After many years of diverse career experience, I was excitedly counting down the days until my retirement. I eagerly anticipated being in control of my schedule and time while enjoying a slower pace of life. I envisioned more days devoted to serving in ministry at my church and deepening relationships...
I’ve been a member of the same church for 17 years, and in that time, God has given me the privilege of serving him in many volunteer settings – from the worship team on a platform to the puppet show on a Sunday School classroom floor, to ladies’ LIFE groups balancing Bibles and babies on laps, and women’s ministry committees vision-casting over coffee.
Yet, the one area of ministry that has provided greater joy and deeper struggle than any other has been the ministry that I am called to in the privacy of my own home. Jesus has called me to serve my husband and make disciples of my three children. Though my mission as a wife and mom takes place within familiar confines, it regularly brings me into unknown territory – surprising situations accompanied by confusing questions, more doubt than I usually admit, and the ongoing reality of my own inadequacy. No degree of training could have prepared me for the sacrifices required in marriage and motherhood. For these challenges, the secular world would simply prescribe a bigger dose of self-reliance. However, my greatest struggle is not low self-assurance; rather, it is my unbelief in the promises of Christ.
Regardless of where we serve the Lord, we cannot fulfill any ministry calling without increased confidence in Christ’s promises.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of a promise well kept. After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to several different people before he visited his eleven closest friends (Mark 16:9-13; Luke 24:12-33; John 20:11-18). Though each Gospel writer tells different details of the story, the common theme is Jesus’ perfect keeping of his death-defying promise! After all, the words that he spoke to his disciples before his death, everything written in the “Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms” had to be fulfilled (Luke 24:44).
Jesus Appears to Worshipers and Doubters
When Matthew tells the story, he paints a picture of eleven followers in a familiar area, on a mountain, in the exact place where Jesus had directed them to go. Little did they know they were about to receive a call to ministry in unknown territory, miles and miles outside of their comfort zones. Matthew 28:16-20 describes two possible responses to Jesus, the resurrected Promise Keeper.
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Where do you see yourself in that group, receiving instructions for ministry? Are you like those in verse 17 who saw Jesus and immediately worshipped him, confident that this was indeed their Master, raised from the dead? Do you find it easy to believe that Jesus is who he says he is, that he has kept his word and will continue to do so?
Or do you identify more with the disciples who doubted – at times hesitating to trust his authority and questioning his nearness? How do you respond when the Lord leads you, like this group in Galilee, to a place where he gives new direction for ministry? Maybe he has called you to do something new that takes you beyond what is familiar, predictable, and clear. Perhaps the magnitude of the call has revealed new questions and a sense of your own inadequacy. Perhaps your greatest obstacle has been weak belief.
Jesus Commissions with Two Promises
Whether you are a worshiper or a doubter, Matthew 28:18-20 shows that Jesus offers two comforting promises to both types of people, like bookends before and after his great commission.
1. Jesus promises, “All authority has been given to me.”
Before Jesus calls us to make disciples—a transformation that we have no power to produce—he blesses us with a promise, the declaration of his authority (v. 18). This authority means that Jesus goes before us into any new situation. By his grace, there will never be a moment in any day of ministry when we are not under the wise, careful, and powerful control of the One who sent us into it. Though our authority is inadequate, Jesus exercises his authority for the fruitfulness of the task to which he has called us. Though ministry will take us into unknown territory, Jesus is never confused or surprised by our circumstances. Jesus doesn’t just call us to make disciples; he first blesses us with the promise of his unshakable rule.
2. Jesus promises, “I am with you always.”
After Jesus calls us to make disciples, he blesses us with a second promise, the certainty of his presence. In verse 20, Jesus reminds us that he goes with us. There will never be a situation in any area of ministry when we are without his care, his wisdom, and his power. He does not passively observe our weakness as we struggle. He doesn’t sit idly by as we labor in new and uncomfortable situations. Because of his completed work on the cross, the resurrected One who is without weakness enters in to combat our greatest obstacles with his grace.
Praise Jesus for keeping his word on the cross! Praise him for giving his word as we follow him into ministry! We cannot be reminded enough of these promises. As we meditate on God’s Word, our confidence in Jesus’ promises will grow. His triumph on the cross proves that he is who he says he is, and his word is true. It is a gift of grace for our eyes to see the significance of the risen Christ. It is a miracle of mercy for our hearts to be transformed from doubt to belief, that we may worship Jesus. His authority and eternal presence comfort and empower us when following tangles our feet. Regardless of where Jesus calls us to minister, let’s worship him as the one who goes before us and stays with us.
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