Each of us (if we’re being obedient) has at least one avenue of ministry. And we cherish that opportunity to serve both the Lord and His church. During my years as a single woman, I enjoyed a variety of ways to serve, ranging from editing the church newsletter to writing and directing drama productions to teaching children in Sunday School.
My ability to serve is a great deal more limited now, but I well remember the busy life of ministry that dominated my younger years.
I also remember realizing at one point that my heavy involvement in ministry had distracted me from Jesus.
What a sobering realization! The very Lord I professed to love and serve had essentially taken a back seat as I focused on all my church related activities. I kept up with my Bible reading schedule, and once in a while even remembered something I’d read. But often days passed without any serious attempt at prayer. My delight lay in serving Jesus rather than in Jesus Himself.
Mary and Martha, anyone?
38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” ~~Luke 10:38-42 (ESV)
Somehow I don’t think I’m the only Christian who has lost sight of Jesus as a result of supposedly serving Him. Dare I suggest that some of you derive a sense of importance from having certain positions and/or responsibilities within your local churches? Could those positions and/or responsibilities have even given you a sense of identity?
If so, first remember that I have absolutely no right to cast the first stone! I, of all people, understand how easily a ministry you started to do for Him can degenerate into an idol — if not a means of idolizing self. It sneaks up on you subtly and gradually. You never planned for it to overshadow your relationship with the Lord. So please know that I write as someone with profound empathy for your situation.
Second, don’t forget that Jesus died even for this sin. Yes, you must confess it as sin. In doing so, you’ll probably feel the grief of having perverted your work for Him into a way to aggrandize yourself. Oh sister, I know that confession hurts! But the pain quickly melts into joy and gratitude as you look to the cross and see that Jesus bore even this sin. By His blood, you stand forgiven.
Third, bear in mind that the Holy Spirit Himself lives in you. He gives you the power to repent of idolizing your ministry and to turn back to your Father. Through Him, you can genuinely repent.
Finally, you can continue serving Jesus. He may remove you from the particular ministry that you idolized, or He may allow you to stay. But if He removes you, He will provide other opportunities for you to serve (even if you do nothing more than pray secretly for your church). Jesus saved you to serve Him, and He won’t dismiss you from His service entirely. Rejoice in that mercy.