We as believers need to be careful. At times we can lose sight of the important truth that the ministry we have comes from God.
(John Lathrop)

“A man can receive only what is given him from heaven” John 3:27 (NIV)

The words above are those of John the Baptist, John is an interesting biblical character. From a purely human standpoint he should never have been born. Both of his parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth, were old and on top of this Elizabeth was barren (Luke 1:7).

He was named before he was born, not by his parents but by an angel (Luke 1:13). He was born into a priestly family (Luke 1:5) and yet John never served as a priest. The angel Gabriel foretold that he would be great in the eyes of the Lord and be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth (Luke 1:15). John’s father, Zechariah, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit foretold that he would be a prophet (Luke 1:76).

The people of John’s day recognized him as a prophet (Mark 11:32), even Jesus referred to him as a prophet (Matt. 11:7-15). John’s ministry was foretold in the Old Testament (Matt. 3:3;11:10-11; Mark 1:2-4). Being a prophet he did not operate inside of the normal religious system of the day, that is, he did not serve in the Temple, or wear priestly garments.

John was a very direct preacher, he called people to repentance (Mark 1:4) and was not afraid to confront his hearers when necessary (see Matt. 3:7-9). However, he had a very successful ministry, many people responded to his message (Mark 1:5), even though he never performed a miracle (John 10:41). In addition to this he was a relative of Jesus (Luke 1:36).

The scripture text which began this article records the words that John the Baptist said to some people who called his attention to the fact that people were leaving him to follow Jesus. His words reveal that he understood his ministry came from God. And because this was so, the Lord had the right to determine the limits of his ministry.

The larger context of the verse seems to indicate that John knew that there was a time coming when his ministry would no longer be the prominent one and he did not try to fight it.

John was surrendered to the will of God he said, “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30 NIV). He knew that Jesus was greater than he was (Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:7; Luke 3:16; John 1:30).

John’s words have something to say to us as believers today. He recognized that the ministry he had came from the Lord. The Lord chose him for it and equipped him for it (remember he was filled with the Holy Spirit from birth).

His ministry was thus something given and received, not something inherent in him as an individual. The apostle Paul, speaking of himself and his coworkers said that it is because of the Lord’s mercy that they had their ministry (2 Cor. 4:1). In his letter to the church at Corinth Paul told the believers there that they each had a gift from God that they were to use to benefit others (1 Cor. 12:7).

He also told them and that the Holy Spirit distributed these gifts to them as He saw fit (1 Cor. 12:11). Their abilities to minister for the Lord came from Him. The apostle Peter also taught that the gifts believers have they have received and they need to use them faithfully (1Pet. 4:10).

We as believers need to be careful. At times we can lose sight of the important truth that the ministry we have comes from God. He determines the length and effectiveness of it. “We have the ministry” because of His grace and gifting, He chose us for it.

Though He entrusted it to us, He is ultimately the one in charge of it; He can end it, limit it, expand it, or do anything He wants with it. If He brings it to an end it it may be that the ministry has run its course and there is no longer a need for it.

It may also be that the needs where we are located have changed and the Lord needs us to function in a different way than before. There are a multitude of reasons why the Lord may end, limit, expand, or change our ministry. We are the Lord’s servants and whatever he has entrusted to us we are to be good stewards of recognizing that what we have has been given to us from Heaven, that is, from God.

 


John P. Lathrop - United States

John P. Lathrop is a graduate of Western Connecticut State University, Zion Bible Institute, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s Center for Urban Ministerial Education (CUME). He is an ordained minister with the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies and has twenty years of pastoral experience.

 

 

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