More on ministry: Motivations—where it really matters

This is the third of about three articles in the More on ministry series.

Ministry is very different from other forms of human activity. This is because the final measure of success is ultimately not based on what has been achieved or what has been done, but rather what the motivations were. Not just motivations on the surface, as those given during (say) an interview, but the deepest drivers of one's desire to minister. It is here where it really matters, and it is here where I, and presumably many of us, struggle the most.

It's not about the results

I have already touched on this in my first article in the series, where I had a brief look at the ministries of Jeremiah and Jonah. Here, I want to focus on the fact that the Christian's final state (and hence the ultimate result of "our" ministry) has already been fixed by God.

Notice how the Bible confidently describes what is going to happen on the last day. Jude wrote in Jude 24-25 (emphasis added):

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Similarly, Paul talked about the certainty of our future glorification and the means by which this is assured (emphasis added):

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. ... And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. Romans 8:18, 28-30

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:11-14

And finally, the end result is vividly described in the final chapters of Revelation, in the marriage supper of the Lamb. That was despite the problems within the churches which were clearly spelt out and warned against in the early chapters of the book.

This fact should remind us that it is God who is at work to bring about his plans and purposes, which has been revealed to us in the Scriptures. We, as ministers, are merely tools used by God to achieve his plans. Paul put forth a similar argument in his rebuke of the Corinthians for their factions:

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 1 Corinthians 3:5-7

It's not really about the process

And it's not really about the process, either. There are simply too many things that are either outside our control, or under which we face severe limitations, that in reality we can't "do a lot". While we teach, rebuke and encourage from the Word of God, we ourselves do not have the ability to change the hearts of people. No matter how hard we try, if God chooses not to work in a way we "expect" in a particular instance, nothing will happen.

Nevertheless, in one particular sense, there is one part of the process that does matter, and matters a lot. It is in relation to faithfulness---faithfulness to the gospel we have received, and faithfulness in proclaiming it to our audience. This faithfulness, in the end, is to be driven by our motivations, which is where we are heading in the next section.

It's the motivation that really matters

This is the area where, I believe, the rubber hits the road. It is also the area where I most fall short.

What is the deepest motivation for ministry? Why are we doing what we are doing? And let's dig deeper than the standard answers we give to people when they ask these questions. What really motivates us?

Are we sufficiently God-centred in our thinking? Are we driven by God, and him alone? Sometimes we have a habit of confusing between the end and the means towards the end. Maybe I'll have more to say about this at another time.

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