“Son of man,” he said, “I am sending you to the nation of Israel, a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me. They and their ancestors have been rebelling against me to this very day. They are a stubborn and hard-hearted people. But I am sending you to say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says!’ And whether they listen or refuse to listen—for remember, they are rebels—at least they will know they have had a prophet among them.”
From the beginning, God plainly tells Ezekiel that he’s going to have a tough job. The people will not listen. They are stubborn and rebellious. They will try to intimidate him. Ezekiel will not win any popularity contest. His ministry would be considered a failure by human standards. We celebrate the prophets, but we tend to forget that they were often despised by their own people.
Ezekiel’s experience helps me to rethink my ideas of “success” and “failure.”
I’ve experienced plenty of “failures” in my ministry. There have been several times that I’ve approached a group of students and been completely rejected or ignored (usually not in a rude manner, but their disinterest was clear). I couldn’t count the number of Bible study groups that have disappeared after one or two lessons. I’ve listened to some of my own recorded sermons and cringed at my poor choice of words. There have been days where I wondered if I was making any impact at all.
Fortunately, God has placed me in a ministry where I also get to experience “success”: sharing with hundreds of students at a seminar, seeing teenagers commit their lives to Jesus, and watching some turn into mature disciples. Ezekiel did not enjoy these psychological perks in his ministry.
There’s a reason why I’ve put “success” and “failure” in quotes. Ezekiel’s calling reminds me that God doesn’t keep score the same way I tend to. God does not ask me to be “successful”—He simply calls me to be faithful and obedient. His glory is the issue, not the results that I may or may not see.
God promises two things to Ezekiel. First, He promises that He will be glorified through Ezekiel’s ministry. “They will know they have had a prophet among them,” God said (vs. 5). Second, God promises His strength. He states, in fact, that He will make Ezekiel just as determined as his hard-headed audience (Ezekiel 3:8-9).
These same promises apply to us here and now. God never promised that we will always win. He has promised that He will be glorified whenever we obey. He has also promised to strengthen us so that we can do His will.
God delights in our obedience, regardless of the outcome. Let us never forget this.
Heavenly father, I pray for all of those faithful servants who feel like failures. Remind them that you delight in their obedience, just like a mother delights in her child’s first feeble steps.
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