Today’s lesson covers Chapter 1: vv2-11. And the topic of how to get behind the mask we all wear and, through authenticity, drive the message of Jesus deep into the hearts of others.
Some people have amazing effect on the lives of others. They bring change to anyone who is around them for very long. Today’s lesson is about where they get the power to change the lives of others.
If we are going to give ourselves to the ministry then we need this power, right?
Paul was determined to see lives transformed. He wanted what happened to him on the Damascus road to happen to them too. He wanted them freed from their demons, their superstitions, their selfish preoccupations. He knew that it could only happen if they met Jesus for themselves and he was confident that he had been given power as God’s agent to help make this meeting happen. He had the power of influence over the lives of other people.
Where does this powerful influence come from? Many have a model of ministry like a pastor I met once. He told me that on his counseling desk he had printed a pad of prescription paper like doctors use. When people shared their problems he listened, then he prescribed certain scriptures to read, certain declarations to say. There’s a reason that the pharmaceutical industry has always dressed pharmacists in white coats. It is to assure us that they are not sick. They are above sickness. They have the magic cure for sickness behind the counter.
Its so important to get your model of ministry right. In the ancient world, the church aligned itself with government and saw itself as God’s government on earth. During my ministry I have watched the church attracted to three or four models of Ministry. The first one was in the 80s when pastors began to identify themselves as counselors and churches set up large counseling ministries and became aligned with the medical Industry as fellow mental health practitioners. Disgruntled people started suing churches so they backed off that one.
Today it seems that many churches are modeling after the entertainment industry. The pageantry and presentation of the Sunday morning service is the focus of the entire week. This requires an exhausting level of work from staff. Sometimes millions of dollars in equipment is involved and the “Sunday experience” becomes the focus of the church. Then there’s the model of self-help gurus that many pastors and their blonde wives seem to model after. Standard books in this model will include titles on on the successful life, rising two perfect kids and having a sexy marriage.
It’s easy to feel the attraction to become what you’ve seen on television. So, sharing “my secret for living” can easily become the central message of a modern preacher if our model of ministry is to be a spiritual pharmacists or self-help authors and speakers.
The point of the ministry is to help others grow into who they are in Christ and find the purpose for which he created them. Impressing people is not the same as transforming them. Impressing is a lot easier. Doesn’t need the Holy Spirit or any involvement from God at all. Impressing is about me and my need for validation. Transformation is about them and only God can do it, but He does it through our ministry.
So let’s dig in to what Paul reveals about the source of our power to help others in their transformation.
Paul begins his discussion on ministry by talking about suffering. In particular, suffering as the central common ingredient of the human experience. It’s the thing we all have in common. We aren’t all championship winners, but we’ve all been hit hard by life at times.
Pain Unifies Us
I was at a gathering of missionaries a few years ago and we sat in the circle. The director of the meeting asked each of us to give a ministry report about our efforts. Comparison was immediate. Everyone felt the pressure to validate themselves. I wished that, instead, he had asked us to describe where we were suffering as humans. We would have had an immediate communion in that circle and ministry would have followed as we each shared the other’s burden. Pain unifies us.
The reason we’re studying this book is to establish for ourselves as leaders a proper theology of ministry, a guiding philosophy that will help us to establish our identity and determine how to move with people so as to do them the most good.
Wounded Healers: Paul begins his theology of ministry with a very interesting metaphor, that of a wounded healer. He got this, of course, from Jesus. By his stripes we are healed. But Paul applies it to those who have joined Jesus in his ministry also.
Some people think that the basis for ministry is the image of superiority in the minister. He/She has figured life out. They walk with God in some superior way. They may even claim to have some extra special spiritual juju power more than ordinary mortals and they’ll give this elixir to you if you come to them. We are all going to have to make up our mind who we think we are and what role we play in the lives of those people we minister to.
Paul says that superiority is not how ministry works at all. It’s more like one beggar telling another one where to find bread.
We shouldn’t claim to be the source of healing, but we have been wounded by life and the Lord has healed us and somethings about that experience gives us a spiritual authority, especially surrounding the specific area from which we’ve been set free.
The power is a hidden treasure most people don’t know about. It works like this. Whenever the Lord gives anyone something like a deliverance, a breakthrough thought, the total release from the failures of the past, the end of perfectionism—whatever it is— once we receive it, we have the authority to give that same gift to other people.
