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Success in ministry depends on whether the Lord is “working with us.” He works with us when we are cooperating with what He is doing.
So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen. (Mark 16:19,20)
The sower goes forth to sow. He is not responsible for the ground; he is only responsible for the word He spreads. Results are not the clear evidence of success. It is possible for our labor to produce no earthly fruit because of the condition of the heart.
For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain. (1Thessalonians 3:5)
I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain. (Galatians 4:11)
Success is steadfastness in saying and doing only what God would have us say or do.
Such labor is never in vain because it will receive the Lord’s reward in the day of judgment.
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:58)
It is a beautiful thing when both the speaker and the hearer are cooperating with God.
As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear. (Proverbs 25:12)
Despite the response he received, Paul was confident that he was working with the Lord.
We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. (2 Corinthians 6:1)
What we’re doing, independently of the leading of God, doesn’t profit anyone.
I will declare thy righteousness, and thy works; for they shall not profit thee. (Isaiah 57:12)
Thus saith the LORD, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the LORD thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go. (Isaiah 48:17)
We can lag behind God in the way we should go; or we can get ahead of Him. God wants to actively use us as His instruments; but when we’re not listening as we should, we interfere (i.e., “meddle”) with His affairs, and become useless to Him.
The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the streets.
As the door turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed.
The slothful hideth his hand in his bosom; it grieveth him to bring it again to his mouth.
The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.
He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears. (Proverbs 26:13-17)
We can be “sleeping” (i.e. inactive) when the Lord would move us to action.
But there are times of overactivity on our part, when God calls us to cease from our labor, and rest.
Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep. (Psalm 127:1,2)
Paul warned all who sought to “build” the Lord’s house to be careful that they were “laborers together with God.”
Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?
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.
Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.
According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. (1 Corinthians 3:5-10)
Carnal ministry operates out of man’s own mind and heart. It fails to see or hear what God wants communicated. It tells people what God doesn’t want them to hear. It sets people backward, not forward.
Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD.
They say still unto them that despise me, The LORD hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.
For who hath stood in the counsel of the LORD, and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard it? (Jeremiah 23:16-18)
Ministry that is profitable to people results from us standing in the counsel of God.
I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.
But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings. (Jeremiah 23:21,22)
A ministry that “polly-parrots” what others have taught them; or declares things in God’s name that He has not spoken; or places spiritual meaning on dreams that mean nothing, do not profit anyone.
Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?
Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that steal my words every one from his neighbour.
Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that use their tongues, and say, He saith.
Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD. (Jeremiah 23:29-32)
Only when we speak the words God gives us for others can our ministry profitable to them.
It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. (John 6:63)
Beyond being insufficient, ineffectual, and unprofitable, “ministry” that is “of ourselves” is deadly.
Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;
Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. (2 Corinthians 3:5,6)
Working together with God means cooperating with His Spirit, and not resorting to carnal weaponry to fight our battles.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)
When we lift ourselves up in our own spirit to do battle, our enemies are not scattered; we give them ammunition they didn’t have before. When we “sit down” in our spirit, and “let God arise,” we give Him the opportunity to work though our obedience.
Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him. (Psalm 68:1)
If God is going to arise we must get “out of His way.” We cannot be hasty in our spirit.
We must guard our heart with all diligence, and operate according to His wisdom and understanding.
He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly. (Proverbs 14:29)
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. (James 1:19,20)
Great victories can be won when our sole focus is on pleasing the Lord in all we do and say.
When a man’s ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him. (Proverbs 16:7)