Ministry, vocational or not, is a work of collaboration. It must involve at least two parties: you and God.
We need to regularly resist the tendency to strive in ministry thinking we have to do it in our own strength.
God does not ask us to single-handedly perform the miracle of ministry, but to partner with Him in it and to watch Him do the work.
What would happen if we regularly surrendered our gifts to Him without striving and simply trusted Him to do the work?
Going to the source
The story of Jesus feeding 5000 is a great picture of what co-laboring with God looks like.
We tend to judge the success of our ministry by the responses people give us, the “‘at-a-boys,” the thank you’s, the number of people that showed up, whether people “liked” something we did, etc, but I don’t think those metrics always measure the miracles.
Let’s consider Jesus feeding the 5000. It’s in Matthew 14.
13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. 15 Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
Matthew 14:13-21 ESV (emphasis mine)
This is a vivid picture of the partnership we must have with Jesus in ministry if we are going to have real impact.
Jesus says two things that are keys to the powerful work of ministry we are called to.
“You give them something to eat.”
God calls us to do something, to actively participate with him in ministering to others.
We often say “oh, but God did it, not me” and that may be true to an extent, but we do have a part to play.
Does God ultimately need us? No, but despite His ultimate power and authority, He has called us to represent Him and to do the work.
That said, we can’t forget that ministry is a supernatural work. Real ministry happens when God intervenes in the lives and hearts of the people we minister to.
Our response is often like the disciples. When we see the scope of the need (like 5000 or 10,000 hungry people) we look at what’s in our own hands and say “but how? We don’t have enough food. That’s impossible.”
However, notice that your contribution, even when it appears small, is not insignificant.
“Bring them here to me.”
Jesus asks for the five loaves and two fish, and blesses them, and miraculously feeds the entire crowd!
Real ministry must be done with Jesus (and the Father), through the power of the Spirit. Human effort alone will fall flat in its attempt to lastingly impact lives for the kingdom.
Jesus simply calls for us to bring him what we have, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. No matter how impossible the task in front of us.
When we bring our offering to Him, the supernatural work of ministry begins.
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