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Pain, D.L. Lowrie, suggests may be sign of God’s calling

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–God may ordain suffering in the lives of those preparing for ministry in order to cleanse and prepare them for the task to come, the pastor of First Baptist Church of Lubbock, Texas, told students on Sept. 14 at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“It’s wonderful to be called of God — the sense that God, in his sovereign goodness, has called you,” D.L. Lowrie said. “But often when God calls a person, that only means that God has begun, in an intense way, the preparatory process that includes the cleansing of that person. The correction and cleansing bring the minister to a place of maximum usefulness.

“You’re not just anybody; you’re a called somebody. That doesn’t give you special sanctification, but that does mean that God has a special interest in you. God will deal with you in a way that he may not deal with average Joe Baptist.”

Drawing from Exodus 4 — the story of Moses and Zipporah — Lowrie said that difficulty in the life of a minister is not necessarily a sign that he is not called into the ministry, but instead may be a validation of the calling.

Lowrie said God thoroughly and carefully uses the cleansing process to rid the minister’s life of areas that remain in bondage to sin. Often these areas will manifest themselves while the minister is in seminary, he said.

“God knows in the life of those he’s called any defilement of the conscience can have serious consequences,” he said. “There may be some of you that have not come up to the biblical standard of stewardship. You’re on your way to the mission field, you’re called, and you have not yet dealt with the question of stewardship. You’re still of that philosophy ‘if there’s anything left over, we’ll contribute.’ God will probably have to deal with that.

“Some of you may be struggling with the issue of church [attendance]. I pastored a seminary church for 10 years, so I know the pattern of seminarians. You study about God all week and on Sunday think the Lord will look over it if you stay in bed. God takes those he’s called and in his own wise way begins to bring about cleansing and correction.”

Satan often uses areas of moral weakness in a minister to discourage him and undermine his ability to witness effectively, Lowrie said.

“Most of us who have been in the ministry for any amount of time have heard that voice,” he said. “Some area of our lives wasn’t quite what it ought to be and the adversary uses that to steal away our courage in a moment of crisis.”

God’s cleansing process sometimes even brings pain into the life of the minister, he said. But ministers, and those preparing for ministry at seminary, should not be discouraged when things do not go exactly as planned and suffering enters their lives, he said.

As an illustration, Lowrie used Moses and the severe illness that ravaged him as the prophet made his way toward Egypt. The illness was God’s chosen method of preparing Moses for the task that lay ahead — his leading the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt. In much the same way, suffering fine-tunes the minister and equips him to handle the challenges of ministry, Lowrie said.

“If some kind of painful affliction falls upon you, don’t automatically say, ‘I must have missed the calling of God,'” he said. “It may be the best sign you have that God did call you. That may be confirmation.

“That your days in seminary are not going to be easy may be confirmation that God has called you. God’s not only getting you ready so you can read Hebrew and Greek and outline theological propositions. God is getting you ready in your deepest character, so you will be able to, in a moment of crisis, in a moment of need, be a servant of God.”

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  • Jeff Robinson

    Jeff Robinson is director of news and information at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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