Jeremiah 20:9 – If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.
Often people wonder about the mysterious call to ministry. We often hear tell of young men who felt a call to ministry at a particular time in their lives. To others, however, this concept may seem difficult to understand. What happened? What did those men hear?
I think that Jeremiah 20:9 is a great example of what happens when a person is truly called to ministry. Jeremiah, in the middle of his work, clearly wanted to stop saying what it was that he had to say. People were not impressed with his words. The messages that God had been giving to Jeremiah were causing others sorrow and earning Jeremiah punishments. Yet, when it was all said and done, Jeremiah could not stop speaking the words of God. No matter what the cost, no matter what the circumstances, Jeremiah had to speak God’s words. The message of God was burning inside Jeremiah, and he could not rest until he had shared God’s word with the people.
How does this relate to the call to ministry? Simple. Those who are truly called to ministry can not do anything else. This is not to say that one called to ministry lacks the skill to do work in the business world; rather, it is to say that the person called to ministry is compelled by God to serve him and him alone.
I still recall a particular moment in my own life when I recognized my own call to ministry. In a college class at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, a professor asked us if we really wanted to program computers for the rest of our lives. Though I had done well in my classes and could have certainly gotten a job in the field, I knew without question that I could never be happy in life unless I was serving the Lord in some sort of full-time ministry. I simply knew that nothing else would satisfy me other than helping others to know and worship our God. While many serve the Lord very faithfully in byvicational ministry (serving a church while working in a secular workplace), I knew that God had something different for me. This calling is not better than the calling of others, just different.
Now, many years removed from that moment in college, I still find that the power of God compels me to continue. His word is still life-changing, powerful, and perfect. His people still need to hear his word taught. Though I am a weak and often broken vessel, God still has chosen to use me to proclaim his word to his people. This is a great joy to me. Even though ministry can be hard, sometimes devastating; I still can do nothing else but proclaim the word of God to the people of God for the glory of God.