STOVALL: An encouraging word to ministers

I want to take a moment to talk to the ministers of the Gospel. Not just the preachers and pastors, but the intercessors, the church planters, the psalmists, the musicians, the Sunday School teachers and the sound room technicians.

Everybody who plays some role in this thing called Kingdom Building.

You will be misunderstood. People will hate and talk about your best, most genuine efforts. And folks will do and say dirt against you for their own personal betterment. It’s going to happen. But you keep showing up. Don’t let what people say or think about you cause you to recoil and cower into a shell of fear and cowardice. You keep smiling and mean it. You keep praying, and mean it. You keep preaching and teaching, and mean it. You keep trying to strengthen your life and relationship with Jesus, and mean it.

The truth about us as humans, and yes, I say “us” because we’re all guilty:

We will often hold others to a standard that we ourselves aren’t living up to. We demand a brand of loyalty, love and friendship from others that we ourselves aren’t always willing to dish out to others. We expect more out of people than what should be expected. We want from people the things that only God can provide.

I used to let the whispers of people and their words against me bother me a lot. Now it only bothers me a little. Because I’m human, and still growing. I don’t care how holy and annointed you are, you’re lying if you say that you are never hurt, never disappointed or never frustrated with people.

Either that, or you’re more spiritually mature than Jesus was.

But the decrease has come because I know God, and God knows me. And I’ve come to find out that the more comfortable you are with God, how He has gifted you and how He chooses to use you, the tougher your skin gets. The easier it is to show love to the unlovable. The easier it is to pray for those who aren’t thinking about you, and MEAN IT! The easier it is to know and discern how what’s being done and said about you and around you, and yet hold your peace, not address it, and, to a degree, act like it isn’t even happening.

Or as my 81-year-old dad used to always tell me, “Let it roll off of you like water on a duck’s back.”

For me, life is all about balance. You’re never as bad as the worst gossipers, critics, etc. say you are. And you’re never as good as your biggest fans and most loyal supporters say you are. Never allow the perspectives of people to alter your identity.

Jesus knew who He was. He knew that who He was would draw wild responses in both extremes. He knew who He was would cause people to love Him completely or hate Him intensely. They would either want to give up anything in life to be with Him or sacrifice all common sense and human decency to get rid of Him.

And since Jesus said, “No one is greater than their Master,” it stands to reason that the same things can be said about those of us who endeavor to walk as closely to His side as possible. Because of your stance for Christ, you will either be intensely loved and appreciated, or intensely disliked and thought to be crazy.

And the weird part about it is, just as it was in the day of Christ’s earthly reign, the people who are on the outside of religion — the “sinners,” or the “untouchables” are usually the ones who are more apt to accept you.

It’s often the “church folks” you’ve got to watch out for. The ones who know Scripture backwards and forwards, like the Pharisees in the New Testament.

Isn’t it a shame that often the people who are most equipped to recognize a move of God’s Spirit are often the first and strongest voices in opposition against it?

It doesn’t have to be that way with you. Don’t allow the fear of people’s opinions, perspectives or vitriol chase you away from moving and flowing with God’s Spirit. I can tell you now that following after Christ is often a lonely road. I can tell you now that laboring in His presence is hard, yet rewarding work. And sometimes even those who truly love you the most and are closest to you won’t understand your relationship with God.

They won’t get your prayer closet. They won’t understand your fasting. They won’t comprehend the methodology in choosing who you allow in and who you usher out of your personal space.

And that’s okay. You’re not supposed to make sense to the general public. You’re not supposed to fit in. You’re not supposed to look like what’s comfortable to people. How do I know this?

For my Bible tells me so: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” — 1 Peter 2:9.

I like that word, “peculiar.” See, even the Bible calls you strange.

I’d say it’s time you own it for yourself, don’t you?

Gabriel Stovall covers sports and religion for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald newspapers. He can be reached at gstovall@henryherald.com or you can follow him on Twitter @GabrielCStovall.