Equipped for Ministry
If you are a follower of Jesus who struggles with some problem, what kind of person would you turn to for counseling? Several characteristics come to mind. First, you would want someone who knows God’s Word and who can help you accurately understand it and wisely apply it to your own life. Followers of Jesus know that worldly opinions will not suffice; we want God’s undiluted truth. Second, you would want someone who genuinely cares about you and who sincerely wants to help you. Christ-centered warmth, love, and compassion would mark your ideal counselor.
These two components remain indispensable. But a third quality might also attract you. You would ideally want not only someone who is biblical and caring but also someone who has faced trials and received God’s help in his or her own life. You would value a person who has “been there,” who has learned to handle his or her own struggles God’s way, and who can model and minister God’s same grace to you.
This leads us to the sixth of seven specific ways—we have called them the Seven E’s—in which God uses hardships to make us like Jesus. In our previous articles we unpacked the first five. The Lord uses hardships to enhance our relationship with him, to help us experience a measure of Christ’s sufferings, to expose our remaining sin, to exhibit to others Christ’s work in us, and to engage us more actively in the body of Christ.
Today we turn to the sixth way. God uses our trials to equip us for wiser, more compassionate ministry. As we learn to apply the gospel to our own trials, God is seeking to fashion us into more effective helpers of others.
The Vision of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
This is Paul’s explicit point in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
The apostle understood that suffering spells ministry training.
In verse 9 Paul brought his personal testimony to his readers. He admitted his own temptation, in the face of death, to trust in himself more than God. But God led him through that trial—“this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God”—producing an apostle now more fit to minister to the Corinthians. God comforts us in our hardships so that we can comfort others.
I sometimes bring this perspective to those I counsel. “I look forward to you gaining God’s answers and growing in Christ,” I tell them, “so that you can come out on the other side of your struggle equipped to minister to others.” Of course, I don’t want to introduce this perspective too early, lest I unwisely pressure them or scare them away. Yet in many cases those we counsel biblically emerge from that process more humble about their sin and weakness, more knowledgeable about Jesus and his Word, more compassionate toward others, and more confident in God’s power to change lives.
Steve, Nora, and Infidelity
Steve and Nora powerfully embodied this dynamic. Rocked by infidelity, their marriage nearly ended. But God in his matchless mercy rescued them both, freeing Steve from his adultery, deceit, and guilt, and freeing Nora from her bitterness, fear, and confusion. The process took over a year but God’s Spirit faithfully worked through biblical counseling.
I remember the day, near the end of the process, when I posed the challenge: “Could it be that God is using your trial to make you a more Christlike people-helper?” The concept was foreign to them but they began to pray about it. The result? They embraced this perspective and accepted the challenge.
“What we went through is like a stewardship for us,” explained Steve. “We aren’t proud of what happened, but we believe that God worked in special ways to redeem us, mature us, and equip us for wise, compassionate ministry to others.” Nora and Steve now help other couples work through adultery as well as other forms of marital betrayal. The kingdom of God is advancing through them.
Whatever the trials you have faced, the church of Jesus needs more Steves and Noras to come alongside others who suffer. Will you be such an equipped helper?
Join the Conversation
In light of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, how has God brought you through some hard situation, perhaps even a serious sin struggle, to bring you out on the other side to be a more compassionate, wise people-helper? How have you been the recipient of God’s comfort through the ministry of someone else who has been comforted by God’s grace in his or her own struggle?