Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Life I Didn't Choose

Before I start out this blog, which I will admit I just haven't sat down and written for in a very long time, I need to make a confession. I embrace Wesleyan-Arminian theology which, among other things, rejects the notion that God's sovereignty requires He micromanage every atom in the universe (or else He isn't actually sovereign), and states that humanity was created with the capacity and responsibility to make free, moral choices. With that said...

I firmly believe I didn't choose to be a pastor.

If you have been following along with the series of sermons that I have been preaching out of the book of Ephesians, first of all thank you. Second, I believe Ephesians makes it quite clear that God established the plan of salvation through Christ before anything was created, and through the work Christ did, He also has invited the whole of humanity to receive that gift. Ephesians does not say God picked out those who would be saved and those who would be condemned.

When I think about a gift, I think about something someone has picked out for me. If I picked out a gift for myself that someone else was going to get for me, it wouldn't really be a gift. If I went and bought something for myself, it isn't a gift. Salvation is a gift that was picked out for all of humanity. We didn't tell Christ to go and secure salvation for us, and we can't get it of ourselves.

Yet there is more to it than that. When someone has done the work of getting me a gift, and has offered it to me as such, I have a decision to make: do I accept the gift, or do I reject it? While I did not choose the gift that was given to me, I can choose to keep or toss it.

As I am beginning to work through Ephesians chapter 4, a thought occurred to me: salvation is a gift for all of humanity to either accept or reject, but in addition to salvation there are individual gifts which are not general, but specific to the one who has received the salvation, in order that their salvation will be fully expressed. Confused yet?

Paul wrote "And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ" (Ephesians 4:11-12, NASB). God has given additional gifts to those who gladly accept the gift of salvation, in order that the body of Christ (the Church) be built up. He hasn't called everyone to be a pastor, or a teacher, or a healer, or an administrator, or (insert gift here). Sometimes the gifts that He has given us in addition to our salvation may not make a whole lot of sense to us. They are God's gifts to give us though, and He gives them as He sees fit.

So again I say I did not choose to be a pastor. I know there are some that do. Perhaps they see someone on TBN and think that's what being a pastor is. Maybe they think that we only really work one day a week, and we make sure we have enough time for golf by scheduling sporadic appointments throughout the week. While we may have to make the occasional hospital visit, that's alright, it connects us with the people. Plus there are tax breaks! It must be the world's cushiest job!

The reality is, if more people understood that pastors are often overworked, underpaid, unappreciated; they often sacrifice family time and personal time for the sake of others as they are always on call; often don't take good enough care of themselves physically; are under constant stress and at higher risks for depression and anxiety than most other professions; and lack the overall respect of other professions, nobody in their right mind would ever choose to be a pastor. Who would want to deal with all that? 

Please don't get me wrong, I am not complaining about being a pastor. For all the bad that I deal with, I believe there is a ton more good that can't be measured.

Getting back to my point though, God gave me the gift of pastoral ministry. From a young age I chose to accept that gift. It's a choice I don't regret.

What I want to emphasize though is no one person gets every available spiritual gift. Ministry, and building up the body of Christ, is more than just the work of the pastor. Everyone who has received the gift of salvation I believe has additional gifts that need to be utilized in the church. They aren't all the same, but they are complimentary. 

Keep in mind though we don't choose what the gifts we receive will be. That's up to God to determine. Our responsibility however is to accept and use those gifts as He calls us to use them. 

I may not have chosen this life, but I did choose to accept it. I hope you will choose to accept your gifts too.

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