Abiding in Christ and Ministry

by Dennis Smith
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Ministry for the Lord can become a heavy burden at times and filled with anxiety and stress before the Christian comes to understand and experience true abiding in Christ and His abiding in him. However, once the mystery of union with Christ is experienced everything changes. Ministry for the Master is a joy and the stress and burdens are relieved.

 

The experience before discovery

 

Numerous Christians throughout the ages have discovered the peace brought into the life of one who discovers the truth of abiding in Christ. Most all who find this wonderful truth follow the same path to discovery. At first there are years of frustration, defeat, failure and discouragement. This brings into the life a deep sense of need; the feeling that there must be something missing in their walk with God.  They are aware of inconsistency in their life of obedience and service for the Lord. There are times of wonderful fellowship with their Lord and then desert experiences in their Christian walk. Sometimes they are brought to the point of personal despair.  These feelings of failure are seldom if ever shared with another. 

 

Before experiencing the reality in the life of abiding in Christ they had heard messages on the subject.  They knew the Bible verses.  Yet they knew what was being described was not a reality in their life.   Many tearful prayers have ascended to the Lord because of the truth of abiding in Christ not being understood or experienced in the life.  Such feelings of defeat can cause the Christian to doubt his own sincerity and perhaps even his salvation.

 

One Man’s Discovery

 

  1. Hudson Taylor, the 19th century missionary to China, left record in letters he had written of the change he experienced after making this discovery. Before experiencing true abiding in Christ the responsibilities he carried were difficult for him to bear; sometimes overwhelming. Then he received a letter from a fellow missionary and friend, John McCarthy. God used McCarthy’s letter to open Taylor’s eyes to the marvelous truth of Christ’s abiding presence. After that Taylor was a new man in Christ.

 

In a letter to his sister in England Taylor wrote of his experience and described his changed attitude when it came to ministry for the Lord.

 

“As to work, mine was never so plentiful, so responsible, or so difficult, but the weight and strain are all gone. The last month or more has been perhaps, the happiest of my life;…” They Found the Secret, V. Raymond Edman, Page 19, Copyright 1960, 1984 by Zondervan Publishing House

 

He described the blessing his new experience had been in his personal life and struggle with temptation, and the joy he now found in the Lord. Then he wrote of changes concerning his ministry for the Lord.

 

“The sweetest part, if one may speak of one part being sweeter than another, is the rest which full identification with Christ brings. I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realize this; for He, I know, is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine. It makes no matter where He places me, or how. That is rather for Him to consider than for me; for in the easiest positions He must give me grace, and in the most difficult His grace is sufficient.” Ibid 20-21

 

The burden and anxiety were now all gone. He learned the lesson of resting fully in Christ in his ministry for Him. He knew that Christ was living in him and would give him the wisdom, guidance and strength he needed. He now realized he was simply working with the Master and following His lead and that Christ would provide all the grace needed to carry the load of responsibility.

 

The Anglican clergy, H.B. Macartney of Melbourne, Australia, wrote of Taylor’s attitude in ministry for His Lord.

 

“He was an object lesson in quietness. He drew from the Bank of Heaven every farthing of his daily income – ‘My peace I give unto you.’ Whatever did not agitate the Savior, or ruffle His spirit was not to agitate him. The serenity of the Lord Jesus concerning any matter and at its most critical moment, this was his ideal and practical possession. He knew nothing of rush or hurry, of quivering nerves or vexation of spirit. He knew there was a peace passing all understanding, and that he could not do without it.” Ibid 21

 

Macartney was amazed at the peace Taylor exhibited under all circumstances. Writing of this he continued:

 

“…here is a man almost sixty years of age, bearing tremendous burdens, yet absolutely calm and unruffled. Oh, the pile of letters! any one of which might contain news of death, or shortness of funds, or riots or serious trouble. Yet all were opened, read and answered with the same tranquility – Christ his reason for peace, his power for calm. Dwelling in Christ he partook of His very being and resources, in the midst of and concerning the very matters in question. And he did this by an act of faith as simple as it was continuous.” Ibid 22

 

Taylor knew Jesus was living in him and continuously rested in that fact. Knowing this truth there was no need for worry or anxiety.

 

I am sure all who are in ministry long for the kind of abiding rest and peace that J. Hudson Taylor discovered.  The truth is; Jesus offers this complete rest in Him to all His servants. 

 

What Was Discovered?

 

What those discovered who found the true “rest” Jesus provides is the truth that Jesus is actually present in the believer.  Jesus told His disciples that He would “come” to them after He ascended to the Father following His resurrection (John 14:18).  Previous to this statement Jesus indicated He would come to dwell in His disciples through the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17).

 

The apostle Paul understood this when he wrote:

 

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives I me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

 

Jesus and the apostle teach us that Christ actually dwells in the believer through the Holy Spirit.  In this manner the Christian has the “mind of Christ” (1Corinthians 2:16), the wisdom – righteousness - holiness of Christ (1Corinthians 1:30); every virtue and quality of Christ.  Since the Holy Spirit is the vehicle through which this happens Christ’s virtues are also called the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23).

 

Once this marvelous truth is understood and experienced God’s ministers can then believe that He will manifest Himself in and through them.  They can be assured that Christ will give them His obedience, wisdom, faith; everything they need to serve Him.  Because of this they no longer need to be anxious about anything. Jesus will never leave them nor forsake them (Hebrews 13:5).

