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Drawing Near to God
In my short season as a pastor, the Lord has taught me three essential keys to being successful in ministry and all the Christian Life. The first key is having a close relationship with the Lord. Now that may seem patently obvious, but it’s a truth worth pondering and a goal worth seeking. Ministering to others in need can be mentally, emotionally, spiritually and even physically draining. “And Jesus said, ‘Somebody has touched me: for I perceive that power has gone out of me.’” (Luke 8:46)
For this reason, we need to learn how to find refreshment in the Lord. Jesus credited his success in ministry on earth with his deep and abiding relationship with the Father. (John 5:19) Jesus frequently got away from all others to get alone with God and find solace and rejuvenation. (Mark 6:46) If Jesus, the Son of God needed to draw close to the Father to find his strength and power, we need to do so all the more!
Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
The second key to finding success in ministry and the Christian life is to learn not to take yourself too seriously. When you flow in the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit, people can mistakenly idolize you instead of glorifying God. That’s what happened to Paul and Barnabas in Lystra after Paul commanded a lame man to walk. The people wanted to sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas claiming they were gods. Paul was wise enough to discourage such idolatry saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you.” (Acts 14:15)
While some people will attempt to idolize you, others will look to criticize you. Jesus was subjected to a lot of criticism, false accusations and persecutions. He even promised the same trio of tribulation to his followers. (John 15:20) Yet Jesus was not persuaded or moved by the opinion of man because he was secure in his position with God. He knew who he was and why he came to earth.
We need to learn to laugh at ourselves and not take every word people speak to heart. Otherwise, we will find ourselves gloating in pride when things go well or defeated and discouraged when people speak negatively about us. Neither extreme is healthy and needs to be balanced with a proper understanding of who we would be without God (condemned sinners) and who we are by his grace (his dearly beloved children).
Be Quick to Forgive Others
Lastly, in order to be successful in ministry and the Christian life, we need to learn how to quickly forgive others. Forgiveness is an obligation of every believer. As we have been forgiven by God, we are also to forgive others. (Ephesians 4:32) But more than an obligation, forgiveness is a means of spiritual survival! People say and do things that can be hurtful and even downright mean. If we are unwilling to forgive others quickly we will find ourselves becoming hardened, callous, sarcastic and cynical at heart.
I like to say, “It’s better to have slick skin than thick skin.” In other words, don’t make a case out of every misdeed or transgression. (Proverbs 19:11) Learn how to show mercy as God has shown you in Christ Jesus. Showing mercy and being forgiving does not mean we ignore the wrongs done against us. It simply means we keep short accounts with others and don’t go to bed with anger or bitterness in our hearts. (Ephesians 4:26-27) We need to speak out loud or in our hearts to God, “I forgive (name) for (whatever they did) just as you have forgiven me.”
These three keys will not only provide you with success in ministry and in the Christian life, they will keep you living in the joy of God and the precious fellowship of his Son Jesus.