Chapter 1: the quest for fulfillment

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Reprogramming Our Minds

Unfortunately, intellectual assent is easier than feeling inwardly convinced.

One has simply to consider the plight of skinny girls who see themselves as fat to realize that a wrong mental image of ourselves can be so powerful as to resist all logic. Anorexia can so grip its victims as to defy what their eyes tell them, what the scales tell them, what other people tell them. Such a mindset can kill. Spiritually, the forces of deception arrayed against us are no less intense and the stakes can be eternal.

Throughout our lives we are subjected to the brain-washing of a godless world that values even its own not for who they are but for what they do. It is vital that we counter-attack, constantly expanding our minds with God’s estimation of our worth; persistently rejecting the human vantage point.a Diligent attention to reprogramming our minds will slowly loosen the strangle-grip of those deceptive feelings of worthlessness.b

We need more than this, however.

While some mental patients have delusions of grandeur, we suffer the opposite psychosis. Relative to who we are, God’s children – even those with dangerously inflated egos – have delusions of insignificance.

The instant we were born-again, our status and potential rocketed out of this world, leaving our self-image floundering somewhere between earth and reality. The gulf between who we really are and who we think we are is so serious and so beyond our normal comprehensionc that we literally need divine psychiatric help.d A major task of the Holy Spirit is to help us grasp the enormity of what has happened to us.e It is vital that we keep probing the Scripturesf and pleading for spiritual revelation. We are like paupers ecstatic because we think we have inherited $10,000, when we’ve actually received $1 billion. We live chronically impoverished lives and the less we know of our spiritual inheritance, the greater the tragedy.

So to mental discipline add the spiritual therapies of faith, prayer, study, revelation, and submission to the Holy Counselor. By drawing on these vast resources, banish every thought that having a ministry could boost your personal worth. Drown the doubts, insecurities and guilt feelings. Cling to the emphatic Word of God which affirms that God’s estimation of you is far too immense for human fame or shame to budge it.g Whether the high point of your Sundays is counting the souls you have won or counting the specks on the your pew, the King delights in you.

Destined for Ministry: A Scriptural Certainty

Nevertheless, as an eagle is made to soar, and a yacht to sail, you were made for ministry. As every father worthy of the name has a dream for his children, God has a dream for you. A powerful ministry has been God’s plan for youh since before the creation of the world.i And Christ came to release you into all you were born for. As surely as the Son of God died to give you eternal life, he died to give you a vital ministry.a It is as certain as your salvation that you will contribute to the glory of the majestic Lord of lords.b

We are often harassed by the fear that our lives will be unproductive. So let’s pamper ourselves, piling reason upon liberating reason why such fears are groundless.

Through Christ, God has gloriously equipped us to meet all his requirements, the greatest of which is that we love. Yet love is a useless frustration if we cannot express it by genuinely helping people.c So we can be sure that Christ, who wants us to love, will empower us to contribute significantly to the good of others and of God himself.

God has invested too highly in your ministry to let it fizzle. The invincible Lord has surrounded you with spiritual helps, not to mollycoddle, but to mold you into a key person in the advance of the Kingdom. God has given you a Bible, for instance, because he wants to train you for service.d And this is why he has appointed pastors, teachers, and the like. Your Father established these positions not to do all the ministry but to equip you for ministry.e If the church is an army, the clergy are, at most, tacticians and instructors. I don’t know of many successful armies in which the tacticians go to war, and everyone else stays in bed. Each individual in Christ’s army has a vital contribution in the intricately complex and glorious purposes of God.f

Paul expressed the heart of God in a divinely-inspired prayer that his readers be ‘fruitful in every good work.’g This is the will of God for you;h the passion of the One for whom nothing is too hard.

