I never feel more in the cultural minority than during Pride Month each June. The media are dominated by ads, products, events, and shows exalting LGBTQ ideology and behavior. Given my commitment to biblical sexual morality, each Pride parade and story makes me feel even more like a cultural outlier.
In my personal Bible study, however, I recently came across a phrase that infused me with immediate hope. If you need encouragement in your ministry today, I invite you to claim its promise with me.
“You shall not be intimidated by anyone”
Moses was arguably the greatest leader of a nation in human history. He rallied his enslaved Jewish people, stood for them before the mightiest ruler the world had ever seen, and led them from Egyptian slavery through the wilderness to the edge of their promised land. Along the way, he gave the world the Ten Commandments and the wisdom contained in the Torah.
In equipping the nation’s leaders to “judge righteously between a man and his brother or the alien who is with him” (Deuteronomy 1:16), Moses said: “You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God’s (v. 17, my emphasis).
If they would seek God’s wisdom and then share that wisdom with those they served, these national leaders could know that their words came from their omnipotent God. In that case, they did not need to be “intimidated by anyone,” for they were serving the King of the universe.
Paul’s testimony in 2 Corinthians 4 is the New Testament equivalent of Deuteronomy 1. Here the apostle writes, “Having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart” (v. 1). Here’s why: “We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (v. 7).
Consequently, the apostle could testify: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (vv. 8–9).
How can we make the same claim today?
“All his hope is fixed in his Creator”
My high school youth minister gave me the best single piece of advice I’ve ever received: “Always remember the source of your personal worth.” Moses and Paul knew that the “source” for their ministry was the unchanging, empowered revelation and omnipotence of their Lord.
From their example, let’s claim three simple reminders:
One: Trust the veracity and power of God’s word.
His promise is empowering: “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10–11).
Max Lucado observed: “Unlike the potter who takes something and reshapes it, God took nothing and created something. God created everything that exists by divine fiat.” And he did that with just his word (Genesis 1). Now we are called to proclaim his transforming word to the world today.
Two: Trust the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Jesus promised his followers that they would “receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” and would reach the world in that power (Acts 1:8). When they were soon “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4), they began making that promise a reality (vv. 5ff).
Charles Spurgeon noted: “The enemy is so securely entrenched within us that he can never be driven out while we are in this body: but although we are closely beset, and often in sore conflict, we have an Almighty helper, even Jesus, the Captain of our salvation, who is ever with us, and who assures us that we shall eventually come off more than conquerors through Him. With such assistance the new-born nature is more than a match for its foes. . . .
“Fear not, you shall overcome, for who can defeat Omnipotence? Fight on, ‘looking unto Jesus’; and though long and stern be the conflict, sweet will be the victory, and glorious the promised reward.”
Three: Trust God to redeem cultural opposition by drawing us closer to Jesus.
God either removes our thorn or he redeems it (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:7–10). He wants to use cultural opposition to call us into deeper reliance on his Spirit.
Pope St. Gregory the Great observed:
“Often the frail mind, when it gains a good reputation among people for the good actions it has performed, dissipates itself in outward delights, thus putting to one side what it inwardly desires and sprawling happily in the luxury of hearing good things said about it. It is not becoming blessed that makes it happy, but being called blessed by other people. As it longs for the applause, so it abandons the very thing it was beginning to be. What made it deserving of praise in God ended up separating this weak soul from God.
“Sometimes, on the other hand, the soul perseveres in good works with constancy, and yet is buffeted by derision; it does great things but receives only abuse for them. In the end he who might have come out of himself, given praise, is thrown back into himself by insults. Thus he establishes himself more firmly in God, since outside there is no rest for him. All his hope is fixed in his Creator and amongst external ridicule and abuse he wants only the good opinion of the interior witness. The further he is pushed out of human favor, the closer a neighbor he becomes to God. He pours himself out in prayer and, under attack from without, is refined with a more perfect purity so as to enter more deeply into all that is interior.”
“That we can boldly conquer and endure”
The omnipotence of God and the veracity of his word have always been the truest sources of our confidence in public ministry. For example, John Calvin wrote a hymn that concludes:
Our hope is in no other save in Thee;
Our faith is built upon Thy promise free;
O grant to us such stronger hope and sure
That we can boldly conquer and endure.
Eight centuries earlier, a Latin hymn begins:
Christ is made the sure foundation,
Christ the head and cornerstone;
Chosen of the Lord, and precious,
Binding all the Church in one;
Holy Zion’s help forever,
And her confidence alone.
Is Christ your “confidence alone” today?