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The Secret to Ministry
"My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working... I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does" John 5:17,19.
As we look at the ministry of Jesus, we see that ministry is not doing the work of God, but joining in God's own work. God is always at work. Even when we speak with somebody who has not yet received the Lord, God has been working in their hearts long before we arrived on the scene. Ministry is all about doing what we see God already doing (John 14:10; 9:4; 17:4).
But how do we learn to join the work of the Lord?
"Then they asked him, 'What must we do to do the works God requires?' Jesus answered, 'The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent'" John 6:28-29.
The Work of God
"We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith..." 1 Thessalonians 1:3 (see also Galatians 5:6).
Faith is the key ingredient to working with God (1 Timothy 1:4). Faith means an intimate dependence upon God's ability, not your own. It means hearing from God and acting upon it (Romans 10:17). The Bible says that anything that does not come from faith is sin (Romans 14:23). For this reason, if we are to be pleasing to God in ministry, our ministry must be an act of faith in Him (Hebrews 11:6).
"I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father" John 14:12.
In Mark chapter 9, the disciples learnt possibly the most valuable lesson they ever learnt in ministry. God wants us to learn this same lesson.
An Important Lesson
"When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him. 'What are you arguing with them about?' he asked. A man in the crowd answered, 'Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit... I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not'" Mark 9:14-18.
The disciples were not novices. They had already been sent out two by two, with authority over evil spirits (Matthew 10:8). They had already returned, rejoicing that "even the demons submit to us in your name" (Luke 10:17). But this time they had tried to cast out an evil spirit and had failed.
"After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, 'Why couldn't we drive it out?' He replied, 'This kind can come out only by prayer'" Mark 9:28-29.
Jesus had driven the evil spirit out. The disciples had looked at what Jesus did, but could not see anything they had failed to do. They thought they had missed out on an important formula. But the answer Jesus gave was not a formula. It was prayer!
Jesus had just come down from the mountain, where He had been transfigured (Mark 9:2-13). Luke tells us that the reason He had gone up the mountain was to pray (Luke 9:28-29). When Jesus told the disciples, "This kind comes out only by prayer," He was not talking about prayer as an activity. He was talking about prayer as an integral part of ministry. He was not talking about prayer in the open; He was talking about the time we spend hidden in prayer with God.
"But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed" Luke 5:16.
Prayer was a characteristic of Jesus' daily life (see Matthew 14:23; Mark 1:35; 6:46; Luke 6:12; 9:18; 11:1). Prayer was the key to His ministry. Each time of intimate prayer with His Father prepared Jesus to see what His Father was doing and to join in His work.
The Secret Place
"But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you" Matthew 6:6.
God calls us into a hidden time of prayer with Him. Our open time of ministry will only be as powerful as the quality of our hidden time with God. It is in our time of prayer that we receive rest, wisdom and anointing for ministry.
"The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught" Isaiah 50:4.
A life of prayer is the foundation of all ministry. As we are yoked with Christ in prayer, so we will also be yoked with Him in power. What we hear in the secret place with the Lord is what we will speak in the open.
"What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the housetops" Matthew 10:27.
Equipped for Ministry
"He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver" Isaiah 49:2.
God is in the process of preparing each believer for ministry. This preparation involves soaking in God's word, learning to hear God's voice and being trained in obedience.
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (see also Hebrews 13:20-21; 2 Timothy 2:15).
The Anointing of the Spirit
"To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me" Colossians 1:29 (see also Ephesians 3:7).
The Holy Spirit has been given to anoint us for the work of God. The power of God is available for all ministry - whether in the church, in the home, in the workplace or on the street.
"Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it" Mark 16:20.
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