“For He is like a refiner’s fire .... He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness.” Malachi 3:2-3
We live in an instant-gratification society. It is no wonder, then, that this attitude infects even our approach to our ministry and calling. We expect God to open doors, smooth the way, hasten results, and in general hand us a successful ministry on a silver platter. After all, we reason, it’s for his kingdom and his glory, so why wouldn’t he?
There’s a problem with that. God isn’t in the business of delivering “success” – even success in ministry – on a silver platter. He is in the business of creating character by refining us in the silver furnace.
Here are some of the things I have learned in the Refiner’s fire as I have pursued God’s ministry and calling on my life for almost four decades:
--- We need to value people above all, just as Jesus did and does. Ministry is about love, not numbers.
--- We may have big ministry dreams, but God may intend something small. If so, we need to submit with humility.
--- We need to be open to God’s re-direction or correction of our dreams for ministry.
--- Sometimes, what we dream our ministry to be is just not in God’s plan at all, and we may need to give it up.
--- We must be willing to give up even good ministry dreams to follow where God leads. That requires faith, submission, and obedience.
--- Sometimes, we are led into a ministry that isn’t what we expected or even wanted. But wherever God leads us, we should engage with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
--- We may be called to start a ministry, yet never see its fulfillment in this life.
--- God may want us to follow a dream for ministry but have no plans for its success in the way we want or expect.
--- It may take far, far, far longer than we ever imagined to fulfill our ministry, and it may take far, far, far more sacrifice on our part than we had ever conceived.
--- Success in ministry is defined by love and obedience.
“For You have tried us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined.” – Psalm 66:10