The Minister’s Sense of Purpose
A Study of Amos 7
Target of Satan’s Deadliest Onslaught:
The Minister’s Sense of Purpose
Because Satan is a master strategist and tactician, he seldom depends on direct frontal attacks against the work of God. Instead, he attempts to achieve indirectly what he knows he cannot achieve directly.
How better can he attack the Christian work than by destroying the effectiveness of the minister? Probing relentlessly to discover the weak spot in the minister’s defenses, he often finds it in the minister’s sense of purpose.
How does Satan implement his strategy of attacking the minister’s sense of purpose? A classic example is pictured in Amos 7:10–17. There four of his basic tactics are apparent. The minister who is aware of these may protect himself and his sense of purpose against them.
Satan destroys purpose through fear. Amos was a rustic prophet from Tekoa in Judah. By his own testimony he was a herdsman and a gatherer of sycamore fruit. The Lord sent him to the northern kingdom of Israel to prophesy. This was his purpose, his ministry.
Was Satan content to let the work of God continue unopposed? Not at all! He took action. Through Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, he attempted to cow the prophet through fear: “Go, flee thee away” (7:12). Satan sometimes attempts to negate the effectiveness of the minister by making him afraid. Fear destroys the sense of purpose. The minister who is afraid will find all sorts of excuses to keep from doing what he ought to be doing.
Satan deflects purpose through expediency. God had sent Amos to prophesy against Israel. Yet Amaziah suggested to Amos that it was not expedient for him to continue his ministry in Israel, that it was more expedient for him to flee “into the land of Judah” (7:12) and continue his ministry there. Note the subtleness of the attack. Amos is not being told to stop ministering; he is merely asked to take his ministry elsewhere. Merely? Take another look. He is being asked to go where God did not send him, to leave Israel without its God-sent witness.
Expediency has many names. Today it may masquerade as promotion; tomorrow, as more money; later, as better climate or new opportunities. But whatever its name, expediency involves a deflection from continuing to minister where one has been sent by God. Let us beware that we do not sacrifice divine purpose or principle for expediency.
Satan dilutes purpose through professionalism. The next tactic of Satan was to have the priest suggest that the primary concern of Amos was to make a living by means of his ministry. In other words, the priest was implying that the ministry is a job like any other job. “There eat bread, and prophesy there” (7:12). Thus, Amaziah suggested to Amos that the important thing was not his ministry, but his livelihood. By suggesting that Amos could maintain his standard of living as easily in Judah as in Israel, Amaziah was exposing Amos to the subtle snares of the professional attitude that counts the ministry as merely a job.
What is the result of counting the ministry as a job? It means the minister has traded masters; it means he is working for mammon rather than God. Satan is happy when men begin to minister for the money, however, little or much may result from the ministering. Satan is aware that dilution of purpose through the professionalism attitude is as deadly to the work of God as is destruction of purpose through fear or deflection of purpose through expediency.
Satan debases purpose through servility. The final tactic is illustrated by Amaziah’s attempt to awe the prophet with, “It is the king’s chapel, and it is the king’s court” (7:13). Amaziah knew that what fear, expediency, and professionalism failed to accomplish, servility might achieve. So he attempted to impress the rural prophet with the splendors of the royal establishment. Surely Amos could see he was out of place in the sophisticated cultural and religious center of the northern kingdom. Surely he would see his ministry was not suited to the people of Bethel.
The temptation faced by Amos was one that can be fatal to the minister and his ministry. Basically, it is the temptation to be a respecter of persons rather than of God.
What defenses does the minister have against these satanic tactics? The passage under study will provide some insights. For each assault, there is a defense. We shall consider the defenses in inverse order to the assaults.
The consciousness of God protects against debasing of purpose through servility. “And the Lord took me” (7:15) is the prophet’s response. It is unthinkable to Amos that a servant of the most high God should grovel in servility before a mere king. What is a king to one who serves the King of kings? Every minister must be a respecter of God rather than a respecter of persons. Commoners and kings — all stand equal before the judgment bar of God; all need the Christian gospel of God’s saving grace.
The consciousness of God’s call protects against dilution of purpose through professionalism. Amos had none of the prophet’s professional credentials. He was not a prophet because of his ancestry or his education. He lacked everything that might have qualified him for a prophet’s union card. What was it then that transformed the herdsman and gatherer of sycamore fruit into a prophet? It was the call of God! “And the Lord took me as 1 followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, Prophesy” (7:15).
Amos had heard the lion roar. “The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord God hath spoken, who can but prophesy?” (3:8). A minister who like Amos has experienced God’s call knows that his ministry is not just another job. He will refuse to be victimized by the attitude that is merely professional. He will view his ministry as a divine calling.
The consciousness of God’s direction protects against deflection of purpose through expediency. Although Amaziah said to Amos, “Go flee thee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy,” the Lord’s directions to Amos were, “Go, prophesy unto my people Israel” (7:15). The minister who is conscious of God’s direction will not allow himself to be misdirected by others, to be turned aside from doing the will of God.
The consciousness of God’s victory protects against destruction of purpose through fear. Even a casual reading of 7:16,17 reveals that the prophet Amos had a clear sense of God’s ultimate victory. As a prophet of a victorious God, Amos refused to give way to defeatism and fear. We in the ministry today serve this same triumphant God and can be fearless when we are assaulted by Satan and his minions. After all, the prince of this world has been defeated! Scan quickly the four defenses the servant of God has which protect him from the attacks of Satan. What factor is common to all of them? Consciousness. And what is the seat of consciousness? The mind.
If we are to defeat Satan who continually assaults our sense of purpose, we must keep in our consciousness the proper content. We must live in consciousness of God. We must minister with a consciousness of God’s call. We must go with a consciousness of God’s direction. We must fight with a consciousness of God’s victory. Then His victory will become our victory, and we shall fulfill our ministerial purpose.
Donald F. Johns