Title: Fundamentals for Ministry
Let us pray:
Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to you: Amen.
One thing that has always bothered me and I am sure it bothers all of us: is our calling. We know that we have been called; but to do what exactly? Early in our walk of faith with the Lord, God has made it known that we are his; and it is only logical therefore, that he in turn will want us to do something for him; but what?
Everyone gets confused about their calling; and their ability to carry it out. I will give you an example, if I was to attend an interview I could make a great list of all the achievements I have made in my life. I could also by the way, make up a list of all my failures; and when things are not going well, this list to me far outweighs these achievements. Can you relate to that?
But who is to say what list is correct? The world will certainly tell us that we have failed; in fact they will even list our failures for us.
God on the other hand is so much different. He does not see our failures, he does not even see our sin; he judges us on our belief in Jesus; and if Jesus is our Lord, then he just loves us, just as much as loves him.
This then is so confusing; as we ask, what about all our failures? How can anyone love us? Well again, God is so different; he is the alpha and the omega. What comes first and what comes last to him does not matter; because Jesus allows us to be restored to the father whatever happens. It maybe painful, but we will be restored.
Look at the trouble Jesus got into in his life, like the time they were about to kill him by throwing him of a cliff, or the time he turned his back on Lazarus, and let him die. Jesus miraculously recovered for those situations; in fact Jesus even recovered from death itself.
So it does not matter to God what you fail at, as long as Jesus is your saviour, and that way, we will give us the grace to recover. That is the Gospel, Jesus is our Lord and as his subjects he is shepherding over us; looking after us, restoring us time and time again; and leading us in the direction he wants us to go.
There is one expression I absolutely hate, and I hear time and time again, and that is: “I will never let that happen”; why, because it suggests that we are master of our own destiny, and also the destiny of others. To be that confident that we are in control is pure folly.
For example, I am sure many of us are not in the position we would like to be in; because things do not always go our way. Given the choice, we may have chosen something else. Me, I would like to be thin and have plenty of money, and go abroad for holidays.
I have tried, and I have failed, we have all failed at something. We all feel neglected and ineffectual from to time; and it is very discouraging; and we begin to wonder “where exactly is God in our lives”; and if he is here directing things, he must have a bigger plan than that what we are actually experiencing.
The same thing has happened to Moses, as a young prince in Egypt he knew God had called him to deliver Israel. He did his best to fulfil that calling on his own, but nothing worked, and he found himself a fugitive in the wilderness for 40 years, tending sheep.
Was this the best God had for him? Well yes, because the lord was actually watching over him, and intervened with burning bush experience. God was there all the time, but he was preparing Moses to lead the children out of Egypt. God had a plan for his life and it took his wilderness experience to prepare him for the forty years in the wilderness of deliverance to prepare the Israelites. This is just like us, we feel we have failed, but in reality, God is preparing us now for something better; and that something is most probably for the world to come.
Abraham too got discouraged, he just could not believe for the son God had promised him. But Isaac was born, and Abraham became the father of all nations.
There is Elijah, the great prophet of God; but when Jezebel threatened him, he ran, he was terrified, and he found himself lying beside a river worn out, being fed by ravens. Have you even seen what crows eat; I think it is safe to say Elijah was questioning Gods call on his life; but God met with him, and re-established him in his calling.
The bible is full of these stories; the great men of God always seamed to find that place where they can do nothing, feeling disillusioned and totally discouraged. Jonah as well, because of too much sun he asked God to kill him; yet Jonah was the great man of God who witnessed to 120 thousands of people, and turned them all to the Lord, in the greatest evangelistic movement ever.
But do you know what, when you are at your weakest, God can intervene and act on our behalf. And that’s what we seeing in our text with Peter this morning; where all the disciples were at a loss of what to do. They were going fishing; yet most of the disciples present were not fishermen. This incident is not just about Jesus restoring his relationship with Peter, it is much more; it is about Jesus commissioning Peter for ministry.
Jesus met with Peter that day to clarify and substantiate his calling; so look with me at this incident and see how Jesus addresses the three most fundamental essentials of ministry: its motive, its assignment, and its focus.
First of all the motive, and Jesus approaches this issue with a 3 similar questions in verses 15, 16, 17, “Simon son, do you love me”?
Jesus has gently connected with all the disciples, but he has turned his attention specifically on Peter, and begins with the most basic issue of all; our love for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus is not implying that Peter doesn’t love Him; he is bringing Peter to the basis of what makes him tick. He is bringing him to an awareness of why he will serve the Lord. “Do you love me”?
He is not asking him, if he is educated in theology or a great people person or even a good team player; all of which are important, but to Jesus there is a more important qualification for ministry, “Do you love me”?
It is the only motive for ministry that will endure; because if you have that love of the Lord, the Lord can work through you. If you do not have that love, you have to make things happen yourself; and where do you go, when things go wrong?
