If you have ever been sailing, one of the first things you learn is that you can’t sail directly into the wind. The next question always is: “But what if the wind is coming from the very direction I want to go?”
I recently traveled with a friend to Central Asia, where he goes twice a year to encourage and assist businesses that are trying to impact the culture around them for Christ. We were in a part of the world where political corruption and economic instability makes business difficult, and government opposition and cultural indifference makes ministry difficult. In both business and ministry, any “Captain” setting out will find the wind blowing right in his face. Indeed, many of our discussions with people revolved around how difficult it is to make headway given the cultural realities. As I listened to my friend counsel these business and ministry leaders, I could sense the discouragement in their spirits.
I met two men on this trip who shined like lights on the dreary landscape. One of these men is an entrepreneur, and the other is the Young Life director in that country. They are both working to impact the culture around them for Christ, one through business and one through investing in young people. Both face the same obstacles to business and ministry as those around them, but these men had a different quality about them. As they talked about the culture, and their attempts to impact it, they communicated genuine confidence that the future is bright and provides them with abundant opportunities to glorify God and benefit the people around them.
Everybody goes through seasons and changes in attitude. Our discouraged friends might see things differently in six months, and the entrepreneur and Young Life staff might lose sight of the confidence they now possess. However I can tell you, as an observer, what I was drawn to. I can tell you who inspired me, and who I wanted to follow. I wanted to follow the leaders who knew that by setting the sails correctly, you can make headway, even if the wind is blowing right in your face. These leaders were confident that there was a power to knowing and following Jesus that was stronger than the prevailing winds.
Are there forces beyond your control making your ministry difficult? Do you believe God can work through your efforts despite these difficulties? Do you communicate a hope in the future in such a way that glorifies God and causes people to jump into your boat?
And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:2b-5 (NIV)