a precious and sacred place, and we never want to take it for granted or take any credit for it.
I’ve also realized that this new calling has rendered me incapable of marketing or selling or branding myself or the ministries I serve. Money has never been a big motivator in any of my choices anyway. But when I’m asked to promote and raise money for ministry efforts, it often feels like craftiness. There’s a check in my spirit. I’m not called to “catching” people in that way.
I agree with Oswald that for other people it is not craftiness at all. I have no criticism, only admiration, for those who are good at persuading people to get involved in good, Christ-honoring causes. Someone needs to do this work, because ministry needs more people and costs a lot of money.
I appreciate the marketers in the same way I appreciate nurses and mechanics and teachers of young children because these are things I have no aptitude or motivation to do. Thank God for all the people who are doing what they are gifted to do.
What I have been called to is invitation. I am to first study to show myself approved unto God through diligent study and accurate teaching of his Word. I am to set a table of sound biblical truth and invite people to partake. I am not responsible for whether they choose to do so. But I am responsible to love them either way.
In my re-entry ministry, I’m also called to speak and write about the realities that inmates and parolees face in a world that is too often merciless. My hope is that after learning about the problem, more and more people will find their own hearts stirred with a desire to participate in the solutions we propose. I’m inviting them with information that I labor to present in a compelling way.
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I suppose it speaks of the distinct gift of teaching, and how it is set apart from evangelism or preaching or promotion. It isn’t better or more important, it’s a different standpoint.
It’s good that we all have unique standpoint, a place from which we can give our utmost. When we take our part seriously and refuse to walk in craftiness, there is no blight. The kingdom advances and the Lord is glorified.