I believe than more than just encouragement to keep their head above water believers need solid, strong teaching to rise up and become everything God intended them to be. Today we will explore a basic principle of ministry. God does not give power for what he is not doing, but he always provides power for what he is doing. This is why the Old Testament prophets were called God’s ebed, ‘doers’ or servants.
Jesus, who was fully God and – as a man – had been anointed with the Spirit without measure, did not heal all who were sick in the nation! Instead, he healed all who were brought to him and also took God’s healing to specific individuals. But he often ignored crowds of sick people around the one he was healing. Clearly, Jesus did only what the Father was doing and stuck rigidly to the Spirit’s agenda.
Our ministry will be ineffective if we try to take the initiative or follow our own inclination. We must wait for the Holy Spirit and receive specific directions and revelation from him before we proceed in any form of active ministry in the Spirit. This is exactly what we see in the Old Testament prophets.
Knowing God’s will is one of the hardest parts of the Christian life. We long to obey God, but we do not always know what he wants us to do. Instead of waiting for direction, many believers often presume and do whatever seems to be best according to their own thinking or inclination at that moment.
John 10:16 & 27 are promises which Jesus has kept. By the Spirit, we do hear God’s voice. Sometimes, however, we are not sure whether it is his voice or our own thoughts. At other times, our minds are so full of clutter that we cannot hear his voice clearly. We know that he is speaking to us, but we cannot make out what he is saying.
We need to wait patiently on God – creating a place of peace in our lives, perhaps through meditating on his word – before we start listening for the Spirit’s direction.
We need to spend more time listening in prayer than we do. Too often, we spend time asking God to do things rather than asking him what he wants us to do – and listening for his reply.
We must recognise that God usually speaks to us, as to the prophets of old, through his Word – so we must spend time listening to God by reading the Scriptures. But we need to be continuously alert because God sometimes speaks his word to us through ordinary events. And we must watch out for any prophetic ‘burden’ of the Lord which develops in us and is God’s way of directing our attention to his concerns.
At a practical level, asking God specific questions is a good way of learning to identify God’s voice. We should not be frightened to ask him what we should do or say. But we must ‘test’ the thoughts which come into our mind.
The gift of ‘discerning of spirits’, referred to in 1 Corinthians 12:10, is given, in part, to help us determine God’s word. The Greek word diakrisis is often translated as ‘discerning’, but it literally means ‘separating’. The gift of diakrisis refers to the Spirit-given insight which enables us to ‘separate’ the divine from the demonic or the human.
When listening to God, we often ‘hear’ or ‘see’ a message or instruction which is a mixture of God’s divine direction and our human enthusiasm and cultural values. The gift of diakrisis, ‘discerning’ or ‘separating’, of spirits helps us to ‘sieve out’ the human elements and establish the core divine word from God. We examine this more fully in Listening to God.
Once we have identified God’s word we must act on what we have understood in our inner spirits. With time and a serious commitment to being a ‘learner’, we do begin to recognise the Spirit’s special way of speaking to us.
We should never stop spending time alone with the Spirit listening to him, but we will also increasingly recognise his way of interrupting our natural thoughts when he wants us to minister to someone.
We should remember that the prophets were inspired by the Spirit as well as by the Word, and this was instant inspiration for immediate action. Some of the most precious times of ministry occur when we trust these sudden thoughts.
When we are ministering to a person, we need to listen both to God and to the individual person we are helping.
Jesus did not only function supernaturally, he also worked at the natural level of observation and deduction. He asked normal and natural questions which helped in ministry. If he needed to ask questions like those in Mark 5:9; 8:23; 9:21; Luke 18:41 & John 5:6, so will we.
As well as asking the person questions, we should always ask God what else needs to be known. This means asking God to show us what is happening, what caused the problem, what he wants us to do, and so on. The Spirit may give us a picture or word to pass on, suggest a statement we should make, or put a question into our mind.
Once we have asked all the relevant questions and discerned the Spirit’s agenda, we turn to the Holy Spirit for ministry direction.