Following Jesus’ examples in ministry
When Jesus began His public ministry on earth, He demonstrated how we are to follow His humble heart of service with many examples and testimonies. Praise God that all ministry workers, both volunteer or full time, can learn directly from the world’s perfect High Priest. We reflect Jesus’ heart best when we emulate His ministry models.
Matthew 20:26-28 ESV It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Hebrews 4:14 ESV Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
Out of the many lessons He taught us, here are just 15.
1. Jesus deflected honour and praise to God
Jesus was the greatest person who walked this earth. Yet when a Jewish ruler called Him “good”, He corrected that person and said, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” Jesus wasn’t saying that He wasn’t good. After all, He is the exact imprint of God and His perfect nature. Rather, Jesus knew that His followers would live in a time where we will have a tendency to be boastful, proud and ungrateful. He left us this statement to emulate whenever someone praises us; “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”
Luke 18:18-19 ESV And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.
Hebrews 1:3 ESV He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
2 Timothy 3:1-2 ESV But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,
By the same token, we also need to ensure that our reputations and ministries do not become elevated over God’s. The world will tend to exalt talented people and successful ministries. We need to be careful not to follow this earthly pattern. No pastor, missionary, evangelist, Bible teacher or Christian minister has ever sacrificed his son on the cross for anyone else. Only God has. He alone deserves all praise and honour. Jesus warned that whoever exalts him or herself on earth will be humbled by God in heaven.
Matthew 23:12 ESV Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
2. Jesus saw people’s true condition and had compassion
Jesus’ heart was tender and compassionate towards people because He knows that we are “harassed and helpless” without His salvation. God sees our true conditions and what is really going on in our hearts and minds.
Matthew 9:36 ESV When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
God, therefore, takes no pleasure in condemning us when we seek Him. He is fully aware of our sins and weaknesses but isn’t distracted by them. He rejoices when we repent and seek to love Him with all our hearts. He will never condemn us or turn us away. Similarly, God desires that we minister to others out of the abundance of His love and compassion in our hearts, rather than out of pride, duty, fear or jealousy.
3. Jesus accepted the Father’s will, including a betrayer in His ministry
Jesus was so humble in following God’s will that He allowed an enemy into His ministry’s inner circle. Jesus did not turn away anyone whom He was convicted His Father in heaven had led to Him. He obeyed His Father’s will. On His final night before His crucifixion, Jesus humbly broke bread with Judas Iscariot, washed his feet and accepted his kiss of betrayal.
John 6:70 ESV Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.”
John 6:38-39 ESV For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.
Luke 22:48 ESV but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?”
Few of us would tolerate anyone who challenges our ministry work. But like the apostle Paul, we need to ask God if the ministry disrupters in our midst are there for His higher purpose – and praise Him if they are. Thorns in our flesh may hurt for a while but they can’t kill us. Let us learn to be “content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities” so that “the power of Christ” can work through us. If however, the Holy Spirit reveals that the ministry disrupter needs to be warned, admonished or cut off, we need to act accordingly and not be afraid of anyone’s opinions. In this regard, Jesus set some clear guidelines for us in Matthew 18.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 ESV So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Matthew 18:15-17 ESV “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
4. Jesus rebuked Satan
During His ministry, Jesus openly confronted Satan and prayed for protection against Satan for those who served alongside Him.
He rebuked Satan for trying to use Peter’s pride and fear to stop Him from following through with the crucifixion and fulfilling His mission. Jesus knew that it was Satan that had planted such lies and temptations into Peter’s mind. He did not rebuke Peter. Instead, He rebuked Satan. Satan will always tempt us to stop and hinder one another. Rather than fall for our enemy’s deceptions, we need to rebuke and silence him in Jesus’ name.
Matthew 16:21-23 ESV From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
Another time, Satan tried to rock Peter’s faith and isolate him. Jesus said that Satan had wanted to “sift him like wheat”. This is another of Satan’s prime tactics against God’s workers. Our enemy will try to create discouragement, division, jealousy, misunderstanding, and miscommunications so that we grow divided and weak, rather than strong together in the Lord. Knowing this, Jesus prayed that His disciple’s faith would not waver. Similarly, we too need to pray for one another and alert each other to Satan’s schemes. As ministry workers, we need to stand united against Satan at all costs. We should not give our enemy any leverage in our ministries to dim the Light of God with his dark schemes.
Luke 22:31-32 ESV “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
2 Corinthians 2:11 ESV … we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.
Also, see 5 lies that keep us spiritually stuck.
5. Jesus demonstrated power
Wherever Jesus went, He demonstrated evidence of God’s Kingdom on earth by healing people and delivering them of demons, bringing salvation and freedom everywhere He went. In turn, He commissioned His followers to do the same.
