Standing Shoulder To Shoulder With You As We Fight the Good Fight of Faith SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #74 ---- 6/14/99 TITLE: "Called, Chosen, Compelled?" My Dear Friend in Ministry: It is nearly 3:00 Sunday afternoon as I begin writing from the computer room at the Life Center in Crikvenica, Croatia. I am sitting and gazing at a large wall map of Europe. The nations of the former Yugoslavia are nearly dead center left and right, and just below center top and bottom. In my mind I see history happening ---- marauding horsemen rushing over the hills into a medieval village to plunder and destroy ---- Spanish galleons hugging the coastlines on the way to plunder another land ---- Cossacks riding headlong and recklessly across the plains demonstrating their intense bravery ---- a hoard of dark skinned people from the south and east slowly moving westward with a new language and a new religion ---- another hoard coming from Italy's boot, marching falsely in the name of Christ to recover what it felt was once its possession, wave upon wave over a period of years. Then I see a faint and mostly unnoticed movement in the lower left corner ---- three small ships leaving a Spanish port, heading west for who knows where ---- then cries of persecuted people to the north, wondering if there exists a place on earth where they could be free to worship their God and to help evangelize the world. Then, except for periodic signs of an ongoing battle for identity and control in the middle of the map, there is silence ---- for a season. Suddenly I hear a gunshot from about the 44th Parallel and see a king die ---- and a war begin ---- one that was to saturate the whole region of central Europe. Crude tanks begin to grind along the mountain roads and plains of an entire peninsula, and for untold months brave soldiers die in trenches, along hillsides, and on mountain roads from the Balkans to the fields of Normandy and the shores of Tripoli. The map is quiet for awhile, and then I hear a sinister rumble and shouting voices broadcast over crude loud speakers beginning to declare another wave of hatred and war. This time it's bigger ---- longer ---- harder ---- louder. It seems the entire continent is exploding, and an invading animal conquers Yugoslavia in just twelve days. To the north and east a great bear growls and comes to life. By this time more continents are affected, and it seems the whole world is at war with itself ---- and it is. Finally an unfair compromise is arranged, and the region is carelessly, and recklessly carved up among the biggest of the fighters, and, like dogs all growling and tugging on the same piece of meat, a fragile and unpredictable pause takes place while the big dogs chew on the bones they managed to gather for themselves. One of the big players throws a piece to someone standing in the shadows, and a local hero becomes a dictator who holds the Balkans together in a forced peace. Then the dictator dies, and the fight is on to see how much of the prize others can claim for themselves. It explodes in 1991, and the Croatian and Bosnian War is on. It is an awesome sight I see. I want to put my arms around the whole map. I think I know a little better the meaning of the statement, "For God so loved the world . . ." It's good that His Arms are bigger than mine. Right now mine embrace Europe, especially the eastern part. The "Powder Keg of Europe" seems to always be near exploding again. And, I'm glad I'm here. ALL IS SPENT: My mind is "fried" from nearly three weeks of concentrating on four languages (English, Croatian, Bosnian, and a little German thrown in), coordinating five major projects in four locations (two at the Life Center, one at the Peace Center, one at the Hope Center, and one in Karlovac), and continued adapting to a culture so much like but totally different from ours. Moments ago I asked the Lord to give me something special to share with you, because I feel I have nothing left to give. I feel like I am emotionally wrung out as well. Returning to the sites of previous ministry not only here at the three Centers but at Karlovac, Plaski, and Blata as well, has been a review of emotional upheavals added to new ones, mixed together at times so that I cannot separate one from the other. I want to laugh ---- I want to absorb ---- I want to weep ---- I want to embrace. I want to be home ---- I want to remain here. I am excited about leaving Monday ---- yet, I dread the thought. Physically I am spent. Long hot days, short hot nights, and intense physical, mental, and spiritual work loads has taken its toll on my 61 year old body. I will get over that relatively quickly after returning to my home. It will take longer with the others. Spiritually it has been one of the most intense and deceptive battles of recent years. It began weeks before we came here with the team from SBU. Team members had major challenges raising their money; several experienced physical problems right up to and even during the early parts of the trip; one team member was dropped because of inadequate funds after over $1600 had already been unreimbursably spent on her account; the great sense of unity within the team, though clear and broad, seemed at times to