BEFORE WE START—HOW DO WE START?
Immediately stop and lay down before God all you desire and all you are about to do. Literally in your heart kneel at the Savior’s feet and surrender the key to the locked door of your secrets. And then this: ask for His searching gaze, come into His presence, and ask Him again to make your whole life His.
So, it’s not too simple or too simplistic to confess on a ministry team together as one, “Whatever we are going to do, we begin with God. We do not work for Him but with Him, He in us.”
Therefore, relax and celebrate—the most useful people in God’s work are not the super-gifted, but very ordinary people with natural abilities freely given over to Him. And remember, God first wants to bless the workman before He blesses the work done. So allow Him to overshadow you and to fill and flood your life. God never, ever gave us anything to do when it was misguided to think how would Jesus do this and to pray, “Then, Jesus, I welcome You to do it through me!”
Here is a key verse, “… bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (II Corinthians 10:5). Dr. Barnhouse said, “95% of finding the will of God is from the neck up!” Paul talked about “every thought.” John Stott often spoke of the Christian mind and its importance. He admitted, “I sometimes wonder if our minds are the last stronghold to capitulate to Jesus the Lord.” Let us set our minds to focus on a simple, sane conclusion that nothing can be really Christian—not any person, no practice, or no project—which fails to honor Christ by putting Him on the throne and giving Him all honor. Let us think like that from the very start.
Please do not read another sentence until you have sought full forgiveness. You must start with a clean heart. Confess every sin that comes to your mind: sins committed and good things omitted. And consider this verse, “Unto the pure all things are pure …” (Titus 1:15) Start any project with a pure heart; that is, first—begin with clean hands and heart. The sense of God’s call on your life is very real and even if you share some thought of being inadequate or unsure which leads to nervousness and other unsettling thoughts, do not try to hide anything from yourself or God. Confess everything.
Learn now to be frank with Him; tell Him things you might not want to tell anyone else. Be fearless in your confession about any thoughts of being inadequate. But on the other hand; even worse is to think in hidden pride, “This will be no hill for me, a high stepper!” You can have no greater sign of pride than when you think, “I am gifted enough to do it easily.” We all need to be delivered from what is the root of all sin—projection of self which is caused by pride and a sense of adequacy based on experience or giftedness. See the big picture: self deprecation on one hand and self-projection on the other, both are insidious and produce something far less than God’s best through us.
There is nothing that makes angels grieve more than self-pity in a believer filled with doubt, and nothing gives angels more astonishment than someone who thinks they can without God’s help. All ministry which begins with doubts that God cannot make one adequate, or self-confidence that we do not need much help, will end in sorrow and shame. Be guilty of neither. You “can do all things through Christ,” Paul said. “All things” means all God assigns you to do. But it’s only “through Christ.” There are two kinds of “prison” which lead to ruin: one is to doubt God’s promises and the other is to boast of our adequacy without His help. Self-pity is a prison without windows and self-promotion is a locked room without a bottom! Build everything on principles that God gives, like the one just quoted above.
So we start by a confession—we do not do God a service by our service—He, after all, can do it without you or me! The truth is, He honored us by making room for us and allowing us to be involved. You and I have no thoughts of greatness. We are just grateful to have a part and to celebrate that God has given us a place.
Long ago it was Matthew Henry who reminded us, “Those whom God will employ are first struck with a sense of their unworthiness to be employed.” And yet, if the love of God has assigned us our work to do, the help of God will assist us as we do the work. God never gives us an assignment without the promise of His assistance.
Does not the Bible tell us over and over that where there is no cross, there is no crown; where there are no pains, there are no gains; and where there are no scars here, there are no salutes there? If in life the farmer exerts toil for a harvest, and an athlete goes through training to be the champion, and the soldier endures hardship to honor his country, who are we to expect Christian service to be easy and without challenge? There is a price to pay in wholeheartedness as we come to realize that a mission that costs nothing accomplishes nothing. So serve Him wholeheartedly, with heart, mind, and soul. Expect to be both fulfilled yet exhausted. Robert Murray M’Cheyne commented about that saying, “Oh how sweet to work for God all day, and then lie down at night beneath His smile!” — fatigued but fulfilled.
There is, after all, no greater joy than to finish a day’s labor and know that in eternity you will have nothing for which to apologize because it’s been a day spent in honoring Him. And we should not believe what some people say—no!—we cannot work ourselves to death in His service—and even if we did, it would be a blessing! Spurgeon once commented, “If by excessive zeal we die before reaching the average age of man, worn out in the Master’s service, then glory be to God, we shall have so much less of earth and so much more of heaven.” And furthermore, it’s fulfillment that God offers us in mission. Fulfillment, after all, is not found in a life free from responsibility to God. It’s not a world before us in order to live selfishly, but rather fulfillment is found in being set free from ourselves in order to live with God, blessing others. Giving our lives away, after all that is said or done, is the greatest generosity. (II Corinthians 8:8-15)
Finally and furthermore, let’s not resent moments of test and trials for it can greatly help us grow. None other than the former Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. C. Everett Koop, said, “We grow and mature spiritually through adversity—not when everything is going smoothly … in a time of adversity or trouble the Christian has the opportunity to know God in a special and personal way.” There will be such moments. It wouldn’t be real ministry without opposition. Expect it and let God grow you through it.
All these things are to be considered before we even agree to be part of a mission project. We must never begin without a proper “in, for, and with,” that is, all we do is in Christ, and for Christ, and with Christ. Without that basic, Biblical outlook one should never begin. Keep putting everything in its very simplest form. Keep going back to the basic thought, “Why did I believe God gave me this assignment?” Have the assurance you are in His will from start to finish. Our constant confession is, in private, we can do nothing, but with Him alive in us all things are possible.
Love these words and say them as the day begins in ministry:
“We never test the resources of God
until we attempt the impossible.”
F. B. Meyer