Resting in Ministry
It is a great paradox that most of those who function as ministers today are by their very example demonstrating what the Father despises. Many of these ministers have a sincere desire to labor in service to Yahweh, yet they have failed to distinguish what type of service is pleasing to Him. By doing whatever seems good to them in ministering, they are actually practicing the principle of Satan which is to be governed and ruled by one’s own soul.
I feel quite safe in stating that the vast majority of men and women in positions of ministry in the body of Christ have not been placed there by God. They have arrived at their position through the work and will of man. The very process that many go through to become “qualified” for ministry is far removed from Yahweh’s methods. Going to Bible College and Seminary to have one’s head filled with the doctrines and methodologies of the church is far removed from the process God would take His true ministers through in order to prepare them for service. (I am not discounting that there are some true ministers that have gone this path, but their qualifications in the kingdom of God have little to do with the institutions of man.) The common methods today may give one the stamp of men’s approval, but they fail in gaining the stamp of God’s approval.
The process the Father would take men through to prepare them for ministry is seen everywhere throughout scripture. The Father prepares His chosen ones for service by bringing them to an end of personal ambition, and to a death to seeking anything for self. Only those who are truly emptied of ambition and self-seeking can be effective ministers in the kingdom of God.
The preparation the Father takes His servants through is most grueling. The Father’s school of service leads to self-abasement and humility. Quite often it will bring a man to a place where all have turned against him but God; where he is misjudged, evil spoken of, and where he has had his motives and judgment brought into question. This is a necessary part of the minister’s preparation for he must be a man who is dead to his own reputation; where he is quite content with insults, with personal weakness, with distresses, with persecutions and difficulties (II Corinthians 12:10).
Seminaries and Bible Colleges do not bring a minister to this place of readiness. Instead, the student is apt to feel quite welcomed, accepted, and proud that he has earned a degree from a reputable school, knowing that his diploma gains him entry into the good graces of many denominational churches and ministries. By completing a course of study and receiving a piece of paper duly signed by those overseeing such programs, the graduate is perceived as being ready for service as a minister.
Yahweh’s course of study is much different. Consider Joseph, the favorite son of Jacob. He was given dreams and visions while yet a young man that he would one day be in a position of ruling and reigning. It would have been nice if Jacob could simply have sent his son to school to receive whatever knowledge was necessary to fulfill his calling. This was not God’s way, however.
Joseph’s calling was great, and his preparation process was equally awesome. Joseph was to be given tremendous power and authority and the Father needed a man that would not misuse that which was entrusted to him. Yahweh needed a faithful servant that would accomplish all of His desire.
Joseph began his schooling right after having received the vision that revealed his future promotion. Joseph was sent by Jacob to check on his brothers and to bring back a report. Joseph had formerly done so, bringing back an evil report of the activity of his brothers. Joseph’s brothers despised him. They were indignant at the fact that he would be used to report on their activities and that their father favored Joseph more than them. Joseph received a bitter course in human envy, jealousy and hatred. Some of his brothers wanted to kill him, but instead they were talked into selling him into slavery to a foreign land and people.
Joseph cried out bitterly with many tears for his brothers not to abuse him, but they turned a deaf ear to his cries. His brothers then went and reported to their father that Joseph had been killed by wild beasts. In great despondence, Joseph was taken to Egypt and sold as a slave to an Egyptian official.
At this point, many would have been tempted to throw in the towel and to say, “God, if this is your training for future service, then I would prefer not to be a minister in your kingdom.” But Joseph was faithful. Even though he had been rejected by brothers and sent far away from the father he loved, he performed every service that was entrusted to him with the greatest of integrity.
Joseph’s faithfulness was soon noticed, and it was evident that everything entrusted to his hands prospered. His master took this young Hebrew slave and placed him in charge of his entire household. Everything in this man’s house was blessed through the faithful service of Joseph.
For a while it seemed that things were going well for Joseph. Although he still was enslaved and rejected by brothers and separated from his father, he was given some honor and he received the benefits befitting his position of service. But Joseph’s training was about to be turned up a notch in its intensity.
The wife of Potipher, Joseph’s master, was physically attracted to Joseph, for he was a handsome youth. She began to entice Joseph to have sexual relations with her. Joseph knew that to do so would be a violation of his master’s trust in him, as well as a sin against God. Joseph resisted her temptations day after day. One day this woman found herself alone in the house with Joseph and she pressed him mightily to lie with her. Joseph fled from her, leaving his garment in her hands, for she had grasped hold of his garment.
Potipher’s wife, angry at being rebuffed, called the other servants and reported that Joseph had tried to make sexual advances toward her and that he had left his outer garment with her when she cried out. Joseph was seized and falsely accused. What a grief for this young man who had been completely faithful in the discharge of his duties, even while enduring enslavement at the hands of his brothers. Joseph was placed in prison, but even in prison he was faithful.
