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Learning from Others is part of the Take Your Next Step into Ministry series that helps a person interested in Christian full-time ministry (and tentmaking) to learn how to profit from the comments and criticisms of others.
This is a critical time for those seeking to go into ministry. Paul says it is a ‘fine work’ that the overseer is involved in (1 Timothy 3:1). We are proud of God’s special work in our hearts, but this should not be interpreted that we are ready for ministry.
God will use others to train us, but we need to learn how to learn from them and not let our pride interfere.
Probably each of us have seen those individuals who say they are called of God to serve Him and yet something makes us really wonder if this is true. Brothers and sisters often give ‘hints’ to that they might not be fit, at least at this point, for this ministry.
It would help if these individuals should speak more directly to us about their concern, “Bob, I appreciate your heart to serve the Lord but to be effective you need to work on your relationship with the way you relate to spiritual authority such as your pastors. I sense their might be spiritual pride that would ruin your work in the years ahead.”
Many brothers and sisters are so careful not to hurt us that they are not helpful. They might ‘hint’, “Hi Bob, how are you going to live?” They might really trying to caution you that you should not go do to some concern. Or, “Bob, maybe you should wait a bit before going.” They might be thinking specifically that your need to work on your marriage.
Since you are the one being called, you need to make sure you are paying close attention to the suggestions, ‘hints’, and warnings people provide. Some can be dismissed but treasure the comments coming closest to you, even if they seem to threaten your calling. Usually people are not questioning the calling as much as the preparation. Only they cannot either bring themselves to identify their concern or they do not know how to use good statements to support their feelings and observations.
Generally the more immature and insecure a person is, the more insensitive he might be to the suggestions of others.
If God, however, has planted those people around you with those suggestions, then we better pay close attention to them, even if it is a little child. Comments about our calling, positive or negative, are there for us to ponder upon.
Comments about missing out on the world can be easily dismissed. Often they come from others who have favored the things of this world. They feel uncomfortable with you, your burden and standards. We need to develop a good biblical mindset towards these concerns about how God will take care of us. People will often through our lives openly state or quietly suggest that we ought to provide better or differently for the needs of our families.
Other comments, however, should be welcomed. Write them down. Ask yourselves, “Why are people saying such comments, positive or negative?” Usually, the positive comments are those words from God encouraging us on our path. Do not interpret a compliment to mean that you do not need to improve!
If we are clever, we can and should try to learn from these comments. They might come from someone that does not quite understand us. If we allow ourselves to be quickly offended by their comments, then we will miss the opportunity to clarify things and build a good relationship. Usually, however, people understand us more than we think. They often bring up points from their own personal experiences.
“It’s not going to be easy.”
“Are you sure you are up to it?”
Laughingly said, “I bet there are some ‘hot’ conversations between you and your spouse!”
“You will come back in two years.”
“Seminary training destroy people’s hearts.”
Tackle each one of them. They are thinking of something when they state it. They might think of some defeat they faced or see some special problem in your life that they fear might develop. They might, perhaps, see you as lazy, and wonder if you will ever be able to persevere. They will not say that they think you lazy but wonder if God is calling you.
If it is not clear, you can ask them why they said a certain statement. Learn from what they have learned. Treat it as if God is planting some good advice or warning.
Take an extra step and ask, “What do you suggest for me to personally work on?” Or if it is someone you admire, ask them if you could meet with them one or two times to further hear more about their concerns and suggestions. This is the way to find good mentors. It is probably not good to commit yourself long term to meeting someone until you can see the results from an actual time together.
This is God’s training time for us. Learn to listen to the people God will bring into your life and prompt you to pay attention to some particular matter. Don’t quickly dismiss their words.
Again, there will be those sent from Satan to discourage you. Nehemiah and others had them. Everyone that speaks to you, however, is not trying to discourage you even if their comment is somewhat negatively presented. They are in their way trying to help you by subtly warning you. They just do not properly state what is in their minds.
You might answer one of these statements by, “Thank you so much for your caution. I will try to work on this area. Do you have any suggestions on what I could improve? I would really welcome any suggestions because I want to get myself ready for God’s work.” Or you could even aggressively seek, “If God somehow helps me in this area, do you see any other areas I could also work on? I really want to be God’s effective servant.”
These kind of statements not only puts pride away from our heart but also enables those around us to become our helpers, guides and even mentors.
Learn to keep a spiritual journal that traces God’s leading in your life. It is a place you can remember what God has and is saying to you. This is a time to clarify your calling, identify areas you can grow in and discern the path ahead.
Through the spiritual journal, you will be able to see how far God has brought you as well as stay focused on the challenges ahead. It is a time to enjoy and keep record of what God has done for you.
Look at this training period as a special time where He will actively working in and through your life. A calling is, after all, a special joint venture in which He has called you to work along with Him. He promises to equip and use you in that work.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:12-14).
Next => Your Pursuit of Him