“We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed. But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.” 2 Corinthians 6:3-10
How is it that one person's ministry can look so different than another person's ministry, and yet at the same time both people be serving the same God in all truth and in all conviction under the Holy Spirit? I have been faced with this question over the past few days as two different circumstances have confronted my basic convictions about how differently God speaks to my heart and reveals it through my life and how He has chosen to work in two other women who are very different from me and who also minister and bring truth to the body of Christ.
I think throughout his ministry, Paul also encountered many people with whom he had conflicted ministry ideals. At times these ideals did cause him and other believers to go their separate ways; take for instance the conflict between Paul and Barnabas in Acts 15:36-41. Over time God showed that He had been in the hearts of both men and in the midst of their inability to work together. Because their differing ways though, God expanded His kingdom in a greater way. But what is even more heart-warming to come to grips with is that over time, these men with softened hearts, eventually saw God bring reconciliation to their opposing positions and in the end create an even greater testimony for the Lord, as you can see by what Paul writes in 2 Timothy 4:11.
“Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.”
Yes, that is the same Mark that is mentioned in Acts 15 who Barnabas wanted to bring and yet who Paul refused as a travel companion. Here at the point of when 2 Timothy is written, Paul is nearing the end of his life on earth, most of his faithful companions have abandoned him, he is confined to a prison, and yet the man who receives mention as one who would be useful to him in this state is a man who in the past he refused to travel with.
The verses from 2 Corinthians are words of wisdom from a man who saw the conflicting sides of ministry yet the oneness of a diverse body under the single, unchangeable nature of God. Paul understood that even though the ministry of one person may not even be palatable from one believer to another, that as long as no “offense” or “blame” (meaning committed acts that would cause someone to walk away from the Lord and His truth) could be brought up against a believer in ministry, than it was ordained by God no matter how different each person's ministry looked from the outside.
I am not sure if these matters which I have been pondering before the Lord have been completely revealed to me, but after looking at the truth the bible has to offer in regards to God ordained ministry approaches I have at least decided to not to try to look too deeply at these women but rather look more closely at the Lord who stands behind each of us and asks each uniquely to walk in the manner He has prescribed.
I am praying one day I will see a greater reconciliation between what, at least at this point in time, I can't wrap my mind around. At this crossroad in which I stand, I realize I just need to have a softened and nonjudgmental heart to all those who are ministering in much different ways in the name of the Lord. My greatest prayer is that God then, in my openness, will bring about ways for me to see the beautiful complexity of His nature and how He exhibits it differently in each person He calls and ordains to be a minister of truth.
Have you ever thought about how God may be calling you to see Him through the lens of a person who has a different way of worshiping Him or ministering to Him? Time taken to consider what your heart may have judged and therefore been hardened against instead of being softened to the array of godly diversity is time well spent. In the end, we may be surprised at the variable magnitude that God has placed before us and which we might have missed if we didn't take the time look.