Quite often in the training programs of man, a student ascends from one level to another and greater honor is accorded at each level. In God’s training program for Joseph he descended, first into slavery, and then into prison. In this position as an imprisoned slave Joseph had no rights and no honor. The temptation must have been great to cry out to God and to find fault with Him due to Joseph’s harsh circumstances. The days turned into months, and the months into years as Joseph saw no release from the prison in which he had been placed. In the Psalms we have this testimony of Joseph’s trial.
He sent a man before them — Joseph, sold as a slave. They bruised his feet with shackles, his soul was laid in irons, until the time His word was fulfilled, the word of Yahweh tested him.
Yes, Yahweh was testing Joseph. Like metal that is tried in a fire, Joseph was tried and purified and strengthened. Finally, when Yahweh saw that Joseph still remained faithful despite the most grievous of circumstances, when Yahweh was certain that Joseph had as his highest goal to be found faithful and obedient to God, then Yahweh was able to bring Joseph out of prison and place upon him great authority and power.
This is not an isolated example of Yahweh’s preparation process. David also went through a similar process. David was faithful in all circumstances, yet he met with the disapproval of his brothers, and the envy and hatred of a wicked king. For years David lived as an exile from his own country, and he even reported that his father and mother had turned against him (Psalms 27:10). David’s training process took him from a position of some honor, as he was a servant in Saul’s household, only for him to descend lower and lower until the day the Father determined that he should be made king.
Moses went through a similar path of humility on his way to being prepared for Yahweh’s purposes. Even Yahshua followed this same path. Like David and Joseph, Yahshua knew that He had a calling on His life from His childhood, as was demonstrated by the recorded events of His life when He was only twelve years of age.
And His parents used to go to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He became twelve, they went up there according to the custom of the Feast; and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Yahshua stayed behind in Jerusalem. And His parents were unaware of it, but supposed Him to be in the caravan, and went a day’s journey; and they began looking for Him among their relatives and acquaintances. And when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, looking for Him. And it came about that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them, and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers. And when they saw Him, they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, your father and I have been anxiously looking for you.” And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for me? Did you not know that I had to be in My father’s house?” And they did not understand the statement which He had made to them. And He went down with them, and came to Nazareth; and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart.
Yahshua knew that He had a calling on His life from the time of His youth. How anxious He must have been to accomplish all that the Father intended for Him. Yet an important thing is revealed in the phrase “and He continued in subjection to them.” Yahshua knew that He must wait until the fulness of time to begin His ministry. He had to first learn servanthood and humility. He had to await the moment when the Father determined that He should be revealed to the world as the Son of God.
Many ministers today fail in this point. It is difficult to wait upon the will of the Father, but if a man cannot wait for the chosen time the Father has established to enter into ministry, then how can he be expected to wait upon the Father’s provision and direction while fulfilling that ministry? If a man enters into ministry of his own initiative, he can expect to continue in the same way, being full of his own direction as he is led by his reason, impulses, and will.
Yahshua waited until He was thirty years old to begin His earthly ministry, and then His ministry lasted only three and a half years. David and Joseph also were thirty years old at the time of their receiving that which had been promised them. Moses was eighty years old when he was called of Yahweh to begin his ministry. Moses had attempted to fulfill his calling forty years earlier, but his premature attempt was a dismal failure.
We see that in all ministry men must be at rest. They must enter into the Sabbath of God where they have ceased from their own labors. It is no good trying to fulfill the ministry of the kingdom of God through human effort. It will simply lead to striving, and nothing built through such human effort will last. All our labors will be tried by fire and much of it will be burned up, as the scriptures proclaim.
I Corinthians 3:10-15
According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But let each man be careful how he builds upon it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Yahshua Messiah. Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but his soul shall be saved, yet so as through fire.
It is a difficult thing to bring a man to understand what is being spoken of here. Men want to believe that they are completely qualified for ministry. They look at one another and they say, “I am just as qualified as the next man to be used of God.” Much pride is revealed in such an attitude, however. Men often fail to look to God to see whom He has proclaimed as qualified to be a minister in the kingdom. Rather, they compare themselves among themselves and in doing so they act as those who are unwise (II Corinthians 10:12).
A minister must come to a place of rest before he is considered ready for advancement in the kingdom. A man that will not wait upon Yahweh, and a man that chafes at the long and grueling preparation process of a minister – at the abasement and humility that must become a part of his nature, will never come to a place of effectual service in the kingdom. The character of God’s workman must be free from ambition and self-initiative. God’s workman must understand his complete inability to bring forth anything of lasting value through his own effort. The successful servant of the Lord must live a life of total submission to the will of Yahweh.