be relatively shallow in its depth. Once we arrived we had to fight hard at staying focused, and remaining committed to each other, at warding off potential misunderstandings and resentments ---- It was an ongoing battle to maintain the focus and the unity of the faith. We had been distracted too much by the process of getting here. It was hard work to get our minds captured and back into the real reason we were here. Working hard and long at the Hope Center in renovation work helped. One the one hand it was so fulfilling and focusing for us. On the other, the difference between a "servant" and a "hireling" began to raise its ugly head, and continued to do so through much of that week and this past one. We began to face the hypocritical reality of serving where we "wanted" rather than where we "were needed". It was a hard lesson for a few on our team. Yet, we worked through it by the grace of God. The battle intensified as the group from Tuzla arrived with all their love, anticipation, and excitement ---- and also the hoards of religious spirits clinging to the minds of the atheistic, the Orthodox, the Muslims, and the brand new believers. There were times during the teaching sessions when the opposition of the enemy went beyond inevitable and expected silent intimidations in the spirit and mind, and took on verbal distractions, absences, and preoccupation with pleasure rather than ministry. Yet, through it all, God was faithfully victorious, ---- and I would not trade one brief moment of it. Tuzla is a working laboratory of people attempting to overcome their differences and get along. Serbs, Bosnians, and Croats live there. Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim, Communist, and Atheist live side by side. The group here was representative of that mix ---- and they were ready for our ministry. God has done a magnificent work ---- both for them, and for us. They say they will never be the same. Neither will we. So, this brings me to a question Jo Ann and I are often asked. In fact, this week Hadji, a young Muslim man, asked me that question ---- just as a young Croatian man had asked me last Fall while in St. Louis, MO. "Why do you do this?" Well there are lots of answers, I suppose. Sometimes, when I lose focus, I come up with some pretty stupid answers that make me sound either like a martyr on the one hand or a religious egomaniac on the other. So ---- since this question is also a good one for you ---- Why do You do what you do in ministry? ---- let's just cut to the chase. CALLED, CHOSEN, COMPELLED: There is a difference in the three. The Bible says, "many are called, but few are chosen", so it immediately becomes evident there is a difference. Paul himself talks about being called and chosen, and then cranks it up a notch when he talks about being "compelled" in II Corinthians chapter five. Some people want to know what makes us tick. Others, though, want to know what makes us run. Why do we do what we do as ministers of the Gospel? If what makes you run is not beyond yourself, then I can just about guarantee that somewhere before the finish line you're going to cash it in and fade before the race is over. So, it's pretty important that you and I take time to really examine why we're in this race. Otherwise, we'll run it for no particular reason. 1. The Measure of our Ministry: Many of us are called, but few are chosen. Why? I suppose their are several reasons, but it seems to me that some are not chosen because they were never really called. They called themselves, or thought it looked like a good deal (boy, were they mistaken!). Still others may have been called by a need, a family member, or a desire for recognition. Whatever the reason, I know one thing for certain ---- you will never be chosen if you were not first called. If we are indeed chosen, then the question is ---- "Why me, and why not others?" I think much of it has to do not so much with qualification and skill as it does with availability. Again, it comes back to the difference between a servant and a hireling. A hireling wants to be an employee, not a servant. A servant volunteers with no particular thought about the benefits. He just sees a need and wants to make a difference. He hears the call and wants to answer, "Yes!" I know many who have been called to ministry, but have never been chosen. They think it's because God doesn't care, or He's mad at them. That is never the case. Often it's because they haven't been chosen yet. And they haven't been chosen because they're not yet "choose-able". They're still acting like a hireling ---- like some of our team members did for a moment or two. They still think that ministry is all about them. It's not now, it never was, and it never will be. It's all about God. Nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else. As my friend, Kurt Caddy, Director of University Missions at a midwestern university says, "It's A God thing!" How long will it be before you are chosen? As long as it takes for you to find out it's not about you at all. It's not even about needs and opportunities. It's not even about the call. It's about God. 2. The Motivation of our Ministry: Now ---- once we understand just what ministry is all about ---- God ---- and