Though the Lord is utterly unselfish,i for a moment we’ll look past this irrefutable fact to glimpse another truth. Even if it were somehow possible for the Giver of every good gift to be selfish, he would still give you a fruitful ministry because it exalts him. ‘Herein is my Father glorified,’ said Jesus, ‘that you bear much fruit.’j

Every law of physics depends on the integrity of God. The fabric of the entire universe is held together by his word.k Nonetheless, you could distrust his intractable commitment to keeping his word and still have no excuse for doubting that he longs to make your life productive. Your fruitfulness glorifies God. If he did not employ you for his honor, he would be hurting himself.

Paint in your mind a single father who so loves his retarded child that he invests his life into that child, doing everything in his power to encourage, train and bring that child up perfectly. See people ridiculing the father for wasting his time on the child. See others criticizing his methods. The more that child succeeds, the more the father is vindicated and honored, right? And the more you succeed, the more the God who brought you into this world, nurtured and trained you, is honored.

If even a pip, buried in muck and forgotten, can produce a bountiful harvest, your life will definitely be fruitful. The Lord who ladens the vine with fruit that delights the eater, will ensure you bear fruit that refreshes the world.

It’s not my purpose to get into heavy Bible expositions. (Even in the last few paragraphs, the best parts are in the footnotes.) Just bear with me for a page while we get our facts straight. We can then stride forward in confidence.

We’ll start with the most complex.
‘Unto every one of us is given grace . . .’a This is the sort of verse you could walk past a thousand times and never find the hidden treasure. Secreted within that curious word ‘grace’ is something momentous.

Paul had used the term just moments earlier.b A retreat to these occurrences is most illuminating.

‘I was made a minister, according to the grace of God given to me by the effectual working of his power. To me ... is this grace given, that I should preach . . .’c

Can you see it? In this context, ‘grace’ is a calling and empowering for ministry.d

Adding our new understanding of ‘grace’ to our text unlocks what Paul was saying:5 every one of us is given a supernatural calling and empowering for ministry. Moreover, the verse continues, the equipping for ministry each believer receives is distributed, not according to our worthiness (thank God), or our abilities, but ‘according to the measure of the gift of Christ’.e

I think you’ll agree that there is nothing stingy about Christ! If for you he did not withhold even his last drop of blood, can there be anything he would keep from you?f Furthermore, his riches are inexhaustible.g What measure, then, do you think God used when he infused you with his power for ministry?

I dare conclude you must be extravagantly outfitted for exploits worthy of the Lord of hosts.h Your invisible union with the Godhead has opened a floodgate. To underestimate the consequences is an insult to the eternal Fountain of all love, power, wisdom, ability and splendor.

If Paul has scrambled your brain, try Peter for mind-blowing simplicity:

‘As every person has received a gift, minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.’i

Wow! That’s worth reading a second time.

To leave us in no doubt, a third epistle pounds the point, affirming that resident within each believer is a ministerial gift.j Moreover, it is not God’s intention that we fill our grave with this enormous potential still dormant. Romans, like 1 Peter, commands each of us to use our gift in ministry. That’s electrifying! We each have a gift, the source of which is the omnipotent Lord of glory, and he expects us to employ that holy gift in divinely significant service. Seeded within you is a divine endowment for ministry; a time-bomb set to shower everyone near you with the glory of God.

God’s opinion of our abilities far exceeds what most of us would dare imagine. Through you, the sovereign Lord wants to express his divinity, reveal his splendor and rescue a needy world – through your hands, your words, your personality. He longs to release you into all you were born for – Creator and creature working in union to accomplish the impossible. If within you there is any inadequacy, anything obstructing you from illustrious service, any genuine reason for feeling inferior, it was not put there by the Omnipotent One and he longs to brush it aside so that you can display his beauty. With your Lord insurmountable barriers dissolve into spider’s webs.

You may feel incapable of significantly contributing to the body of Christ; doomed to eke out a bleak existence on heaven’s unemployment line. But you now have sound scriptural authority for rejecting these notions as simply unpleasant, deceptive feelings.

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