BISHOP JONATHAN SUBER
One of the most haunting questions that I was asked years ago by a very wise mentor was, “Can you survive the ministry of the mundane?”
I didn’t really understand at the time, because in my young mind, all I could see were stadiums, T.V. interviews, and traveling to exotic locals spreading the Gospel. It makes more sense now, because we’ve learned that the promises over our lives and ministries rarely include the process.
The very symbolism of Christian ministry should give us some clues that ministry is not glamorous. A towel doesn’t speak much to us about earthly success, and taking up a cross is certainly not a good sales pitch for the peddlers of prosperity and Insta- glam fame. The modern version of Western European-styled ministry viewed success differently than most of my missionary friend colleagues, and especially different than my African mentors.
After 35 or so years of vocational ministry in a classical church setting, I can now say that one of the greatest ministry achievements of those of long-term fulfillment in life is the ability to embrace the ministry of the mundane – the ability to be faithful while fearful, hopeful while broken, encouraging while abandoned… the ability to still anticipate after years or decades of disappointment and, at times, the struggles of disillusionment.
This time of year, my mind always goes back to some of the greatest examples of anticipating a promise and practicing ministry faithfully in the routine of the ritualistic and the mundane. The nativity narrative and the aftermath that follows gives us such insight.
Luke 2:25-31 introduces us to an elderly man named Simeon.
25 And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting (NLT- Eagerly Waiting) for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, 28 he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: 29 “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,
According to Your word.
Can you imagine? Simeon waited his entire life for the fulfillment of one Word from the Lord. He didn’t just wait. He eagerly anticipated the promise of the consolation of Israel.
Maybe there’s someone reading this article that only has one sure Word from the Lord. Maybe there’s someone who has been waiting for so long that a promise and fulfillment, thereof, is now beginning to seem a little impossible.
Then, what about the Prophetess Anna?
Luke 2:36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
Anna is one of my favorite examples in biblical history. From what we can find in the text and commentary, she simply lived her life praying, fasting and worshiping. She had no agenda, but to be in the presence of God in the temple day and night. It was to someone like this that the Messiah was revealed, yet the same revelation was hidden and rejected by kings and priests. It seems she had no agenda except to live in God’s presence and will.
Yet, it’s the Carpenter Joseph to me that is the classic example of surrendering a life to the discomfort and inconvenience of truly being chosen by God. Just an ordinary man with an ordinary life, engaged to an ordinary girl, yet given the most extraordinary task in all of history. Not only was Joseph asked to believe the literal impossible, but he was also tasked to yoke himself with a stigma that would follow him his entire life. I call it the stigma of the supernatural. The Savior of the world to the rest of us was simply called illegitimate when it came to Joseph. He didn’t live to see the Resurrection. We can’t find any historical proof that he even lived to see the first miracle of Jesus at the marriage of Canna. He lived and died with nothing but a promise, yet fulfilled one of the greatest tasks ever accomplished in history.
21 “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
You see, if Joseph had not been willing to embrace the stigma, if he had not been faithful in spite of being fearful, there would have been no other man to name the child Jesus. Because of the Law and Jewish culture, only the father or the nearest male relative had the responsibility and the privilege to name the child. Mary would not have had the ability in her own right. If Joseph had refused the opportunity afforded to him by the Angel Gabriel, then Mary’s father, grandfather, brother or uncle, whichever one was alive and the patriarch of the family, would have been given the task of naming the child. As far as we can see in history, Joseph was only a carpenter his entire life, yet he was the only man alive that was told the name that was to be above every other name. Only Joseph knew the name that would become the formula of salvation, healing, provision, and redemption for the entire world. According to the scriptures in Acts 4:12, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Joseph lived his entire life to be positioned to say one sentence that would change the world. Can you imagine the years of wondering if he had really seen an Angel? Teaching the lad, Jesus, his skills, while all the while wondering if it was truly the Messiah of Israel he had been chosen to mentor. The years of just being faithful to the Word of the Lord…years of having other children and living, as far as we can tell, just an ordinary mundane life. But yet his life changed history, as well as our hope for eternity.
In what areas of life, ministry, family or career do you feel you are simply meandering through the maze of mediocrity and muddling through the malaise of the mundane? Could it be that in what you deem inconvenient, difficult, or in the least, ordinary is where you will find the fulfillment you have been longing for? In your anticipation for the future, this season of faithfulness in your now may actually be the catalyst to your next.
Lord, teach us to embrace and celebrate our seasons of the mundane that lead us to the revelation and the awareness of our Messiah!
Jonathan Suber began his itinerate ministry at the age of 14. He has been in fulltime ministry over 40 years and married to Stephanie Dawn for over 34 yrs. Together, they have ministered Jesus on 5 continents in over 45 nations of the world. Jonathan has an earned M.Min and an honorary Doctor of Christian Missions.The Subers have pastored 3 Churches and founded Oasis Church in 2016 where they currently serve as Sr. Pastors. They have 3 children Alex, Alayna and Allister as well as 2 amazing grandsons.