Rolfe Barnard was often heard to say, "One of these days, I'm going to enter the ministry." That is a strange statement for a man to make who spent nearly every waking hour traveling, studying, and preaching. But there are multitudes of pastors, evangelists, and missionaries who have never really entered the ministry. I'm not talking about professional preachers, or those who serve for gain, or the glory-seekers. We know that they are not ministers of Christ and never will be. My concern is for us who know Christ, who know and preach the gospel of His glory, who have, to some degree, left home and friends, borne some persecution and trial, contended for the free grace of God, and organized gospel assemblies here and there, even on foreign soil. Have we really entered the ministry?
The ministry of the gospel is an all-consuming passion! To pick up the mantle of Elijah is to lay down every other interest To enter the pulpit, as a gospel preacher, is to leave every other occupation and project. Paul said in II Timothy 2:4, "A man who enlists under a general and goes to war, leaves his home, business, hobbies, and all other affairs of the world. The service of that general becomes his business and the war his life. An athlete who runs in a race does so with such complete dedication that one would think that he had no other thought, lived nowhere but on the track, and did nothing but run. To enter the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ requires and demands just such dedication. (I Cor. 7:29-31.) "But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away."
The man who enters the ministry will first go to Calvary where his soul will be filled with the glory of Christ, the love of Christ, and the gospel of substitution and satisfaction. From here he will know nothing but Christ and Him crucified. No other message will interest him, no other theme will attract him, and no other subject will dominate his pulpit ministry. He has seen the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus.
The man who enters the ministry will go to the cemetary, where he will bury his mother, father, wife, children, brothers, sisters, and himself also! Christ Jesus becomes all these. Where the calling and work of his master is concerned he is a man with no natural ties!
The man who enters the ministry will go to the rubbish dump where he will dispose of his heritage, his learning, his natural wisdom, his selfrighteousness, and his fleshly zeal, counting all but dung that he may win Christ and be found in Him.
The man who enters the ministry will go to the bank of faith where he surrenders his securities, savings, and all his possessions to be used for the preaching of the gospel and he establishes a checking account in the name of His Lord, from which all his needs are met. They that preach the gospel live by the gospel! The soldiers in the King's army do not provide for themselves nor pay their own way.
The man who enters the ministry will enter the closet of prayer frequently and his study constantly. An expression often heard in the 18th century London was, "as sure as john Gill is in his study." A man's performance in the pulpit will depend a great deal on his performance in the study! A man who is not content to spend most of his time in the study has no place in the pulpit. Deacons were first chosen to relieve the preacher of every responsibility that would keep him from the Word of God and prayer. To go into the pulpit unprepared in heart and mind is unforgiveable. He must leave politics, education, community affairs, and many worth-while projects to others. He is a gospel preacher! If he tries to be anything else, he is an embarrassment to himself and others!
A preacher of the past was heard to say, "I do not care if my name is unknown on earth - I would like for my name to be known in Hell. " The evil spirit which leaped upon the sons of Sceva cried, 'Jesus I know and Paul I know; but who are you?" Paul was known in hell as is every gospel preacher. Those who play at preaching cause no more concern in the headquarters of the enemy than soldiers who are sometimes in the trenches but most of the time on the golf course! There is no discharge in this war! To talk of rest and retirement is treason. It is to lay down our arms in the midst of the battle and in the face of the enemy. Besides a man only retires from a duty he dislikes! The experienced leader is the best leader. Our Lord said, "He that putteth his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God."
A dying preacher was heard to say, "If God is pleased to let me live, I will lay down every interest, every activity, every occupation and I will live only to preach the gospel of His dear Son." It was a little late for him but not for us. Actually a man does truly enter the ministry from his death bed! He dies to the world and the world dies to him. (Mark 8:35.) "For whosoever shall save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it!"
Eloquent prayers, much talk, and testimonies of victory do not indicate spiritual depth and fullness. An empty can makes more noise than a full one and a shallow creek can be heard for miles while the mighty river flows silently on!
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