That’s the source of transformation in the ministry. I was wounded and now I’m healed. So I can take my healing and give it to you.
Now, let’s turn to the text.
VV 1.3-7 (*too hard to read more than a verse or two)
Key Concept: Wounded Healers
[The magic of someone sharing a testimony of being wounded and the Lord brought them out.]
Paul Says Paul says that God uses the pain we’ve overcome in our lives to
1. Heal Wounds in others
2. Prepare Them for the battles of life they will face in the future.
3. Even lead others to salvation.
Iamsecond.com—Brian Welch from Korn, Karen, etc.
Pain overcome, our elixir, our ointment
Paul says that God has ordained that our personal experience of pain will become a healing ointment we can offer to others and apply to their life wounds and they will also be healed.
So ministry is about suffering, not success. Ministry exists to redeem the suffering and internal pain that is part of every human life. Humans have needs. Humans are wounded. Even when we’re strong we live right on the edge of collapse, and it doesn’t take much for life to suddenly spin around on us and crush us.
Let’s not get sucked into this world’s system and begin to promise people that becoming a Christian is the way to avoid pain in life through “faith power” or by putting anointing oil all over our cars, houses, and children or any other superstitious thing that Christians do all over the world. We have no promise of a pain-free life, but we do have the absolute Word of God that we already have the resources to overcome even the worst catastrophe setback and to finish our life with integrity.
There’s a key shift in mindset that is present in everyone who builds big people. Read v 7 “Our hope for you is steadfast.” Paul had a positive view of his people. He knew that they were equal children of God to him and that they were serving the same master and that Jesus had a purpose for their life just like for his own.
Now Paul brings up a personal case study. Feel the connection he’s establishing with the people he minsters to and feel the grace of God flowing from his life experience into theirs.
Read vv8-11 Listen as Paul finds common ground with his people through pain.
I heard a worship song from Wilder Adkins, today that said “I won’t run, I’ll wrestle.”
The people we can’t do without on the earth are those who have wisdom, and faith and poise and patience and counsel. You need a theology of pain and to develop one you’ll have to open your mind to see pain in a new role than just something horrible to avoid.
So, if you want to know where true ministry gets its impact, its not through successes and being a model of how to ride high above life. No, it’s in how seriously you take pain in yourself and in others. Pain is an amazing teacher. It strips off all the BS and makes you real. When you successfully deal with the pain in life and process it with openness and wonder and suck out all the meaning you gain a power that others need to help them grapple with their own pain. If you want to have a personal presence that leaves an eternal mark on others you need to engage the dark, bloody areas in your own life and those of others and you need to enter into the overwhelming experience of a life storm, when you think you’re going to lose your child, your marriage, and even your core beliefs about God.
I’ve prayed for people in trouble all my life. 99% of them just want a pray for the pain and the thing causing it to stop. I’ll never forget the day when a man came up for prayer in a church service and told me about the awful trouble that had befallen him. I asked, “How do you want me to pray?” I was so surprised to hear him say, “Pray for me to be faithful in this time and to learn what I’m supposed to learn through this before it goes away.” Wow, how do you defeat a man like that?
People need a pain master.
They could go to a psychologist or a psychiatrist and get some drugs to numb the pain, but especially if they are God’s people, they usually come to us. Partly they come because we tell the Bible stories of the woman with bleeding that wouldn’t stop, or of Joseph whose brothers hated him and sold him into slavery or of Moses whose wife didn’t want to follow the Lord fully. We tell of Jonah running from God and finding himself in the belly of a whale. We tell the worst story of all, the story of righteous Job crushed by life despite his careful goodness.
All these stories have the same theme: pain has a purpose, even if we create it ourself by our choices. They say that moves us someplace good if we are faithful in it and if we allow it to purify us. The stories say that in the end, God always makes things right and that tough times never last but tough people do. They say that God is good, but you can’t game God or life. They say that sometimes we have to suffer persecution just for being his children. The stories say that there is a divine justice in the universe, but that sometimes the payback comes to the evil and to the good, after their death.
The Jesus way is shown in the cross. It is full of blood and tears and passion. It is fully alive and fully engaged with both the suffering and the people who caused it.
Christ refused the painkiller at his execution. We need to ponder on all of that.
Wounded healers. Think about that this week.
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