There are five things that you must know about the children to whom you minister. These must always be the backdrop of your ministry as and ambassador of King Christ.
(1) The children you minister to were created by God to be revelation receivers. They weren’t wired to figure life out on their own. They were created to receive in an ever-expanding way the glorious revelation of Christ alone. Children need to understand God’s truth, and they were created to be utterly dependent on God’s revelation.
(2) The children you minister to are natural interpreters. Human beings do not live their lives based on facts. They live on the basis of their interpretation of the facts. They are always trying to make sense out of them. Every child you teach is a theologian and a philosopher. Every child is an archeologist who will dig through the mound of his existence to make sense of his world. (3) The children you minister to are worshipers. Worship is your identity before it is ever an activity. What you worship will shape everything that you do in your life. When a child throws a tantrum, he is worshiping. He wants to be God. He wants the world to be about him. There will be hell to pay if his “sovereign” will is not done.
(4) The children you minister to are wired for glory. They are wired to celebrate accomplishment and purse wonder and glory. There are only two kinds of glory. There is sign glory—beautiful and wonderful things that point to God. Then, there is the glory of God. Each child seeks after one of these two kinds of glory. Self-glory (infatuation with sign glory without God) is very seductive—even for children.
(5) The children you minister to are self-focused and self-obsessed. The DNA of sin is selfishness—my wants, my needs, my feelings. I’m so busy with myself that I have no time to love anyone else.
Another is writing our story. Our lives do not go according to our plans. Your Bible is not arranged by topic. The Bible is arranged the way that it is arranged by God’s intention. The Bible is one grand story—a theologically annotated story, that is, a story with God’s notes.
The goal of ministry is to imbed individuals stories in the larger story of redemption, so that in the situations and circumstances of everyday life, they would live with a “God story” mentality. Occasionally, there will be a story summary in the Scriptures.
Tripp read 1 Peter 1:3-9
This passage is a story summary with a then, then, now construction. He gives a “Then” of the past, a “Then” of the future, and then the here and “Now.” We tend to understand the past and future more than we understand the here and now. This creates a gospel gap.
(Verse 3) First, the history of salvation was written for us because we were dead in our sins and could not provide for ourselves.
(Verse 4-5) Then, Peter reminds us of our spiritual trust fund that cannot be taken away-the spiritual inheritance that is waiting for us in heaven. Keep your eyes on the prize. The divine banker won’t just keep your inheritance. He will keep you. We want to write our own stories. The pen will never be in our hands, because the story we would write for ourselves would be our damnation. We would rather have temporal comfort and ease than redemption.
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trails” (verse 6). As Peter thinks about the here and now, three words come to mind.
GREIVED, TRIALED, TESTED
Why? What is the story?
Peter uses the analogy of the metallurgist, who takes ore—which has imperfections. The imperfections rob the metal or precious jewel of its beauty. The ore must be refined by white-hot fire so that the metal will be hardened and purified. When you come to Christ, you are an ore-ific Christian. God couldn’t be a perfect and faithful redeemer and leave you in your ore-ism. In the grandeur and glory of his redemptive love, he will boil you.
God will take you where you haven’t intended to go in order to produce in you what you could not achieve on your own. True righteousness only ever begins when you come to the end of yourself. God wants you to get to the point where you abandon you to find hope, life, joy, and satisfaction in Him and Him alone. He loves you enough to compromise your temporary comfort, ease, and happiness in order to create something better—holiness. Your faith will be refined and refined and refined until it is pure and genuine to the praise and the glory of Christ. The agenda is not for you to like your life, but to form in you Christ-centered, God-glorifying holiness. So, he will undo you, so that he can rebuild you again. Do you want a Messiah who is merely a divine waiter, or do you want a Messiah who will rescue you from you.
What does this mean? We must be very skilled in absorbing and living the theology of uncomfortable grace. God’s grace is violent. It shakes us and tears us away from the things of this world so that we will hold to nothing as tightly as we hold to him. There will be moments when you will be crying out for God’s grace… and you will be getting it. But it will not be the grace of release and relief but the grace of refinement.
What do you want for your life, your marriage, your finances, and your friendships? Would you say to God, use what you want to use to make me holy and help me to point to your glory? Is that where you are, or are you holding on to your life? Are you trying to take the pen or are you allowing God to write your story? Will you pray, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done here and now as it is in heaven.” Or are you easily irritated—wanting a story different from the one that God has given to you? Life on this side of eternity is one big story war. This is the story that you must give to the children to whom you minister. They want life to work their own way, and there will be a natural struggle with the fact that they are not sovereign. They will never be in the center of the story. They must come to see the nature of God’s story, the nature of his redemption, and that it won’t always be comfortable. Times of trial, grief, and testing are not signs of God’s unfaithfulness; they are signs of his persevering, patient, and redemptive love.
Read Revelation and ease drop on eternity. Hear the voices of the ones celebrating there. They are not celebrating anything about their lives on earth. They say, “You did it. You did it. You redeemed us.” Those voices are on the pages of Scripture because we need to hear them.
We don’t like to be uncomfortable—much less the intentional uncomfortability of God’s transforming grace.
So, I pray these prayers:
God, I am a man in desperate need of help today. I recognize my slavery to ease. Please send help. Help me to recognize the help when it comes.
More on the conference from the Desiring God blog: