Summary: What criteria do you look for in order to discern whether a ministry is the real thing or a counterfeit? How do you know whether a ministry is trustworthy not?
Hallmarks of Godly Ministry
I have taken as my subject this morning from 1 Thessalonians 2—The Hallmarks of Godly Ministry. What criteria do you look for in order to discern whether a ministry is the real thing or a counterfeit? How do you know whether a ministry is trustworthy not?
As I think back over the last few decades I remember national scandals where sincere Christians got taken to the cleaners by unscrupulous leaders. In some cases it cost them their life savings. In extreme cases like Jim Jones and David Koresh it cost people their lives and the lives of their loved ones.
What kind of fruit should we be looking for? What evidence should we see that a person is really sent by God? Anyone can look back now and know that Jim Jones and David Koresh were not of God. But the difficulty is that the signs are far more subtle in the beginning than at the end. In the end, everybody knew those men were charlatans. But that was too late for a lot of people.
Those are radical examples. Usually the consequences are not quite that sensational. Usually it involves some kind of financial rip off. When Jeanie and I were newly weds we were approached by a middle-aged couple who were spiritual leaders at the church we attended. They had us over to their home and told us how God was leading them to mentor young couples with an evident call on their lives. They already had some couples in the group and invited us to join. I felt a subjective caution and told them we did not feel that God was leading us in that direction. Later the group of families all moved to California and had some very bad experiences. We don’t want to be critical, judgmental people but we do need to be discerning.
God has given us everything we need to protect us from deception. He has given us three major resources to guard us in these matters. He has sent the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth. He has given us the Body of Christ where wise accountability is a protection. And He has given us His word as a standard. I would suggest that He intends for us to use all three. If there is any one of those we don’t like or won’t submit to, we can find ourselves vulnerable even though we my claim the other two. My subject this morning does not directly deal with the subjective leading of the Holy Spirit. That is a whole sermon in itself. Neither will I have time to deal with submission, humility, and accountability within the Body of Christ. But our text today presents a powerful lesson on objective criteria for godly ministry. This comes about as Paul defends himself against false accusations that have been waged against him. In Chapter 2 of 1 Thessalonians we are given good insight on what characterizes godly ministry.
1st Notice that Paul is opposed by certain people vs 1-2. Of course, almost anybody that’s doing anything faces a certain amount of opposition. But if you think everyone was talking about how sweet and loving Pastor Paul was you probably don’t have a good handle on what was going on. Certainly there were those who would readily defend Paul and his team. But there were others who had all kinds of negative things to say about him. Jesus said, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, For so did their fathers to the false prophets.” I have found it absolutely impossible to be obedient to God and please everybody at the same time. If you say what God tells you to say, it will at times step on people’s toes. The response of some people is to humble themselves and get right with God. The response of others is to attack the messenger. What I have learned to do is ruthlessly scrutinize my own motives and work very hard at operating out of godly principles and seek as best I can the well-being of every person I relate to. Out of that mentality we take action. But that does not insure an absence of opposition.
In verse 2 of our text Paul talks about the fierce opposition he encountered at Philippi. You may recall from Acts 16 how he was beaten and thrown in prison. Praise God the jailer got saved. But the treatment was insulting and painful. It would have been very easy to quite the ministry at Philippi. It would have been easy to decide that it was not worth it and go do something else. But we see that Paul is the real thing by the way he responds to all that. What does he do according to 1 Thessalonians 2:2? He gets up and goes to Thessalonica and risks the same thing all over again. He was not opportunitist looking for easy ministry or easy money. He was steadfast in his commitment to fulfill his calling in spite of all the opposition.