Ministers must trust God’s providence if they are to be successful in the ministry, Paige Patterson told 269 graduates of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary during the fall commissioning service Dec. 15.

“You will fail in the ministry, as many who enter the ministry do, if you do not walk by faith and trust the providence of God,” Patterson said. He urged graduates to be faithful in light of the suffering that they will face.

“We live in troubled times, and because people are hurt, wounded and angry, they will often take it out on you,” Patterson said. He added that ministers are called not only to suffer at the hands of those they are trying to serve, but sometime they might be called to “lands where there is hostility toward the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Patterson pointed to the faith that is exemplified by Mary in Luke’s account of the announcement of Christ’s birth in Luke 1, and he urged graduates to follow her example. He also reminded graduates that the angel told Mary that “nothing is impossible with God.”

“Will you please never, ever be guilty of saying, ‘this cannot be done. This cannot be achieved.’ You serve the creator God who made everything that is. He can find a way for you in whatever ministry you discover,” Patterson said.

Patterson then led graduates to look closely at Mary’s words recorded in Luke 1:46-55 in what is popularly called the Magnificat: “My soul magnifies the Lord.”

“My friends, that is the whole purpose of the ministry to which you are going: That your soul would magnify the Lord,” Patterson said. “I commission you to go forth to the ministries to which God has called you… with but one theme in your heart and mind. Play it over and over and over again, because you will never tire of it. If it is permanently present in your heart, you will never experience ministerial burnout, you will never be drawn aside into the kind of immoral behavior that has plagued the church of God on every hand. If your constant theme is, with Mary, ‘my soul magnifies the Lord,’ then God will lead you unbelievably.”

Patterson also noted that Mary expresses her understanding of God in her hymn of praise. She recognized God’s might, holiness and mercy. Patterson, however, called graduates to pay special attention to God’s mercy and avoid a triumphal attitude when facing a fallen person.

“You must confront sin, but you must never enjoy it,” he said. “You must preach against the evils of the day, but you must never rejoice in it. There will be times when you will have to confront heresy and call it what it is, but it should never be a thrill to your soul. What should always be the thrill to your soul is to tell people of a merciful God who forgives and who redeems those who fear him.”

Among its 269 graduates, Southwestern Seminary conferred nine undergraduate degrees, 238 master’s degrees and 22 doctoral degrees. The fall graduating class included students from 25 states and U.S. territories, and seven foreign nations: Brazil, China, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Syria and Taiwan.