The Nobility of the Call
For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!
1 Cor 9:16 ESV
John Stevens was tired. After a year and a half, as the chief army officer in charge of digging the Panama Canal, he was also frustrated. Being primarily a railroad man, Stevens had succeeded in developing tracks and trains that would haul the dirt and debris out of the mountain passes. He also established proper housing and sanitation for the workers who came to dig. He was now entering a phase of the work that he was unfamiliar with, the actual digging of the canal. Sitting down at his desk Stevens wrote a letter to President Roosevelt. It was not a letter of resignation; he simply needed rest and wanted the President to understand. He wrote, “The ‘honor’ which is continually being held up as an incentive for being connected to this work, appeals to me but slightly. To me the canal is only a big ditch …” The response from Roosevelt was both quick and concise. He accepted his resignation. In the President’s mind the passion and understanding of a noble cause was greater than one’s personal weariness or misgivings. Roosevelt’s position was clear. Once a decision was made to put one’s hand to a task nothing should deter or distract. The task reigns supreme.
For those who have been called to ministry there is both a joy to be experienced and a weight to be carried. There is no occupation on earth that can be compared to the honor of sharing God’s word and the responsibility placed on those who have been called into the field of humanity. Whether it is the preacher in the pulpit, or the teacher in the classroom, to represent Christ must be viewed in its proper light. It must be seen in all its nobility. There is nothing within the calling of God that should point a man to himself regarding salary, benefits, privileges, or authority. Furthermore, a life of self-sacrifice must never cause a man or woman to feel any pride or discouragement. The Apostle Paul said, “Woe me if I do not preach the gospel.”
In The Path between Two Seas, David McCullough writes, “By Roosevelts lights, Stevens had failed in the most profound and fundamental sense. To Roosevelt the triumph was in the task itself, in taking the dare; the test was in the capacity to keep ‘pegging away’ as he often stressed to his sons. Stevens was not merely giving up; Stevens saw it only as a “job”; there was no commitment of heart, not the slightest apparent sense of duty. To Roosevelt, Stevens was a commander abandoning his army.”
Only a proper heart attitude will suffice in ministry. Those who labor for their own advancement will not finish the race. Motive in ministry is everything. If Christ is not the riveting passion of those who lead in the church then burnout and failure are inevitable. The calling of God is the highest of all occupations and requires full devotion to Jesus Christ in the light of any setback or discomfort. “Well done my good and faithful servant,” are the only words the Christian worker should desire.