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The Supremacy Declared: The Ministry of Supremacy (Col. 1:24-29)

Intro

I have been waiting to get to this passage of Scripture, because it takes a look into what authentic ministry is all about. I take a look at all of you and most of you are serving the Lord in some capacity here at EFCC. I also thank God for the timing of this message, right in a really busy month for us here with all that is going on.

First of all, I cannot begin to tell you how blessed I am to be part of this ministry. How blessed to know that there are fellow workers of the Lord shouldering continually weekly kingdom responsibility for the Lord. Praise God! I am encouraged by the way you step up and are willing to serve the Lord.

Let’s review:

This is the last message on Part 1 of the Born Supremacy: the Supremacy Declared. We have declared the Supremacy of the gospel (Col 1:1-8), how to walk worthy of the Supremacy of Christ (Col 1:9-14), the Total Supremacy of Jesus Christ in His person (Col 1:15-20) and the Supremacy of Jesus Christ in His work of reconciliation (Col. 1:21-23). Today we are going to look at the Ministry of Supremacy. We have a supreme message about the Supreme Christ, but we also have a supreme ministry. If you didn’t notice, Jesus did not save us and then take us all into Heaven. That would be really sweet, but that’s not His plan. He saved us to serve. We have work to do. He died for us, we must live for Him. Look at Eph. 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved, through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one can boast.” What is the next verse? Verse 10: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” See that? God has stuff for us to do after we are saved. We have to “walk in them” not sit around in them. CT Studd, the famous cricket player in England, turned missionary once said, “Only one life. It will soon, soon be past. Only what is done for Christ will last.” The job we have far succeeds the greatest work this world has to offer. It is working for the greatest boss –the King of Kings and the Lord of the Lords and the benefits are out of this world!

But what does this job entail? How do we know what to do for God? And how do we do it? We all have our different roles, but what should be the end goal of leading Sunday school every Sunday morning? Of children’s ministry? Of jr. high or high school ministry? Of young adult bible study on Saturdays? In other words, what does authentic ministry look like?

 

 

 

I.Authentic ministry is joyfully suffering for the church  (Col. 1:24) .

Paul first says that authentic ministry is joyfully suffering for the church. God’s work can be done with joy despite the persecution that comes with it.  What a great way to start?!  This job is suffering! Sign me up!

Before we go any further, let’s deal with this, which is most difficult verse in all of Colossians. It is this puzzling phrase of Paul’s: “and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” Is Paul saying there is something lacking with Christ’s death? That is was insufficient? In fact, some groups have used to this phrase to come up two false doctrines. One is of penance, where people, in order to receive forgiveness for their own sins, they needed to suffer for them like walking a mile on glass or cut themselves with stones. The other false doctrine is of purgatory, which teaches that people have second chance after they die. They can go to some place and then suffer for a while there and afterwards God will accept them. Let’s be clear on this. Jesus did it all. He did not need Paul’s help to finish the work on the cross. John 19:30: “IT IS FINISHED.” Not almost finished…finished, but to be continued…FINISHED! Heb 10:11-12: “And every priest stands daily as his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. BUT WHEN CHRIST HAD OFFERED FOR ALL TIME A SINGLESACRIFICE FOR SINS, HE SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD.” “Sat down” is a picture of a job done to satisfaction. It is appointed man once to die and then judgment (Heb. 9:27). Also, the word “afflictions” here is never used in the NT to talk about the death of Christ. It means “distress,” “pressure,” or “trouble.” Lastly, it contradicts the message of Colossians: the total supremacy and absolute sufficiency of Jesus Christ.  So what does it mean? There are several views on this verse, but let me give you two major views:

1.       Many Jews believed that before the Messiah came God’s people would suffer. But that suffering had a limit, a quota, if you will. Once the limit was reached, the Messianic Age when He ruled the world would be inaugurated. So some scholars believed Paul adopted that view that Christ suffered, but now that Paul’s suffering so much for Christ, the suffering tank is being filled up more and more and it is going to hasten the Lord’s coming again.

