The sin of idolatry is one of the most subtle of all sins. While many consider idolatry to be exclusive to the worship of graven images, it goes far beyond that. Most of us in the ministry know this. We know that smart phones, careers, and even personal relationships can become idolatry if they come between us and Christ. But how often is ministry considered a form of idolatry?
In I Corinthians 3 the Apostle Paul warns members of the church at Corinth that some would have their works burned at the Bema seat of Christ. These immature Christians were being carnal-minded in creating idols among themselves. One would elevate another for bringing someone to Christ. I’m sure the really dedicated ones were boasting about the fruit of their own efforts as well. Paul says in the epistle that there was “envying, and strife, and division” among them.
Is this carnal minded ministerial work only a danger of the spiritually immature though? Are we not guilty (from time to time at least) of trusting in our knowledge of the Scriptures rather than trusting in the God of the Scriptures? Are we not guilty of trusting in our experience rather than trusting in the God whom we serve? Are we not guilty of trusting in our marketing efforts rather than trusting in the Lord of the harvest? Are there not several other things in the ministry that come between us and Christ?
Sure, we were created to be responsible. We need to be in the Word of God on a daily basis in order to grow in knowledge. We need to get the word out about our local church through marketing when possible. We need to make wise, practical decisions and do what needs to be done. But ultimately humility, true piety, and trust are the ingredients to a successful ministry that God will use.
In the discourse between Paul and the church at Corinth, Paul goes on to give the inspired wisdom that it is God who gives the increase.
1 Corinthians 3:6-7, “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.”
1 Corinthians 3:9, “For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.”
It is by grace through faith that we are saved (Ephesians 2:8-9) and it is by grace through faith that we are used in His ministry. If we are not building our ministries on the foundation that is the Lord Jesus Christ, through sincere piety, humility and trust in Him, then we are sinning against Him and building with wood, hay, and stubble. But If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon [on Christ], he shall receive a reward.
As Christian leaders, we must constantly analyze our labors.
- Have our labors truly been coming from our hearts, for His Kingdom?
- Do we truly believe that He will honor humble, sincere service?
- Are we resting and trusting in Him for our own personal needs, as well as those in ministry?
If not it’s time to set our eyes back to Christ, who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us (Ephesians 3:20).
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