Matthew 9:35 ESV And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.
Matthew 10:7-8 ESV And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons…
Jesus also warned of a time where believers would fail to demonstrate the Kingdom of God on earth. He described such people as “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power“. Everyone who brings God’s message of hope and salvation will certainly be a blessing to others, but anyone who preaches and confirms the message with signs of His power makes the gospel undeniable. Let us not forget that many false prophets, witchdoctors, fengshui masters, shamans, sorcerers, and psychics also promise their followers spiritual signs and wonders. As ministers of the Most High God, our ministries should demonstrate God’s absolute authority over all other spiritual powers and domains.
2 Timothy 3:1-2,5 ESV But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self… having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
Mark 16:15,17-18,20 ESV And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.
6. Jesus resisted temptations from a demonic spirit
Satan chose a time when Jesus was at His most vulnerable physical and mental state after 40 days of fasting to tempt Jesus to use God’s favour to:
- Meet his practical needs
- Testify and display God’s power
- Seek worldly influence and power
These three temptations continue to plague God’s ministers. God does not object to us meeting our very real physical needs, testifying of His power or gaining international influence. It becomes a problem when the motivation is not from His Holy Spirit but from demonic ones. We may appear to be doing what is good but the enemy would have already infiltrated our ministry by perverting who we have bowed down to.
Matthew 4:3-11 ESV And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
Satan will attack us when we are vulnerable, not when we are strong. Let us, therefore, ensure we fast and pray often, and go before God for His Holy Spirit to sustain us and refresh us.
Exodus 20:7 ESV “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
7. Jesus discipled the next generation
Early in His ministry, Jesus recruited and groomed his next generation of leaders.
At times, it can feel like the demands of our ministry take up so much time and attention that we don’t have time to train and groom other workers. Indeed, Jesus also said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Investing in our next generation is crucial in ensuring that we pass on what we have learnt. We need to ask God to send more faithful men and women whom we can entrust His work to and who will also go on and teach others.
Matthew 9:37-38 ESV Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
2 Timothy 2:2 ESV and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.
8. Jesus did not call earth home
Jesus once warned a scribe who wanted to follow Him that He had “nowhere to lay His head“. This religious state leader would have to leave his earthly security and status behind in order to serve alongside our Saviour. Would a person of influence be willing to live humbly for God, even if it technically meant becoming homeless? Would we be willing to leave our family behind, trusting that God will take care of their needs, as well as ours?
Matthew 8:19-20 ESV And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
Luke 18:29 ESV And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”
Most of us might struggle to sacrifice our worldly comforts and put our relationships on hold for God, but Jesus led by example in this respect too. He left the magnificent glory of heaven and the presence of God the Father to live on a tiny planet, which is probably the only ungodly and most corrupted place in this vast universe.
Praise God that by His grace, this world is not our “forever home”. Jesus pointed out that He has prepared a much better permanent residence for us in heaven with Him. Let us, therefore, not become too attached to our earthly “dens” and “nests”.
John 14:2-3,6 ESV In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
9. Jesus didn’t enrich Himself
Jesus freely blessed others without asking for anything in return – except that they repent and follow God’s will. He never used the contributions people made to His ministry to enrich Himself personally. Instead, He used it to build God’s Kingdom. For His own living expenses, He relied on the hospitality of others.
Matthew 10:8-10 ESV … You received without paying; give without pay. Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food.
The apostle Paul declared that he preached the Good News without charging anyone. The gospel was never meant to become a source of personal wealth. It is a source of eternal hope.
1 Corinthians 9:18 ESV What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.
2 Corinthians 2:17 NIV Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.
10. Jesus always retreated to pray and seek God’s will
Despite the great needs all around Him, Jesus would make time to withdraw to commune with God and be refreshed through prayer. He fasted and prayed for 40 days before He began His ministry. Jesus spent an entire night praying before He chose His 12 apostles and another entire night praying before He was betrayed. Jesus always prayed to seek the Father’s will for Himself and for those in His ministry. The apostles followed His example and gathered together to pray often, and so should we.
Luke 515-16 ESV But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.
Luke 6:12-13 ESV In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles
Luke 22:41-42 ESV And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
11. Jesus ministered for only three years
Jesus led His ministry for only three years. If He had continued for longer, He would undoubtedly have built a global empire of followers.
Yet He told His disciples that it was to their advantage that He left them so that the Holy Spirit would minister through them. He passed them His mission after teaching and discipling them for three years or less. None of the disciples were perfect at this point. The day before His crucifixion, they had been arguing about who amongst them would be the greatest. Yet God entrusted them to spread the good news of salvation because He promised; “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper… I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”
John 16:7 ESV Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.
