MINISTRY INVOLVES A WILLINGNESS TO SERVE WITHOUT ACCLAIM.
Most of these names mean nothing to us. Some aren’t even listed by name, but are lumped together with all of their kinsmen as a group (11:12-14). Zabdiel is named (11:14), although he means nothing to us, but 128 of his kinsmen go unnamed, except to say that they were valiant warriors. But 128 valiant warriors were no small part of a secure, safe city!
The church needs many people like that in order to function well. My life would fall apart in a week if I didn’t have many who labor faithfully behind the scenes to serve God and worship Jesus in loving me. You never see them up front, but they do what God has given them to do. They’re like your vital organs: you never see them, but when one of them shuts down, you’re in big trouble! Note two things about these people:
- Faithfulness, not fame, is the issue.
Motive is what matters. If we serve to try to gain esteem and recognition, we’re doing it for the wrong reason. We’ll get angry when others do not give us the strokes that we’re seeking. Chuck Swindoll writes, “If you desire fame and recognition, you will most likely fail as a leader and your efforts will go unrewarded for all eternity. That’s not a threat; it’s a promise” (Hand Me Another Brick [Thomas Nelson Publishers], p. 171). He goes on to cite Matthew 6:1, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.”
- God notices even if others do not.
God saw fit to record these names that mean absolutely nothing to us. But they meant something to God, and that’s what ultimately matters. If you’re getting upset because no one in the church notices all that you do, your focus is in the wrong place. Look to the Lord, whom you are serving. And remember Hebrews 6:10: “For God is not so unjust as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.”
4. MINISTRY INVOLVES PEOPLE FIRST AND PROGRAMS SECOND.
These long lists underscore the importance of people to God. Each one of these strange, hard-to-pronounce names represents a person whom God loved and knew. Jesus said that the good shepherd “calls his own sheep by name” and that his “sheep follow him because they know his voice” (John 10:3, 4). The Christian faith is all about personal relationships, first with God, and then with one another (the two great commandments, Matt. 22:37-40).
Programs should always be the vehicle through which we minister to people. If a program is not doing that, we need to axe the program and replace it with something that ministers God’s Word to people. Apart from programs, if you have the proper ministry mindset, you will seek to relate to people. On Sunday or Saturday mornings or whenever or however you worship, take the initiative to meet new people. Make them feel welcome amongst you. Introduce them to others. While we can’t get well acquainted with everyone, if it is a person to whom you can relate, set up a time to get together for coffee or have them over to dinner. Share your own testimony and ask them about how God has worked in their lives. Ministry takes place through relationships.
That threatens some people. It’s safer to work in a program, or to be involved in maintaining the building, where you can keep your distance from people. But God isn’t saving buildings or sanctifying programs. He is saving and sanctifying people, and He does that through His people reaching out in love to others.
Thus ministry involves a willingness to live where God wants you to live; to serve in the sphere where God wants you to serve; to serve without acclaim; and to put people ahead of programs.
What are some requirements for ministry?
Do you need seminary training? Do you need to know Hebrew, Greek, and theology? Those things may be helpful in some spheres of ministry. But they are not the main thing. The main requirement for being involved in ministry is that your heart is right before God. In the section describing the dedication of the wall (12:27-43) and the organization of temple support (12:44-47), there are four aspects of a heart that is right before God:
1. A SERVANT (= MINISTER) NEEDS A PURE HEART (12:30).
Before they dedicated the wall, the priests and Levites purified themselves, the people, the gates, and the wall. The Old Testament rituals for purification symbolize the fact that our hearts are sinful and God is absolutely holy. Those who serve Him must be cleansed from all known sin of thought, word, and deed.
A scandal hit the front page of our local paper and the evening news this week, in which a man who was formerly an elder here, who also was in full time ministry, was charged with 17 counts of molesting girls who were at sleepovers with his daughters. When that sort of hypocrisy is exposed, the world mocks the name of Christ.
All of us struggle against temptation. All of us are vulnerable to fall into sin. But if you are not guarding yourself from temptation and walking in consistent victory over sin, please do not make a claim of being a Christian. Don’t get involved in any sort of ministry. Rather, humble yourself before God, repent of all of your sins, and take measures to protect yourself from falling again. Purity on the heart level is an essential requirement for Christian service.
