A Big Zero

What is your ministry? If you are like most people, you are thinking, “I don’t have a ministry. My pastor does.” Well, there’s just one problem with that kind of thinking. It’s not biblical. That’s right. It is not biblical.

Every Christian has a ministry. Ephesians 2:10 makes it quite clear. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Do you see the part about good works and when they were determined—in advance? God did not put you here to take up space or punch the clock.

He created you for a purpose—a ministry. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:5 that we are just ordinary people God created to do a specific job. “What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task.” In other words, God uses everyday people like you and me to do His work. We usually speak of preachers and missionaries as the only ones having a ministry. Today, I hope to dispel that kind of erroneous thinking.

I taught fourth grade in the public school system for several years and loved it. I enjoyed the professional relationships with my colleagues as well as the interaction with parents and students. Each day was an adventure filled with the unknown. While some days were a bit more challenging than I cared for, overall my job was very satisfying.

There was just one major problem I had to deal with— migraine headaches. I’m not talking about headaches you walk around with, or take two Tylenol and they subside. I’m talking about headaches that make you want to bash your head against the wall, headaches that send you straight to bed, headaches that make you sick as a dog. Although I had suffered with migraines since college, they became more frequent and increasingly more severe during those years I taught fourth grade.

Anyone in his or her right mind would have known I was working way too hard. (Isn’t it amazing how hindsight is 20/20 but how poorly you see things in the present?) Basically, I worked all week at school, and then, since my husband is a pastor, we did church activities and ministry all weekend. Before I knew it, Monday rolled around again and it was time to start the grueling process all over. But because I loved what I was doing, I pressed on. However, as the headaches became increasingly more frequent and severe, I finally was forced to entertain the idea of resigning my job. I could hardly bear to think about it because, after all, who would I be if I were no longer a teacher? What could I possibly invest my life in that would give me as much satisfaction as teaching? Well, I surely didn’t have the answers, and I wasn’t going to risk the known for the unknown, so I opted to keep plugging along.

God had other plans, however. Knowing that I would not or could not make the decision to quit, He changed my focus for a semester. Since our younger daughter, Emily, was a senior in high school, I decided to take a sabbatical for the second semester. Little did I know that, while God did want me to have the time and energy to enjoy my little valedictorian, He was up to something else as well.

While taking the time off, I decided to put some feelers out to see if any of the ladies were interested in doing a Bible study with me. Boy was I surprised when twenty ladies showed up for a meeting that had barely been publicized. We had a great time—something I looked forward to every Tuesday.

As soon as we finished that study, the ladies wanted to do another one. As the summer drew to an end I had to make a decision about my teaching career. Knowing in my heart I did not need to return to the rat race, I decided to resign, not because I wanted to, but because my headaches were still painful and frequent.

After acknowledging the inevitable, I drove to the school board office to resign. Upon arrival I stated why I was there, and the process got underway speedily. Noticing that I had been crying, the administrative assistants exchanged sad, empathetic glances as they handed me the paperwork to complete. I could read them like a book. They had come to the wrong conclusion about why I was resigning. They thought I was pregnant. If I had not been so distraught, that day could have been very funny, but there was nothing humorous about it. So I wrote MIGRAINE HEADACHES in very large legible letters on the space for the reason for my resignation. After I turned in my paperwork, the relief on the assistants’ faces was obvious. Because I was all wrapped up in myself I wasn’t really worried about what they thought.

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do..jpgIn a few moments the supervisor called me into his office and despite my efforts to hold it together, I lost my composure in his office. I sobbed uncontrollably for the longest time, making the supervisor most uneasy. He did everything he could to console me and got me out of there—in record time I might add—which was good for him and good for me.

