HOW do we measure up in our ministerial career? Are we the ministers we want to be or that God wants us to be? Are we seeing steady advancement in our usefulness and service to God? Our example is Christ, and by His grace we should be becoming more and more like Him in life and labor.
Any success we experience is the result of God's Spirit working through us. Thus, there is no room for boasting. Yet what we are and what we will become depends much upon us.
Among the areas that influence our usefulness are several that demand special attention.
Priority Number One
Our personal relationship to Cod is paramount. We may have talent and ability, but Jesus says, "Without me ye can do nothing" (John 15:5). Success is attained "not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord" (Zech. 4:6). We must be Spirit-filled men, allowing the Spirit to use us rather than our trying to use the Spirit. This requires earnest Bible study, prayer, and daily submission to divine guidance.
As men of prayer we must know by experience what it means to pray through to personal victory over sin and temptation, claiming the promises of the Word. We must know also what it is to wrestle with God for a soul, a city, a world!
Our love for the Bible will be the result of feasting upon it daily, thus gaining needed spiritual strength. "It is a minister's familiarity with God's word and his submission to the divine will, that gives success to his efforts." --Gospel Workers, p. 252. Along with the Bible, the Spirit of Prophecy will be familiar and dear to us.
We must recognize that study and prayer become meaningful to us only as we in turn obey the light that thus shines into our lives. Surrender to the divine will must be a daily experience. Obedience to the inspired counsels on healthful living will result in clearer minds, stronger bodies, and moral stability.
Not Just a Job
Our concept of the ministry is very important. We are called by the great God of the universe to carry forward the most important work ever committed to men. We must have the spirit of Nehemiah, who, rather than be diverted from his work, declared, "I am doing a great work, so that ! cannot come down" (Neh. 6:3). Or of Paul who said, "This one thing I do" (Phil. 3:13). Our work is urgent, time is running out, Christ is coming soon. Do we realize that moments wasted may mean souls lost for the kingdom?
Our ministerial labors must spring from a deep consecration to the task. Our service to God will mean every thing to us, whether in the home, the church, or the community. Our ministry will be our life, not just a profession or obligation. Our work calls for enthusiasm. Others may be pessimistic, but we will inspire hope and courage. As we think success, talk success, and pray for success, we will enjoy success. We have the promise, "He will crown with success every humble effort made in His name."--Ibid., p. 192. Continual growth, both spiritually and in the effectiveness of our ministry, must be our constant aim.
This means we will be progressive, be willing to take chances for God. We will ever be seeking better ways of advancing His work. We will "expect great things from God, and attempt great things for God." We can not be small idea men, for we serve a great God. "Many who are qualified to do excellent work accomplish little because they attempt little." --The Ministry of Healing, p. 498.
A Soul Winner
A definite priority will be the winning of souls. The minister "has but one object in view the saving of the lost" (The Acts of the Apostles, p. 362).
Satan will keep us busy with many things in the confines of the church itself if we let him. However, our divine blueprint reads, "We are not to hover over the ninety and nine, but to go forth to save the lost, hunting them up in the wilderness of the large cities and towns." --Testimonies to Ministers, p. 232. With the unsaved all about us we will reach out, visiting every possible interest, carrying the burden of their souls on our hearts. Such visits will be meaningful.
You must educate and train yourselves to visit every family that you can possibly get access to. The results of this work will testify that it is the most profitable work a gospel minister can do. --Evangelism, p. 440.
We must not let our comfortable churches and their constant demands upon our time keep us from this all important work. Reaching out bringing new souls to Christ and His truth brings to the minister his greatest joys. If our ministry seems dull, if the spark has gone out of our work, perhaps here lies the explanation.
If the teachers of the Word are willing, the Lord will lead them into close relation with the people. He will guide them to the homes of those who need and desire the truth; and as the servants of Cod engage in the work of seeking for the lost sheep, their spiritual faculties are awakened and energized. Knowing that they are in harmony with God, they feel joyous and happy. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they obtain an experience that is in valuable to them. Their intellectual and moral powers attain their highest development; for grace is given in answer to the demand. --Ibid., pp. 434, 435.
A minister is called to preach. And to preach in the truest sense is to preach the Word. Herein lies our authority in the pulpit. We must believe what we preach, and preach what we believe. Our discourse must be an encounter with God, first for our selves and then for our congregations. We can never afford to grow careless, superficial, or negligent here.
These are some of the priorities we must ever keep in mind. Committed to them, with hearts yielded completely to our task, God will work through us in marvelous ways. We need not be mediocre. Success can attend our labors. The promise given to Joshua can be ours. "For then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success" (Joshua 1:8). We, too, can have the assurance that "the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest" (verse 9).