Energy & Joy: Taking God's Keys
Leadership magazine, Vol.XIX, No. 4, Fall 1998.
Every pastor, sooner or later, faces the contradictory demands of being a professional and being in ministry.
A professional has a schedule to keep, credentials to maintain, a career ladder to ascend. Urgent details crowd out solitude, service, and the deepening of a relationship with God. A life of simplicity and ministry to souls is elbowed aside by ambition and expectation.
Like doctors, lawyers, and other professionals today, pastors often feel their working conditions conflict with their calling. Heightened frustration leads to decreasing strength, peace, and joy.
But it does not have to be so.
How can we find the joy and strength in service that obviously characterized Jesus himself, as well as many of his followers through the ages?
The One we work for has placed in our hands the keys to the kingdom (Matt. 16:19). Setting aside the centuries of ecclesiastical controversy over the meaning of this passage, we need to understand simply that our confidence in Jesus as the one who “has say over all things in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28:18) provides us access to the riches of the kingdom.
These in turn make it possible for us to do our work and live our lives in the strength, joy, and peace of Christ.
Possessing the keys first means “the enjoyment of access.” Imagine a man who carefully kept his doors locked and his keys in hand but who never went into his house! Having access to the kingdom, living in it, is what matters.
The meaning of Matthew 16:19 is fundamentally similar to Matthew 6:33: “Seek more than anything else to act with the kingdom of God and to have his kind of goodness, and all else you need will be added” (my paraphrase).
Or Romans 8:32: “He who did not spare his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how will he not also with him freely give us all things?” (NASB).
Or Philippians 4:19: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (NASB).
But if the abundance is here, enough even to defeat the “gates of hell,” why are we not thriving in it?
We need a key to the keys. The abundance of God is not passively received, and does not happen to us by chance. The abundance of God is claimed and put into action by our active, intelligent pursuit of it. We must act in union with the flow of God’s kingdom life that comes through our relationship with Jesus.
We cannot do this, of course, purely on our own. But we must act. Grace is contrasted with earning but not with effort. Well-directed, decisive, and sustained effort is the key to the keys of the kingdom and to the life of restful power in ministry.