by Dr. Victor L. Torres Jr
“And a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Eccl 4:12)
A study of the inter-relationship between the Word of God, the Leading of the Holy Spirit and Faith.
“Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise” (Heb 10:35,36).
Leaders have a great responsibility – they must effectively lead those whom they have been given the responsibility to lead. In a very true sense, the destinies of those they are leading are in the hands of those leaders. Therefore the leader’s responsibility should never be taken lightly.
As ministry leaders, we have a responsibility to those we lead. But we have an even greater responsibility to the One who has called us into the ministry. The One who has called us is God!
Think of your responsibility in this way. The Body of believers is often referred to as the “Bride of Christ.” You and I, as pastors and leaders, are given the stewardship or responsibility to care for the “Bride of Christ.” How great a responsibility we have! Jesus will one day return for His Bride, the Church; our hope is that in that day He will say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
How, then, shall we mature to become effective leaders to whom such a great trust is given? To be effective requires that we become confident in three areas, and in this order:
- We must first have confidence in our relationship with God.
- Then we must have confidence in our calling.
- Finally we must have confidence in our ministry.
It must also be understood that each one of these areas is spiritual in nature. We are clothed in a shell of flesh and blood; yet we must learn how to see, hear and understand the spiritual realm in which God lives. For God is Spirit, and it is from His Spirit that enabling power flows.
HE WHO CALLS US IS FAITHFUL
There is a major difference between a spiritual leader, such as a pastor, and other types of leaders who are in business, education or politics. The difference is the calling. The pastor’s calling is not of man, nor of personal ambition – it is of God. The ministry is not a profession or a job, but a calling.
But how can we best define a “calling”? The calling is an invitation from God to an individual to co-labor with Him in the fulfillment of His purpose and plan.
Along with this call comes an enablement or equipping for the task. God never fails to equip those He calls. Paul the apostle tells us, “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry” (1Tim 1:12).
The call from God is not based on our talents, abilities or gifts. It is based on a potential that God sees in us called faithfulness. The particular faithfulness described here is not to a denomination, an organization, or individual. It is faithfulness to God and His call upon your life. We can be faithful, because God is always faithful to us: “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it” (1Thess 5:24).
OUR SOURCE OF CONFIDENCE
Confidence is the key to effective ministry. Confidence comes from an understanding of one important thing: the heart of our heavenly Father. Knowing what is in the heart of the Father toward us is what gives our life meaning and purpose.
God’s purpose for you, once you understand it, may surprise you; but knowing His purpose is the only way to walk in true confidence:
- in your relationship with Jesus,
- in your calling, and
- in your life and ministry.
PURPOSE AND PROCESS
Knowing the heart of the Father requires that we understand, from the Scriptures:
- The purpose of the Father: that which prompts Him to action (His motivation).
- The process of the Father: how He performs that action (His outworking).
So there is both a purpose and a process. The purpose has to do with the motivation for action; the process has to do with how that motivation is fulfilled.
As Christian leaders, we often confuse purpose and process. We try to do instead of first learning how to simply be. The Bible teaches that we are not just servants – we are first sons (Rom 8:14-17) who are then called to serve!
Our purpose is not to be doing a lot of things for God; just doing things has to do with process, as we shall see. Our purpose is to first walk in relationship with our Father (through Jesus Christ, with the help of the Holy Spirit) as His sons and daughters. “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ…” (Rom 8:16,17).
A simple question may help put things in perspective. When you lie down to sleep at night and talk to God, which of the following two statements is typically the one that you would make? Is it:
- Father, I pray that I was pleasing to You today; OR
- Father, I pray that You are pleased with what I did for You today.
If you would more likely make statement one, then you probably understand that you are first a son. If you would make statement two, you probably see yourself more as a servant or hireling. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Rom 8:14).
Even in a natural sense, we love our children because they are our children – not because of what they can do for us. Certainly there is a proper place for work, effort and accomplishment by our children. But those things do not change the value of our children to us.
In the same way, you will never have confidence in your relationship with God or in the ministry to which He has called you until you know the truth of God’s purpose for you: God’s purpose is that you walk with Him as a son! Sonship is not earned. Sonship is given freely from God through the acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (Gal 3:26).
PURPOSE: CONFIDENCE IN OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
It is clear, from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation, that the Father’s motivation throughout human history has been to: redeem (“take back ownership of”); restore (“bring back to original condition”); and reconcile (“restore relationship”) mankind to Himself.
Sin (“rebellion against God”) separated us from God our Father. However, sin did not separate us from the unconditional and unchanging love of the Father. God’s love set in motion a divine plan of redemption that finds its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
In one of the most-quoted scriptures of the Bible, we hear the words of Jesus, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16,17).
In Jesus Christ we find the motivation of God the Father – His love. We also find the process or outworking of that love – His grace. The motivation of God is love, and the process of that love in action is God’s grace, shown to us in Ephesians 2:8,9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” The Father so loved mankind that He gave His Son as a gift (grace) and anyone who would receive and believe in His Son would have eternal life.