2.       The second major view is that Paul is saying the afflictions he is experiencing are in the place of Jesus, who would have endured them if He was on earth still. Remember right before Paul converted, Jesus had confronted him and said, “Why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4-5). In other words, Jesus was saying, “When you hurt my people, my body, you are hurting me, the head. John Macarthur says,

“The world isn’t through persecuting Jesus. The world is not through persecuting Jesus. The problem is he’s not here, so they’re getting me. The persecution of Jesus is not over. So I’m filling up what he’s not here to take. You say is that positive, you bet. You bet. I receive the blows intended for the one who received the blows that were intended for me. He took the blows that I should have received on Calvary. I will gladly take the blows meant for him.”[1]

To be honest, I am not sure which one I land on. If you pushed me to the corner, I would probably lean on the second one, but we can glean some things here from this verse still for us.

There is suffering associated with the gospel, but we can experience joy in the midst of it! But I do appreciate how Paul doesn’t hide the cost of the Supremacy. Don’t you hate it when people try to sell you something, but they hide the real cost or do not read the small print? Jesus never does that…He tells you straight up what you are in for.

Jesus said we will be hated for His name’s sake. Jesus is offensive to people. Sometimes we will endure verbal suffering—threats, mockery and belittlement. Sometimes it is passive aggressive suffering—you lose your job, people don’t talk to you anymore and avoid you, etc. Sometimes it is physical suffering—jail, beatings, even death.

Paul is in prison because he has been preaching the gospel. Wow, we have already been moved by his previous verses and he wrote all that in chains! And it is not like the prisons today. Not an ordinary jail, but a hole in the ground called the Mamertine prison. In this particular prison, once a maximum of forty prisoners had been accumulated, the sewers were opened to drown all the prisoners. The water was then drained out (along with the drowned prisoners) and the process would be repeated. But He says, “I rejoice!” In Philippians, also written in prison, he said, “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say, rejoice” (4:4). How can joy come out of suffering? Here are four joys of suffering:

a)      Suffering can lead to other’s benefit, especially salvation. Notice Paul says, “for your sake” and “for the sake of his body” in v.24. Phil 4:22. Paul says there are some in Ceasar’s household who are saints now, who greet the Philippians. Paul must have won them to Christ while in prison! The blood of the martyrs are often the seed of the church, and Church history can attest to that.

b)     Suffering brings us closer to Christ. Paul in prison in Philippians wrote, “That I may know (experiential knowledge) him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings” (3:10).

c)      Suffering shows us we are saved. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you” (John 15:18). Because “a disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master” (Matt. 10:24), we will suffer. Paul warned Timothy, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). Peter tells suffering Christians, “If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Pet. 4:14)

d)     Suffering brings future reward. If indeed we suffer with [Christ] in order that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:17–18). “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17).

Jesus had promised Paul how much he would have to suffer for Him (Acts 9:16) and Paul did suffer (2 Cor. 11:23-28 gives a list of Paul’s sufferings). And today we have close to 200 million believers persecuted today for their faith. Although we don’t see it in America as much, it happens here as well.

Illus: On December 9, 2007, Matthew Murray shot and killed Tiffany Johnson, 26, and Philip Crouse, 24, at a Youth With a Mission (YWAM) training center in the Denver suburb of Arvada. He later killed two at New Life Church in Colorado Springs…

Despite the deaths, YWAM is on track with its missions training program. Training for               missions will begin once again in January, and not one of the 120 who signed up has dropped out of the program. Director of the Arvada YWAM Peter Warren spoke with Christianity Today about the shooting…

Matthew was in the building for half an hour talking with students, and then he asked to spend the night. Tiffany was called to the front because she handles hospitality. Normally, we would not have someone spend the night without knowing them or arranging ahead of time. After that, Matthew said, “Then this is what I’ve got for you,” pulled out a gun and began shooting.

After firing a few shots, he had his foot in the door, and at some point his foot slipped and he fell back. The door slammed shut on him and automatically locked, so he could not get back in again. Right then, other staff and students were driving up and saw Matthew banging on the door, trying to get back in. When Matthew saw them, he ran away.

After [a] student performed CPR on Tiffany, she regained consciousness and asked [another trainee named] Holly, “Is it bad?” Holly said, “Yes, it’s bad.” Tiffany looked at Holly and her boyfriend, Dan, who was also shot, and said, “We do this for Jesus, right guys? We do this for Jesus.”[2]

Application:

1.       Beware of any preaching or ministry that speaks of suffering as a lack of faith or sin. There is a lot of the “name it and claim it” or “health and wealth” preaching that avoids talking about suffering. Such is not true to the Word of God.