The Father’s school of preparation exacts a toll upon all those who go that way. Joseph longed to be free of his imprisonment, and he begged Pharaoh’s cupbearer to remember him when he was restored to Pharaoh’s service (Genesis 40:14). The cupbearer promptly forgot Joseph, however, and Joseph remained three more years in prison while the word of Yahweh tested him. I believe that Joseph finally came to a place of rest before the Father called him out of prison.
David, too, felt overwhelmed at times by all of is trials. He cried out to Yahweh to answer him and deliver him lest he should be overwhelmed with sorrow and grief. The Psalms are full of David’s cries for relief from his perilous and woe-filled circumstances. In all of David’s trials he never resorted to fleshly means to deliver himself. When he could have easily killed the man that was making his life perilous and who stood in the way of his becoming king, David did not act in the flesh. He waited for God’s provision.
The minister must learn this lesson of waiting. The minister should do nothing to bring himself into the position he feels in his heart is his ultimate calling before Yahweh. He must wait for Yahweh to bring him forth in His own timing. It is Yahweh who exalts men such as Joseph, David, and Moses, and it is Yahweh who will raise up the men that He has called and qualified for positions of service today.
I Peter 5:6-7
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.
It is especially hard for those who are young to wait upon Yahweh. Many have failed to wait and they have embarked on some course of ministry that they were not yet ready for. Pride is often the product of failing to wait, and Paul communicated this truth to Timothy.
I Timothy 3:2-6
An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, uncontentious, free from the love of money… and not a new convert, lest he become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil.
Was not Satan’s condemnation that he attempted to ascend to a position that Yahweh had not determined for him? Such presumption can be born out of a heart that is zealous for God and a heart that desires greatly to be of some real service to Him. But true service has this as its guiding rule, “It is performing the will of the Father in heaven.” Nothing else qualifies as acceptable service.
Our service will only be acceptable when it is born out of waiting upon the Father to give us a command concerning what we are to do. Like a soldier under authority, we are to do that which our Head commands us to do. We are not to strike out on our own and do whatever our reason leads us to do lest we end up as those whom Yahshua warned his disciples about who will say to Him, “Lord, Lord, did we not do many things in Your name?” His answer is, “You did not perform the will of the Father. You are lawless ones who have become an authority unto yourselves.”
Can any minister operate from such a position of independence and be found pleasing to God? In the book of Acts we read that immediately after Saul (Paul) encountered Yahshua on the way to Damascus and was converted, he began to go out and preach the truth of Yahshua. He was not yet ready to enter into ministry, however. The Spirit led him to a time of preparation in Tarsus that lasted a number of years (Galatians 1:15-18).
Paul must have been exceedingly eager to embark on the ministry to which he was called. He must have yearned to build up that which he had formerly sought to destroy. Yet Paul had to wait until the Spirit signified that it was time for his ministry to begin. This was made known to the church in Antioch.
Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. And while they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus.
How critical are these words, “So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit…” All true ministry will bear this witness; it will begin at the Spirit’s initiative, it will be empowered by the Spirit, and it will be continually guided by the Spirit. If men are merely sent out by their own will, or at the hands of other men, they may make a lot of noise and they may even build impressive ministries and make a name for themselves, but when their work is tested it will be burned up. All that which is born of the flesh of man or the soul of man will not stand the test of fire.
Although Paul is a great example of a kingdom minister, Yahshua is even a greater example. As we saw, He submitted unto His parents and awaited the day when the Spirit would lead Him to begin His ministry. The Spirit initiated Yahshua’s ministry, and He will initiate the ministry of all who follow in Yahshua’s footsteps.
And after being baptized, Yahshua went up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” Then Yahshua was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness…
How many ministers today can attest to the fact that the Spirit initiated their ministry? How many can proclaim that the Spirit led them to where they were to be? People make many such claims today, but are they true? Has the minister gone through Yahweh’s school of preparation to prepare him to be a humble servant, or has he followed a course of man’s devising and choosing?
What is the fruit of the minister’s labor? Does the church exist to provide a platform for the minister to perform his calling, or does the minister live to wash the feet of the saints, to equip and release them to do the work for which they have been called? Has the minister’s position resulted in an attitude of pride, or does he walk in humility esteeming others more highly than himself?
It is difficult to walk the path that Joseph, David, Moses, Yahshua, Paul and others walked to be qualified for ministry. It is excruciating at times to wait upon the Spirit of God to declare, “Now is the time!” But if a minister is to lead others into the Sabbath rest of God, he must first enter in himself. This is an important matter, and many failing to grasp and adhere to the truths spoken of here are building that which will not stand the test of fire. It is my prayer that they will receive eye salve that their eyes might be opened and they can see the truth. The days are short and the Sabbath is upon us.
This is an excerpt from the book Sabbath.