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Intersection of Life and Faith

The Secret to a Life of Impact

  • 2006 29 May
The Secret to a Life of Impact
“How are you really doing in your ministry?” I asked.

This small gathering of ministry leaders had arrived at a certain level of transparency, so I was pretty sure I'd get some honest answers. After the initial responses about expanding congregations or audiences, new products being developed, and opportunities on the horizon, I pressed further. “No, I mean in your relationship with God, your sense of connectedness with Him. How's it going?”

Every eye seemed to stare at the floor until a couple of these leaders looked up and said, with sad expressions, “Not so well, I guess.”

It's surprising how often that scene is played out. One of the things I love about my job at Walk Thru the Bible is the number of relationships I'm able to build with key ministry leaders around the world - pastors, publishers, broadcasters, and many more. But whenever those relationships get deeply personal and honest, this trend seems to become evident. Ministry is hard, the needs are never-ending, and very few leaders are able to spend much time alone with God - much less enjoy the time they do spend with Him.

Nearly everyone who entered this field of service did so with a desire for God to use them in lasting and powerful ways. So what's missing? Why, in spite of our ever-improving technology and methodology, does this life of impact we hoped for seem to elude us so often?

The answer, I believe, is available to all of us. The secret to a life of lasting impact is the one thing we preach often and practice rarely, mainly because few of us think we have time for it. And if we miss it, we can end up being what I call a “successful failure” - someone who is doing great things in ministry (or so it appears), but who is still lacking what's most important.

Four Great Examples
Four great lives in the Bible illustrate the principle well. In fact, you could easily argue that these four people had more impact than all others - and that they had it because they knew this secret.

Consider Moses, for example. He had been called to great tasks and had seen God do powerful miracles. A whole nation depended on him, and at times he had people lined up for miles to see him. If ever a man bore the burdens of leadership, Moses did. Considering the weight of responsibility he carried, what would you expect Moses' prayers to be about?

A conversation in Exodus 33 tells us. “If You are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know You and continue to find favor with you,” Moses said to God (v. 13).

God then assured Moses that His presence would go with him.

Moses pressed in further: “Now show Me your glory” (v. 18). And God answered Moses' request.

Do you see what happened? Moses could have asked for a shorter time in the wilderness or an increase in power. But when he got face to face with God, he asked for the presence and the glory. His passion wasn't success, miracles, numbers or impressing people; it was to know God. Above all else, Moses wanted favor and intimacy with the One Who had called him.

David is another example. He was a highly successful warrior, a king who loved his people, and a popular worship leader and song-writer. Yet imagine him being interviewed on a talk show: “David, you've done great things, demonstrated great power, and defeated great enemies. You've risen to the top. The Scriptures even say you were a really good-looking man. You have it all going for you. What's your secret? What makes you tick?”

His answer? “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek Him in His temple” (Psalm 27:4).

Behind the mighty warrior, the songwriter, the king, this man who changed the world in his day; and before all the pressures of leadership and even in the midst of his greatest failure; this leader had a passion to meet with God and know His heart. Like a thirsty deer panting for the water in a brook, David's soul yearned for God Himself. That was his secret.

Then there's Paul, one of the greatest intellects of his time. Schooled by the rabbi Gamaliel, he was a scholar among scholars, and arguably the most influential man in the New Testament apart from Jesus. In spite of being flogged, shipwrecked, and imprisoned, he was mightily used by God. Most of us, if we could have a ministry with even one-thousandth the impact of Paul's, would be thrilled beyond belief.

What was the secret to Paul's success? Was it his education or his pedigree? His methodology? His status? Motives driven by guilt and shame, or an obsessive-compulsive personality? No, Paul uses a word much stronger than “garbage” to describe everything in his past, at least as it compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:7-11). That's what kept him pressing ahead toward the goal.

Before going on all those mission trips, before writing profound letters, before the all-important Jerusalem council meeting - even before getting out the whiteboard with Barnabas or Silas and planning his strategy for the next few years - Paul had a greater ambition. He wasn't simply after more converts and churches, wider distribution of his letters, and more opportunities to preach to larger audiences. Everything took a back seat to knowing Jesus.

Jesus, of course, is our greatest model. He came to earth and explained the Father, doing amazing miracles and preaching amazing messages. The very last night, at the end of His ministry - the highest-impact ministry ever - Jesus spent quite a bit of time praying. What did He say? “This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom You have sent” (John 17:3). He didn't focus on His disciples serving God better or accomplishing greater things. He asked that they would know Him.

As ministry leaders, we understand the theology; eternal life isn't just about getting to heaven. It's about a quality and abundance of life that comes in fellowship with God, moment by moment in the holy of holies. The problem for most of us is practical, not theological. The core issue is spending time with Him, and, beyond that, it's enjoying the time we spend with Him.

About the author: Chip Ingram is President of Walk Thru the Bible in Atlanta, GA, and Teaching Pastor of Living on the Edge, a national radio ministry. Walk Thru the Bible partners with the local church worldwide to teach God's Word in relevant ways for lasting life change. To fulfill this mission, Walk Thru the Bible creates and distributes high-quality, award-winning resources in a variety of formats, helping individuals “walk thru” the Bible with greater clarity and understanding. Walk Thru the Bible seminars are taught in over 45 languages by more than 50,000 men and women in over 90 countries; Living on the Edge radio ministry broadcasts on more than 800 radio outlets reaching nearly one million listeners a week; and more than 100 million devotionals have been packaged into daily magazines, books and other publications that reach over five million people each year. Walk Thru the Bible was founded in 1976 and is based in Atlanta, GA.