2.       Sometimes we think to ourselves how blessed we are to be in a country that allows us so much religious freedom. We should be thankful to God for that, but at the same time that causes us to be too comfortable with our faith. We are not taking advantage of opportunities to share our faith or to tell others we are believers of Christ or stand up for Christ when His name is taken in vain. Remember that sin is not only doing things we ought not to do, but not doing things we should be doing, like taking advantage of opportunities to show people who we believe.

3.       How do we react to suffering (even the little we might experience which is really nothing). Probably the most “suffering” I experience is being misunderstood. Some people think what I do is not a real job. I react with anger sometimes when people ask Jenny how her work is going and not asking me—as though what I do is not work.  I must turn my heart to the Lord during those times instead of letting my feelings get in control.

4.       Have you lost the joy of ministry? A lot of Christians have lost joy in ministry and there is not even suffering. It does not have to be that way. Jesus, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross (Heb. 12:2). Why should we not have joy? Joy is the God-given ability to thrive despite the circumstances of life. As John Macarthur defined it, “it is the deep-down confidence that God is in control.” It is not circumstantial happiness. Sometimes being overwhelmed, underappreciated, criticism from people inside and out, not saying no, etc. can rob us of our joy in ministry. Humility, closeness to Jesus and sharing burdens with others in prayer and delegation of responsibilities can help.

 

     II. Authentic ministry is faithfully stewarding the Word of God (Col. 1:25-27).

 

Authentic ministry is joyfully suffering for the sake of God’s people, the church. Secondly, Paul says that authentic ministry is faithfully stewarding God’s Word. We must take care of the message God has entrusted to us .  See the word “stewardship” (from the ESV). NIV: by the commission God gave me. RSV says, “divine office which was given to me.” KJV says “the dispensation of God, which is given to me” and the NLT says “the responsibility of serving His church.” I think stewardship is the best word to use here. Literally the two words put together mean “manager of a household.” The steward is one who cares for the interests or property of another.  It implies a sacred trust and high privilege. What do we have that is ours anyway? All that we have is a gift of God.

Notice:

a)      The source of  this stewardship: from God. Twice in three verses, he says he was “made a minister” (v.23 and v.25). One of the things the Apostle knew very well was the fact that the ministry he was doing was not his, but entrusted to him. He knew he didn’t wake up one day to be a minister or was elected one from a bunch of people or took away a position from another Apostle. It was from God. He was called.

 

b)     The attitude of this stewardship: faithful servant(1 Cor. 4:2) Paul doesn’t even use the word “apostle” to refer to himself, but a minister, which really means “a servant.” Did you know that this word is used most frequently in the NT to describe the spiritual activity of believers?  It conveys the basic meaning of the performance of menial and mundane activities, such as waiting on tables or caring for household needs, activities without apparent dignity. Since such service necessarily involves dependence, submission, and constraints of time and freedom, the Greeks regarded a “minister” as a degrading and dishonorable position.

 

No wonder Paul had joy. He realized nothing was his and he deserved nothing! We start losing joy when we live with a sense of entitlement, that we deserve something. Paul says the number one attitude of a steward is faithfulness (2 Cor. 4:2). Faithfulness means that you do what you said you would do. This is valuable in the eyes of God (Matt. 25:21). Not all of us can preach or lead worship, but all of us can be faithful. Old Faithful is not the largest geyser in Yellowstone National Park, nor does it reach the greatest height. But it is by far the most popular one. Why? It is regular and dependable, hence its name, “Old Faithful.”[3]

 

c)      The intent of this stewardship=to give to others. Paul says the stewardship was given “from me FOR YOU.” God does not intend us just to be reservoirs of His truth, but to be channels as well. There is nothing else that gives me greater joy than to hear that what you are learning from the Lord you are passing it on to others.

 

d)     The purpose of this stewardship=make the Word of God fully known. Though they did not have the Word of God as we do yet, Paul was committed to give to all people the entire Word of God. The words “fully known” not only implies the geographic extent of the gospel, but also the thoroughness of with which it is done…”a full presentation of God’s message.” Anything less than that is not satisfactory. What sorrow fills my heart when I hear about so many preachers and ministers getting up week after week and not giving people the Word of God. I grew up in a church where I never heard the Word. No one brought their Bible to church and the minister talked more about psychology and Freud than the Bible. May it not be here at EFCC. This should be our goal as ministers or Sunday school leaders or vbs helpers or whatever we do…even as parents and siblings and friends is to give people the Word of God.

