Sunday, May 8, 2016

Being an 'Under-rower' in ministry

‘…when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles.’ Galatians 1:15–16.

Not everyone has the ‘Damascus road’ conversion. Neither do they have such a revealing call to ministry. God deals with us in His own unique way. However Jesus called you into His service, there is the underlying purpose as expressed to Paul in Acts 26:16: ‘I have appeared to you…to make you a minister and a witness…’ The term ‘minister’ is actually from the Greek ‘Huperetes’ and means an under-rower. What a humbling title for this converted Pharisee. Other Greek words are translated ‘minister’ by Paul and in which he seems to have actually delighted in. Two other humbling descriptions can be mentioned. One is ‘doulos’ meaning bond slave and the other ‘diakonos’ defining a table waiter. W.E. Vine wrote, ‘Doulos, in relation to his master; diakonos views a servant in relation to his work; huperetes, in relation to his superior.’ (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words.)

Notice that the Lord is quoted as saying He would ‘make’ Paul a minister (under-rower) and a witness. That implies such a position doesn’t come naturally. Why? Probably because our soul nature wants to have the pre-eminent role! It wants control. This spiritual issue could be called the Diotrephes syndrome. 3 John 9: ‘I (John) wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us.’  

In Paul’s training for ministry Jesus took him to Arabia (Galatians 1:17). Was this the place the future apostle to the Gentiles learnt the art of being ‘huperetes?’ In wasn’t a short course either. Nor did Paul burst upon the World scene from out of Arabia. It seems to me that it was back in Tarsus where Paul served his apprenticeship. Once proven the Lord arranged for a wider ministry.

The Lord desires to take us to our own ‘Arabia.’  This is the place where we gain both a deeper insight of being under His command. He will also have places arranged for our ‘apprenticeship’ where lessons learnt are applied and refined. The church scene is littered with formerly keen ‘wantabees’ for ministry who didn’t like their ‘Arabia or Tarsus.’ Once we accept the Lord’s ‘school’ and been found faithful we are equipped to proceed.

Acts 26:18 is a powerful summary of being an effective ‘under-rower.’ ‘…to open their (Gentiles) eyes and turn them from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ The first feature is to ‘open their eyes…’ This means that a spiritual blindness has overtaken the descendents of Adam and Eve. ‘Eyes they have but see not…’ is on the lips of Jesus many times. It is also the frustration which snaps at the work of His servants. It isn’t the lack of evidence which is the problem. It’s a person’s unwillingness to believe it. In ministry we realise very quickly our impotency in opening the eyes of the blind by our own wit and wisdom. Only the Holy Spirit can do this and He will do it in His time. So what are we to be in this case? We are His ‘tubes’ bearing the ointment of the grace and power of the risen Lord. When the Lord knows it is the right time He through you and me will touch the person’s spiritual eyes.

The second feature is to ‘turn them from darkness to light.’ Here again we are instruments in the Master’s hand. Through our obedient lifestyle and speaking, the light of Calvary’s love can shine out.  What we have personally experienced and rejoiced in confronts those in sin’s darkness. Our testimony verifies Colossians 1:13: ‘For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son.’ What is required by those in the ‘shadows’ is a desire for the Light. This will birth courage for Sin will not let the person go easily. Faith grabs the willing but fearful believer’s hand to leads it out of darkness. The minister is not the deliverer. That is the Lord’s role. We are the spiritual attendants to assist with prayer, encouragement, teaching and a strong shoulder to lean on.

One of the dangers in ministry is to try and manipulate a person into turning from the things of Darkness towards the Light. Inducements of any form do not work. Only the Holy Spirit can bring a man or woman to the point where they are willing to pay the price to dwell in the Light. There is nothing more wonderful for a minister to savour as an under-rower than to be Christ’s link to a person hearing the good news. The joy does not stop there. It has only begun. Now the Commander expects His under-rower to unpack for the new believer the treasures found in the Light.

Reflection: Have I understood my calling in the light of such terms as ‘bond servant’, ‘table waiter’ and ‘under-rower?’

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