Wretched Freedom

Perhaps one of the most difficult realizations for me is that in the Christian life there is a great deal of wretched freedom. “Wretched freedom” doesn’t sound all that pleasant, but I believe it is an apt description–from our perspective–for the life God invites us to live.

I hear Christians say over and over again that they would like to hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” on the day they come face to face with our Lord. I, too, would like to know that I am bringing pleasure and glory to God with my ministry. I often wonder how I can be sure that I am a good and faithful servant, especially when it seems like I could and should be doing more.

I imagine that what God calls us to do is like a fenced-in area of pasture. The freedom is that we’re only responsible for cultivating our area. There’s only so much within the limits to which we need to tend. The pain is that we often look to areas beyond ours and seek success in other things. We pace along the edges of the fence and look longingly at opportunities that are not ours. Sometimes we go so far as to jump the fence and set up shop somewhere else.

The conclusion I’ve come to is that God will not hold us responsible for not using opportunities he didn’t give us. He won’t ask why we didn’t do ministry that he didn’t ask us to do. He will, however ask us about the ministry we neglected in search of bigger, greener pastures.

A lot of ministry doesn’t happen in the public eye. In fact, our most important and lasting ministry is often hidden: our personal connection to Jesus, serving our spouse and kids, for example.

I read recently about a woman who was called to ministry and settled into a position where she was very happy. A few years into it, her daughter began having multiple health problems and the pastor felt called to resign to take care of her ailing daughter. Success meant ministering to her child.

My husband had faithfully led a Bible study on Monday nights that had only a handful of people in it. Even if only one person showed up, he was prepared to read and discuss the Bible. I admire him for being able to look beyond the number of people and recognize that success was showing up and ministering to the person God placed before him.

I pray that I will know the freedom or throwing myself headlong into the ministry that God called me to do, no matter how small it might seem. May I delight in hidden service as much as applause, so that I am found faithful before the Lord, not only before a crowd.

LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
Psalm 16:5-6

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