A Ministry Approved By God

This is an excerpt from the 2018 graduation address of Trinity Theological College, Western Australia.


Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, who correctly handles the word of truth. [2 Tim 2:15].

One of the greatest challenges, and one of the greatest joys, of Christian life and ministry is learning to present yourself and your ministry to God—and God alone!

Pleasing Ourselves

It is so easy to do gospel ministry for our own approval. We can do a good job; perform well; achieve our goals; gain success and recognition—and yet do it all out of a desire for self-satisfaction. We’re using others—even God—for our own benefit. We’re presenting our ministry to ourselves—looking for approval from ourselves, and trying to please ourselves!

If you present your ministry to yourself, and work for our own approval, then here are some of the things that are likely to happen:

  1. You might be self-satisfied with yourself and your ministry.
  2. You might be dissatisfied with yourself and your ministry.
  3. You might carry on with ministry while living a godless life—a life and work independent from God, in which God is irrelevant or unncessary.

Is this the long-term trajectory of your life? Is this how you function at present? Or do you consciously and intentionally present every act of ministry to God, do you consciously and intentionally offer yourself to God every day as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God?

Present yourself to God: look for God’s approval!

Pleasing Others

Another trap is doing gospel ministry for the approval of other people. Perhaps we seek appreciation, recognition, thanks, adulation, approval from the people to whom we minister. Or we can look to people who aren’t present: our honoured mentors; great celebrities; our college contemporaries. Aain, however, we’re using God and God’s work for our own benefit, our own needs, our own purposes! We are presenting our ministry to others, looking for their approval from others, and trying to please them, trying to make them happy!

Here are some of the things that are likely to happen if you present your ministry to others:

  1. You might succeed in making everyone pleased with you, except God. Not a good long-term policy!
  2. You might tie yourself in knots trying to competing expectations, demands, and hopes. Best of luck!
  3. You might find that you can never get enough approval and positive feedback. You might find yourself more and more desperate for approval; more and more bitter and twisted. A friend of mine who tries to do this describes it as ‘feeding the ogre’!
  1. You might carry on with ministry while living a godless life—a life and work independent from God, in which God is irrelevant or unncessary.

Is this the long-term trajectory of your life? If it is, you will continue to do it until your dying day. You need to repent now.

Is this the long-term trajectory of your life? Is this how you function at present? If it is, you will continue to do it until your dying day. You need to repent now. You need to get into the habit of consciously and intentionally presenting every act of ministry to God, of consciously and intentionally offering yourself to God every day as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. Kick the bad habit: grow the good habit to replace it.

A Better Master

When the Bible tells us to present ourselves to God, it is powerfully liberating. Ours is in an activist world, in a world where everyone sees their value in being busy. We live in an achievement-based society, and in success-obsessed churches. Accordingly, we naturally expect too much of ourselves, and others expect too much of us too.

But it is such a wonderful relief to serve an audience of just one: and such a gracious and understanding one, as our loving, compassionate, and gracious God.

I just love these words from Psalm 103

 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust [103:14]

We may forget that we are just dust. Others may forget that we are just dust. God does not forget it. He remembers it! He knows we’re not omnipotent; not omnipresent; not omniscient.  He knows we need rest. He knows we need sleep. He knows we need encouragement.

And how wonderful that our gracious heavenly Father, has prepared us to do good works, and prepared good works for us to do [Ephes 2:8-10]. He isn’t stingy: he provides all the time; all the energy; all the gifts and resources we’ll need to do those good works he has prepared for us to do

And God is more forgiving—not just of personal sins, but also our sins of ministry. We may not forgive ourselves, and others may hold grudges against us for our mistakes and failures for decades. But God is rich in mercy. If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The blood of Christ is a ‘double cure’ for our personal sins and our sins of ministry: it cleanses us from the guilt of sin and the power of sin, as we trust in God’s grace moment by moment, and pray and work for our personal transformation.

A Prayer

Gracious God we present ourselves to you in Christ: please receive us and our ministries, and may our lives and our work be pleasing to you. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, your Son, and our Saviour. Amen


 Photo: unsplash.com

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