“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments” (Habakkuk 3:17–19, KJV).
How often do we equate blessings with what is big or great, the best and the most abundant? It would seem as though we do this all the time, especially concerning ministry. But what if God’s design for you does not move you into the realm of a seams-bursting, pew-filled church?
I have heard pastors say that the Lord was really blessing their ministry because of new building programs or renovations of existing buildings, membership drives, growing membership rolls, new people in new positions, or new ministries starting. All of that is really nice; it sounds really good—and certainly it is good. God works in different ways at different times, doing as he sees fit. Hear this, though, my friends: one ministry is not better or greater than another. We are all on a level playing field because everything we do as pastors and as leaders in the church is for the honor and glory of the Lord. Those things previously listed are good, but they are not the only things that can be used to define a movement of God.
What about the places where those things are absent? Years ago, my wife, Jo Ann, and I launched out from our home church and district to plant a work for God’s honor and glory. We were very excited and quite nervous; we didn’t have any experience in church planting. We held our first service in our apartment, and the only ones in attendance were my family, a young lady I worked with (Jo Ann and I both worked outside the church), and Jesus Christ.
Later on, we found an old doctor’s office that had been converted into a storefront church by a previous ministry, and believe me it was very old (I once found a receipt book from 1934). It was located in the community where we sensed a pull from God to put down roots. We went door to door, witnessing and passing out tracts, we preached on the street, and we sent up plenty of prayers. Many times I wondered if we had missed God. A number of churches in the area around us flourished; we seemed so small compared to those larger ministries. Did that mean the blessings had failed? No, it did not. The Lord was faithful to us, even though it seemed like everyone we talked to went to one of these other churches. In return, we remained true to the call, and our small assignment had great worth.
We stayed the course, and God showed up time and time again.
We stayed the course, and God showed up time and time again. The Lord worked out amazing and abundant things. I remember that, during our second year in the Lord’s ministry, we needed help with supplies and food for Vacation Bible School. Jo Ann had developed a great relationship with her employers, and when we approached her store director with our need, he told us to get whatever we needed and that money was no object! We were looking for a seventy-five-dollar donation of goods, but we ended up with much more than that. We had enough supplies to last the entire Vacation Bible School. God is good.
God began to send other children and adults our way, and we taught and preached the gospel. We never had more than forty at any one time, but many had not heard the gospel before; many had never witnessed the real love of God; many had never seen holiness embraced and lived out. So was it worth it? Yes, yes, and yes indeed!
There were other times that the blessings seemed to fail, but God was, is, and will always be “I AM WHO I AM.” Every great army has both generals and privates. They may not hold the same rank, but they hold equal responsibility in attaining the end victory. If Jesus has called you to stand tall behind the littlest pulpit, will you do it? There were times when Jo Ann and I wondered why we continued to serve the Lord in small assignments. Every time we began to wonder that, God’s grace and peace flooded our lives, and we knew that we had to obey his will and not ours.
Without the vital component of a deep love for God, the average pastor moves from church to church, seeking better circumstances. Pastors who have distaste for the smallness of their assignment have a tendency to pull up roots after a couple of years in search of greener pastures. God the Father is not pleased with this tendency; he sent his beloved Son, Jesus, to seek and to save the lost, and the Holy Ghost has come to empower his servants and churches to serve him and not ourselves. When there is an agenda that differs from God’s divine will, God knows that there is a self-serving, hireling mentality that weakens his body and congregants.
What if the blessings fail? What if possessions and comforts flee? What if certain provisions are little or nonexistent? Be encouraged, pastor, for he is preparing you for his work and for spiritual warfare, just as he did with the prophets. Certainly you can desire some type of remuneration. Certainly you can and should be involved in things that will keep you encouraged and focused on the Lord and his work—but you must wait on the Lord. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33, KJV). Be strong in his grace, not weak as a hireling. Jesus talks about the difference between the true shepherd and the hireling in John 10:12–15.
Those pastors who stand in Christ’s stead behind little pulpits are not losing blessings but gaining great wealth in Christ. Your service behind that littlest pulpit is indeed a tremendous blessing. The Lord cares for you and desires that you and his ministry be fruitful in him as you walk in obedience. Fruitful implies a progression of the soul in holiness. It doesn’t necessarily mean externally or outwardly seen progress.
Nowhere can I find in Scripture where little is an embarrassment or small is insignificant.
When Jo Ann and I began in the Lord’s ministry, we were excited to be serving God. We didn’t possess much, but we were eager and full of the presence of God. That was all that mattered, and we have served that way ever since. In more than thirty-four years together in ministry, we have never seen more than forty or fifty people in the Lord’s congregations where we served as under-shepherds. Not every man or woman of God has been great in and of themselves, but all have been faithful. For those in small assignments, it is the Lord who supplies all the encouragement, wisdom, power, holiness, and grace that you need. No pastor is a nobody; we are all somebody in Christ. Human agency cannot change the place where God has placed us.
Take a look at where you are; think about the lives that have been touched by the ministry of the Holy Ghost through you. These eternal truths could have not been conveyed if you had not been where you are. As the years pass by, nowhere can I find in Scripture where little is an embarrassment or small is insignificant.
The Lord desires that you stand in the gap behind your little pulpit. God needs a man or woman to stand for his purposes, to declare truth and holiness. There may be what seem like insurmountable situations that you face, as if the blessings have failed to be there for you. However, they are actually blessed challenges that will cause you to grow and go deeper in him.
Are you up to the challenges that God allows to come into your life? What if growth comes not by numbers but by spiritual depth and commitment and divine strength? What if the other blessings fail—what will you do? It would be far better to have a strong spiritual root, down deep, and a deep commitment accompanied by divine power. We do have God’s blessings; we do have God’s assurance. Throughout all of eternity, we do have our assignment—our littlest pulpits.