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The Ministry Paradox

Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div, M.S.A.

Number 241

In ministry, so often what seems to be isn't. Reality is merely fantasy and what is imagined can sometimes become real. What one thinks will bring good brings evil. We find that hope can turn to disappointment and sadness to joy. The seems so sweet becomes sour while that which was avoided becomes most welcome.
 
The lame walk, the deaf hear, the dumb talk, and the dying live. Those needing ministry are the greatest ministers. The greatest ministers are the ones who need the greatest ministry. The righteous are sinners; the sinners are the righteous ones. The sick are well, but the well are sick. What is dark is light; while what is light can become dark.
 
What is plain is confusing, but the confusing is so very simple. What is smooth can become rough. What is mighty is weak and what is high is made low. The exalted ones are the humbled. Those who seek no honor are the most esteemed of all.
 
Those who lead must serve, while those who are last have the promise to be first. Not seeking riches we gain the greatest wealth. That for which we strive so hard eludes us while those things which seemed impossible become reality. On the verge of victory there is failure. It is the deepest failures which lead us to the experience of real victory.
 
What is most surprising is that there really are no surprises. Things which appear coincidental are planned. Accidents and mistakes are really the greatest evidence of God's plan synchronized working in our lives.
 
We are called to a place unknown. But when we arrive, it is obvious that it is where God had planned for us all the time. Our greatest enemies become our mentors, our greatest friends our most painful betrayers, and the unknown and unnoticed gain an unforgotten place of honor in our lives. The blessed are cursed. The good receive bad. Suffering brings joy. Death brings life. Tears often bear the greatness happiness.
 
We give love and get hatred. We offer peace only to receive enmity. Those with whom we are most direct respond most indirectly. That which is hidden becomes most obvious. When we find what we sought, we discover it was not what we were looking for. What we thought was the finish line is really just another beginning.
 
Our ignorance leads us, the Spirit, to Wisdom. Our human foolishness directs us to divine prudence. In rejection we find acceptance.  In emptiness we find fullness. In our deepest longings we find our deepest fulfillment. Just when we think we are satisfied our longing begins again.
 
Everything we have is not ours. In possessing nothing we have everything. Our expectations may be those things which are least likely to occur. That which appears to be most imminent is most fleeting. The things we control go out of our grasp, while in our mastery we discovery gross incompetence.
 
Holiness dwells amid sinners. Though sin-full we are fully holy. What we thought we could do to earn our own salvation only draws us further away from grace. When we finally realize we can do nothing we see that God does it all.
 
Faith turns to doubt. In doubt we find faith. In time we find eternity. Though lost we are found. Though blind we see. Though undeserving we are made heirs and through poverty we become rich. The poor are the blessed, the hungry are the satisfied, and the most fearful are the strong.
 
Our strength is our weakness, while in our greatest weakness God demonstrates His greatest strength. Though the world is ours, the Word is all we have...and that was graciously given to us. Our strength is not in our being, it is in a Word. Though words flee, the Word remains forever.
The more we lose, the more we gain. By giving up our lives we find them. In facing death, we live.  By leaving all we gain the greatest treasure, a treasure found when we were not even looking for it. But the harder we look for it, the harder it is to find.
 
No matter how hard we work, the wages are still death. That for which we would work hardest is free. In our freedom we bind ourselves as slaves to God. Yet, when given, it cannot be repaid. In life there is death. In death there is life. All is vanity, but nothingness is gain. The unseen soul is that which gets the most attention. Our greatest good is rubbish. That which we discard becomes most valuable.
 
In conflict we find peace. In disagreements we find harmony. In the irreconcilable there is reconciliation. Amid foolishness proceeds wisdom. In childishness we find child-likeness and find that our maturity is so immature. We have a God who is so close but often seems so distant. The further we move from God, the closer He comes. When we earnestly seek Him He appears so distant.
 
The God we worship was a Man who became that which was most unlike Himself. The Son of God took flesh to dwell with us, but had no dwelling. The cursed cross represents the greatest blessing. We earnestly pray for what we desire but what we need is given without any prayer at all.
 
In plain-ness there is special-ness. The most simple is the most spiritual. The most abundant is the most unique. Plain water sustains the greatest power. Simple bread and wine are the majesty of God's presence. The most abstract and spiritual is made concrete and physical.
 
Yet that which is most paradoxical is that the transcendent, incomprehensible love of God is the most simple love. It is given to all but it is also God's personal gift to each of us. Whereas we should have given to God, God gave to us. He gave those without value the One of greatest value. He gave His Son to gain sons and daughters. Those who believe and have not seen are the ones who are more blessed than those who have seen.
 
Our calling brings the most painful joy. It is the living experience of death. Yet it is in the dying experience of life. Though so much unlike life, ministry in Christ is the greatest life. Our ministry is not really ours, it's His. Yet, what He does He does through us. Such is the greatness and mean-ness of God's calling to ministry.
 
Thomas F. Fischer

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