The first part of this post may encourage you. The second half may challenge you.
When we open God’s Word, we often yearn for truths and texts that encourage us. Reasons for needing God’s comfort or sustenance vary, but here are several factors that create in us a felt need for a reassuring word in relation to spheres of our service for God.
Opposition to plans that we perceive as God’s will.
Hurt stemming from a tense relationship within the church or organization.
Weariness of mind, body and spirit.
Feelings of inadequacy.
Discouragement over apparent lack of results.
What instills resiliency to face these and other obstacles to ministry motivation?
For me, one answer is memorizing timeless promises in God’s Word. The six promises that follow provide high octane fuel that will keep us going, whether our spheres of ministry are vocational or volunteer.
1. 1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.
Paul attached his call to ministry perseverance, caboose-style, to the promise of resurrection. That our service won’t be in vain (empty-handed) is as sure as Jesus’ resurrection as well as ours. The sow-reap principle in Galatians 6:7-9 reinforces this optimistic perspective. Paul applied the sowing and reaping principle positively. He said that if we sow to the Spirit, we will reap from the Spirit. He employed the agricultural analogy so his readers wouldn’t lose heart in ministry: “And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary” (Galatians 6:9).
2. Matthew 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
Though God guarantees His constant presence to all believers (Isaiah 41:10; John 14:16; Hebrews 13:5), Jesus applied this particular promise to those who share the gospel, teach converts and assimilate them into the life of a local church.
We won’t always feel His presence, but His promise to be with us is more reliable than our fickle feelings.
3. 2 Corinthians 12:9 My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.
We think frailties of temperament, disadvantages linked to our past or limitations of any sort hinder our effectiveness. Yet being weak or dependent actually increases rather than decreases the likelihood of usefulness to God. He employs weak people to accomplish extraordinary things so He receives the credit. Also see this reason for God’s tendency to use the weak in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 and 2 Corinthians 4:7.
4. 2 Corinthians 3:5-6 Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant.
Human endeavor and grace-giftedness are necessary but never sufficient for fruitful ministry. Unless the Holy Spirit works within us and within those we serve or teach, nothing of eternal significance happens. According to Acts 16:14, God opened the heart of Lydia to respond to the gospel. Paul didn’t open her heart. Our adequacy depends on His power, not ours. Our application of this awareness is to pray for God to work within the people we are striving to reach or to serve. All ministry involves a divine-human cooperation.
5. Hebrews 4:12 The Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
What engenders confidence in our witnessing and teaching opportunities?
Not our degree of giftedness. Not our experience or past successes. Not our personality or public charisma. The only valid answer to the question is the inherent power of God’s Word. When we feel unworthy or unqualified to communicate His Word, we’re rejuvenated by remembering that His Word, not our words, is what penetrates minds and hearts. We’re merely conduits through which His powerful Word flows toward others.
Buttress this promise with other verses on the efficacy of Scripture: Jeremiah 23:29; 1 Thessalonians 2:13 and 2 Timothy 3:14-17.
6. 2 Thessalonians 3:3 The Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.
Serve God and some form of spiritual warfare escalates. Experienced servants will tell you that temptations to sin ramp up when they are trying to make inroads for the gospel. Whether the attacks come from opposition, a convergence of aggravating circumstances or an escalation of temptation, the enemy’s efforts to thwart our ministry are inevitable. Yet “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
Which promise encourages you most today? Why?
What Bible promise that instills sustenance in servants would you add?
5 Bible Verses that Challenge Our Complacency
If I want Scripture that comforts my afflictions, I must accept and heed Scripture that afflicts my comforts.
That’s an easy maxim to write or to teach, but a much harder one to apply. Here are five texts that poke at my spiritual apathy or expose areas of disobedience that demand my attention.
- 1 Timothy 4:7-8 “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things…”
Advancing in holiness isn’t merely a roll-up-your-sleeves human endeavor. It isn’t just a matter of more will power. The Holy Spirit must enable us to do what God commands. Yet He has chosen particular avenues for imparting the strength we need. These venues for growth are called spiritual disciplines or means of grace (prayer; Bible study; worship; service; accountability; etc.). We must choose to use the means for spiritual growth that God established.
If we’re willing to enhance our physical health with hours of exercise each week, should our spiritual life receive less attention?
Where is discipline lacking in my Christian living or ministry?
- Hebrews 12:15 “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.”
In our relationships, “coming short of God’s grace” means failing to treat others as graciously as God has treated us. Until we grasp the extent to which He has forgiven us, a consequence is that others’ mistreatment of us permeates our heart with bitterness. Ephesians 4:31-32 says something similar. Our basis for forgiving each other is how God in Christ has forgiven us. What enables us to give grace is our lavish experience of it.
Resentment is a poison we drink in an attempt to hurt someone else.
In what ways has God exercised grace toward me? To whom am I not extending this grace?
- Ephesians 4:29 “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification, according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
These four questions, stemming from the soil of this verse, often prick my conscious:
*Are my words impure or unwholesome, unfit for the occasion?
*Do my words build up others or tear them down?
*Do my words meet a need in the person I’m talking to or talking about?
*Do my words give grace, treating others better than they deserve?
Memorizing this verse gives the Holy Spirit fuel to work with when we’re tempted to break one of these conversational guidelines.
- James 4:9 “Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom.”
Have you ever heard a sermon on this verse? I haven’t.
James addressed it to Christians who mistakenly equated God’s grace with a frivolous attitude toward sin. It’s a stern warning to worldly Christians that behavior still matters, that lamentation over sin is still needed.
When is the last time you wept over your sin? When has you heart been broken over the grief your disobedience caused God, and the painful consequences others experienced because of it?
- Isaiah 42:8 “I am the Lord, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another.”
God’s glory refers to His weightiness, or heaviness, in terms of significance or majesty. To glorify God means to make Him look good and desirable and mighty. God doesn’t exist for our sake. We exist for His sake (Isa. 43:7).
In your pilgrimage as a Christian or in your sphere of service for God, ask yourself: How am I stealing God’s glory? What do I say and do that subtly directs attention my way instead of beaming the spotlight on the Lord?
Which Bible text challenged you most today? Why? How should you pray in light of this challenge?
Knowing that God uses His Word to both comfort and challenge us should prompt this prayer before reading it: “Father, take the words from these pages and route them through my mind for understanding and through my heart for application. Speak to me as needed, whether that involves insight for a decision, a truth that evokes gratitude to You, painful conviction of sin or encouragement that instills resilience for a trial. In the name of Your Son, who said this to You: “Your Word is truth,” amen.