Swimming in Shark Infested Waters

In 1994 I stepped into a small closet on the bottom floor of the cabin I was staying in, but this was no cabin in the woods. This was no peaceful retreat or some great get-a-away from life. This was youth camp and I was a guest speaker for a church, leading their evening devotions. The closet was cluttered with cleaning items and I remember the mop and bucket next to me as I knelt down on both knees. The smell of wet mop filled the air and mixed gently with a hint of mold. 

“Dear God,” I began…

I had come to pray for the students. Although I had only met them three days earlier, I knew now that they were a wild bunch. Several had already been caught breaking into unoccupied cabins. Others were cold to me and I had seen, though I wanted to forget, the emotionally-scarring massacre of the boy’s bathroom directly above me. 

“Oh, God,” I began again, then paused for a deep breath. At last in the quiet of that closet, my heart poured out… “Dear God, please deliver me from these savages!”

Little did I know that the church I was with would offer me the position of being their youth minister and I would tell them no twice before God would finally convince me that such a place is where I belonged. For years I watched those “savages” grow and become an incredible group that led many to Christ and shared Him boldly. I watched them pray. I watched them grow. I watched them cry. I watched them struggle. Some fell but others grew to be pillars in the church. I watched them lead friends to Christ and minister to children and when all was said and done, I praised God that He did not answer my prayer for deliverance.

Sometimes leading a youth group or a youth Sunday School class might feel like swimming through shark-infested waters. After all, who would choose to swim there? Youth ministry can be full of land mines and ticking time bombs, just waiting to go off. Who would choose to walk there? It’s not always easy. It’s not always convenient and neither are most of the things in life that are worth doing. An effective ministry takes time. It takes effort. It takes commitment. It takes passion. And it takes relationship. A leader will never be effective by seeing his students once a week on Sunday morning. When you lead students, you become a part of their lives with all the bumps and bruises that come with it. 

So, again, who would choose to swim in shark-infested waters? Someone who jumps in to save a life. Someone who swims there with a purpose. Who would walk into a minefield? Someone who walks there to show another the way out. Likewise, you are not without purpose in your ministry. So jump in…jump in all the way. Invest your life and your relationship with Christ in others and watch God do what only God can do. 

May these devotions remind you of the great purpose to which God has called you. May they help, strengthen and encourage you as lead others in knowing Christ and making Him known.