2. A SERVANT NEEDS A WORSHIPFUL HEART (12:27, 31-43).
The dedication of the wall was a time, not to praise Nehemiah, but to praise the Lord. Nehemiah organized two choirs to walk in opposite directions on top of the wall until they converged at the temple. They sang praises to the accompaniment of cymbals, harps, and lyres. The chapter refers six times to David, who is twice called “the man of God” (12:24, 36, 37 [twice], 45, & 46). David was a man after God’s heart because he was a worshiper of God. He had set up the whole system of worship that these people were seeking to follow (12:46).
God doesn’t want your work if He doesn’t have your worship. To worship God is to rejoice in and extol His great attributes and actions. It is to reverence God above all else. True worship is not just outward, but inward. It engages the mind, the heart, the will, and the emotions. Whether you’re setting up chairs or preaching a sermon, it ought to flow out of a heart of worship for God.
3. A SERVANT NEEDS A JOYFUL HEART (12:43).
As you read the account of this dedication service, you get the distinct impression that these people were enjoying themselves! Chuck Swindoll (p. 186) pictures it as a sort of Jewish Disneyland Parade! Note the emphasis on joy in 12:43: it is mentioned four times in that verse, and again in 12:44. It says, “the joy of Jerusalem was heard from afar.” It wasn’t their songthat was heard from afar, but their joy (Swindoll, p. 188). Outsiders heard their joy!
Have you ever been outside of a stadium when a ball game was going on inside, and suddenly the crowd roars? You know when that happens that something good happened inside! Probably someone for the home team just hit a homerun. In the same way, people should be able to walk by the church and think, “Something good is going on in there!” In fact, God has hit a grand-slam homerun for us through Jesus Christ. We need to so caught up with what God has done that His great joy radiates from this place!
A servant needs a pure heart, a worshipful heart, and a joyful heart. Finally,
4. A SERVANT NEEDS A GIVING HEART (12:44-47).
These people gave joyfully so that God’s work could go forward. They saw the importance of worship at the temple and they were willing to give the necessary offerings to support the many priests, Levites, gatekeepers, and singers who served there. The people did it because they “rejoiced over the priests and Levites who served” (12:44).
Have you ever been attracted to a stingy, tight-fisted person? No, we’re all attracted to warm, generous people who freely share what is theirs with others. As I mentioned last week, one of the most reliable gauges of your heart before God is your checkbook. If God is going to use you to minister to others, you need to have a generous heart. You will see the importance of supporting those who are called to serve God on the mission field. You will see the importance of supporting the local church. Just before Peter exhorts us to use our spiritual gifts in serving one another, he says, “Be hospitable to one another without complaint” (1 Pet. 4:9).
The pioneer missionary, William Carey, was a cobbler before he left for the mission field. He would keep a map of India before him in his shop, stopping every so often to study it. He longed to go there and preach the gospel.
He did a lot of preaching and teaching on the side, with the result that his trade dwindled. One day a friend admonished him for neglecting his business. “Neglecting my business?” Carey said. “My business is to extend the kingdom of God. I only cobble shoes to pay expenses.”
That should be the mindset of every Christian. If you know Christ as your Savior, you’re in the ministry now! But may I ask, Are you ministry-oriented? Is that your mindset? Are there people in your schedule on a regular basis? When you gather with God’s people, are you thinking about others and how you can show the love of Christ to them? If you’ve been reading this blog for more than three or four weeks and you’re thinking, “This is an unfriendly website,” you may be part of the problem! The solution is for you to reach out in friendliness to others. Rather than coming to get your needs met, come to meet the needs of others. You can do that by sharing this post, I have done some things ,..like move to a city I didn’t desire to live and study all day just to hone my gifts to perform ministry, please take your calling and purpose serious…
I heard about the son of a pastor who also decided to become a pastor. The dad told the son, “Keep close to God, keep close to men. And bring God and men together.” That’s ministry! God’s people should stay close to Him and close to people and bring the two together.
- To what extent (if any) do our desires enter into the question of where God wants us to live? How can we know His will in this decision?
- How can a Christian determine what His spiritual gifts are?
- To what extent does a naturally shy person need to overcome this trait in order to minister effectively to people?
- To what extent does a believer need to “have it all together” before he/she gets involved in ministry?
My Lord has the solution…Click to view