Ministering to need versus ministering from and in Him!
Ministry should be overflow from our growing intimacy with Jesus. What leads us in ministry? Is it really about getting to know, love and therefore overflow His Life into others; or is it something more selfish-like the need to feel helpful. Is our ministry soul led, or truly led by His Spirit and our growing intimacy with God. Who would you be, if He asked you to fast from all ministry? This is a question a mentor asked me, which started making me meditate on my real spiritual motivations for helping others.
The poor were with Him always, but He only did what He saw His Father doing!
Jesus did not let His ministry be led by the immediate needs around Him, He was thinking much more long term, and He was looking constantly to His Father and their relationship, to see what each day was meant to be.
We cannot let our ministry be led by the needs of others, we must instead be led by His Spirit. As many who are led by His Spirit are becoming the sons and daughters of God. The poor will be with you always. If Jesus would have ministered led by need, He would not have made it to The Cross. We too must not be led by other’s needs, but rather by His Spirit.
Having ministered for years and walked with many in ministry, i see this as a huge need and warning. There are always those who need around us, but we are to be the ones who are looking to The Father, then He will share His ministry with us for that person, if He choses, and we choose to partner with Him. It is soulful or soul led to go and use our gifts willy nilly, or as we choose. Jesus instead, only did what He saw the Father doing. So should we.
We feel good when we help others. And God likes to help people. But we cannot get our validation from our ministry. We get our validation directly from The Father, and He gives us the things we are meant to do along our path (Ephesians 2:10).
The good works prepared beforehand to be our way, He knows. He can reveal what these good works are, as we follow Him! We cannot just offer our own good works to Him and expect Him to bless us and be pleased.
We must do the actual good works which He has prepared for us! That’s a key to living ministry of His Life to others. Our ministry is a medium through which to get to know and Love God firstly and fore mostly. If we are not firstly meeting Him, we should not be ministering. When we do, we minister a false image of God to others. We misrepresent Christ to others. And they may feel helped, but we have not helped them eternally, or seeded their deeper heart or inner man.
I have seen this pattern of people getting their validation from helping others over and over. And I myself did so in my 20’s. I knew my spiritual gifts, but not yet how to follow God. So I used them to help others in order to feel good about myself. That is the opposite of Jesus Way. Jesus knew who He was when He laid down His Life, and He knew what He was doing. He was not doing it to validate His Own Identity, He knew He was a king while being treated as a thief. He was not victimized by the Cross.
In our days, the needs of others is increasing as the earth shakes ever more violently. Thus our focus on the Father must grow even more acute and specific. Many are doing more overt spiritual practices daily to keep the “main thing, the main thing.” Our relationship with God is much higher in importance than our ministry, and it is what we must be daily cultivating. Our growing intimacy with God is really all that matters. If He allows us to minister His Life to others, then wonderful, but first, we must be growing in His Life. He knows when to make us guardians of other’s souls. And He gives us His Authority to do so, in His Timing. But we are those hidden and grounded and founded in His Actual Life. This is our core spirituality.
Each of us has a path or way, according to Ephesians. Part of this way is caught up in the true church, His Body. But there are specific ways each of us are made to participate in that great spiritual organism, which is His House, Our Head. Our paths, are revealed by God as we seek Him daily.
We are all called to minister His Life, but first He ministers His Life to us. Jesus often retreated to the garden prayer space to be with His Father. He modeled our basic spirituality in doing so. He gave freely to all those who asked, but He also knew who The Father was giving to, and how. And those He gave more deeply to, and exactly what the Father was giving them. Our discernment is meant to reveal what is of Him and what is not of Him—what is in rebellion or transgression.
The ways of the world, the laws of death are always around us. And we, as ministers are displacers of death with His Life. We get to be salt and light-those who preserve and bring understanding; but we must do so from the firmness of our relationship in and to and with Him. Jesus modeled this clearly. He did not just go around helping everyone, and throwing out every dark spirit. He addressed what The Father was addressing through Him daily. Some days, He only taught His friends. Others, He delivered people from darkness or healed them. Others, He taught in the temple. He knew what to do daily, as His Eyes were always fixed on His Father.
The ways of death have to be weeded out of us daily. And in certain seasons of our own lives, that is His main concern. Other seasons, He offers us, firstly to His Own Body or House, and then outwards to those He is drawing in. But our main concern remains, to know and love and be formed, and in-formed, by God. We are His lovers firstly, then we come to love what He is loving, and in the way in which He is loving. His Sheep hear His Voice, because they are with Him constantly, and speak in His nuances and tone. That tone is love. God is able to love all those you cannot. And God will give you in and from His Own Heart, those you are meant to minister His Love into! Sometimes these folks are poor other times rich, but they are the ones you are given to minister His Life into, from the overflow of your ongoing conversing with Him.
Another way to approach this topic of not ministering only to need, is to focus on allowing ourselves to be given as gifts from The Father to the Son. If that is our primary mission, then when His Son chooses to give us outwardly to others, we are once again happy to be given. But our primary activity is to become gifts worthy of Jesus. If and when He wants to give us away, what another wonderful day, and way of knowing and communing with Our Lord!