 

e)      The glorious content of this stewardship (vv.26-27)=the revealed mystery. In verses 26 and 27, Paul gives us more specifics on what exactly were the contents of the message of which he was entrusted. Paul uses the word “mystery.” Whenever you see that word it not talking about Sherlock Homes or Agatha Christie novel…in other words something strange or unclear that is partly understood. In other words, it does not mean something mysterious! It is a word found 27x in the NT and 21 of those are found in Paul.

 

Here is a definition: “Mystery” refers to something hidden in the Old Testament that is now revealed in the New Testament. It is something that has unfolded over time.  What a privilege to live in this time! We get to see God unfolding His story….things that even Abraham or Moses never got to see. In fact, this “mystery” was hidden from everybody in the past and now saints—believers—in the New Testament receive the answer to the mystery. There are several of these mysteries we see in the NT, which we do not have time to go over here. But Paul says this mystery in our text today is so great, so rich and so glorious….in other words, it’s a God-thing!

 

What is it? It is this: Jesus Christ has opened the door for everyone to be saved. Remember the Jews always felt like they were God’s chosen people, but even Jews who became Christians thought the gospel was just for them, until Pentecost and beyond and the arrival of Paul. The mystery was revealed that Jews and Gentile believers are no longer two, but one! In the language of Ephesians, “fellow citizens” (2:19) and “fellow heirs, members of the same body” (3:6) and “one new man” (2:15)…equal in every way in Christ. How is this possible?

 

CHRIST IN YOU, THE HOPE OF GLORY! The Lord of Glory, the God of the Universe, has decided to live in us! Not merely with us or beside us or above or below us, but IN us! Paul says in Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now life I live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (2:20) Paul calls this, “the hope of glory.” This is the hope—the confident assurance and expectation—that we will share in His glory. He is the glory of our future. One commentator writes that “the fact that He indwells us makes heaven as sure as if we were already there.” Pastor Sam Storms writes:

“The glory for which we long, the glory for which we have been predestined, the glory that makes all suffering and pain and disappointment in this life unworthy of comparison is the person and presence of Jesus Christ himself. He is our glory. Being with him, to know him, to see him, to relish and rejoice in his beauty, is the glory for which we hope. “[4]

 

This is the message of the gospel. You, anyone, can have a relationship with the Almighty God through His Son Jesus Christ if you turn from your sin and embrace Him. In doing so, Christ will impart His life in you, enabling you to live the Christian life until He comes again for you.

Illus: Mike Yaconelli in his book, Messy Spirituality, wrote of how individual believers, who may think they are insignificant, are brought together in the body of Christ to create a magnificent work of art.

Moorhead, Minnesota, the home of Concordia College, lies across the state line from Fargo, North Dakota, a very bleak part of the country (especially during the winter). All year, the community anticipates Concordia’s annual Christmas concert. Each December, a huge choir and a full orchestra give a musical performance in the concert hall at the college.

Every year, the people in the community create a unique background for the concert—a one-hundred-by-thirty-foot mosaic. Beginning in the summer, about six months before the concert, the community designs a new mosaic, rents an empty building, and the painting begins. Hundreds of people, from junior high schoolers to senior citizens, paint the mosaic. They paint by number on a large-scale design that has thousands of tiny pieces. Day after day, month after month, one little painted piece at a time, the picture on the mosaic gradually takes shape.

When everyone has finished painting, an artist goes over the entire creation, perfecting the final work of art. When the mosaic is completed, they place it behind the choir. It has the appearance of an enormous, beautiful stained-glass window. The weekend of the concert, those people who helped paint arrive early, along with their friends and neighbors. Throughout the building, you can hear people whispering, “See that little green spot below the camel’s foot? I painted it.”

Every year in the middle of the summer in Moorhead, Minnesota, thousands of unknown, ordinary people paint a tiny insignificant tile. Six months later, the result is a spectacularly beautiful masterpiece.[5]

What a great picture of what the body of Christ should be about. They were all committed to the mosaic and they all realized that what was required of them was to do faithfully do their part.

Application:

Ways to be a faithful steward:

1.       Plug yourself in ministry. What are you gifted at?

2.       Do what you said you would do. This is faithfulness. Being reliable and trustworthy is worth more to God than you

3.       Remember no work for God is insignificant. It is not about the quantity of people, but the quality of work God is looking for. Attitudes like, “oh, I just help out with children’s ministry” should not be heard around here.

