“… except in his own country and in his own house.” Matt 13:57
It’s amazing to note the truth in this phrase. Of course, this was spoken by Jesus after He was rejected by the people in His hometown, Nazareth. I am, in no way, comparing myself to Jesus. I’m just marvelling at the accuracy of such a statement.
When I first started in ministry, I was an itinerant preacher, moving from church to church to minister as and when invited. By the grace of God, I was very encouraged by the honour I received as the guest speaker. After the teaching or preaching, I would receive even more attention as people stepped up to tell me how much they appreciated the teaching and the insights. Words like “anointed”, “powerful”, “revelation”, “convicting” would be used. Sometimes, certain individuals would even go as far as to comment that they never get to hear such truths from their own preachers, or that messages were not as anointed. Not that I craved such remarks, but I must admit it did make me feel good, that I was doing something right. Okay, okay, on days when I allowed some pride to get to my head, I did feel more called; more chosen even 🙂
Then … I became a pastor of our own little community. I thought to myself: I’ll keep preaching without compromise. Surely our people will be blessed by the deep truths that I share with them. Well, not that the congregation did not appreciate the messages, but I began to notice something else. Whenever we had guest speakers, I would hear the people rave about how good it was, and how fresh and insightful the points were! But hey, I promptly remind them, I shared the some points two weeks ago! To which, they remark, oh, is it? This has happened quite a few times, by the way. Or when they attend a conference and come back gushing about the truths they had discovered. But hey (this time quietly in my heart), that’s what we’ve been trying to get across to you, week after week after week!
Extend that to the family and the same holds true too. Many would agree with me that the toughest people to reach and teach are those closest to you. If Jesus’ household could question Him and His integrity, a perfect sinless man, how much more challenging it is for us!? My wife and children can smell the inconsistencies in my life a mile away. Or perhaps, they have heard me speak so often that they are “deaf” to what I have to say. But when they hear another speaker say the same points in a different way, they can’t stop talking about it. But hey, haven’t you been listening to my messages?
It is definitely a very humbling exercise. Not that I have anything to prove. But I guess it’s always nice to be the one through whom God works to impact lives. That said, no one has the monopoly where God’s power and glory is concerned. God, and God alone, deserves all glory and honour. We are but His servants and co-labourers with one another. As He has allowed me the privilege to bless someone else in another congregation, the same will happen for visiting speakers at our church. As one speaker rightly mentioned, God says the same things throughout the Bible, just in different ways. And this is to cater to different people, at different points of their lives, at different stages of their spiritual walk and maturity. It’s not about the instrument or person God uses, but the end result of a reconciled relationship with Him that matters most.
That said, it would also be good for me to take a step back and really challenge myself. Have I become complacent in ministry, having acquired more experience? Am I relying more on myself, my talents and abilities, than on God and His Holy Spirit? Is my source of ministry still Jesus, the Vine; or am I just cruising along on my own strength? These are important questions for me to ask over and over again. The pulpit ministry is exciting but it also carries with it a tremendous responsibility. And if I have fallen short in any of these aspects, I must repent and realign myself all over again. But if I am on track, it is the Master’s voice of approval that I seek to hear, and not crave the accolades and praises of man.
So, I will keep preaching and teaching my very best for Him and to His people, knowing that I am enabled and empowered by His Spirit for a specific time and season, for specific hearts that would respond to His message of love and grace. I praise and thank my Lord Jesus for this awesome privilege!!!