John 14:16-18 ESV And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
This is perhaps something ministries could consider following; that is to rotate leadership every three years. When a single person retains leadership for too long, the ministry will be limited to his or her strengths and weaknesses. God’s workers can unwittingly become invisible barriers to spiritual growth or focal points of ministries. Rather, we can trust the Holy Spirit to lead each new ministry worker who steps up, when he or she commits his or her work to Jesus Christ.
12. Jesus was not swayed by people’s opinions
The Pharisees and the Herodians noticed that Jesus wasn’t swayed by people’s opinions as He taught God’s truths. They were probably a little unsettled that He didn’t pander to their views, despite their positions of religious authority and power.
Mark 12:13-14 ESV And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God…
Staying true to God’s Word is not easy. Even within Christian circles, there will be different opinions about how things should be run. This, however, might be missing the point. We are not here to argue over what’s right or wrong. Instead, we ought to encourage each one of us to go to God for His opinion. We can trust that His Holy Spirit to guide, correct or convict us if we all individually submit to God.
Romans 14:1,4 ESV As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
13. Jesus had an inner circle
God chose three of His disciples, Peter, James and John, as an inner circle with whom He could share His feelings and personal experiences. They were the only ones to witness Jesus’ transfiguration and were by His side as He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane.
Mark 9:2 ESV And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them,
Mark 14:32-34 ESV And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.
We too need an inner circle with whom we can be honest about our feelings, struggles, and victories, particularly as we engage in work that transfers people from the kingdom of darkness into God’s glorious light. Where our work can shroud us in darkness, we need others who will come encourage us and shine God’s light into our souls. It is the law of Christ that we lift each other’s burdens.
1 Peter 2:9 ESV But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Galatians 6:2 ESV Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
14. Jesus set boundaries
Even though He had great compassion for others, Jesus also set boundaries and did not overstretch Himself. He guarded His prayer time with God the Father. He rested and took naps. He kept within the geographical scope that God had limited His ministry to, which was only the lost of Israel. He wisely avoided political traps. He didn’t give in to peer pressure to perform signs. He would not tolerate the greedy money changers at the temple.
Matthew 15:24 ESV He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Matthew 22:18 NIV But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me?
Matthew 12:38-39 ESV Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.
Just as Jesus had personal boundaries that He would not cross, we too need to decide on our own so that we do not get sidetracked into following other agendas, instead of God’s good and perfect will.
15. Jesus instructed His followers to take communion together
Jesus instituted communion as something His disciples should do as often as they met, in remembrance of Him. In ministry, this is all the more important as we take the time to honour the One we serve. Taking communion unites us to come together in one Spirit and forces us to forgive one another for any grievance before we sit down to discuss God’s Kingdom work. We see this spiritual discipline being practiced by the first ministers of the gospel. They met and broke bread every time they met. We too can certainly consider continuing this spiritual discipline. Also, see Remember our deliverance at Communion.
Luke 22:19 ESV And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
Acts 2:46 ESV And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,
16. Jesus reminded His ministers to be washed by Him
When Jesus washed His beloved disciples’ feet, He used it to demonstrate that even though we have been purified through repentance and baptism in His name (i.e. bathed), our feet will be polluted as we journey through this world. As His ministers, we need to go to Jesus regularly for spiritual cleansing so we continue to remain in Him. Otherwise, Jesus warned that we will have no part with Him. As our ministries grow, we must beware not to fall into spiritual complacency and neglect to personally renew ourselves in Jesus Christ.
John 13:8,10 ESV … Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.”
There have been many godly ministries that thrived initially, only to fall into disrepute later. Somewhere along the way, righteous ministers have given in to the wicked ways of this world. Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of His day for not cleansing their hearts while doing God’s work. They had failed to see that while they served many in their communities and were viewed as righteous, God saw things in their hearts that He objected to. God does not look at our appearance, He looks at our hearts.
Proverbs 25:26 ESV Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.
Matthew 23:26 ESV You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
1 Samuel 16:7 ESV … For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”
The apostle Paul was aware of not neglecting his own spiritual disciplines, in case he himself became disqualified from God’s approval after all the ministry work that he had done.
1 Corinthians 9:27 ESV But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
As David said in Psalm 139, let us go to God regularly and ask Him to search our hearts and test our thoughts. This way, as we repent and cleanse ourselves, we can remain vessels for “honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.” May we always “pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart”.
Psalm 139:23-24 ESV Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
2 Timothy 2:20-23 ESV Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.
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