“Grace” Is Accepting Unconditionally
What God Gives Unconditionally,
And Just Saying, “Thanks.”
“Ministry” Is Giving Unconditionally
What You Have Received Unconditionally,
And Just Saying, “You’re Welcome.”
God does what God is, and what God is, is His nature. We all know certain aspects of God’s character (holy, eternal, creative, etc.), but He not only has these characteristics, but is by His nature sharing them with His creation as well. God’s nature is to give what He is, which is why He created us to be receivers. Because we are also born of His nature, we too are givers.
Every Christian has, by definition, received eternal life—knowing God now. Part of learning dependence will be learning how to unconditionally give that life now.
“Knowing Your Calling” is a popular teaching subject these days. We all want to know what God has “called us to do” so we can be sure to be doing it. But let’s look at this from a slightly different angle: What we DO is NOT who or what we are. It’s been said that we’re not human doings, but human beings. But that’s not true either—we’re spirit beings. If we’ve been resurrected with Christ, we’re living spirit beings. Our source of life comes from an entirely different realm, and cannot be compared to or measured with the same standards used to measure success or productivity in the soulical or natural realms.
For our purposes, we’re going to define the term “calling” as a description of our present purpose in this life: we are “called to be with Him.” Our calling is to live this life according to our new identity as a spirit; all other opportunities and circumstances, including ministries and projects, are merely functions of the three-fold purpose of God for us; to get us healed, expose our flesh, and bring us into dependence.
Your “Calling” Is Simply
To Be With Him
We all have the same Calling: to experience eternal life, to Know God personally, to be with Him now. Keep your calling in the forefront of your approach to the rest of your life, and you will never have to worry about priorities, missing God, or being dissatisfied. Since this is His Calling of You — He’s the One doing the calling — all you have to do is Respond (show up for class). He will take it from there.
Does God Have a Specific Purpose for Your Life?
We can take a deep breath and enter that rest that comes from knowing we don’t have to accomplish, achieve or produce anything to fulfill our purpose in this life. Then what are we here for? We know that God makes each of us unique, and values that uniqueness. Does He also have a unique and valuable project for us to be working on here on this earth? Absolutely! According to His purposes of exposing our flesh, bringing healing and bringing us into dependence, He has planned tasks, projects, duties, challenges and visions for each of us that will accomplish those ends. Sometimes He wants us to know what they are before we start, sometimes we find out in the middle or even after the project is completed. This is part of the excitement of knowing an infinitely creative God—He loves to love on us! We know that what He has in store for us as individuals is in keeping with His general purpose for us—He wants to know us, and be known by us! So what He does in our lives is always for the purpose of drawing us fully to Him. Your calling is simply to be with Him, the means by which He makes that calling practical and ongoing in your life will be your ministry.
Ministry is the means by which you give out what God has given in. Your ministry may or may not be in line with your temperament, needs, desires, expectations or abilities. The Lord is under no restriction in regard to our soul, body, personal history or social situation. In fact, He often purposefully gives us projects that challenge our weaknesses or prove contrary to our temperaments and expectations so we’ll form the habit of turning to Him for strength, encouragement and motivation.
Ministry is, simply put, a part of our individual training process, in which the Lord puts us in situations in which we are to freely share with others what God has shared with us. At times we may not even realize that He is imparting His life through us, as it may be occurring outside our conscious awareness. But it is likely that at some point or another the Lord will stir up a desire or create an opportunity for giving that will cause you to depend on Him in ways not otherwise possible. God doesn’t need you to accomplish the task He sets you to; He is simply creating another circumstance for you to learn dependence.
Who is Our “Role Model” for Ministry?
As in all areas, we can look to Jesus to see the best example of the giving nature of God in human form. How did Jesus minister? As He depended on His Father, He went about preaching, teaching and healing, or proclaiming, explaining and demonstrating the giving nature of the Father. To help to identify your current ministry, reflect on the ways you find yourself proclaiming, explaining or demonstrating His giving nature now.
Remember also that there are no time limits on a particular task. We may have a day-long ministry in a particular field, or we may spend our entire lives on one project. Remembering that our call is to Be With Him, to Know Him Now, will keep our focus on Him and help us maintain our perspective as we learn to minister accordingly.
There are enough books out there that go into great depths about the different scriptural descriptions and references regarding the “five-fold” ministries and offices and such. One reason there are so many perspectives is that the Lord never meant for us to be looking to what was written and experienced by others for a blueprint of how to operate as a church or function in ministry, so He wasn’t real clear in setting out the “right” definitions and qualifications. You can be confident, however, that as you rest and depend on the Lord, He will accomplish His purposes for you and through you. That’s the goal, right? That He’d have HIS way! He’ll let you know if you get “off-track”; we have enough historical evidence to know that just doing all the seemingly “right” things is no guarantee of a successfully completed ministry or project. Better that your life and ministry be built directly on the Cornerstone. If Jesus can’t keep you on track, who or what can?
For most, sharing what God has given is a part of our lifestyle. From attending church, teaching Sunday School, helping a neighbor, a timely encouraging word, there is little expectation of compensation or recognition from those in the recognized structure of the church. The success of organized religion depends on the volunteerism of the members. For an individual believer, however, if they are simply depending on the Lord to live His life through them, they may be accomplishing far more in hidden ways than an entire ministry in the public arena. If the Lord doesn’t start something, it doesn’t matter how fast it grows or how big it ends up, or how many people say how great it is. The Truth is in the seed.
For many believers, the idea of being in full-time, or occupational ministry, sounds like a great way to pay the bills. In large organizational ministries and denominations, once you “get in” you can just about be set for life. Attend the right seminary, believe the right doctrine, and you’ll always find a vocational opportunity with a predictable salary. There are just as many people carrying similar expectations entering into non-denominational ministry. With the right contacts, credentials and lingo, many make a pretty good living “independently” as well.
The idea that those who minister should be acknowledged, honored and compensated by those receiving ministry is well-founded, both scripturally, culturally, historically and experientially. It’s when there is the expectation on the part of the minister, that they are somehow owed recognition, honor and compensation by those to whom they minister, that things get out of balance. The nature and duty of a minister is to give, regardless of what is given in return.
Adapted from Knowing God by Dianne Thomas