The Ministry (8)
Pope Shenouda III | 7 February 2010
A spiritual minister works continually
Ministry is a necessity laid upon him
God is always working and we also have to work, as the Lord Christ –glory to Him- says in (Jn 5: 17) "My Father has been working until now, and I have been working."
He gives us a good example in continual and unceasing work for God's Kingdom. Therefore St. Paul the Apostle said to his disciple Timothy, "Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching." (2 Tim 4: 2)
In this way the Lord Christ is working continually.
He worked all day long, till "the day began to wear away" as on the day of the Sermon on the Mount before working the miracle of the five loaves and two fish (Lk 9: 12). He cared about the nourishment of their bodies as well as of their souls.
He also worked by night, as when He met with Nicodemus by night (Jn 3: 2), and when He went to the disciples in the fourth watch of the night (Mt 14: 25), or in the second or third watch, or in midnight. He works while it is day (Jn 9: 4)
The Lord Christ worked everywhere.
He worked while on the way (Lk 19: 1- 5), as when He worked for Zacchaeus , for the Samaritan woman by the well (Jn 4: 6- 7), in the garden at Gethsemane with the three disciples (Mt 26), when He walked on the water as He did for Peter to train him and rescued him (Mt 14: 28- 31), while in the desert or amidst fields, on the river bank and by the lake, at home as in the house of Mary and Martha, and on the mount in His famous Sermon (Mt 5).
He worked all the time for everybody.
He cast His seeds everywhere: on the good land that gives thirty, sixty, and a hundred fold, and among the thorns, as well as on the stony land which has no depth, and on the way. By this He gave a chance for every one. He cast His bread upon the waters to find it afterwards (Eccl 11: 1). In brief, as the apostle said, "He went about doing good." (Acts 10: 38)
Even while on the cross He was working.
He did not only accomplish the Redemption while on the cross, for this was His main mission, but He also did many things. He asked forgiveness for those who crucified Him (Lk 23: 34), and entrusted John with His mother the Holy Virgin that he might take care of her, thus giving John the blessing of the Virgin's motherhood to him (Jn 12: 26- 27). He also gave the repenting thief the blessing of going into Paradise (Lk 23: 43).
He did good at the time of arrest.
At that time He healed the ear of Malchus the servant, for Peter had cut it (Lk 22: 50, 51). And he defended His disciples, and said to those who arrested Him, "Let these go their way", that the saying might be fulfilled, "Of those whom You gave Me, I have lost none." (Jn 18: 8, 9) Moreover, during the trial, He prayed for Peter that his faith might not fail (Lk 22: 32).
God often works in silence without us asking Him.
He judges for the oppressed and keeps the children. He rescued the young men from the furnace of fire (Da 6), and Daniel in the lions' den (Da 6), and sent His angel and rescued Peter from prison (Acts 12). He revealed to John in the Revelation wonders which never occurred to John's mind to ask for (Rev 4, 5), and caught Paul up to the third heaven though Paul had not thought or asked for that (2 Cor 12).
As God works continually, His angels likewise work continually.
David the Prophet said about the angels, "Bless the Lord, you His angels, who excel in strength, who do His word, heeding the voice of His word." (Ps 103: 20) And St. Paul the Apostle said, "Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?" (Heb 1: 14) They convey the good news and God's commands to people, and carry out His orders whether for rescue or punishment, for the Scripture says, "The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them." (Ps 34: 7)
God also wants us the humans to work, and the work required from us is of various types:
1. Inner work:
It is the work within oneself, examining oneself, disciplining oneself and correcting one's defects. Another type of inner work is with God, expressing one's love and emotions for Him, reiterating in His statutes day and night. Such inner work is called (active monk).
Another type of work is reconciliation.
It is a spiritual act aimed at reconciling people with God, as St. Paul the Apostle said, "God … has given us the ministry of reconciliation … Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God." (2 Cor 5: 18- 20)
There is work to do in the ministry where we take part with God.