4.       We do things with excellence. This means the worship does not just prepare Sunday morning. It means if you are leading Sunday school or small group, you do not prepare the night before or morning of. You have been entrusted with the truth of God.

5.       Make sure you give people the Word of God. Games  and fun is ok, but the Word must be shared.

 

   III. Authentic ministry is supernaturally struggling to bring all believers into maturity in Christ (Col. 1:28-29)

So Paul says that authentic ministry brings on suffering, which can endured with joy. Authentic ministry is really being a faithful steward of the Word of God entrusted to us. Lastly, Paul says that working for God is toiling in His strength until everyone looks like Jesus Christ…which means, there is no retirement from ministry…it will be until the day we die!

Ministry is not just hit and run evangelism. It is birthing and nurturing people into maturity. It is reproducing reproducers. It is moving from baby food into eating meat. And it is for everyone. It is repeated 3x in one verse! Not just for pastors, leaders, special believers, etc. See the end of verse 28. The same word “present” from verse 22 is used. He’s talking about the day we see Jesus Christ. Paul’s end goal of ministry and God’s mission for reconciliation are the same: full grown believers in Christ. This is the “why” of ministry. In verses 28-29, Paul tells us the “who”, “what” and “how:”

a)   The “Who” of what ministry is about is always Jesus.

In verse 28, he says, “HIM we proclaim.” He has just demonstrated that in verses 15-20 and for Paul Jesus was the beginning, middle and end of all his messages. There is no message if you do not talk about Jesus. In your ministry, don’t leave Jesus out. Paul did not just proclaim teachings of Christ, but he proclaimed the person of Christ. One may disassociate Buddha from his teaching, Confucius and others from theirs, but Christ was His teaching. The message is not about human happiness or political influence or Christ and self-help or Christ and psychology or Christ and material wealth. Christ is the center of the bulls eye.

b)     The “What”of ministry is Admonishing and Teaching with Wisdom

Two commands are given. One is negative and the other is positive. The first word admonishing or warning is to tell people of the dangers of sin and the need to repent. This is neglected in the church today. The foghorn warns the ship from the deadly rocks; the red light warns the train of imminent danger; in the days of the plague people were warned from infected areas: how much more should we in the business of admonishing…to unbelievers to warn them of the wrath to come, but to believers as well to live a life of repentance..that choosing to sin means to choosing to suffer.

Sam Storms says that if this verse is rewritten to reflect how most believers are, it would be: “”Him we mention only in passing, lest we offend seekers or sound excessively religious. [Rather than warning and teaching . . .] We seek to please and entertain everyone so that they might feel good about themselves and be reassured that all is well in the world.”[6] We might think this is just the pastor’s job but look at Colossians 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom…” The same Greek phrases used to talk about responsibilities of all believers. The word “teaching” means to explain truth, which is what I am trying to do here every Sunday. The tenses in verse 28 are in present tense, meaning it is continuous and to be repeated. So together we may translate this as “we continually warn them about what they should not do and teach them about what they should do.”

But both the warning and teaching is to be done with wisdom, which is the ability to connect truth to life. Wisdom is the know-how to download truth into our everyday life. Not just what I hear on Sunday morning, but how does this apply on Tuesday morning and Thursday afternoon at 4pm?  It is for wisdom that Paul was praying for them earlier (1:9).

c)      The  “How” of ministry is supernaturally struggling.

Paul is honest about the hard work of ministry. He puts two words right after each other. The first word “toil” or “labor,” was used for work which left one so weary it was as if the person had taken a beating. It means labor to exhaustion. The second word “struggling” is an athletic term and the idea is of a person almost at the finish line, who knows they have to go to the bottom of everything they have  to win the race and they reach down deep and they say, ‘nothing is going to stop me and nothing is going to keep me down!” It is also in the present tense implying that ministry was a continuous struggle for Paul.

Paul strained every muscle in ministry for people. 1 Thess 2:9 he wrote, “For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.”

What are the struggles of ministry?

1.       There might be physical demands—even imprisonment, persecution and pain, but even physical tiredness.

2.       There are emotional demands—putting your hand in people’s garbage and weeping with those who weep, often lead to frustration, discouragement,…the emotional drain that accompanies loving people.

3.       There are financial demands—you will have to give.

4.       There are fleshly demands—-to be lazy, temptation for selfish ambition and selfishness….the fears of failure, taking risks, being misunderstood

5.       There are spiritual demands—realizing the weight of stewardship, learning to trust God, being diligent in prayer, keeping our heart clean and being aware of attacks of the enemy!