Now that fact settles our eternal destiny; but what about our earthly destiny? How are we to live out our lives here on earth?
OUR EARTHLY PURPOSE
From the very beginning, we were created to worship God and have fellowship with Him (Gen 3:9,10; Ps 149:4; John 4:23; Rom 12:1). So, in addition to our sonship through Christ, another primary purpose for mankind is worshipping God.
Worship is not only music and singing unto God. More importantly, worship is a lifestyle of commitment to the purposes of God. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service [or worship]” (Rom 12:1, emphasis added). Normally something that is sacrificed is dead; but we are called to be living sacrifices. A living sacrifice is one whose self-will has been laid down – willingly replaced by the desire to do the will of God! Our life lived in sacrifice to God’s purposes is an act of worship to Him.
Not only are we called to live a life of worship unto the Lord; we are called to fellowship with Him. How amazing that is! Fellowship means that we walk in a close relationship with our Lord, in regular two-way communication with Him. The key to any successful relationship is not just communication, but meaningful two-way communication.
THE PURPOSE IS SPIRITUAL
The heart of the Father toward us is clearly demonstrated through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As Jesus reflected the glory of the Father, we as ministers of the Gospel are called to do the same. Our motivation for ministry must be the same as Jesus’ was. His love was born out of a love for the Father and those whom the Father loves.
We are to be like Jesus in both character and motivation. This is an important point. It is not enough to walk in the character of Christ, as important as character is. We must also be motivated, from our hearts, by love.
The love of Christ in our hearts is not a mental or intellectual pursuit; rather, it comes as a result of a transformation of our human, sin-filled nature. We love Jesus and those He loves, because He first loved us.
The change that takes place in us is spiritual in nature. We are not talking about just a changed mind (repentance) or learning new ideas. When we are born again, our very nature is changed. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2Cor 5:17; see also 2 Corinthians 3:18; Colossians 3:10). This change is a spiritual transformation. It begins at the moment of believing in Jesus Christ for salvation and continues on into eternity.
Many pastors and leaders are so driven by process (doing the work of ministry) that they forget their primary purpose and abandon their spiritual roots. As a result, they begin to lean more and more on their own understanding and strength. They begin to read books and listen to teaching tapes in order to imitate the success of others in the ministry. The goal of the minister gradually changes into one of personal “success”, rather than to serve Christ and follow His plan for them.
A pastor may begin to imitate methods to try and gain success, instead of walking with the Lord and getting fresh revelation from Him. “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” (Gal 3:3). The Galatian church had fallen into the same trap as so many others: trying to fulfill a spiritual calling by relying on human plans and effort.
PROCESS: CONFIDENCE IN OUR CALLING
When we accept and embrace our highest purpose – to worship God and walk with Him as sons – we can then more effectively fulfill our assignment or calling from God.
As we look at the men and women of the Bible, we discover that whenever a person came into the presence of God, it was for their assignment to be revealed, repeated or reinforced – not the purpose. The purpose for which they were created is already clear: that is to be a son who worships and fellowships with the Father daily. The process (or the assignment) is what we are called specifically to do as sons of the Father.
To fulfill our assignment is to be obedient to what God the Father has called us to do. This we should do without complaining, resisting or desiring to do something else. We are to take our will and willingly submit it to God, allowing our will to be conformed to His will. It is to be as if His heartbeat is beating within our heart. “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil 2:13).
GOD ALONE CALLS
We can begin to have confidence in our calling only when we are sure that it is God who called us. Ordination does not produce confidence, because ordination does not produce the calling. Bible School does not produce confidence, because Bible School does not produce the calling. Your mentor does not produce confidence, because your mentor does not produce the calling. Only One can produce the confidence you need, and that is God – because only God calls one into the ministry. When you know (have confidence) that you are called, then you can truly and confidently know that God will equip you, by His Holy Spirit, for that which He has called you to do.
THE PROCESS IS SPIRITUAL
When we embrace:
- the purpose of God, that we are to be His sons (confidence in our relationship); and
- the call of God in our lives (confidence in the call)
…THEN we will have a growing confidence in the ministry!
We must never lose sight of the fact that this life is a spiritual journey. As New Testament believers, we are spiritual beings. It may help to understand this concept about life: We are not human beings who are having a temporary spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings who are having a temporary human experience!
We are spirit, soul and body… but spirit first. We are not spirit only under certain circumstances or during certain times. We are called to “walk by the Spirit” at all times (Rom 8:1,5,6; Gal 5:16). That means we wake up “in the Spirit”, we eat “in the Spirit”, we work “in the Spirit”, we minister “in the Spirit”, we are husbands “in the Spirit”, and we are fathers “in the Spirit”. We are spiritual not only when we pray or read the Bible or preach. As believers we are always spiritual (1Cor 10:31; Col 3:17)! Therefore, let us walk in the Spirit as spiritual men and women, confident because of our solid foundation in God through Christ.