They say experience is the best teacher and although that’s a dangerous way to learn there’s truth in this. You can be good in theory but the practice is the real test. When I started training to do Gospel ministry I used to try work out some of the things that would be challenging in my future ministry and think of how my Gospel conviction might inform these. I thought of where I wanted to serve, the kind of church, who to partner with and even the ”fights” I was ready to fight informed by my Gospel conviction.
In all this, I never assumed I might be the biggest challenge to all I wanted to do for the Lord. I thought other people and their sin, perhaps lack of Gospel clarity, good systems and structures were what might hinder my ministry. But increasingly I started realising my sin, my unbelief and unreal expectations are what can hinder me from serving King Jesus wholeheartedly as echoed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:58:
58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
It’s me who needs the Gospel more for ministry to flourish not just those I teach and work with. It’s me who needs my Gospel conviction to be applied in my day to day living. If I lose this personal battle it doesn’t matter how many external battles I fight well.
I need this body crucified everyday in submission to God and his Word before I call on others to look to the Saviour and do his will.
I need what I know in my head to be what I believe in my heart and what I do with my life. I need the knowledge of the truth that teaches and leads to godly living as Paul instructs Titus:
1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness… Titus 1
I recently did a talk on servant leadership and as I prepared for this I realized how I knew this in my head and wanted it in my heart and yet how often I hate to be treated as a servant. What I knew differed with my practice making me a hypocrite. In this situation, it’d be easy to run to Romans 7 and say Paul had a similar experience not always doing what he wanted but I think I shouldn’t be quick with excuses. I need the grace that bears the fruit of the Spirit in my life and not merely the knowledge that acknowledges the fruit I should bear.
I’m helpless on my own and yet I know how powerful the one in me is. He’s the one whose voice made the world and by his breath will one day destroy it. He’s the one who made me into a new creation and the one who works in me by his Spirit. I don’t want to hide my failure but rather present my weakness to him who works in me and through me.
I call for his help to work out this salvation in fear and trembling. To make me not just a teacher but his faithful disciple. That I might preach and teach what I truly believe in. Because like Paul I don’t want to guide others to the prize and later be disqualified:
27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 1 Corinthians 9.