This week, I will get the quality of my ministry in perspective.
Striving for excellence is laudable …but God already loves you totally.
Take two guys — one young and strong and fit, the other middle-aged and flabby and out of shape. Stand them both on the south rim of the Grand Canyon, and have them broadjump across to the north rim.
One may be able to jump 20 feet, and the other only 2 — but they’re both gonna go down, because the Canyon is 9 miles wide.
Now take two people in ministry — one brilliant, dedicated, successful … the other inexperienced, easily discouraged, struggling. Stand them both on the precipice of eternity, and have them fling themselves, with every possible effort, into heaven.
They both fall short — because God’s standard is absolute perfection.
My excellence in ministry — which is vitally important to the effectiveness of my witness to people, and which strongly influences my own sense of satisfaction in my life’s work — doesn’t adjust God’s verdict about me one bit. I’m still just as guilty … just as much a sinner … just as hopeless … just as doomed — except for what Jesus decided to do for me!
It’s tempting, in ministry, to translate our victories into a sense of entitlement. We may even acknowledge, with our words, that God helped us achieve our successes in ministry … but there’s a tendency to look at someone else, dealing with difficulties in ministry, and regard that person as somehow less of a man or woman of God.
Isaiah 64:6 puts us in our place. It says all of us are “unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”
Bill Hybels tells of a 5-year-old who wanted to go look at the hot cars at a local dealership. His loving father took him — and the boy found a hot-looking car that he wanted to bring home. “Dad, let’s buy it!” The father explained that the car cost a lot of money, and the little boy replied, “Dad, I’ve got two dimes and a nickel!”
That’s what our goodness is, as far as God is concerned: two dimes and a nickel. I can’t impress a holy God, no matter how hard I try; the standard is perfection, and we don’t measure up.
The excellence I insist on in my ministry — the high standard I set — is a wonderful thing. It honors God. It accomplishes the mission. It represents Christ well to the world. But it isn’t the source of my righteousness. Jesus had to do that for me. And he did it not because I was so good at ministry. He did it just because he loved me!
My Prayer for the Next Seven Days… Lord, help me not to place too much stock in my own quality of service. Keep me focused clearly on your excellence, not mine — and grateful for your love. And with that perspective well established in my heart, let me serve you well … for your glory, not mine. Amen.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-10 NIV)