“But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of the truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report, as deceivers and yet true; as unknown and yet well known; as dying and behold we live; as chastened and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing and yet possessing all things” (2 Corinthians 6:4-10).
I can imagine picking up this guy’s resume’ and having it say: “In one of the two churches I served as pastor, I endured a four-hour deacons meeting in which some wanted to lynch me for preaching the gospel. Not only did I frequently preach revivals in some outstanding churches and baptized hundreds of converts, but my wife became the target of a gossip campaign because she wore a pants-suit to church one night. So, I think I’m qualified for anything now.”
A full resume’ would tell both sides of our story.
When we hand our resume’ across to a prospective employer, we want them to learn who we are and the ways in which we are qualified to fill the position for which we’re being considered.
This is who I am. These are my credentials. Read this and even though you won’t know everything about me, you’ll know a great deal.
My accomplishments. I served these churches over these years, built these buildings, developed these programs, and achieved these things. I served on this board, led this organization, and participated in these works.
A prospective employer would want to know this. Now, I would not–as many do–go into great detail tooting my own horn. Let those running their references on me hear someone say that “he didn’t tell the half of it.” Best for my friends to brag on me than to do it myself.
My scars. Fully as much as my accomplishment, what confirms my identity as a minister of God is what I endured: persecution, hardship, suffering, and trouble. If all who live godly shall experience persecution as the Apostle Peter said, then that’s an essential part of my story.
In our text above, Paul correctly judged he had nothing more to prove. He had been beaten down again and again, but each time had risen to continue serving Christ. Let the critics sit in the bleachers and call him out–as they did and as they will for every servant of God who is being bloodied on the playing field–but he must not be deterred.
To athletes, a dirty uniform is a badge of honor. You have been out there and given your all.
In Galatians 6:17, Paul says to his detractors and accusers, “From now on, let no man trouble me; I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
I’m recalling my coal miner father. Carl McKeever started working inside coal mines when he was 14. That was 1926. Eventually, he put in 35 years without a loss-time accident. Yet he bore the effects of his labor. For the last half of his life black lung (the miner’s form of silicosis) kept him from drawing a good breath. I still recall the coal in a couple of scars on his hands, that had healed but with the residue inside. He was his own walking resume’.
My character. In the same way, my identity is revealed by the elements of righteousness which the Holy Spirit has produced in my life. Paul said his Christian character had been formed in the fires and was pure gold. “The trying of your faith worketh patience,” says James 1:3.
The pain and hardships Paul has endured have not made him bitter. They have driven him ever nearer to the Savior, and thus more like Him. Many who read this little piece will be able to testify of the truth of this.
Now, I am not suggesting you put the beatings and trials, the burdens and oppositions, on your resume. However…
They are part of your story.
No story of you is complete without a description of the pains you have experienced, the struggles you endured, the battles you waged.
Your scars are a part of you.
If I were a search committee, I would want to know as much about you as I could. I would ask, “What has brought you the greatest joy in the ministry? The deepest pain? The most heartbreak?” After your short answer, I would say, “Can you tell us a story about that?
I would listen intently, both for what you say and for what remains unspoken.
In running your references, I would ask, “Do you know what happened to him at Shiloh Church? The time the church had that great revival?” Or, perhaps, “Do you know about the time some tried to fire him?” Or, “When that group picketed his church?”
If they do, I would ask them to tell me. Again, I would listen for both what is expressed and what goes unsaid.
In six-plus decades of ministry, I’ve found that I learned far more from the painful episodes than from the fun times, more from my opponents than from my supporters, more from the suffering than the celebrations. “It is good that I was afflicted,” said the Psalmist, “that I may learn Thy statutes” (Psalm 119:71).
And no, I do not volunteer for the suffering, affliction, pain, or opposition. No one does. Even though we know God uses that, it still hurts like crazy. It’s just good to know He can make something honorable and heavenly out of the bad stuff.
In former times, people used to practice the art of alchemy, defined as the medieval forerunner of chemistry. Practitioners kept trying to turn base metals (iron, tin, etc) into gold. Good luck with that, huh? Clearly they never pulled it off, but there is a spiritual parallel to that business. The God we serve can take our earthly experiences and turn them into heavenly things. He can transform our suffering into praise-worthy offerings. “This momentary light affliction,” said the Apostle Paul, “is working for us an exceeding weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
It may feel like pain to us, but done right and handled well and it’s all golden to Him.