I want to take this moment to offer you a little encouragement in your ministry. If your ministry is study, may you be preparing yourself to help the world. If your ministry is work, may you serve dutifully and with care and love. If your ministry is academic, then this time of year may seem like the crunch you can hardly bear. You may feel each morning as though you are pinned to the railroad tracks while the train bears down. No matter what your ministry is, there are times when it seems ridiculously difficult to get through the day, so here comes my encouragement.
Jesus knows. When I read the gospels, I read a story about a man who was constantly obstructed, misunderstood, and overtasked. Though he asked us to love God with our minds, we begged for healing, food, more bread, and more fish. We were distressed when he said there wasn’t much money on the road to heaven; we shook him awake when he slept; and then when he begged us to stay awake with him, we fell fast asleep. We weren’t much good at keeping our minds to the task. We failed tests and bungled our papers (at least, when we wrote down the gospel stories, our timelines and details were all contradictory), and we even missed the final. Jesus knows.
But what is God’s answer to the challenges we face, however imperfectly? In The Cunning Man, Robertson Davies writes about a studious but unexceptional student: “I knew that he prayed a great deal, of course, for help in the examinations. but subsequent clinical experience has convinced me that God is not particularly interested in examinations, just as he won’t be dragged into the stock market, or being a backer in show business.” I have whispered this thought back to myself at times when the numbers of life weren’t matching those that were hoped for: God isn’t rooting for our human games. God has an entirely different game going, and it may not play by the rules we are expecting.
My prayer for all of us is that we will find ourselves attending to God’s purpose in our lives. Students: it’s about how you will someday use what you are learning, more than it is about the recognition you receive along the way. Teachers, workers, managers, leaders, parents, guides of all kinds: attend to the human element of your service, to the relational love you can show through your work.
I’m not saying you need to demur when the cashier offers you Monopoly tickets. Go ahead, and tithe your earnings too. But live for the way you contribute to the well-being and fullness of others’ lives, and you will be richer than if you had won the grand prize.