I cried all the way home. (If a police officer had pulled me over he probably would have had me committed.) As soon as I walked through the door I picked up the phone and called a friend. Through my tears I said, “I have just made the worst mistake of my life. I resigned my job. Now I am going to be sitting at home like a BIG ZERO.” I don’t remember what she said, but I’ll never forget what she did. Within an hour after our telephone conversation she, with her preschool son, was ringing my doorbell with a plant in her hand. They came in and visited for a while, and because her little one was there I had to maintain my composure. That was a good thing because it forced me to be more rational and delayed the full-blown pity party about to get underway.

Knowing I had to keep myself busy while I was grieving over not returning to the classroom, I decided to teach another Bible study. During that time God spoke to me clearly. No, I did not hear an audible voice but while I was thinking about how much I enjoyed working with the women in our church, I sensed the Lord saying, “See, I told you I had something for you to do that would be equally if not more satisfying as teaching fourth grade. You had to let go of one before I could give you another.” All along I had been bargaining with God to show me what would take the place of my teaching career, and if I approved, I would let go. But He obviously had another plan, which required me to let go and trust Him before He revealed the next step to me.

It never occurred to me that for years God had been grooming me for a future ministry. Yet in retrospect, I can see His hand lovingly guiding me. Now I know why I have a seminary degree, why I practiced marriage and family therapy for a while, and yes, why I taught fourth grade for several years. He was getting me ready to do the work He had planned in advance for me to do.

God has a ministry for you, too. He created you with a job in mind. Take it from me, if you sit stubbornly by refusing to acknowledge God’s plan for your life, you are going to miss the greatest blessing. I would hate to know I had missed all the wonderful times I have had with the precious ladies of First Baptist Church, Covington, over the last fifteen years. If you are one of them, I want you to know you have blessed me beyond my wildest dreams. I will be forever indebted to you for encouraging me in my walk with the Lord.

Would you be willing to open your heart to see the good work which God prepared in advance for you to do? “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Dear God, You are the One with the plan for my life. You didn’t create me and think up something for me to do. Your word says that You had the plan first. I am blown away to think You would call me your workmanship—Your masterpiece. I realize I am a work in progress. Help me to let go of my plans today and willingly submit to Your plans for my life, knowing that’s where I will find fulfillment and peace. I don’t want to miss the blessing.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” —Ephesians 2:10
Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 3:5–9; Jeremiah 29:11

-from It Hurts but I’m Okay by Martha Bailey

8 thoughts on “A Big Zero

  1. Thanks Martha……God just used you big time in my life. I think it’s time that I move in the direction God is now wanting me to go. I needed to hear that. I’d like to say it’s a scary step, but how can it be? He is leading. It’s got to be more fulfilling! That door is opening for me. Thanks for being His instrument!

    1. How amazing that God speaks through “A Big Zero!” I’m thrilled that you have gained clarity on His will for your life, Marlaine. I’m praying for you now.

  2. Dear dear Martha. All of us in your Wednesday bible study are so blessed to have you teach us God’s word and help us to apply it to our every day lives. We’ve all learned so much. The fact that the group has grown from 20 ladies to 300-400 is a testament to your calling. Thank you so much.

    1. Thank you, Diane. Y’all have no idea how y’all have blessed my life. Your commitment to study God’s Word on a weekly basis has kept me digging deeper into it. There’s no teacher that has a better group to study with than I do. I’d rather be teaching y’all than speaking any where in the country. I’m serious😊

  3. Oh my dear, sweet PW! How grateful I am that you decided to let go of your plan and follow God’s. You have blessed me beyond measure with your friendship and teaching. Love you much!

    1. Terry, you weren’t in the first study but you joined us soon after. It’s been sweet to see how the Lord has worked in all of our lives. Thank you for blessing me.

  4. “Big Zero”, NO!
    Absolutely NOT EVER in God’s multiplication!

    FYI … it was in one of your Bible Studies that God reminded me HE had better for me and my family. I remember the moment like it was yesterday.

    Thank you Martha Bailey … I love you 🤗

    1. What a work we watched God do in your family, Diane! It was precious to watch your sweet Captain Duffy come to know the Lord and have an insatiable desire to serve Him. Both of you mean so much to me.

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