we respond properly to it, then what keeps us going once we get going? What is it that propels and then compels us once we are launched? Well, again, I suppose we could list a number of things. However, I find Paul's description of ministry in II Corinthians chapter five most helpful. Depending on how you want to exegete this passage, you can come up with a number of things. I will point out just five. This is one of those passages where I like the KJV expressions. He talks about how the love of Christ "Constrains" him. That puts some motivational pressure and intensity on him. So, years ago, I took time to check that word out and found it has three shades of meaning ---- Compelled, Controlled, and Constrained. Controlled, I am stable, paced, and directed. Constrained, I am kept in check, and used with authoritative restraint from doing wrong things or doing the right things the wrong way. Compelled, I am thrust, even driven, into the area of ministry with effectiveness, compassion, and power. I am motivated beyond myself. I have endurance beyond my own. I have wisdom beyond my years. So ---- what was it that affected Paul in such a way? He walked some of the same territory 1900 years ago that I described at the beginning of my letter. Maybe what affects me for that region is the same things that affected him. 1) The judgment seat of Christ (vs 10). Paul was keenly aware of his stewardship and slavery to his Master. He knew there were many good things he could do in the name of Jesus. He also knew that not all would be acceptable to his Master. He knew that some bad things could be done well and, thus, appear to be acceptable. He also knew that even when good things are done badly, they are more acceptable than bad things being done well. The fact that he knew Jesus would one day judge all he had done in His Name compelled, constrained, and controlled Paul. 2) The fear of God (vs 11). Paul had something many do not have today ---- an awesome reverence for a holy righteous God who will fully mete out all that is deserved to all people. There will be no exceptions. He was so convinced of that that he served notice to the Corinthian believers that he had absolutely no interest in wasting time seeking their approval, but would be diligent to make sure they understood the truth of God's word in their consciences ---- and that they would live their lives by the same standard. Paul was so insistent on that principle that, according to verse 13, he was willing to be thought of as being nuts because of the intensity with which he attempted to communicate that truth to them. 3) The Love of Christ (vs 14). Of all the five reasons Paul identifies, this may be the most compelling. Everything about Paul bears the mark of the love of Christ. That love is so vast and inexhaustible that he declares that when Jesus died for everybody, and therefore, everybody "died" in Him, the result was that everybody could also "Live" in Him because of His resurrection. The fact that the love of Christ produced life for all was something he could never get over; he was driven by that reality. So should we. 4) Metamorphous (vs 17). The possibility of being a brand new person with all the past forever behind him and the future holding nothing but something more that was new also drove Paul with a tenacity and intensity that could not be diminished. In fact, it is the sum and substance of the Gospel message ---- "If any one is in Christ, he is a new creature! The old things are gone! New things have come! 5) Official Ambassadorship (vs 20). After Paul rehearses God's action of inhabiting Himself in the person of Jesus Christ on this earth for the sole purpose of reconciling the world back to where it belonged ---- to Himself ---- he then declares that this same ministry of reconciling has been assigned to every believer. That's a heavy job description! And, with that task, there also came a title ---- Ambassador! Ambassador to a country? No ---- something bigger. Ambassador to a world court? No ---- something bigger. Ambassador to the United Nations? No ---- something bigger. Ambassador to the Vatican? No ---- something far bigger. We have been appointed Ambassador "For" ---- not "to". We are Ambassadors "For" Christ! We are officially appointed, officially knighted, officially authorized, and officially sent to represent the King of all kings to all the nations and tongues of the earth. We are on official mission as an emissary of the Most High God and Creator of all things. Don't you think it's time more of us took it seriously, and more of us started acting and living like ambassadors? IN CONCLUSION: Next week I hope to write you from the comforts of my own home and office back in Missouri. By then I may have my energies and strength back, and will hopefully have another fresh word of encouragement to you. In the meantime, pray for us as we travel this week ---- Monday to Ljubljana, Slovenia ---- Tuesday to Salzburg, Austria and Munich, Germany ---- Wednesday in Munich ---- Thursday to Amsterdam, Detroit, and Kansas City ---- Friday to good old Collins, Missouri. In Christ's Bond, Bob Tolliver ---- Rom 1:12 Copyright June, 1999. All rights reserved. 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