“And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord Working With Them confirming the Word through the various signs.” – Mark 16:20
Last week the verse above jumped out to me, for some reason I had never noticed it before. Perhaps because often when reading this passage our focus is on the preceding Great Commission and Jesus’ ascension back into heaven. But in this stage and season of ministry God used these words to bring encouragement in my heart and Spirit. It is the way the Great Commission is carried out. HE is working WITH us, it is in His strength, His Spirit and in His power that we continue on. It is not in our own programs, reasoning, ideas, or plans. Knowing that He is with us assures us of victory, reminds us of His provision, and reminds us we are not alone on this journey. A few weeks ago, the family I was closest to on my team suddenly left the field. They will be missed and their absence is felt, but Jesus is the co-worker who never leaves. I needed to hear these Words—Jesus is working with me.
I listened to a message this week describing legalism in ministry (not so much on earning righteousness in our own efforts) but rather, as trying to accomplish the Work of the Spirit apart from the empowerment and strength of the Spirit. It is ministering and working as if it all depends on me. He said we can treat the Holy Spirit as a waiter at a restaurant, calling for him when something is needed. Then when we get what was asked for, sending him away placing our own plans, agendas, and reasoning back in the driver’s seat.
“Can you now finish in the flesh what I have begun in the Spirit?” (Gal 3:3)
No, that’s foolishness and it’s impossible to truly do kingdom work apart from the Spirit. But it is so easy to rely on ourselves, our efforts, and our plans. And, when we experience setbacks in those plans, personnel, and methods it is easy to become discouraged.
But that’s because (and especially in rural poverty-loaded Africa) it’s very easy to lose focus on sharing Jesus as the answer pointing people to Him, and rather to begin focusing on humanitarian efforts like feeding the hungry around us, seeing changes and improvement in medical care and treatment, or seeing a program reach its desired “measurable goals.” However, can the work of the Kingdom really be measured? We can try our best—but it seems that if we have positive “measurable progress” it tends to puff up our flesh, and if we have no “measurable progress” we can be discouraged when we shouldn’t be.
Someone recently pointed out that no modern church planter or missionary would ever want to write home about or even claim as their ministry the Corinthian Church. (Not I!) And yet, Paul loved these people, claimed them as His children in the faith, and continued to work in their midst lovingly pleading, teaching, encouraging, and entreating them.
Jesus points my heart back to Him. Be faithful, know that you are not alone, He is at work. I needed to again repent of my self-reliance and understanding. I needed to realize that no method or process can guarantee kingdom success—in fact these things can at times greatly inhibit kingdom thinking and ministry. Jesus doesn’t work in human ways and methods, He works in ways above our understanding, above our efforts and capabilities, and He can do more than we can ask or think. “When we all get to heaven—What a Day of rejoicing that will be!”
Speaking of rejoicing—Matt Redman’s new twist on that old song has been on repeat for me often this last while. It’s the “soundtrack” I used for this little highlight video of the library and Bible Club program I put together. Knowing the stories of some of the children behind the photos and thinking about being in heaven with them one day brings joy to my heart—I hope it encourages you too! Kids like the one who nobody in his family wanted, he's always the guilty member if there is a fist fight among our boys... and yet God is drawing His heart to Jesus.
I am rejoicing in His work as we seek to be faithful. This term we have over 420 children enrolled in our Bible club program in Bundibugyo District! As we work with broken kids who are enduring great suffering and brokenness all around them, I am thankful for the glimmer of light they are seeing in Jesus and His Word. Pray that He would continue to draw them to himself and that we would be faithful to love and share Jesus with them.
Thank you for your continued love, support, encouragement and prayer!