A young seminary graduate was complaining to his bishop after having served in his first pastorate for a couple of years. “It seems,” said he, “that my congregation loves to speak Scripture verses over me.” The surprised bishop asked, “What’s wrong with that? I know many pastors who would love it if their congregations would speak Scripture verses over them.” “You don’t understand,” the young minister moaned. “It’s not the fact they speak Scripture over me. Rather it’s the Scriptures that they have chosen to declare.” He continued, “When I first arrived, they all proclaimed, ‘Blessed is he who cometh in the Name of the Lord’ (Ps. 118:26). But after I had been there for a year, they began to quote, ‘By what authority doest thou these things, or who is he that gave thee this authority?’ (Lk. 20:2). Now, well into my second year there, I heard that they have begun confessing another Scripture over me. ‘Let him be crucified…His blood be on us!’ (Matt. 27:23-25).”
Many, many years ago, when I was very young in ministry, an older pastor whom I respected at the time, advised me, “Go where you are celebrated, not just tolerated.” While such counsel does indeed seem to play into the contemporary “zeitgeist” mentality that has apparently taken over the minds of many in the Body of Christ, it is certainly not Biblical, and actually smacks of humanism rather than expressing a consecrated heart desire to please the Father.
Another precious minister friend, much older in the Lord than I, counselled thus (also many years ago): “If I were you, Brother Jeff, with your talent and anointing, I would just open a map of the United States on my floor, close my eyes and plant my finger randomly on the map, find the nearest large city to where my finger landed, and go there and start a church.” As much as Linda and I desire to lead another congregation, I refuse to start a church out of frustration, or take an existing one merely because the door looks open. There are too many like that already. We are at the point now where we MUST hear from God, and He knows that when He does lead us, we will endeavor by His Grace to obey. We have had opportunity since leaving our last assignment, to both pioneer and to take existing works, but each time the Lord has said, “No, not this one.” The Apostle Paul and his companions endeavored to go in a certain direction, but the “Spirit suffered them not” (Acts 16:7). Why didn’t they merely just “go where they were celebrated?”
Jesus was well acquainted with both the adulation of the masses, and the malevolence of the mobs. Neither one moved Him. Whether, at any given time, he was “celebrated,” “tolerated,” or “rejected,” He refused to be distracted from the fulfillment of the Father’s Purpose, either by the praises of the crowd, or the curses.
Isaiah evidently did not get the memo that he should choose to go where he was “celebrated.” He declared that “the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded; therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed” (Is. 50:7). According to strong historical tradition, Isaiah became so “popular” that he was stuffed into a hollow log and sawed in half.
Others are listed in the Bible’s Hall of Fame of Faith (Heb. 11), who “subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouth of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens, and received their dead raised to life.” Yet, in the midst of these miraculous demonstrations of God, “others were tortured…and…had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented.” Why didn’t they just “go where they were celebrated?” Yet despite the fact that they never drove a Rolls Royce, they never asked for donations for a $65 million dollar jet aircraft, they never owned a mansion in the Hamptons, and they were never religious celebrities with weekly television broadcasts, the inspired Biblical author declares that “the world was not worthy” of them (Heb. 11:38). Don’t misunderstand me. God does bless His faithful children. I am a living testimony of that fact. I am not against preachers driving nice cars, living in nice houses, flying in ministry-owned airplanes, or being on television. But the question remains, are we selfishly seeking to please men, scratching their itching ears so that they will grease our greedy palms? Or are we determined, no matter what it might cost, to please our Father in Heaven, obey what He has called us to do, refuse to compromise His Message, and seek FIRST His Kingdom?
Never forget that God does not evaluate “success” according to mere earthly standards. Pastor JOHN Osteen used to say, “When you stand before the Judgement Seat of Christ, He will not judge you based on how MUCH you did, but on whether you did what He CALLED you to do.” The Apostle Paul declared that neither the one sowing, the one watering, nor the one reaping, can take any credit unto themselves anyway, seeing as it is ultimately God who gives the increase (I Cor. 3:7). God rewards faithful obedience, not merely outward achievement. When we stand before the Lord, He will not say, “Well done, good and successful servant.” Nor will he say, “Well done, good and talented servant.” He will not even say, “Well done, good and anointed servant.” The desire of my heart, and I pray the desire of yours as well, is to hear my Precious Savior say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:23).
So please allow me to encourage all of you, especially those of you who are young in ministry and seeking direction. Do NOT simply go where you are “celebrated.” Rather, get on your face before God, submit to His discipleship process, learn how to hear from Heaven, and then go where you are SENT! Be Blessed!