Ministry demands an enormous reservoir of physical, spiritual, and mental energy. Where does yours comes from?
Lightening can kill; but did you know that lightening nourishes? As a former Midwesterner (who still longs to look upon—no—become part of those epic Midwestern panoramic scenes of colossal canopy skies flying high and unpredictable over unending prairie oceans) I can tell you that the magnificent display of energy in the sky has a purpose in bringing certain nutrients to the earth. Crops—life, if you will—depend upon the very dangerous thing that can also strike it.
There is lightening in the pulpit. The energy to minister comes from many places. Not all of them are good. We can minister out of ambition, or self inflated estimation of our gifts, or pride, or religious duty tied to a supposed righteousness coming from our works. We can minister out of pride from our studies in seminary. All of these internal influences will leave you vocationally dissatisfied and the people spiritually malnourished. It can work for a while. In the end it is a power that cannot keep going. It is like the wrong voltage going in. Things blow us eventually—either in you, the pastor or missionary or pastor’s wife, or in the church. Blowing up things is fun as a kid in science class. It is devastating in the Church.
There is a better way. You can follow a healthy, healing, powerful method of ministry that is derived from God‘s Word.
Just as there is a nuclear reactor not too far from here that helps to bring light and power to our homes, there must be a new reactor, generating power from within you, which brings vocational health and church health—in a word, “light and power”—to your life and to the life of the Church.
In Psalm 116, verses 16-19, we have a divine reactor of ministry that is like a power generator that comes from within, which is the supernatural work of God in your life. Thus we have a truly divine charge from the heavens that will give us the power to minister faithfully and in such a way that brings health to you, to the Body of Christ, and, most importantly, to the very salvific plan of God.
Here is the Word of the Lord:
Verse 16: O Lord, I am Your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant.
So, then: from devouring this passage, how do we minister for power that heals?
1. MINISTER OUT OF A SELF IDENTITY OF A SERVANT
This is most basic. It would have been quite ridiculous if the donkey that carried Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday thought the hoopla was for him. No. He was just the carrier of the One who deserves all praise. Your identity is just a messenger, a preacher, an ambassador. It is a noble calling, a glorious identity, but it is in the end, just a shepherd, just a servant. Live out of that identity and you will be happy. Your congregation will be blessed. Christ will be exalted and His power will flow unhindered by your ego.
2. MINISTER OUT OF A LEGACY OF FAITHFULNESS OF THOSE WHO HAVE GONE BEFORE
The Psalmist recalls the maidservant who apparently was faithful. Minister out of the love of those who gave you the Gospel. You are today surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. I confess that I rarely do ministry without thinking, “Now what would Dr. Kennedy say about this? What would Aunt Eva think about this? What would my Pastor Bob think?” The legacy of a godly witness is a strong power for good. Remember them. Live out of their faithfulness deposited in you. This is not a “man pleaser.” This is a Biblical pattern of dedication to the legacy of faith.
Verse 17: I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord.
3. MINISTER OF OUT GRATITUDE TO GOD
There is no greater power than your ministry when it is grounded in gratitude. Minister out of your sacred encounter with God expressing His grace to you through Jesus Christ. Minister out of the sacred calling that set you apart as a minister who once were a blasphemer and an insolent man. Gratitude is a power that shapes us into healthy, Christ like, loving servants who desire to show His love, contained in His very name, to the world. Oh how beautiful is a thankful minister. Oh how blessed is the congregation that has such a one in their pulpit or such a missionary in the field or a teacher in the classroom.
4. MINISTER OUT OF CONSTANT DEPENDENCE
(“I will call on the name of the Lord”): Unless your public life is fed regularly by a private life with God in Christ you will end up being a sham. It is that plain and that ugly. Use every opportunity for study, for visitation, for preaching, for family life, as a time for constant dependence on God in prayer. This is to “pray without ceasing.” And this is a power that will bring about tremendous wisdom, patience, hope and bring joy to the flock of Christ and salvation to the world.
Verses 18, 19: I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people, in the courts of the house of the Lord, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the Lord!
5. MINISTER OUT OF SACRED DUTY TO GOD WHO CALLED YOU
We don’t hear a lot about duty. But to “pay your vows” is to take your divine calling with you into the world. It is to take your ordination vows and your vows as a believer into your vocation everyday. You have a duty of love to give way to others what has been entrusted to you. And where? And to whom? That is my next point.
6. MINISTER TO THE CHURCH
Your Jerusalem is the center of life for God’s people. Pour the gifts that God has given you, personally and through the preparation of this seminary, through the narrow channel of the “rule of faith” in the local church. Here is where God’s people gather to receive their light—in Word, Sacrament and Prayer.
7. MINISTER OUT OF PRAISE
There should be an internal combustion of praise that fuels the power for your ministry. This doxological power will bring joy and healing to the flock of Christ and will reach out to the lost to draw them to Jesus.
Thus will you find that your vocation is your sanctification and your calling is your joyful burden and others will be refreshed and God will be glorified.
Heed this charge and preach and teach the Lord Jesus Christ out of the power of His life at work in you. Then the inner power at work in you will bring light, the light of Christ, to this dark world. Oh how we need it now more than ever.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.