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The intoxication of ministry
- Jacob Ninan
'Ministry' is what we do to serve Christ and His people; we serve with the spiritual gifts God gives us (1Co.12:7). That is not who we are. What we are is the result of the fruit of the Spirit. When we have these fruit, namely, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and the like (Ga.5:22,23), they make us what we are. There is also 'fruit' in our ministry, but here we are talking about the fruit of the Spirit that make up our character. Perhaps we get a name for ourselves from our ministry because others can see it and are blessed by it. But many times these same people are forced to bear with our lack of spiritual fruit. Sometimes they may speak about this, but most often they try to overlook it because they are impressed by our ministry!
Spiritual gifts are just given to us according to God's choice (1Co.12:11). But fruit have to be grown! And that is where the problem can be. We can be so intoxicated by the success of our ministry and the admiration of the people that we may ignore the lack of character in our lives. If we lack love, joy, patience, self-control, integrity, etc., we can call them our 'weaknesses' and mentally excuse them in the light of our successful ministry. But we fail to realise that the lack of these fruit is what produces the deeds of the flesh (Ga.5:19-21) which are characteristic of the kingdom of darkness.
Imagine if we carry out our ministry while simultaneously manifesting the deeds of the flesh; in the extreme case it may even take us to the position where the Lord has to disown us (Mt.7:22,23). This is a terrifying thought.
"If you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live" (Ro.8:13). If we have to partake of the fruit of the Spirit we must put to death the deeds of the flesh by cooperating with the Holy Spirit. If we are to become patient, we have to put our impatience to death, by depending on the strength that the Holy Spirit will give us, because the Holy Spirit in us is always fighting against the flesh (Ga.5:17). If we yield to the Spirit in this fight, we won't be yielding to our flesh also, and then we can 'live' (Ga.6:8).
How possible it is to neglect this battle against our flesh when we are engrossed in our 'ministry', especially when 'the Lord grants us success'! We may imagine that this success is a sign of God's approval over our lives, when actually He may be very displeased with us because of the deeds of our flesh which are causing His name to be dishonoured in the sight of unbelievers (Ro.2:24). Even unbelievers expect Christians to live at a much higher level of life in terms of love, kindness, sacrifice, etc.
If our ministry is successful, praise God because He deserves the honour. But let us examine ourselves regularly to see how it is going in our personal life.