I don't spend a lot of time wondering what people think. Well, I do care a little. But it’s not the first thing on my mind. That’s nothing particularly saintly; in fact, I’ve been known to cause those around me much anxiety at times.
Being so comfortable with myself also makes me less sensitive to what God thinks and wants for me. Maybe that’s why I’ve had to stop and think about ministry expectations. If I don’t recognize them, I’m in trouble. If I take them too seriously, I’m in trouble. If I just live by what I think, I’m in trouble. If I go by what other people think God thinks, we’re all in trouble.
So Micah’s description of God’s expectations of me brings me relief: “He has shown you, [my daughter], what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (6:8, NIV, 1984).
I can do that! Well, sort of.
One rare, quiet Sabbath afternoon I decided I needed a better explanation of what He expects of me. In a quick read of the whole book, I quickly realized Micah is addressing a spider’s web of abuse and shame in this warm-fuzzy memory verse. If only acting justly and loving mercy could be that simple!
Micah is talking about people who are failing—and proud of it. About leaders who are taking advantage of their position, destroying others, and then denying it all. He’s talking about a nation destroying every dream God has for them. It’s enough to make both God and Micah weep.
Even though nothing in my life mirrors the corruption and abuse that brought Micah such grief, a few subtle references bother me.
First, I’ve never meant to misuse the little power I’ve been given (2:1, 2). But how many times have I concocted ways to solve church problems my way, simply because it is within my power to do so? Am I getting in the way of God using His power His way?
Then there’s the whole denial thing (2:6, 7; 6:2). I want life to be nice. I don’t like tough times. Or challenges. Or accountability. Or trials. There’s nothing really wrong with believing everything’s OK with the way I am, is there?
Also, Micah makes categorical generalizations about human nature (7:1-7). Is he being cynical? Or painfully realistic? Will people always let me down? Will I always let them down? Will no one ever live up to my expectations? This sounds like failure. What are people going to think?
The way I’m inclined to do things, I’m certain I’ll bring someone grief. I will disappoint. I will hurt others and bring dishonor to God. This isn’t good when He has intentionally, personally called me to do His work. With such high risks, it’s embarrassing to be one of God’s “called.” Who would ever wish to be in ministry?
But look at the help which Micah—and God—offers. Here’s a detailed job description, resource center, source of moral support, crisis management team. . . . There’s hope for me and all the expectations I face!
“I will bring [you] like sheep” (2:12). I’m badly in need of Someone to lift me out of the fray. For those who think I’m on a pedestal, I’m wrapped high up in the strong arms of the Shepherd (5:4).
“The Lord [will be at your] head” (2:13). For every challenging situation or difficult person in my life, He’s there first. I’m caught in a battle which I can’t fight alone. In fact, I can’t fight it at all. I can only follow.
“He will teach us His ways” (4:2). When I’m inclined to do things my way, He has the patience to show me His way. He intends to stay by me until I’m able to walk His path with Him.
“You will go to Babylon; there you will be rescued” (4:10). Despite my failures, He gives me help. In fact, the hard times are the tools He uses to redeem me.
“The remnant . . . will be in the midst of many peoples like dew from the Lord, like showers on the grass, which do not wait for mortals or depend on any human being” (5:7). I’m not the one who makes the dew; I’m not the rain that refreshes their lives. When I don’t meet their expectations, it is clearly because I am human. When they rejoice because of my ministry, it is clearly because He is God.
GOD SAYS ALL HE REQUIRES OF ME IS TO—
“Act justly”—live in harmony with what is right and true.
“Love mercy”—find joy in offering people what they don’t deserve.
“Walk humbly”—recognize that you are not capable of doing what He’s calling you to do.
“With your God”—and stick close to His throne, knowing that you are His, and all His power is available to you.
“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior” (7:7). The world has no honor and offers nothing in which to trust (7:2- 6). God is my only hope of being any different. My calling as a pastor’s wife is simply to let His salvation work so others can know what He can do.
“Though I have fallen, I will rise” (7:8). I’m limited in patience, energy, wisdom, pure motives, good intentions. I stumble in ministry. I fail to represent Him perfectly. But amazingly, He can do wonders with faulty people like me (7:15).
“Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives” (7:18). He forgives me even while He calls me. When I am imperfectly, helplessly needy, He “has compassion.”
“You will be faithful to Jacob, and show love to Abraham, as you pledged” (7:20). God has always known the fault lines in my soul, but He will keep His promises. In the end, He wants to save me (7:20).
What does my Lord expect of me?
To let Him use my life to showcase His love, His forgiveness, His promise, His salvation. That’s the summary of what it means to be in ministry. It’s not complicated.
And maybe that’s why it’s so humbling. He doesn’t want a pianist, hostess, pastoral support system, creative writer, organizer, witty social leader, theological expert, diplomat, exemplary mother, or some other weak attempt at perfection.
He just wants me.