CHRISTINA FOX | EDITOR
I often say that I learn just as much during our home-school lessons as my children. And that has been just as true this year in our study of Botany. Learning all the unique ways that plants grow, bear fruit, and scatter seeds is nothing short of amazing. The wonder and glory of God’s creative hand was magnified as I looked at the road map etched into the veins and midrib of a maple leaf and as we carefully dissected the carpel of a lily. Indeed, the plant kingdom is a testament to the power of our Creator God.
In exploring the plant kingdom with my children, I’ve seen many parallels to our lives. The seasons of waiting for growth, the seasons of fruitfulness, the seasons of scattering new seed, and the seasons of quiet and rest that occur in flowers and plants are found in our own lives as well. More specifically, such seasons are seen as we live out our call in ministry.
Whatever our ministry, whether it is to other countries and cultures, women in our church, children, our neighbors, our family, or wherever God has placed us, we will all experiences seasons in ministry. There are three main seasons I’d like to explore in this article today.
The Season of Preparation
David, the shepherd boy, was anointed by Samuel when he was a youth (1 Samuel 16). He would be king, but not for a while. It was many years before he actually wore the crown. He fought battles, served the often raging King Saul, endured hardship, and even ran for his life. It was his season of growth and preparation.
When a seed is planted in soil, it lies there in the dark, soaking in water and nutrients. It takes time for it to grow. Then it starts to reach up through the dirt, seeking the light of the sun where it will continue to grow and strengthen.
Like a seed, we all have seasons of waiting, learning, watching, and preparing. Moses was in the wilderness of Midian for forty years before he was ready to return to Egypt and deliver God’s people. After Paul was struck blind on the road to Damascus, there was a period of learning before he started his missionary work. Our Savior didn’t begin his ministry until he was thirty years old.
The season of growth and preparation is an important time that can’t be bypassed or overlooked. We all need training. This season can be frustrating for some who are ready to jump in and do ministry. At least it was for me. Following college, I was anxious to engage in ministry, thinking that I was fully prepared. I wanted to skip over the season of learning and growth. I was frustrated when ministry opportunities were closed to me. I frowned at the lessons I needed to learn because it wasn’t what I wanted to do. Eventually, I learned the hard way that without preparation, I couldn’t glorify God in ministry and in truth, would be a detriment if I moved forward without training and preparation.
The Season of Bearing Fruit
There comes a time when God is ready to put us to work. Our season of training is over and now we must implement all that we have learned. This is the season where we live out our ministry. This is a busy season where we are stretched and pushed and prodded more than ever. This is a season where we often feel overwhelmed and insufficient. We might even respond in fear and desire to retreat back to our days of learning. Like Moses, we might say we are unfit for ministry and can’t God choose someone else? But God has called us and he will provide us all that we need to fulfill his purposes. Like Paul, we can rest and even boast in our insufficiency, knowing that Christ is sufficient for us (2 Corinthians 12:9).
This season is the one I find myself in right now. The years of apprenticeship are over. I’ve been given the responsibilities for which I’ve prayed. Ministry opportunities I thought would never happen are bearing fruit. And I feel incapable and unprepared. This season is teaching me to trust in the Lord and his faithfulness now more than ever.
The Autumn of Ministry
The next season may come upon us out of the blue. We may not be ready for it but must expect its arrival. Just as fall and winter arrive every year and the trees shed their leaves and prepare for the dark of winter, we too will shed the responsibility of carrying out ministry and help prepare the next generation to take over. This season involves encouraging and equipping others. It is a season of mentoring and discipling. It is a time to share all that we have learned in ministry, equipping and encouraging others to take the baton and continue on in the race.
This season of ministry is just as important as the others. In my current season, God has sent me older women who have encouraged and equipped me to live out my season of ministry. They are walking beside me, teaching me what they have learned. They are cheering me on and even pushing me forward when I hesitate. These women are invaluable and serve a crucial role in my life and in the Body of Christ.
This season of ministry means that we have a purpose in God’s kingdom until he returns or calls us home. It can be easy to think that because we are no longer engaged in active ministry that we are finished with ministry altogether. Yet mentoring and discipling the next generation is something we can do until we take our final breath.
Life is short; a passing breeze. We must be intentional and diligent in each season of ministry. We must learn and grow when it’s time for preparation, work hard while it’s time to work, and encourage others when it’s time to equip them to do ministry. May our heart’s posture in ministry mirror that of Paul’s when he said his final farewell to the Ephesian elders, “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).
The question is, what season of ministry are you in now?