By the Rev. Canon Dr. Mark A. Pearson
Many years ago my ministry was enhanced by reading a book called Blessed to Be a Blessing by United Methodist pastor the Rev. James K. Wagner (1980, Nashville: The Upper Room). Although this book was specifically about having an intentional ministry of healing in one’s church, I took it as a maxim for our work for Christ in all its fullness: we cannot be a blessing unless we were first blessed by God, AND once we’re blessed by God we must be and take God’s blessing to others.
Otherwise, what? Trying to minister in our own strength will lead nowhere. We’ll burn out and we’ll not bear fruit. At the Protestant Reformation Martin Luther, in his monumental hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” wrote “Did we in our own strength confide, Our striving would be losing” (verse 2 in most hymnals). On the other hand, constantly receiving blessings without blessing others will turn us into a spiritual swamp. God will not honor such selfishness. We will complain “I’m not being fed” and drift from church to church thinking we’re seeking “real teaching” while, in fact, we’re merely seeking selfish thrills.
If we are to minister effectively to others, we must act the way Jesus did. Isn’t this both logical and obvious? Jesus alternated between taking in and giving out. Let’s walk with Him through Luke’s Gospel:
*Jesus launches His ministry by identifying with us as His cousin John the Baptist baptizes Him. The Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus, empowering His human nature for ministry (Luke 3:21-22). TAKING IN.
*Then, after His tempation, He engaged people “in the power of the Spirit” (4:14). Jesus, “with authority” casts out an evil spirit from a man in Capernaum, heals the sick and casts demons out of others (4:31-41). GIVING OUT.
*Jesus, to “recharge His batteries” went to “a lonely place,” to pray and be empowered (4:42). TAKING IN.
*Jesus healed, taught, and did other forms of ministry (5:12-9:17). GIVING OUT.
*Jesus then prayed alone (9:18a). TAKING IN.
*Jesus taught important truths (the rest of chapter 9). GIVING OUT.
*Jesus went up the Mount of Transfiguration to pray (9:28). TAKING IN.
*Jesus came down the Mount of Transfiguration to minister (9:37-10:42). GIVING OUT.
*Jesus “was praying in a certain place” (11:1). TAKING IN.
*Jesus taught and ministered (11:2 and following). GIVING OUT.
And so on.
Jonathan Edwards, pastor of the (Congregational) Church in Northampton, Massachusetts in the mid-1700s, one of the men God used to launch The First Great Awakening — the first great revival America saw — once said that if he knew he was to have a busy day ahead of him he’d pray for an hour, but if he knew he was to have a very busy day ahead of him he’d pray for two hours. This is not what we’d likely do. We’d think, “Well, I have much to do today so I must go a bit short on my personal devotions so I can get it all done.” How foolish. That’s like thinking, “I have a long journey ahead of me so I best get on with it and omit that stop at the gas station.”
Friends, God has given us much to do for Him. In order to bear fruit — and not just tired growing mere foliage — we MUST spend time with Him and ask for His grace, the empowering of the Holy Spirit so we can flourish at the work He’s given us to do. +++
The Rev. Canon Dr. Mark A. Pearson is a Contributing Writer to Movieguide and a former board member of the Christian Film and Television Commission. His ministry is that of conducting teaching, evangelistic and healing missions in local churches. Contact him at [email protected] or call him at (603) 642-3002.