I’ve been doing ministry now for over a decade. That’s enough time to know both how to be a complete moron and how to actually do a few things correctly. If I had a few minutes to sit a new minister down and share a few things I’ve learned, I know that I’d tell him things about loving Jesus, loving people, and being an absolute servant to the Word of God. But there is one piece of advice that I believe is vital which would be easy to forget. Here it is:
You cannot fulfill your God-given job of being cold water to a thirsty soul if you give in to wicked men.
I get this principle from Proverbs 25:25-26:
“Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country. Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.”
You are called to be one who gives cold water to thirsty souls. And the only water which truly gives life to thirsty souls is the fountain of Christ. This means our task is to point people to the Life Giver. Only he can satisfy. Only the gospel will do. Our task requires that we have compassion on the thirsty as well as the chutzpah to travel even from the farthest countries to give this water to the weary.
But you’ll be tempted time and time again to muddy that stream.
In verse 26 we see the person who ought to be a thirst quencher has now become an unhealthy drinking source because he is now carried along by the wicked. He has made a deal with the wicked and given in to his demands. As a result what ought to be a life-giving stream—and one which people likely formerly relied upon—has now become tainted. This happens when you give in to the wicked.
Unfortunately the wicked do not walk around with a horn growing out of their head.
They are likely brilliant and successful people. They are the kind of person who you’ll want to pick for your team. If they are in church they won’t be on the sidelines—after all, it goes against the nature of wicked people to remain behind the scenes amongst a bunch of Jesus-followers. They’ll be the ones rising to the top–the one who wants to “serve” in all sorts of places.
These will likely be your best buds as you launch out into ministry. But watch and see what happens when you start fighting for those thirsty souls (Proverbs 29:7). See what happens when things stop being about them (Proverbs 21:4) and how they respond when they don’t get their way (Proverbs 9:7). At times they may be overcome with outright paranoia (Proverbs 28:1) at other times violent outbursts (Proverbs 12:6).
But remember you won’t see that horn sprout. Their wickedness will almost always be cloaked behind religiosity. But if you pull away the layers you’ll soon discover that it’s all about them and it’s not about the thirsty souls. This proverb reminds you that you cannot serve both. You cannot cater to the wicked and be a refuge for the broken at the same time. The thirsty souls need the gospel and the gospel alone. Giving away such a precious treasure is not compatible with the self-serving wicked. So, you’ll have to choose. And it won’t be easy. Compromise is always an easier path than compassion.
Follow Christ. You are satisfied in Christ because he fought for your thirsty soul. He never caved to wicked men. You don’t cave either, even if it costs you your life, your job, or your reputation. No applause is worth polluting the stream. Your fear of any man should not be greater than the one of muddying up the water you are to give to thirsty souls.
There are so many disputable matters in ministry that will demand give-and-take on your part. This isn’t talking about caving on matters of opinion. This is saying don’t move away from what God’s Word clearly says in order to please the wicked. If you do this, if you bow to them in order to keep your job, you are complicit in their wickedness. This is true if you carry out their orders AND if you passively do nothing while their ruin spreads like cancer.
Be about giving water to thirsty souls. Never compromise on that.