Ministry does not begin with a love for people; it begins with a love for the Lord, and it is that love which overflows to people. If we minister only out of a humanistic love for people, we will be people-pleasers rather than God-pleasers; and as a people pleaser we will not be able to serve their best interests, pampering to their very whims and desires.
Nothing will keep ministry on course and carry us through the hard times like a deep love for the Lord. Love is stronger than the adversity that we inevitably encounter, and love itself will be its own reward. Love finds satisfaction in the midst of hell and when all else fails, love will carry us through.
Peter simply submits his answer. “Yes Lord you know that I love you”; and with this answer, Jesus then goes on to give Peter his assignment which is in verses 17, it is simple, it reads, “Feed my sheep”.
And that is our second ministry essential, to “feed his sheep”. Again, Jesus did not say, stay here on this shore, and meditate on heaven; he did not say find a secluded place to worship so that you will not be corrupted by all those half hearted sheep; or even walk about looking holy. No, Jesus tells him to enter the fry, and feed his sheep; not somebody else’s sheep; his sheep.
How do you do this, well through love of course? Love must also be expressed outwardly, and to express our love for the Lord, we need to tend to that which He loves, His sheep.
We cannot climb up into heaven and hand him a drink of water or give him something, because he sits in glory at the right hand of the Father; but Jesus has said, in Mattew 25:40 “Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.”
So our attitude toward people must be to grant them the same kind of favour God has granted us because they are valuable to Him. So valuable that he poured out his precious blood for their salvation, as well as ours.
The only way we will treat people right is to place the same value on them as Jesus does; and when we see people through the eyes of Jesus, we will see them as his sheep without a shepherd, totally harassed by an enemy that they know nothing about.
Jesus never said it would be easy, but WE are aware off that enemy, and WE are aware of Gods love, so much so that we cannot but help, to look after his sheep. Ask yourself this, how many arguments and fall outs you have had with other people because they are not living up to your standards. Now ask yourself this, are these standards your standards, or are they standards you have learned from God.
You see, we have been closer to the Holy Spirit than we think. We have picked up his ways and the things he likes more than we realise; and by doing so we naturally feed his sheep without realising it; all in our different capacities. We may only see failure, but that is what the enemy wants us to see.
A genuine love for the Lord will extend itself to loving and serving people naturally; but there is a qualification to this, and the New Testament is clear, particularly in the book of Timothy that we will not reach everyone. I must read 2 Timothy 3 verses 1 to 4 to you to explain “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy; without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those who are good; traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but without the power thereof: and the warning, from such, turn away. In others words have nothing to do with them; do not putting up with their nonsense. Ministry is not about serving, but not all are his sheep; and we must discern the difference.
And that brings me on to my final point, and that is the focus of ministry, as an amazing thing that happened in our text. Peter is having a defining moment in his life with the risen Lord, and I am sure he is feeling the responsibility of his calling; but he then goes on to spoil it. As he is walking with Jesus, he notices John close in from behind, and Peter goes off on a tangent; Verse 21 “When Peter saw him, he asked, ‘Lord, what about him?’"
And that is when Jesus corrects Peter’s focus and says, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”
Everything was going so well, the resurrected Christ is right before him and what does Peter do? He turns his head from Jesus and looks back at John and says, “What about him”; implying that John is about to get a free ride.
It is so human to look about us and wondering why so and so has it so easy, when we work so hard and have so little to show for it; and it is made worse when the person across the road just seams to have everything, and does nothing.
It is very easy to fall into making comparisons, especially when somebody else seems to have it easier, rather than when somebody is having it worse. Jesus tells us that we are not called to compare; we are simply called to obey. I love the statement in Dawn Trader by C.S. Lewis, “Extraordinary things happen to extraordinary people”; and from that I can conclude we are all extraordinary people here today. If life is too easy, we aren’t living; although I wouldn’t mind a wee bit of easy living for a while.
Jesus is saying to Peter, “Mind your own business; I have the perfect ministry lined up, to suit both your talents, and my needs”.
The focus of ministry is as Jesus said to Peter, and he says that to us, “Follow me”. That means follow my example, follow my plan, follow my guidance and follow right behind me, all the way to heaven itself. The focus of all ministries must always be Jesus, and if we will follow him, we may FALL, but we will not fail.
Amen, Let us pray.
Father we thank you for Jesus, we thank you that he died on the cross instead of us; and we thank you that we belong to you, and that you want us, even when we fail.
We doubt you at times Father, but we thank you that you are continually watching over us, and protecting us, and preparing us for the future, what ever that maybe.
We are all different, we all have different gifts and skills; Father shows us these skills and qualities within us that you like, and help us to develop them, and guide us as we use them to promote your kingdom here of earth.
Father we ask that you show us the good we are doing, show us our achievements when we get it right, and Father, restore us gracefully when we do not. Don’t let the enemy keep us imprisoned in our failures.
Father show us how we have grow, how we are better than we were, and how we have changed. Help us to look to the future, knowing that we are doing your will.
Father let us serve you with confidence, with determination, and with love.
We ask in Jesus name, Amen.