The Miracle of Ministry

By Pastor Doug Batchelor

I once heard an old pastor say, “People usually live about as long as they feel they’re needed.” That might be a broad and speculative generalization, but it does encapsulate a principle I have often observed in this world. I read somewhere that people die twice as fast in the first year after the demise of their spouse. The wife of Louis Armstrong, the famous jazz musician, had a heart attack and died while singing at her husband’s funeral. Likewise, many people spend their golden years caring for their ailing partner. When their loved one dies, the survivor’s health often quickly deteriorates if they find no other useful purpose.

Perceptive people who are eligible for retirement often say, “If I stop working, I will die.” We have all heard of the person who retires anticipating many years of idle ease, but because they have abandoned any fruitful goal, within a year their friends have gathered over their casket to inaugurate their ultimate undertaking of idleness.

This reminds me of a Scripture passage: “And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” (Luke 12:19, 20).

So maybe that old pastor’s philosophy bears some spiritual truth after all: God seems to be inclined to keep people around longer when they are busy. Even more than that, after Dorcas died, her friends gave Peter evidence of how industrious she was, and then the apostle resurrected her.

Power With a Purpose
God designed man for productive activity, and the best of all occupations is to help and serve our fellow man. This was Jesus’ creed, and the Father endorsed His ministry with spiritual power for doing it.

Acts 10:38 teaches, “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.” As God sent Jesus, so He sends us. (See John 20:21.) And it is safe to conclude that as He empowered Christ for His work, He will empower His followers for ministry.

Notice how many times in Scripture that the promise for supernatural power is directly connected with active ministry. “And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. … And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:1, 7, 8).

And in Matthew 28:18, 19, we learn, “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”

Put simply, God anoints the ones He appoints. “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

God Calls Doers
The power of the Spirit is not only given for witnessing—but it is especially reserved to the ones who are witnesses. And God always seems to call people of activity. Moses was tending sheep, Elijah was farming, and Peter was fishing. Gideon was busy threshing wheat, and Ruth was gleaning barley. Amos was gathering sycamore fruit, and Saul was busy searching for his father’s lost beasts. Nehemiah was serving as a royal butler, and Jesus came walking to the disciples on the stormy sea when they were rowing their hearts out. (See John 6:18 – 20.)

And those God calls, He qualifies. Those He qualifies, He uses. And yes, God calls men and women when they are busy. Have you ever heard the expression, “If you want to get something done, ask a busy person”? Conversely, Satan knocks on people’s door when they are idle. David fell for Bathsheba during a time of leisure at the palace, when he should have been out with his soldiers on the field of battle.

The sin of Sodom was brought on by an “abundance of idleness” (Ezekiel 16:49). Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Activity is contagious.” Christian happiness consists of activity. It’s a running stream, not a stagnant pool. But at the same time, with the high-tech era we live in, it’s easy to confuse activity with accomplishment, to be fooled into thinking that the sound of gears and pulleys or a humming hard drive is the sound of something important being done.

Ministry Instigates Miracles
There is no question about it: God regards the ministry of saving others as the noblest enterprise. “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise” (Proverbs 11:30). And the Lord will pour His power on and work His wonders for those who endeavor to do this great work.

Notice this simple but profound pattern: The majority of God’s miracles are connected with ministry. The first disciple to experience being beamed from one place to another was giving a Bible study and baptizing believers. “And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:39).

Paul was preaching when he raised Eutychus, blinded the sorcerer, and delivered a girl from demons. God miraculously delivered Peter, Paul, Silas, and the 12 apostles from prison when they were actively preaching and teaching the truth.

Of course, most of the miracles in the Old Testament were seen on the battlefield, with Samson, David, Gideon, and Jonathan. Likewise, if we are willing to don the armor of God and fight His battles, we too will experience the marvelous workings of His Spirit. It’s when we are engaged in feeding the multitude with the Bread of Life that He will multiply the bread.

Some are so fearful that they will do something wrong in witnessing, they instead do nothing very well or at all. But I have consistently observed that those who humbly commit their gifts to God and step out in faith will win tremendous victories.

Ministry Is Part of the Saving Process
Some have also thought they would gladly work for God, if only they felt holy enough. It’s true that dirt clings to a rusty shovel, making the work more difficult, but the best way to clean a shovel is to just start digging with it again.

Might I also suggest that ministry is part of our sanctification process? After three-and-a-half years of following Jesus, we still find selfish strife among the apostles. They were obviously still not completely converted or sanctified. Jesus confirmed this when He said to Peter, “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32).

In one 24-hour period before the cross, the 12 apostles demonstrated abundant room for progress. They were arguing among themselves and vying for the highest position, bewildered and confused by Christ’s teaching, and sleeping when Jesus said they should be praying. They even forsook Jesus when the mob came, with Peter of course denying Jesus publicly three times—the third time with swearing and cursing.

Yet a few months before this, Jesus sent out the 12, and later the 70, to preach, with outstanding results. “And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name” (Luke 10:17).

Active ministry is clearly part of the conversion process, as surely as exercise is part of a child’s growing process. Remember, the 10 lepers were cleansed while in motion. “And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed” (Luke 17:14).

The Cure for Ailing Congregations
This dynamic not only holds true for people—but churches too. Those congregations that exist as an exclusive social gathering for their own amusement and gazing, hypnotized by their own reflection, atrophy and die. In fact, one of the best chicken-soup remedies for just about any and all ills a church might experience is to do evangelism.

Short on funds? Do evangelism! When Peter needed money, Jesus sent him fishing. “Go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee” (Matthew 17:27). If you fish for men every now and then, you will find one with gold in its mouth.

Are the members lacking in zeal and enthusiasm? Do evangelism! A good evangelistic series will not only attract new souls, but it is the best way to awaken and revitalize the existing sheep. Is your church bogged down in a quagmire of doctrinal confusion, scandal, or family feuds? Do evangelism! A sound series of evangelistic seminars will work wonders to harvest new wheat into the garner and help the existing members put aside their differences and recalibrate their compass of truth.

Mechanical equipment that sits idle quickly deteriorates and requires more maintenance. It is impossible to stay up on a stationary bicycle or turn a sailboat on a windless sea. Likewise, churches that neglect the great commission and lose their evangelistic momentum are consumed by internal problems. As they say, “A mobile home seldom gets termites.”

Do you doubt this principle? I recommend a simple test: Ask God to lead you to someone today, before whom you can be His witness. Ask Him to help you recognize the opportunity when it comes, do your part, and then stand back and watch what He does! He has never failed to answer that prayer for me.

One time, about 25 years ago, shortly after becoming a Christian, I was living like a hermit in a cave, high in some remote desert mountains. I sincerely prayed that God would use me as a wittness for His kingdom, having no idea how God would accomplish this feat for such an isolated recluse. Within a week, a helicopter with a news crew from NBC flew up to my cave, and I was able to share a brief testimony on national news. They played it three times in one day!

God is watching and waiting for opportunities to activate His power and commission angels on behalf of those who will do His bidding and work in the great commission! One of my favorite scriptures promises, “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro ... to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9 NKJV).

God is looking for willing workers. He’s looking to recruit you. Get busy now doing whatever work you find close at hand, no matter how humble or seemingly insignificant. Then pray, “Here am I, send me” and just watch what He does!

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