Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

By Jeannette Haley

Every person who has truly tasted of the goodness of the Lord and who has experienced His salvation normally desires to somehow serve Him. The question is what service can we render that is glorifying to God? How can we know what our calling is that will bring honor to the Majesty on high? The answer may surprise you.

Unfortunately Christians have been systematically conditioned for centuries to believe that the highest service to God can only be achieved within the boundaries of institutionalized religion. In my own early Christian life (over four decades ago) I felt that going to church, parting with a quarter when the offering plate was passed and inviting friends to Sunday School made me a “good” Christian. After experiencing the awesome presence of God when I was a teen, however, my heart was stirred to serve Him in greater ways and in my limited understanding and experience that translated as “missionary”. However, (and I am sure some of you can relate) life can sometimes be compared to a swiftly flowing river—a river in which you find yourself helplessly gripped by a current that carries you far from your desired destination. It wasn’t until many years later and after I met Rayola that I understood why my heart-cry to serve God as a foreign missionary had not been fulfilled. She helped me understand that the reason most people are never able to fulfill their goals is because they have the wrong priorities. Hindsight, being the bitter-sweet teacher that it is, poignantly brought clarity to where I had made self-serving and convenient decisions that caused me to fall short of the high calling of God.

But in spite of many detours, I continued to search for ways to serve God in the only way I knew how—within the confines of the church system. I have to admit, I was fortunate to receive good, solid, basic Bible training in those years, especially in Sunday school and through a Moody Bible Institute Correspondence Course. I “paid my dues” by teaching children’s Sunday school, becoming involved with teens from a heartbreaking home situations, and later teaching adults in a home study.

The twin fires of frustration and longing to serve God in greater ways, however, raged in my heart. After five years of intensive training in a certain Pacific Northwest church noted for its thorough teaching program, my spirit longed to be set free from the church routine with its seemingly endless programs, meetings, and church growth expenditures that lacked the presence and simplicity of Christ. I wanted to see sinners saved! I wanted to see Jesus lifted up, not the church. I longed for the comfortable, financially secure pew-warmers to catch a vision of Jesus, of hell, of the lost and to abandon their earthly pursuits to get real with God. I craved to witness the fruit of genuine revival—a revival where men and women came to a place of brokenness that resulted in abandonment to the will of God 24 hours a day, seven days a week—not just play church when it was convenient!

But at that time I did not know how to serve God outside of the system and found myself caught up in about five services and meetings a week. I was a gung-ho typical “churchite”. Then, suddenly, somehow, the Lord took me out of that church. I will never forget the chastening of the Lord that followed as He spoke these words to me, “I Am a jealous God.” Immediately I knew that the church had become my idol! It had replaced Jesus in my life.

The good news is God has left us a pattern of what real ministry is that brings glory to Him. That pattern is Jesus Christ. It begins with Jesus, it is fulfilled in Jesus, and it ends with Jesus. 1 John 3:16, 17 tells us, “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” If you have been confused about your calling or service to God, then these verses reveal your starting point. You begin by presenting your body (practical service in this world) to God. Romans 12:1 and 2 tell us, “I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

Christians who find it difficult to determine what the will of God is for their lives need to meditate on these verses and then obey them. Note that there is a progression from presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice to separation from the world, and then to transformation by a renewed mind. ThenGod’s good, acceptable and perfect will shall be revealed. True Christian service that glorifies God is overlooked by most Christians because it is practical. We (in our pride) like to think that we bring glory to God by doing “great things” and long to be another Billy Graham, D.L. Moody, Hudson Taylor, etc. or by building churches, yet neither Jesus nor the disciples and apostles, nor any of the prophets, or early Christians built grand edifices or monuments which, in the end, only serve to glorify man, not God. We build buildings and attend church for ourselves—for our own convenience. Let’s face it, it’s very tempting in our flesh to want to be part of a big, impressive, rich, “successful” church, one in which we can easily deceive ourselves into believing that we have somehow “spiritually arrived” with the “elite” of our community.

The Son of God, however, never sought for a large following and revealed the true heart of God when He taught, “…if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish” Matt. 18: 12-14. Therefore, what shall it profit us if we spend our lives (and resources) building newer, bigger and better church buildings so we can become totally absorbed into man-centered church programs that result in a “Christian sub-culture” if souls are not saved and made into disciples of Christ? Just what is a soul worth anyway?

Today most church-going Christians assume that they are pleasing God and that they are personally absolved from supporting missions and other evangelistic outreaches when they give only to the church system or to rich celebrities they watch on TV. This is not glorifying to God according to scripture (“…he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want” Prov. 22:16b). Collections taken up by the early church were for the needy saints and for Christians workers in the field who had no other means of support (read 1 Cor. 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 9). If you are fortunate enough to have a truly godly pastor who spends his time seeking God’s face, interceding for sinners and begging for souls, who receives fresh manna from heaven to feed the sheep, and who does not expect to live above the people, then by all means, as God so leads, you need to support that servant. But to support a hireling is to partake in his sins.

