Mother Teresa became convinced at the age of 12 that she was called to religious life. She left her home in Macedonia at the age of 18 and joined a convent in Ireland, never to see her family again. A year later she arrived in India to begin her work teaching in Loreto. The poverty she saw disturbed her and after many years of teaching, she left the safety of the convent and began her ministry to the poorest of the poor. She had no income to begin with and had to beg for everything. She wrote at one time that she learned a lesson from the poor while looking for a home. She walked so much that every part of her ached and she realized that people in poverty went through that every day. She was tempted to return to the security of the convent, but eventually persisted and continued the work that gained her worldwide fame. In spite of her fame, she sought one thing: to minister to the poorest of the poor.
Not many would undertake that same journey. I imagine that convent life isn’t too luxurious, and yet compared to Mother Teresa’s ultimate ministry, it was tempting to return to that life. Me, I complain when the hotel mattress is too hard, or too soft. Many followed Mother Teresa as they saw her dedication. I am sure that many started and could not continue. Jesus ran into that problem. As His ministry grew, it became popular to follow Him. People proclaimed their undying allegiance…as long as a few of their conditions were met. “Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, ‘Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.’” (Matthew 8:19-20)
Ministry costs. My pastor has said on many occasions that “Ministry is spelled M-O-N-E-Y.” He is right in one respect. There is a financial cost to carry on any ministry work. Those involved in ministry need to eat. There is money involved in the actions of ministry. That being said, money is a small part of the cost of ministry. Ministry requires a personal sacrifice that goes beyond money. Sometimes that sacrifice is temporary. Sometimes that sacrifice lasts a lifetime. The sacrifices necessary to do ministry include things like our time. If you have ever volunteered to help minister to someone you may think during the event that you could be doing something else. You could, but you sacrificed your time. Personal comfort is another sacrifice we make. There are some parts of ministry that are uncomfortable to be involved in yet you realize the cause is worth the discomfort. Often, the greatest sacrifice is to our prestige. We could be hanging around the “right” people and gaining brownie points with them; instead we are working around people that could never do anything for us.
That list isn’t exhaustive, of course, but those are some of the obstacles we have when we think about ministering. There is only one good reason to be involved in ministry: obedience. The call to ministry is never about us, it isn’t even about those to whom we minister. The call to ministry is about obedience to Jesus. He calls us to care for the poor. He calls us to heal the sick. He calls us to visit those in prison. He calls us to care for the fatherless and the widow. True ministry is never about making ourselves look good. True ministry is always about following Jesus in obedience. True ministry recognizes that God loves the people who need ministry and has called on us to be His hands and His heart to people at the point of their need. Ministry costs. Whether it’s money, time, comfort, prestige, or anything else you may give up, ministry costs. But the joy of obedience and our relationship with God is worth the cost.
Lord, You have called me into this hurting world to minister. Open my eyes to the opportunities in front of me to share Your love and mercy. Let me show others Your grace in all I do.