One evening, I was serving up the last of a tub of ice cream to our kids. I had been sure to dish it out evenly and I served it from youngest to oldest child (because little kids are not great at waiting their turn). However, by the time I had finished serving it, Angus had already finished his and wanted more. I tried to explain to him that there was literally none left in the tub but, even though I showed him the empty container, he just could not understand that we had run out. He kept saying, “Daddy get more.” The simple truth is, with any finite thing, when we’ve run out, we’ve run out.
We cannot give what we don’t have.
That’s the message of one of my favourite books, “Dangerous Calling” by Paul David Tripp. While he particularly writes the book to pastors, it is relevant to any Christian leader. His basic premise is that we can only minister out of the grace that we, ourselves, have experienced.
That concept sounds simple enough, but it has important implications:
- We can only truly minister out of grace if we acknowledge our own ongoing need for grace. As Tripp writes, “No one celebrates the presence and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ more than the person who has embraced his desperate and daily need of it.” If we reach a point where we think we have the answers and we’re up to our task in our own strength, we are in real danger of our ego getting in the way. It will not longer be God’s grace flowing through us.
- Conversely, realising that the most fruitful basis for ministry is God’s grace, relieves us of the burden of self-doubt, because it really isn’t about us anyway. Tripp writes, “Either you will be getting your identity vertically, from who you are in Christ, or you will be shopping for it horizontally in the situations, experiences, and relationships of your daily life.”
For us as a Church in 2018, our focus statement is, “We Press On As We Press In,” drawing on Paul’s words in Philippians 3:12-14,
Not that I have already reached the goal or am already perfect, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.
As leaders, whether in Church ministry or elsewhere, the truth is that the only way we can minister God’s grace to others is if we acknowledge our own desperate need for it and feed on it ourselves. But when we do immerse ourselves in the vastness of God’s grace, we find an endless supply that can flow through us to others.
Again to quote Tripp, “The ultimate purpose of the Word of God is not theological information but heart and life transformation.” Once that Word does that transforming work in us, it cannot help but spill out into the lives of others through us.
So then, if we want to see our ministry be more effective and we want to grow into the leaders that God is calling us to be, then our first priority is to press into the grace of God ourselves.
“Everyone really does win when a leader gets better.” (Bill Hybels)
God said to the Israelites, “Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.” (Jeremiah 3:15)
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your amazing grace in Christ Jesus. Thank you that you don’t call us to minister in our own strength. Rather, you call to simply minister Your amazing grace to others. We look forward to what You’re going to do through us, to Your glory. Amen.