In short, our core motivation in ministry needs to flow out of the formation of His Life in us—our deepening friendship with Jesus and His Father, is our basic purpose in life. To be in Him, is to begin to love what He loves and want to serve with Him, as He is a servant. But we must know the Servant, in order to serve In and with Him, and not just in our own power or desire, or need.
We must know His Life first, in order to serve and impart His Life to others. This is how we keep our ministry motivations pure in Him. And it is a basic practice for those in His Ministry, to return often to our first Love and Lover! Keep allowing Him to purify your motivations for ministry. Are they really flowing from and in Him? Are there any parts which are not? This is the core spirituality of ministers. It is not just being good at helping others meet Him or find their real questions, which it is also, but more importantly, it is to know and deepen our union and love of Jesus and His Father, in the grand power of His Holy Spirit! Then we can consider discipling His Being into others.
If you could not help anyone, would you still know who you are in Him? Was how one of my mentors put it. It’s a good question for those who like to help others and serve Him. Am I really mostly concerned with getting to know God, or doing good things in His Name? To know and love God and to love one another, was Jesus summation of all the law. The first —to love and know God, is primary! When we do this, we will find ourselves engulfed in His Love for others! He shares His cares with His Beloved, which we are, in His Son. Us caught up in Belovedness, become lovers of all He adores!
One way to go about this ministry purification process practically is to ask yourself, am I meeting and getting to know God through helping this person. If so, often He is meeting you in ministry. If not, you are probably just using your gifts for your own enabling or self ignobling purposes not His. Paul taught us to be careful how we spiritually build. Not just to build well, but build with and in Jesus—whatever is not actually in His Spirit, will be burnt away like straw burns! Things which last, are things actually in Him and participating in His Life! So, this is part of taking care of how we plant and build in other’s lives.
There are stages of spiritual growth, where He Himself gives you as a gift to the Body, or to others-it’s barely an honor when it happens, it’s experientially very humbling. Leadership is always a matter of knowing how incapable you are of doing any good in your own power—it is utter dependence, and requires much death to self. It’s not enviable, but when you meet a true elder, you can tell they have died so many times in order to live. Like John the Baptist, they have decreased that He may increase in them. So you feel mostly Him, when you around them. Ironically, you also feel they are very much themselves. That’s what eldership or later stages of maturation of His Life in people look like.
I grew up in ministry, so saw how much inner death is required to really allow it to continue to be your authentic spirituality and not just some religious job. It’s not easy, and to allow Him to elevate your authority in Him, is very humbling. The world wants to quickly elevate based on need and gifts. But Father elevates in His Own Ways for His Own purposes. Always, though great leaders, have this characteristic of thankfully returning to their own personal relationship with God, regardless of how He is using their outer life to help others.
You will know when those stages are reached, and you are starting to get to know Him in true ministry of His Life to others. You will already be close enough friends, that you will sense His leading you out into His Own Fields. But even there, like David, you must keep returning to this core friendship, especially as you move into king and queenly parts of His Life. When you begin to co-minister His Life with Him, you are getting to know Him as Ruler, King, Pastor, Shepherd, Teacher…He guides you into ever deeper parts of who He is over time. Be led by Him alone, and not your own spiritual talents or gifts, and He may plant them one day in soil which lasts forever! Be led by Him, not other’s needs.
Why does this matter? Because we as those who have chosen to follow in Jesus way, are constantly being refined in our deepest motivations, even for serving Him. It’s very easy in any type of helping profession to be drawn out from your true life in Him, to use your gifts for your own purposes. When you have spiritual gifts, you are a steward of something from God. And the way to care for and cultivate a gift is to keep returning to the Giver.
In our times, people reward charisma or great gifts of healing or spiritual talents…these are not true trophies. The true trophy is the Life of Jesus implanted in us, which shines like a Light in a very dark place. His Glory is over half of our true ministry on earth. To the degree it is formed in us and increasing; that is, to the degree we are growing in His Glory—from glory to Glory, we will bless all around us. We are light glowing air-fresheners on this planet. And our job is ultimately to be bright and fragrant! The world tends to value talents or gifts rather than identity. God, conversely, is more concerned with who we are, and who we are becoming in and through the Life of His Son in us, than what we do in this world. Doing flows from being. Being has to be prioritized. Is our actual inner being being daily baptized into His Name or Identity. That is what God looks at.
Anyone can be a celebrity, even a “spiritual” celebrity. But few have a Godly reputation, one that God Himself bestows! King David had one, even with his brokenness, God chose to spotlight His Life. Abraham had a life like that, so he could be called a friend of God. What an honor. The world accolades for the wrong reasons, and elevates things before it is time. We need to be very careful to allow Him to do all the spiritually promoting, especially in our celebrity culture.
Our friendship with God through Jesus is our core spirituality. From this precious friendship, comes all true lasting ministry. It is wise to cultivate that friendship above all else. If you get to minister with Him, wonderful. But it’s always Who your with and in which matters most!
I was fortunate or blessed to grow up under an earthly father whose ministry was an authentic part of his real spirituality. His actual relationship with God was the space where his serving others flowed from. That model has always stuck with me, as central. Anyone can help others, but not all meet Jesus in it, and therefore help others much beyond their current needs, into the life to come-His Life, which is already available to us here!