God works with us and through us, as St. Paul says about himself and Apollos, "We are God's fellow workers." (1 Cor 3: 9) God's Holy Spirit takes part with us in work, so we become partners with the Holy Spirit. Therefore we say in the Litany: 'Take par with Your servants in every good work.' And the Lord said to His disciples, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men."(Mt 4: 19) We have to follow Him; we cast the net and He calls upon the fish to enter it. We do not fish alone, but He works with us. When Peter was fishing alone he toiled all night and caught nothing (Lk 5: 5)
When we work with God, He will see our work and reward us for it, for He said to each of the angels of the churches, "I know your works." (Rev 2, 3)
The shepherd of the church who labored much in ministry deserved the words of the Lord, "I know your works, your labor, your patience … and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary." (Rev 2: 2, 3) Therefore the apostle says, "Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your work is not in vain in the Lord." (1 Cor 15: 58) "For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister." (Heb6: 10) Furthermore, whoever gives one of the little ones a cup of cold water, he shall be no means lose his reward (Mt 10: 42). Even those who come to the Lord at the eleventh hour of the day will receive his wages like the others.
A fearful word that has to be mentioned about the obligation to work is that of the apostle, "To him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin." (Jas 4: 17) Therefore, sin is not only abstaining from doing evil, but also a positive act of not doing good. It is like burying one's gift in dust (Mt 25: 24)
If a person says I do not know how to minister, I remind him with the words of Jeremiah the Prophet when he said to the Lord, "Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth," the Lord answered him, "Do not say, 'I am youth,' for you shall go to all to whom I send you." (Jer 1: 7) Also when Moses the Prophet said to God, "I am not eloquent … I am slow of speech and slow of tongue," "I am of uncircumcised lips." (Ex 4: 10; 6: 30) God did not accept such excuses.
God knows the abilities He granted you: the mind, the time, the amount of knowledge, the gifts, and the available circumstances for you to minister. How then could you excuse yourself? How could you escape the words of (Jas 4: 17), while you know that the wages of sin is death (Rom 6: 23)?
God will hold you accountable for whatever knowledge He gave you and you did not use.
He says, "For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required." (Lk 12: 48) So, if you say, 'I have no talents,' He will say to you, 'Do as much as you I gave you of talents, one or two or five.' (Mt 25) But never stand still in the God's Kingdom! Why then God has created you? Why did He make you a member of His body? Can there be a member of the body without work?! You ought to work, however limited your talents may be, and if you have been faithful over a few things, He will make you ruler over many things (Mt 25: 23).
He will also say to you, "Enter into the joy of your Lord".
God does not care about the amount of work, little or much, but about your being faithful over what you have, working as far as you can. But you have to work, and He will complete the work. If you say, 'I have only a few minutes every day,' He will say to you, 'Do My work in them faithfully, and I will bless those minutes and make them fruitful. Do not say, 'I have only five stones for my fight with Goliath,' one stone only of them is enough. If you slung it I will direct it to the head of that valiant. And keep the other stones for another Goliath you may face in future.'
What then are the characteristics of the spiritual minister and his work:
1. A spiritual minister should be faithful as a wise and faithful steward whom the Lord entrusts to give His servants their food in due time (Lk 12: 42). This faithfulness should be until death that He may give you the crown of life (Rev 2: 10). "Until death", means to the extent of self sacrifice, and martyrdom. Faithfulness ought to extend to the kind of work done, the amount of work, the subject, and the people for whom you do such work, whatever effort or price such faithfulness may cost you.
2. You should do the Lord's work without slackness or deceit for the Scripture says such a person is cursed (Jer 48: 10). But rather work with enthusiasm, benefiting from whatever capabilities you have though they may be little, for God has chosen the foolish and the weak things of the world to put to shame the wise and the mighty (1 Cor 1: 27, 28). Work and God will work with you and through you. The stone by which David conquered Goliath remind us of the fishermen who stood against the philosophers of the world, the Roman Rulers, the elders of the Jews, and all the scribes and lawyers. You only have to work and to use all your capabilities however weak they may be in your eyes, and be sure that God will work through them.
3. Work with your spirit and heart, not as mere formality or as a duty entrusted you by the church, but work with all your heart and remember the words of the Lord, "My son, give Me your heart." (Prov 23:26) With all your emotions love the ministry and the people, and love the kingdom, and before everything else love God whom you serve.
4. Let your ministry in a spiritual way, for many people received big responsibilities in the church and failed, because they did not follow a spiritual way. They followed the way of management or the social or intellectual way. The ministry to them turned into mere activities, and the lessons into mere knowledge!
Therefore you ought to make your ministry spiritual in its aim and way.
5. Keep your ministry away from the ego, and say with the Psalmist, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to Your name give glory." (Ps 115: 1)
6. Let your ministry be full of hope, even though the fruit is late, and the hindrances are many. Do not fail or despair, but "cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days." (Eccl 11: 1)
This is enough for today, and we shall meet in other articles, God willing.