What we do in ministry, we do so that God is glorified, and not us (1 Pt. 4:11). Everything we do in service of Him, we do so that He is glorified.
Now the term, “God is glorified” is used commonly but is often not carefully defined. By working for God’s glory, we mean two things:
- The most basic sense of “glorify” is that God is revealed to be what He is. To glorify God is revelatory work. In other words, God is glorified in our ministry when the reality of God’s character and nature is demonstrated to be great and glorious and He is shown to be supremely worthy of worship.
- To glorify God also means that God is enjoyed for who He is. He is not only revealed, but He is adored and loved. Not only is He revealed to be worthy of worship, but He is also actually worshipped and magnified and honored.
Here’s the point: ministry is never to be about how good and wonderful we are. Anytime we do anything that is loving or kind or gracious, it is always a reflection of the reality that God has first worked that in us. And our work is simply pointing people to God.
Because we are serving and working and laboring so that God is revealed to others, then one implication of that is that it doesn’t matter if we get tired. Ministry is not about self-exaltation and it is not about self-preservation. It is about service and honoring the One who is supreme. It is about working in such a way that others are attracted to Christ. And if we are worn out and exhausted in the process, it is a small price to pay in making Christ known.
That is why Paul wrote without any hesitation, “But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all” (Phil. 2:17).
And that is also why Spurgeon wrote: “It is our duty and our privilege to exhaust our lives for Jesus. We are not to be living specimens of men in fine preservation, but living sacrifices, whose lot is to be consumed; We are to spend and to be spent, not to lay ourselves up in lavender, and nurse our flesh.” [Lectures to My Students, 1:170]
Sometimes (though not always) when we are weary it is a sign we are doing something right, not something wrong. We work and labor so that others see Christ and when we do that, it is always a joy, no matter what it costs us.
Another implication of ministering for God’s glory is that there is no arbitrary end to that labor.
Many years ago I visited a couple who had recently attended our church for the first time. They had recently retired from business and relocated to Granbury. They also told me that they had spent many years in a Bible church in their previous locale and that he had served as a deacon there. I was inwardly excited about the prospect that this couple might be a useful addition to the ministry here. And then I was told this:
“I’ve spent 30 years serving in the church and that’s over. Now I’m going to play golf.”
Now there is nothing wrong with playing golf. But playing golf — or eating or drinking or doing anything else (1 Cor. 10:31) — to glorify self and minimize the significance of God is not only foolish, but it is also blasphemous.
While ministry will undoubtedly change as we mature and age, ministry ends only when we are mentally incapacitated or at death. Even when physically incapacitated, we can still minister to others and serve them. And this is not only our calling, but it is also our privilege. What better commendation to find that at the end of our days, our bodies are used up not for the pursuit of personal pleasure, but in the pursuit of glorifying Christ in all we do.