Don’t get me wrong, I love serving in ministry, but the status of “happy” does not normally dot my skyline. Like others in the pastorate, I have my days. I have my ups…and my downs. I am not depressed or angry. I do not lack motivation, or clarity of purpose, and at times in little bursts along the way, there is some joy. But, happy? Mmmm, not so much.
I would contend, that across the many pages of Scripture, one would be hard-pressed to locate a “happy” prophet. How about Moses? Not exactly. Jeremiah? Mmm, No! He was the “weeping” prophet. Jonah? On every level, just No!
Rather, in those pages, one would find the relentless striving of God to call His people to himself through faithful vessels. One would find the consistent failure of those same people to submit to their true King. One would find the miraculous accounts of God’s power, and incredible mercy. One would find the scarlet thread of Christ woven through every page. But, one would be hard-pressed to identify one such prophet who would be classified as “happy.”
The many prophets found are those whose burden it is to act as sentinels, those who have been conscripted to proclaim the word, the will, and the way of Yahweh. Theirs is a call to cry out. Theirs is a commission to warn the people. Theirs is a burden to admonish people in the ways of the Lord. Yet, it is those heralds whose words have found such minimal purchase in the hearts of those addressed.
The desperate words of those so commissioned fall all too often upon the hardened soil of human hearts. You see, in Israel, the state of the human heart had been weighed and found wanting.
My great fear is that the same is true for the American expression of Christianity; would it indeed be weighed and found wanting? Have we so compromised what it means to be a God-honoring, Biblically-rooted community; have we so lowered the bar as to what it means to be a truly devoted, obedient follower of Jesus Christ? And, have we so surrendered what it means to be a true shepherd of the flock? So, “happy”? Mmmm.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a remnant, and God is still working, but, for those whose hearts choose to deny Christ, the prospect is dismal. Yet for those of us who have been truly called to shepherd the flock, our hearts are often heavy, not happy. But, nowhere in Scripture do I see “happy” entering into it. There are pockets along the way when we rejoice at someone choosing the right course of obedience. Yet, how often is that tempered with those who are falling away?
I suppose those called to carry this burden today are in great part pastors – those entrusted to oversee the spiritual welfare of the sheep. Those shepherds live in constant tension of spiritual flurry every day. We see people fall away…choose poorly; those whom we have led to Christ, those we have baptized, those whom we have discipled. And we see others dig into Christ. We see sheep getting pulled into the mire of sin by their spouses or “friends.” Some, after years of proclaiming Christ as their Lord have simply “thrown in the towel.” We hold the grievous confidences of others with great despair. We see many, after years of spiritual investment, simply disappear out the back door with never a faint “good-bye.”
And yes, we do see those victories along the way where certain sheep arise victorious in Christ, but oh! The tension!
Still, our mandate has not changed…and will not. We still have the greatest privilege as shepherds, and as the Church of Jesus Christ.
“We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me” (Colossians 1:28-29).
I hope you see the incredible kernel of truth in that verse. It describes why we do what we do, “so that we may present every man complete in Christ!” One day, one great day we have the honor of seeing those with whom we have striven being presented to the Lord. Our aim is to present them complete. Mature. Perfect in Christ.
Our call may be challenging, and downright exhausting at times. I may not be the life of the party, or the “happiest” minister in the room…but, I love what I do, and I thank the Lord that He allows me to do it at all. I am not looking to be funny, jovial, carefree, or other felicitous superlatives. I am not seeking happiness, so much as I am seeking joy in the obedience of my calling.
For the glory of God, we work to build His Kingdom. Let that soak in.