 

In your service for Christ He is simply ministering through you. In your obedience He is simply manifesting His obedience through you. You are to obey and minister just like Jesus did when on earth. Jesus said:

 

“Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?  The words I say to you are not just my own.  Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.” John 14:10

 

Jesus understood and experienced obedience and ministry manifested by the Father dwelling in Him and He in the Father. Everything He said and did was by the Father. God’s servants are to have the same experience today. As they abide in Christ and He abides in them everything they say and do is to be Christ manifesting Himself in and through them. This is why there need be no fear, anxiety, worry, or burden in obedience and ministry. It is all of Jesus. We simply allow Him to do these things in and through us.  When Christ’s abiding presence is understood and experienced God gets all the glory for anything His servants achieve in His service (1Corinthians 1:31).

 

The reality of Christ’s abiding presence is the wonderful truth J. Hudson Taylor and his friend, John McCarthy, came to understand and experience. This was the experience Jesus lived out in His life. And this is the experience Jesus wants to live out in your life as well. When the union with Christ becomes a reality in your life your ministry and service will be a joy and you will be doing the “works” of Christ as He promised (John 14:12).

 

If you believe in Christ’s abiding presence in you and you in Him, you will begin to see Christ manifested in your life and ministry as never before.  When you are truly experiencing abiding in Christ and Him abiding in you His presence is a reality. Your resting in Him will then become real, not just a theory, and it will be consistent. All fear, worry, stress in service will be gone. The burdens of ministry will be lifted. These are replaced with your resting in Jesus’ presence.

 

The challenge of ministry

 

Having been in full time ministry for over 30 years I know there is a danger of taking things into our own hands, making our own plans and asking God to bless these activities. In Christ’s service we must keep constantly in union with Him so we will be under His direction when it comes to plans, methods and ministry. He knows what He wants to do through us each day and in the months ahead. We must pray for His guidance and then rest in the fact that He will let us know what He wants us to do. He will direct our ministry if we let Him. Then He will do His ministry through us.

 

We see this principle illustrated in the gospel commission Jesus gave and how the Holy Spirit led in fulfilling that commission. In the commission Jesus commanded disciples be made of “all nations” (Matthew 28:19-20):

 

Upon hearing this gospel commission it would be logical for the apostles to conclude that the gospel should be preached in every town they passed through. However, we read in the book of Acts about how the Holy Spirit led the apostle Paul in his efforts to fulfill this commission. Concerning one of Paul’s missionary journeys we read:

 

“Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia.  When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.  So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas.  During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’  After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” Acts 16:6-10

 

Here we see a clear example of the importance of the Christian minister not following his/her own ideas as to when, where and how to serve the Lord. It is vital that every servant of the Lord be under the Holy Spirit’s direction in their service. This happens as the believer abides in Christ and Christ abides in him. The Lord will reveal to him what to do, where to do it, when to do it and how to do it. This is why there is no anxiety or burden in service when we discover the truth of Christ’s abiding presence.

 

This certainly does not mean that we put forth no effort to follow the Spirit’s lead. As we read of Paul’s experiences in serving his Lord we find that it required Spirit inspired determination and effort to go where the Spirit led. Service for the Lord will not always be easy. Yet even in the most difficult situation we can find rest and peace as we depend of Christ to minister in and through us.

 

As a pastor there are many issues that arise that need to be dealt with. These can become very overwhelming if we are not experiencing union with Christ and resting in Him concerning the issues that arise.

 

Facing controversy in the church can be very stressful. Dealing with financial problems, member’s personal crisis, and expectations of members and church officials can become overwhelming.  However, when a pastor comes to realize that Christ is his wisdom (1Corinthians 1:30) the anxiety and burden is released. For now he trusts that Christ will manifest His wisdom through him in all situations. Ministry then becomes a joy because the pastor can rest in Jesus’ abiding presence knowing that Jesus Himself will actually be ministering through his words and activities. Jesus will reveal to him His plans. Jesus will impress him what to preach and will speak though him in the message. Jesus will be all-in-all in his ministry from that moment forward. What joy and peace!

 

 

You can be burden free

 

Through the Holy Spirit Jesus abides in us, obeys through us and ministers through us. Therefore, we can rest in that fact and choose to let Him do it. Once again I say; when this becomes a reality to you your life and ministry will never again be the same. Your life will be filled with love, joy, peace, faith; all the fruit of the Spirit. You will see personal victories and victories in ministry as never before seen. Jesus will be everything to you.

 

If as you read the testimonies of J. Hudson Taylor and others you may feel your mind struggling to understand the marvelous abiding in Christ described.  If so, ask God to open your understanding. I know from personal experience such frustration. For years I too read the biblical counsel and personal testimonies, but did not comprehend.  I know the frustration and longing for more love, joy, peace, faith in ministry. I can also testify that God will hear your prayer. For God said through Jeremiah:

 

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

 

When you discover your Lord as your burden bearer in life and ministry your heart will be filled with inexpressible joy. When you find that joy you will have found the Strength.

 

“…for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

 

 

 

Notes:

All Scripture references are taken from the New International Version of the Bible.

This article appeared in Ministry Magazine