My Greatest Heartache in Ministry

 

Africa Camp 1

For the past two weeks I have savored the awesome blessing of spending the first half of the month of July in Africa serving the Lord, seeing souls saved, and ministering together with dear brothers and sisters in Christ through the ministry of The Wilds Camps Abroad!  This trip to South Africa and Malawi was a definite “get-me-out-of-my-comfort-zone” trip.  Although I had made other mission trips, I had never visited a third-world country.

Since coming home, I have intentionally entered in my journal my “take-aways” from this journey.  One in particular stands out to me above all others.  I am ashamed to admit it, but I must say that before this trip, I had prayed, but I had not prayed so fervently, so frequently, so specifically, and as trustingly as I did while in Africa.

Without reservation, all that we experienced by the hand of the Lord was absolutely in direct response to prayer!  We watched God answer in so many ways, and we had a “front-row seat” to watch it happen for His glory and our good!!

Africa Camp 2

 

For instance, without going into great detail, after three days of training the nationals how to operate a teen camp, the first day arrived with great anticipation but a bit of fear of the unknown.  It’s 8:00 a.m.  Where are the campers? We looked out in the yard of the mission compound to see only one teen camper.  You read that correctly . . . one teen camper.  Undaunted but not knowing how to gather more teens, Dan, our leader make the absolute best decision.  He looked at all of the workers and said, “Let’s gather in small groups and PRAY for GOD to bring in campers.”  That’s exactly what we did.

As our group cried out to God for a manifestation of Jeremiah 33:3, for God to surprise us, He did exactly as He promised!

Within 30 minutes or less, the gates to the mission compound opened and a pick-up truck laden with a bunch of eager teens entered the grounds.  Moments later, the scene was replayed.  Eventually, we had 88 teens to begin our first day of camp!!  We saw God at work!! What a time of praise we had as we then saw some of those precious souls hear the gospel and respond to the call of salvation!!

Africa Camp 3.jpg

You may be puzzled as to why I have entitled my post “My Greatest Heartache in Ministry” when the past few paragraphs have been about God’s amazing work in my heart and the lives of others.  Quite frankly, I will say that my greatest heartache in ministry is the lack of prayer among God’s people . . . me included.

I’ve seen folks get up way early to be at church to go on some church fellowship trip.  I’ve seen believers pack out an auditorium or outdoor arena to hear their favorite singer or group and sometimes pay a hefty price for the ticket (Oh, and drive two hours to get there.) I’ve seen church members not miss a business meeting so they could vote their way.  And on and on I could go, but ask a group of believers to attend a prayer meeting, a prayer advance, or even pray, and . . . well, you know the rest of the story.

When are we as believers who have the very ear of our Almighty, Omniscient, Omnipresent God (Psalm 34:17), the blood-bought invitation by our Righteous Advocate and Great High Priest to enter into the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:14-16: 1 John 2:1-2), and the Holy Spirit to intercede for us (Romans 8:26), when are we going to make prayer a blessed, expectant, humble, dependent, relational priority of our lives?

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting (1 Timothy 2:1-8)

From a pastor’s heart,

dale

Advance

Ladies Prayer Advance 2  Ladies Prayer Advance 1

There are many words to describe the various aspects of our Christian experience that is our daily walk with Christ in relationship with our Heavenly Father through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Some of those descriptive terms include putting off and putting on, retreat and rest, keep on keeping on, press toward the mark, be zealous, and many others.

Last week I saw the word advance come to life.  A group of ladies from our church attended a conference in Roanoke, Virginia, known as Ladies Prayer Advance.  The gathering began on Thursday at 1:30 with a general session which included singing, prayer groups, more singing, and powerful preaching from the Word of God.  This was followed by workshops and then a supper break.

The evening service began at 7:00 p.m. with singing, prayer, choir ministry, and the preached Word.  The first evening session is followed up by one of the most important events of the conference, prayer meetings.  Ladies gather with their group and follow the prayer prompt of what is known as CPR, Confession, Praise, and Requests.  As they go around their circle in at least three rounds of prayer, the Holy Spirit moves in, hearts are convicted and broken.  Honest and transparency abounds.  The conference really begins here.  Prayer meetings have been known to last all night.

My wife returned to her room somewhere between 11:00 and midnight.

Needless to say, when the Prayer Advance began again the next morning at 9:00, there were some tired ladies.  Instead of listening to their fatigue, they pressed on through a whole day of preaching and workshops followed by another service after supper and more prayer time.  Before lunch is one of the great highlights of Friday’s events called Sweet Hour of Prayer where you find a quiet place and pray for one hour.

Then Saturday morning rolls around with an 8:30 start for a workshop and then the final session at 10:00.

I have attended several Men’s Prayer Advances and have been the van driver for the past two Ladies Prayer Advances, and the same thing happens every time.  By the time the Friday night service rolls around, the conference participants are pumped, excited, expectant, full of praise, clean before the Lord and walking close to their God.

This same spirit escalates into the Saturday morning final session, and my friend, I will tell you, it is a bit of heaven on earth!!!

Why does it happen this way?  One word describes it . . . Advance!  Although our earthly bodies through fatigue, excuses, fears, laziness, and unconfessed sin calls us to slow down, quit, go take a nap or various other backward responses, the grace of God through praise, prayer, and preaching causes you to advance.  As each session and workshop moves along, the ladies are moving closer to the Lord! They are advancing!  And of course, that is the way it is supposed to be as we read in James 4:6-8, But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

I promise you, no believer has ever regretted drawing closer to God, advancing toward God and the things of God.

Yes, there are times when we need to retreat and rest, but advance should be a term to describe our relationship with God on a daily basis.  Grace is sufficient even when we are tired, tempted, and tested.

There’s a song we sing in our church that describes what I’ve tried to convey in this blog post.  Listen to it and . . . ADVANCE!

I Run to Christ

(Text by Chris Anderson; Tune by Greg Habegger)

I run to Christ when chased by fear
And find a refuge sure.
“Believe in me,” His voice I hear;
His words and wounds secure.

I run to Christ when torn by grief
And find abundant peace.
“I too had tears,” He gently speaks;
Thus joy and sorrow meet.

I run to Christ when worn by life
And find my soul refreshed.
“Come unto Me,” He calls through strife;
Fatigue gives way to rest.

I run to Christ when vexed by hell
And find a mighty arm.
“The Devil flees,” the Scriptures tell;
He roars, but cannot harm.

I run to Christ when stalked by sin
And find a sure escape.
“Deliver me,” I cry to Him;
Temptation yields to grace.

I run to Christ when plagued by shame
And find my one defense.
“I bore God’s wrath,” He pleads my case—
My Advocate and Friend.

Copyright © 2010 ChurchWorksMedia.com. All rights reserved.