One of the marks of a Christian is the desire to help others. Because Christ has changed the believer's heart, given him a new nature, and resides in him by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, that believer longs to see Christ and His character put on display through himself, craves to see hurting people helped, and yearns to see broken people transformed into worshippers of God. The Christian's supreme need is to see Christ glorified. Yet, many Christians find it difficult to minister to others for a variety of reasons. For those individuals, it may be that they need only to avail themselves of a few, simple biblical principles that would put them in a position to effectively minister to others.
First, the Christian's ability to help others will grow in direct proportion to her willingness to examine her own heart before God. Christians are admonished to engage in self-examination on a regular basis. This endeavor is beneficial for many reasons, yet three will suffice here.
The first benefit is the constant discovery and confession of sin, leading to an assurance of salvation, which enables the Christian to minister with confidence. Paul exhorted, "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you; unless indeed you are disqualified (2 Cor. 13:5)?"
The second benefit is the constant mortification of pride, spurring us toward perseverance in the faith, which enables the believer to offer Christ with a humble spirit. Again, Paul affirmed, "But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified (1 Cor. 9:27)."
The third benefit is the constant preparation of the heart, leading to love for and humility before others, which enables us to see clearly how to proceed with ministry. The Lord Jesus Himself said, "First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye (Matt. 7:5)." Self-examination is prerequisite to ministry to others.
Second, the Christian's ability to help others will be fostered as he constantly applies the word to his own heart. We must deal with our hearts if we are to deal with our sin, our lifestyle, or anything else for that matter. The Scriptures are clear: "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks (Lk. 6:45)."
James exhorted quite plainly: "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves (Jas. 1:22)." If we fail to apply the word to our hearts and live accordingly, we deceive ourselves into thinking we are something we are not.
And remember, it is the word of God energized by the Spirit of God that brings about the change in our hearts we so desperately and continually need. Paul wrote the Thessalonian believers concerning the effectual power of the word of God. "For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe (1 Thess. 2:13)." The Christian must have the effectual working of the word in his heart if he is to minister to others.
Third, if a Christian wants to position herself to minister to others, she must establish a biblical pattern of life. Paul exhorted, "As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ (Col. 2:6-8)."
Note that our lives are to be rooted and built up in Christ. No substitute will do. If our roots are deep we will stand firm in the day of trouble. If they are not, we will fall. We sink our roots deep as we drink of Christ on a daily basis. We worship Him in spirit and with passion as our hearts and minds are gripped with truth. That comes by constant bible intake. As those roots sink deeper, we are built up. The superstructure of our lives is stronger and taller for Christ. We become mighty in the word, in the faith, and then in good works.
Our eyes must constantly be on Christ through faith. We are told in Hebrews to "[look] unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb. 12:2)." When temptation comes our way, we must look at the joy set before us: Christ Himself. We must believe that our joy in obedience will be greater than the pleasure of sin. We fight with faith in Christ: the joy set before us. Christ endured the cross in this way. As we fight with faith, the joy will come.
We are to look to Christ for strength and help in time of need. We are not to be carried away with worldliness or worldly philosophy. Rather, we are to look to Christ. As we look to Him, we are enabled and motivated to put off sin and put on righteousness as a lifestyle through the renewing of the mind (Col. 3:1-14).
Fourth, the Christian who wants to be in a position to minister must prepare himself to help others. Not only does this dynamic involve judging oneself and removing sinful activities from one's own life as noted above, but it also involves study and training. Paul admonished Timothy: "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15)." There is the diligent study required for effective ministry.
But, where is the disciplined training? According to Paul, we are to exercise ourselves unto godliness (1 Tim. 4:7). The word exercise is the word from which we get our English word gymnasium. The picture is that of the Greek athlete working in the gym with all of his might in preparation for the games. We are to work with discipline on our Christian walk. That is not to say that we work for our salvation or sanctification. On the contrary, both are by the grace of God working in us. It is God who works in us both to will and to do His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13). But, because God works in us, we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). As we work on our lives, we will then be prepared to help others.
Fifth, the Christian's ability to help others will follow a commitment to engage in the ministry of restoration. How many Christians are trapped in sin and in need of restoration? Paul exhorted, "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted (Gal. 6:1)." The concept of restoration here has to do with making something useful again. The word restore was used of fishermen mending their nets. It was used in connection with setting a broken bone. As the nets were mended or the bone was set and healed, they and it were made useful again. Many Christians are either in sin, on the sidelines, or both. The Christian minister will seek to make their brothers and sisters useful again in a spiritual sense. Compassion will lead them to see their brothers and sisters in need rather than cause them to look upon them with contempt because of their sin. Those who have fallen down need help getting up. That's where committed Christians come to the rescue in love.
If you will constantly examine yourself before the Lord, apply the word to your heart, establish a biblical pattern of life, prepare yourself for ministry, and commit to restore others to usefulness in the kingdom, then you will be in a position to minister to others. As you pray and seek the glory of God in and through your life, God will open doors of opportunity you never thought possible. That reality does not mean that ministry will always be easy. Paul affirmed, "For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries (1 Cor. 16:9)." He had an open and effectual door. But, he had opposition. You may experience such as well. But, you now have opportunities to minister and you can trust Christ as you give yourself to others. Perhaps those opportunities were there all along. The difference lies in the fact that you are now spiritually equipped and ready to help others in their time of need for the sake of Christ and their joy in Him.
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About Paul Dean
Dr. Paul Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. He serves as a Regional Mentor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors, speaks at several conferences throughout the year, and provides training for ministers and churches on a regular basis. Paul resides in the Upstate of South Carolina with his wife and three children.
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