His love endures forever. - Psalm 136:1
Are there prerequisites for Christian ministry? I think so.
Jesus really wants us to know His love. When we get to heaven, I think He will ask us, “Did you know that I loved you?” He wants us to float in the river that is His love. He doesn’t want us to just stand alongside the bank of the river getting splashed every so often. He wants us to jump in, be fully immersed, letting the current carry us downstream. That's a prereq for ministry.
There's a second. Before Jesus gave Peter His charge to take care of His sheep, He wanted Peter to say out loud, "Yes, Lord, I love you. You know I love you." It was essential for Peter to articulate his love for Jesus, specifically and personally. It is essential for us as well, especially after we have blown it big-time and feel so ashamed, but also when we are coming off a huge success. Knowing we are loved, and loving Jesus in response, are both prerequisites to our service for Him.
How Do We Stay Current?
But that's hard. So often I find that I am living disconnected from His love for me. It's not that I don't know He loves me, because I do, but it slips from my conscious awareness. It's as I get focused on tasks and figuring things out, that His smile fades from my mind. I lose the sense that He is there loving me. And there are times when I don't really seem to believe it at all. I find I need to keep returning to the Bible passages that explicitly state God’s love because they are like water to my parched soul.
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”
— I John 3:1
We all know that doing the work of ministry is not the same as loving Jesus. But our to-do lists can be like an octopus that keeps reaching out and pulling us in, squeezing us tighter and tighter until we can hardly breathe. When I try to get free from one arm, there are three more wrapping their tentacles around me. It feels impossible to break free. But I must! He wants my heart. He wants my work to be the outpouring of my adoring heart. I feel like Paul, "Wretched one that I am! Who will set me free? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Rom. 7:24-25)
When I feel the squeeze it has been helpful to take a minute to imagine I am immersed in God’s compassion and mercy, His goodness and grace. I can close my eyes and float in the river that is His love. It has been helpful to me to spend time slowly praying "His love endures forever" over and over, as David does in Psalm 136.
Jump into the river and let Him carry you. His love is more real than we imagine. And with an awareness that we are dearly loved by Jesus, and a heart that loves Him deeply, we are ready to serve.