But notice he says that ministry not only takes all of me, but it is all of God as well. It is God’s energy—inner strength supplied by the Lord in abundance for the task. And it “works”—another word in the present tense implying continuous strength supplied for Paul. The power inside Him was greater than the tasks ahead of him. And so it was not his education, though he was well-educated or his culture, in which he was deeply rooted in the Old Testament or his shrewd methodology (for he was a master of missionary strategy) or even just his hard work…it was God’s presence within him.

Remember Martin Luther’s hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is our God”? I like the last stanza:

“Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
The man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth is His name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.”

Pastor Kent Hughes writes:

It is often said, “When all is said and done, there is more said than done.” It ought not to be that way! Luther worked so hard that many days, according to his biographers, he fell into bed. Moody’s bedtime prayer on one occasion, as he rolled his bulk into bed, was, “Lord, I’m tired! Amen.” John Wesley rode sixty to seventy miles many days of his life and preached an average of three sermons a day, whether he was riding or not. Alexander Maclaren would get to his office when the workmen went to work so he could hear their boots outside, and would put on workmen’s boots to remind him why he was in his study.”[7]

We might be tempted to think, “Why bother Paul? If God’s power is so great, effective and readily available, why should you struggle so much? Why don’t you let go and let God?” Quite the contrary! God’s power is not designed to eliminate our responsibility to work hard, but to enable us to fulfill it. Paul is able to work hard because God is working hard mightily within him. So it is all of us and as we exert all of us, it is all of God as well.

So how do you know when God is working mightily within you?

1.       In the midst of despair, you are hopeful.

2.       In the midst of slander, you quietly trust God.

3.       In the midst of toil and energy drained, you persevere.

4.       In the midst of sorrow, you rejoice.

5.       In the midst of poverty, you give.

You probably won’t start vibrating or changing colors, but there is nothing like it…nothing so exhilarating, more phenomenal than to know God is working through you!

Conclusion

The Unseen Hand

There was once a famous German artist named Herkomer, born in the Black Forest, whose father was a simple woodchopper. Herkomer was a gifted artist, and as his reputation grew, he moved to London and built a studio there. He sent for his aged father, and the dad came, full of pride for his son, and lived with him.

The old man enjoyed creating things out of clay, and he learned to make very beautiful bowls and vases, items of which he was very proud. So the father and son were in business together as artisans. But as the years passed, the old man’s abilities deteriorated, and at the end of the day, as he went upstairs, he would seem sad because he felt that his work was now inferior.

Herkomer’s sharp eye detected this, and when his father was safely upstairs and asleep for the night, Herkomer would come downstairs and take in hand the pieces of clay that his old father had left. He would gently correct the defects and the faults, and mold them a little one way or the other. And when the old man would come down in the mornings, he would hold up the pieces in the morning light, smile, and say, “I can still do it as well as I ever did.”[8]*

That’s just what our Father does with us. We try to do for Him what we can. We visit the sick, teach the children, sing and usher and invite and take food to the bereaved. We send our missionaries and pray for them. But we’re all frail and flawed, and our work for the Lord isn’t as perfect and pure as we would like. Yet the Lord places His omnipotent hand on it, and shapes it, and uses it in ways far greater than we know.[9]

Authentic ministry, is the God-entrusted, God-empowered work of suffering, serving and struggling to bring all believers into maturity in Christ. This is what make ministry so supreme! It is the work of God in us!

 

 

 
—-

[1] From the message, “Paul’s servant ministry,” gty.org.

[2] Sarah Pulliam, “YWAM Director Describes Shooting, Forgiveness,” http://www.christianitytoday.com (12-19-07).

 

[3]Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson’s complete book of stories,  illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (289). Nashville:   Thomas Nelson  Publishers.

[4] From the sermon, ”The Hope of Glory,” EnjoyingGodMinistries.org.

[5] Mike Yaconelli, Messy Spirituality (Zondervan, 2002), pp. 118-119;  submitted by Greg Miller, Madison, Mississippi to preachingtoday.com

[6] From the sermon, “everyone for everyone,” EnjoyingGodMinistries.org.

[7] Hughes, R. K. (1989). Colossians and Philemon : The supremacy of Christ.

Preaching the Word (48). Westchester, Ill.: Crossway Books.

[8] Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories,   Illustrations, and Quotes (electronic ed.) (797).

Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

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