I wake up on Wednesday morning, eat a couple waffles and a banana, take my vitamin, jam to worship music while I get ready, and then head off to work. I put the finishing touches on my sermon for youth group, and then head to lunch. After lunch a nervousness clutches my gut and squeezes tight. I rest in the afternoon and then head up to youth. At youth I watch as the students interact, eat, and play games. Then I walk up the stairs while looking and re-looking at the notes I’ve taken over a half a dozen hours of studying the passage. Then I preach. Then I go get Sonic and go home to read.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
There are times as a minister where it feels like something is missing. I put in work and effort and try to be engaging, all to go home and do it again the next week.
As we’ve been studying 1-2 Thessalonians together as a youth group, certain verses jump out at me as I read it in different settings. Yesterday I was reading it and 1 Thessalonians 1:5 jumped off the screen (I prefer an actual paper Bible but the app can be useful occasionally).
because our gospel came to you not only in words, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. – 1 Thessalonians 1:5
Nestled in Paul’s chapter of thankfulness for the faith of the Thessalonian believers is this statement about how the gospel came to the people of Thessalonica. It came to them from Paul and his missionary team not only in mere words, but also with power from the Holy Spirit that lead to conviction.
Meditating on this verse (saying it over and over, thinking about the words and phrases) caused me to realize that there is definitely oftentimes a lack of power and conviction from my sharing the gospel, and maybe that has to do with me sometimes trying to preach and work under my own strength.
Regardless of what your profession or vocation is, we are all in ministry. We are all called to minister like Jesus to our neighbors, co-workers, friends, and family. So I think this verse has implications for all of us. When we do ministry in our specific contexts, we should be reliant upon the Spirit’s power.
Thinking about this made me go searching through old journals to find a quote from last February. Last February I was able to attend a NAMB Conference in Los Angeles, California. A pastor by the name of Vance Pittman was talking about this very thing. He said a couple things from the stage that have come to mind time and again.
More can happen in five minutes of God’s manifest presence than in fifty years of human effort.
What happened at my church on Sunday that can only be explained by God showing up?
Man, these are good. These are powerful quotes that prompt a whole lot of thought in me. I’m reminded that truly God can do so much in an instant. More than I could do in decades of ministry. That first quote brings to mind a passage out of Acts that was my absolute favorite during one semester at OBU.
The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made my man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. – Acts 17:24-25
There are few passages in Scripture that draw out awe and amazement in me like this one. In just two verses of one of Paul’s sermons we see just how mighty God is.
- made this world and everything we see
- is the Lord of heaven
- is the Lord of earth
- does not live in temples made by man
- is not dependent upon the works of men
- needs nothing
- gives all mankind life
- gives all mankind breath
- gives all mankind everything
Boom. That’s powerful stuff. This verse should take down any thoughts about God needing us to move, God needing us to spread the gospel. He graciously chooses to use us, but He does not need us.
As far as the second quote, this is definitely convicting. I rarely show up to church expecting big things from the Lord. Now, I am a consistent advocate of the Lord moving in the ordinary, via our spiritual disciplines. That being said, we serve a God that is capable of more than we could ask or imagine. There’s something to be said for expecting Him to do just that.
For instance, I pray for revival in our country regularly. I want to see God do something in my generation that cannot be explained by human logic or human strength. I want Him to draw an entire generation to Himself.
Now back to the monotony.
Work for the Lord in ministry (again, whatever your vocation might be, you’re to share the gospel), be faithful in the times where it feels like drudgery. But don’t try and move without the Spirit of God. Paul spoke the gospel to the people of Thessalonica, but he didn’t ignite revival. The Spirit of God brought power which led to conviction in the hearts of men.
If I’m not praying for God to move, then it will be a waste of my time. No one will come to know the Lord through our words alone. We need God moving. We need the Spirit of God to empower our words, leading to full conviction in the hearts of men and women.
What if we as a church began praying like this. What if we realized that God doesn’t need us, but graciously used us. What if we prayed that God would move through our words. Without Him, the gospel will not expand in our midst.
In His Name,