As we enter a new year many of us have set new and fresh goals for ourselves. Maybe many of us look back on the past year and feel successful, while others of us didnt quite meet the goals we had expected. Heading into this New Year, I want to challenge you. What are the things that God has put into your heart? What is He asking, or directing you to do? Sometimes these spiritual goals seem to be some of the hardest to attain. We all want to change the world for God, but many times that task seems so big we dont even know where to start. We ask ourselves, How will big God use little me to change the world? Or, we can make excuses saying, I have no one to minister to or I dont have the resources needed for ministry. Many times we dont need anything. We just need to see the ministry and resources God has already placed before us.
At this point in Jesus ministry He has been investing in the disciples and training them. He is now sending them out to experience ministry on their own, without His instructing hand guiding their every move. He is urging them to make room for the supernatural gifts. He is telling them where not to go, Dont go to the Gentiles or to the Samaritans. He is also basically telling them to not take anything with them, that they must earn their keep by working. He instructs them to preach. Then, He tells them to not be discouraged by people who do not receive them, but to shake it off and to continue to minister without allowing insecurities, that come from rejection, to form their ministry capacities and abilities.
Where to go
Jesus tells them not to go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans. Then He tells them to go to the lost sheep of Israel. Basically, He instructs them to return to their people, the people and the culture that they had been raised in, and in many cases, maybe even the people they grew up with. This is quite a challenge. For many of us it seems to be easier to minister to people we dont know, rather than it is to the people we do know. Whether we have been a life-long Christian, or have been saved after experiencing life in the world, it can still be a frightening thing to step out and allow God to use you where you are.
Lets face it, many of us dont want to come off as being weird, so we worry about our pride of well-doing. We can get lost in the image of what people think of us, but this is where I believe the supernatural gifts are most important. Those who know us and are familiar with us are going to be skeptical, but when we begin to operate in the gifts, all the talk becomes real. If you reflect on the Bible, it was through signs and wonders that people were saved or gathered. In fact, if you look at any revival or spiritual awakening there was always some kind of previous supernatural working of the Holy Spirit.
What to bring
Jesus is very clear; He doesnt want them to take any provisions with them. He is basically saying, Take yourself and I will provide the rest. I particularly like when Jesus says, For the worker is worthy of his support. This is very interesting to me. For many of us we will never need to leave our workplace, neighborhood, or extended family. God has placed many of you right where you need to be. As a matter of fact, He has provided provision for you to conduct your ministry right where you are.
Who to minister to
Jesus gives us a perfect formula to find the people who will be champions for His cause. We just need to pray and wait to find them. In most cases, they will find you. I have found that I dont have to do anything spiritual. I just need to be the Spirit-filled man God has made me and it is almost like a magnetic attraction for those who He has already been preparing. However at other times, you may have a distinct direction from God. I know at times God has asked me to do some really unusual things.
Being led by the Spirit isnt always sanitary. We live in a world of messy people and if we think we are never going to get our hands dirty we are absolutely fooling ourselves. God is a God of redemption. He will leave no stone unturned to reach His children, so we can expect trials and tribulation. In John 16:33 Jesus says, These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.
This can be one of the biggest areas that cause us to not step out in ministry and Jesus addresses it directly. He warns us to not allow those, who dont receive what He has commissioned us to say, to dictate if we will continue to say it. God has given you and me something to say. Now, its up to us what we will do with it. Many times we leave it up to others because we are worried what they will think or say, and many times we dont even say it because we are worried others will disapprove.
Lets be honest, some of the things God requests from us can at times feel downright crazy. They can be a bit unusual and even put our lives in danger. At a minimum, you can sure count on them to make you uncomfortable. Lets look at the Bible and see some amazing things God has asked of people.
Moses: God used him to orchestrate the greatest escape of all time. With an army on his heals, he led 1.5-2 million people out of Egypt. He parted the Red Sea and followed God through the desert of Israel. This all started when God spoke to him through a burning bush (Ex 3-18).
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego: They refused to bow and worship a golden image. They knew the consequences. Thankfully, not a hair on their heads was singed in the fiery furnace (Da 3).
Daniel: He knew a decree had been signed by King Darius that prevented him from praying to God. He knew the consequences, but he chose to pray. He was thrown in the lions den and the lions mouths were shut (Da 6).
Mary: She was told she was to carry the Son of God in her womb, conceived by the Holy Spirit. She would be the only person in history to have a virgin birth (Lk 1).
Stephen: Facing an angry mob with stones in their hands, he gave them the truth anyway. Instead of wasting his last breath begging for his life, he prayed for their salvation (Ac 7).
Ananias and Saul/Paul: Saul was on the road to Damascus, when Jesus confronted him with a great light and asked him why he was persecuting Him, and then he was blinded. God came to Ananias in a vision, asking him to lay hands on Saul to heal his sight. Though Ananias knew the danger he was walking into, he obeyed. Saul, whos name was changed to Paul, went on to be one of the most zealous ministers of Christ, committed to bringing the Word of God to the Gentiles (Ac 9).
If these people had asked anyone if it was a good idea to do what they did, they would have never done it. Everyone knows that these things were way too big for them and down right stupid ideas in mans eyes, right?
Many times I allow my insecurities to dictate Gods ministry, and if the Church is to rise up we have to set aside insecurities and step out in faith. We have to be the people of God who are full of faith. You and I can be the people who God uses to change this world. Instead of us just reading these great stories of others who have done it. Lets set aside our cants, wonts and what ifs and allow the Lord to use us to write todays great stories of how He has reached His lost sheep through you and me, by following the Lords leadin in our workplaces, communities and families.
As we enter this New Year, lets not fool around with New Years resolutions. Lets rather focus on the ministry of Jesus Christ, just as the 12 disciples did. Lets go to our communities, work places and families, with the resources that God has given us; Lets preach the Gospel with our words, but even more so with our actions, in that we will be casting out unclean spirits, healing the sick and diseased. Let us not worry about what people will think or say. We serve the King of all kings and through Jesus we have been given authority. Lets make this a great year of service to Him.