Concerning abandonment to God, Oswald Chambers put it this way, “Supposing God tells you to do something which is an enormous test to your common sense, what are you going to do? Hang back? If you get into the habit of doing a thing in the physical domain, you will do it every time until you break the habit determinedly; and the same is true spiritually. Again and again you will get up to what Jesus Christ wants, and every time you will turn back when it comes to the point, until you abandon resolutely. ‘Yes, but—supposing I do obey God in this matter, what about …?’ ‘Yes, I will obey God if He will let me use my common sense, but don’t ask me to take a step in the dark.’ Jesus Christ demands of the man who trusts Him the same reckless sporting spirit that the natural man exhibits. If a man is going to do anything worth while, there are times when he has to risk everything on his leap, and in the spiritual domain Jesus Christ demands that you risk everything you hold by common sense and leap into what He says and immediately you do, you find that what He says fits on as solidly as common sense. At the bar of common sense Jesus Christ’s statements may seem mad; but bring them to the bar of faith, and you begin to find with awestruck spirit that they are the words of God. Trust entirely in God and when He brings you to the venture, see that you take it. We act like pagans in a crisis, only one out of a crowd is daring enough to bank his faith in the character of God.” (From MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST, May 30).

Remember, Jesus is our pattern, or example, of how we can bring glory to God. He revealed the secret of true ministry when He stood up in the temple and read from Isaiah these words, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord” Luke 4:18, 19. We know that Jesus fulfilled this ministry to the glory of God. He came to serve, not to be served. Tragically, what we see cluttering the Christian landscape today are puffed up “Christian” celebrities who claim to be teachers of God’s Word but in reality they are “…false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ” 2 Cor. 11:13. They came not to serve, but to be served and “make merchandise of you” 2 Peter 3:2.

The fact remains, real ministry that brings glory to God comes only by paying a price. Jesus outlined that price in Luke 14:26-33. There is a price to be paid to be a disciple of Jesus and there is a price to be paid if one is to discover and fulfill the will of God for their life. As someone once said, “There are no shortcuts to experience.” Neither are there any shortcuts to spiritual maturity. God prepares His servants for true ministry through a personal process of fiery testing and trials that no seminary or Bible College on earth can match. But those Christian leaders who have not paid the price expose themselves through religious pride and self-righteousness, lack of humility and reverence for God, personal causes, easy-believism, shallow, dead, dry teachings and platitudes, along with exaltation of self, man, ministry or church rather than Christ. To such people ministry is nothing more than a means to build for themselves their own little kingdoms (which shall pass away) and to afford for themselves a good living, and in some cases even great wealth.

How, then, are Christians to build God’s kingdom on earth? Jesus made it clear that the kingdom of God is within us. That is, those who have truly been born again from above. God does not call us to build great edifices so that He can come down, put His seal of approval on the architecture and lavish expenditure, and then move in, but rather, He wants us to know and remember that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are Gods” 1 Cor. 6:19, 20. Therefore, to build the kingdom of God according to God’s will and in a way that will glorify Him, we (who are born again) are to allow His Spirit to lead us in our daily walk. Everywhere we go that is where the kingdom of God is because of the indwelling Spirit within us. “Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God” 1 Cor. 7:24.

The sad fact is, ministry is usually right under our noses but we miss it because we have our sights set on some distant mountaintop experience where we will receive some “great revelation” or “spiritual high”. But the life of Jesus, which is our pattern, still calls us into the demon-possessed valleys where we can enter in and suffer with (have compassion) on the lost, lonely, wounded, hurting, confused, needy and oppressed souls for whom Jesus died. Jesus clearly explained ministry that glorifies God in Matthew 25:34-36; 40b,“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come,ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me…Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

It cannot be emphasized enough that although not every believer is called to be a pastor, teacher, evangelist, prophet (foretelling and forth telling) or apostle (missionary), we are all called to be the salt and the light. If we are truly saved, then we have a testimony of Jesus Christ to share. If you have problems talking to people, you can pass out tracts; write letters to prisoners and shut-ins or become involved in an on-line chat room and share Christ. If you have the ability to offer hospitality, then do so with joy. If you have been blessed financially, know that God has given to you so you can freely give. If you have skills and abilities that can be used to help those around you, then do so as unto the Lord. If you have talents that edify the body of Christ, then willingly use those talents for His glory. If you are home-bound yourself but have a telephone, you can call people to encourage them. And, most importantly, we can all offer up supplications and prayers to God, standing in the gap in intercession as priests (Rev. 1:6).

Rest assured that if you love the Lord with all of your heart and want to glorify Him, then all you need to do is to offer up your body as a living sacrifice, abandon yourself to Him in complete trust and obedience, and be willing to pay the price, not forgetting to offer up the sacrifice of praise.Psalm 50:23 says this about glorifying God, “Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God.” (Conversation in Hebrew, derek, means a road (as trodden); a course of life or mode of action.)

Is the devil telling you that you are unqualified and unworthy to be a minister for Christ? Keep in mind that minister means servant. Jesus taught by example and word that the greatest in the kingdom of God is the servant of all! (See John 13:4-17; Ph. 2:7; Matt. 18:4; 23:11). To qualify as a servant of God, check out the qualifications you need according to 1 Corinthians 1:26-28, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise man after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.” You see, “wise men after the flesh” are filled with their own conceits and self-importance, and God resists the proud. The mighty and noble are entangled with the affairs of this world, and rarely, if ever, bother to give up their positions of prominence and financial security to follow Jesus. God’s ways are not our ways; God is no respecter of persons; and God loves to work in obscurity. The treasures and wisdom of God are hidden from the eyes of the “high and mighty” but are revealed to those who dwell in the secret place (Psalm 91).

God is looking for those through whom He can show Himself strong. The hour is late and time is short. We need to stir ourselves up to be about God’s business and be on guard against aimlessly drifting through life, content to merely sit in church week after week, month after month, year after year and be entertained. Is God calling you to glorify Him…to “come out and be separate”…to be a “fool for Christ”…to work until “the night cometh when no man can work?” Then why not answer His call NOW, before it is too late?