Loving Ministry More Than Life

Note: The following is article #23 in a series reflecting on chapters in John Piper’s book Future Grace. More information on the book from Amazon.com is available here. A list of all the articles in this series so far is available here

William CareyWilliam Carey: tried to convince people for years that people in India needed to hear the gospel, founded the first missionary organization, sailed to India himself with his family against British law in 1793, lost his five year old son, lost two wives (one to insanity), worked for years translating the Bible only to see all his work lost in a fire, stayed in India forty years without furlough.

Adoniram JudsonAdoniram Judson: went to Burma 1814, lost infant son, lost wife, spent over a year in a “death prison”, after seventeen years had only ten converts in a country where converting from Buddhism carried a legal death penalty, yet when he died from infection at age 61 there were 100 churches with 8000 believers.

Evelyn BrandEvelyn Brand: went to India age 34, lost husband, suffered from recurrent malaria, sickness, multiple fractures, at age 67 after a broken hip her son asked her to retire for her health’s sake.  She replied, “Why preserve this old body if it’s not going to be used where God needs me?”  When her missions agency retired her anyway, she refused to go home, moving up into the remote hill country loving and serving people until she died at age 95.

What did these three people have in common?  They loved ministry more than life. They were convinced that fulfilling their ministry was more important than anything else in the world, even staying alive.

Oh, we say, that’s all well and good if you’re off in a foreign country somewhere, but I’m not really in “ministry” like they were.

But what is “ministry” anyway? Dr. Piper defines ministry as “a lifestyle devoted to advancing other people’s faith and holiness.”  Guess what? That’s everyone’s lifestyle if they are a true follower of Jesus Christ.  Doesn’t matter where we live, how we earn a living, what people we have contact with, we can still have a lifestyle devoted to advancing other people’s faith and holiness. And not only can we have such a life, we are commanded to live such a life.

How can we live such a radical life? Only by relying on God.  In 2 Corinthians 9:8 Paul says,

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

Dr. Piper observes that this grace that “abounds” for “every good work” does not mean every possible thing that could be done, but that God will supply everything that we need for what God has individually appointed for us to do, day by day, moment by moment. 

Through faith we trust that God’s grace will be there when we need it, for what we need it. Dr. Piper cites Ephesians 4:29 (NASB), “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”  He notes that as we trust God and allow His grace to flow through us that we will be able to build each other up in grace.

He states in Chapter 22:

Before this day is done, there will be an occasion in your life which Paul calls “the need of the moment.” Someone will be positioned to benefit from your words. If you put your faith in future grace and serve in the strength that God supplies, you will become a channel of that grace. When it comes–to you and through you–the satisfaction is so deep, you will know why you were created and why you were called.

After I re-read that passage, I prayed for God to use me somehow, somewhere, to someone this very day as a channel of grace.  And he did, completely out of the blue, in a way I never imagined.  What if I prayed that prayer every day?  What if I humbly sought to be a channel of God’s grace, to structure my life so that my #1 priority was advancing others’ faith and holiness?  What would change in my life, and other lives? What would I have to look back on at the end of my life?  What is stopping me?


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