I love that thought and glory in the truth that it holds out for those who labor in gospel ministry. If, for a moment, I shy away from that truth I end up in the ditch of despair or the perils of pride. This truth must be heralded: In the end, it’s not about my abilities or hard work for effective gospel ministry. It’s about God and His grace.
Yes! If anything fruitful for gospel ministry is going to happen, it’s about God and His grace. And—not “but” or “however”—And, God calls us to use our skills and gifts to the best of our ability for the ministry to which he has called us. These two thoughts are not opposed to one another. They are to borrow a picture from Spurgeon—two tracks that seemingly run parallel for eternity. Faithful and fruitful gospel ministry is all about God and His grace and it calls us to be hard workers who do our best at our craft.
Paul writes two letters to Timothy his son in the faith—a young man Paul trusted enough to leave in Ephesus to right the ship of an established church. Paul calls this young pastor to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus and to do his best as a leader.
Here are a few things he says to Timothy…
- “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress” (1 Timothy 4:13-15).
- “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:6-7).
- “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
Paul seemed to have no problem reminding Timothy that his gifts are from God as he is calling Timothy to do his best as a pastor, preacher and leader. Timothy is to devote himself to his craft. He is to practice the gifts that God has given him to the end that people will see his progress. He is to do his best as a worker who rightly handles God’s Word. Paul reminds Timothy of the gifts of God’s grace and calls Timothy to the labor of gospel ministry.
- Are you growing in your gifts or have you settled?
- Who is seeing your progress? Who can you ask that will tell you the truth?
- When do you devote time to honing your skills as a pastor, preacher, and leader?
- What gifts are you neglecting? Why?
We are called to rest in God’s grace and do our best. I’m not trying to be “balanced”. I’m trying to be biblical. If our grace frees us from the hard labor of doing our best, getting better at our craft or growing in the gifts God has given, then maybe it’s not the same grace Paul preached. His grace caused him to outwork everyone around him (1 Corinthians 15:10). His grace created rest and labor, not “buts” and “howevers.”
So, if we are called to faithful and fruitful gospel ministry, let’s do our best as workers that do not need to be ashamed, let’s grow in our gifts and devote ourselves to our craft. And, let’s rest well knowing that apart from God and His grace all of our labor will come to nothing but better skills.
Because in the end, it really isn’t about our abilities or hard work. It’s all about God and His grace.