Last Night, I had the privilege of attending the ordination service of a young man in our church who has been called into full-time ministry. As he shared his testimony with us, he mentioned a remark made by his Pastor several years ago, when God first called him to the ministry. They were words that I recognized, as they’ve been said to me before, as well. I’ve come to realize how very true they are.
The Pastor told him that, as he pursued God’s calling in his life, there would be days when things would be so difficult and frustrating that he’d be ready to quit. He also said that there would be days when he’d think that he could do no wrong. And, the Pastor was right.
You get squeezed a lot when you’re involved in ministry. Sometimes it’s our enemy trying to get us to quit, and sometimes it’s God trying to get us moving. There is one common element among those who are successful in service to Christ and His church: they’ve all “hit bottom.”
My dad was an alcoholic. He was also a sober, model 12-stepper for the last 8 years of his life, years that brought out a lot of good qualities that were submerged in alcohol before. On a few occasions I happened to accompany him to AA meetings, and got to know a lot of his friends and acquaintances. I noticed two distinctly different types of alcoholics in those gatherings: Those who really wanted to be free of alcohol, and those that wanted to be able to drink, have fun, and not have any of the negative consequences.
It was fairly easy to spot the latter group. When they spoke about their drunken days, there was a certain wistful twinkle in their eyes, and a slight bit of longing in their voices. It’s not surprising at all that they also slid back into the bottle from time to time. In some cases, the meeting should have had a revolving door.
In contrast, the former group knew where they had come from and even though they found themselves wanting to anesthetize themselves with a few drinks from time to time, they hated what it did to them so strongly that they just plain refused to go back there. Their love for sobriety was stronger than their love for alcohol, and drove them to stay sober. Without exception, these folks can name a time when they “hit bottom”. They came to a place where they had only two choices left: sober up and live, or continue drinking and die. Facing themselves head on, and seeing themselves exactly as they were, they chose to sober up—and live.
We have two very similar groups in the church, and every believer is aligned with one group or the other. Some of us have seen the bottom, and after coming to that place where we had no place to go but up, and no place to turn but to Jesus, we know that there’s nothing worthwhile back there where we used to be. We don’t ever want to be back there again. We surrender ourselves totally and completely to the Lordship of Christ, and allow Him to use us as any way He sees fit.
Then there’s the majority view, described well by Solomon:
(Prov 26:11 NNAS) Like a dog that returns to its vomit Is a fool who repeats his folly.
Over and over again, we repeat the same mistakes and commit the same sins. We repent, we weep, we allow God to pull us out of the mud and wash us clean… and then we go hop into the mud puddle again. In a lot of ways, these folks are just coasting. They go up, they go down, and they become so used to the inconsistency that they think it’s normal.
But, without exception, those who have truly accomplished great things for God know what it is to “bottom out”. They’ve been to the place where they were so totally emptied of themselves that they were really able to be “filled with the Spirit and with power,” and truly able to be tools in the hand of a mighty God.
If you take serving God seriously, you’ll have moments when you doubt that you’ll be able to go one more step. At those moments, you’ll feel weak, worthless, and powerless, but you’ll also be in that place where God can really get hold of you and use you in a mighty way. It’s not because you’re so talented, but because you’re so broken, so totally surrendered, so God-dependent that you can be powerfully used of God without letting it go to your head.
If you find yourself being “squeezed” by God today, don’t let it get you down. He’s preparing you, sharpening you, getting you ready for the great things that He wants to do through you.
He’s squeezing you because He loves you!