Many pastors spend a lot of time on what they feel is the next big thing they need in their ministry or developing the plan that will take them to the next level. They spend many hours on podcasts, blogs, going to conferences, and talking with their friends about what is the “Thing” that will make their ministry grow. Now, I understand we want to be sharp, we want to see souls saved, and we desire to see Christ’s church grow.
One of the problems with this focus in our ministries can be our motives. Do we want success so we can become a keynote speaker? Do we want success so we can be known as the church planter who grew his church faster than anyone? Maybe our motive for growth is so that we can take better care of our families?
I believe the Apostle Paul can teach us what the most important thing a church planter needs, to be a success in God’s eyes.
II Corinthians 12:6-10
I. Realize We Must Be Humble, V6
Paul said that he had a desire to glory. Just think about that. The great apostle Paul had a desire to glory in himself. All of us struggle with this. Have you ever said, “This church wouldn’t be here without me, my kids are so lucky to have me as their dad, or nothing would ever get done if I didn’t do it”?
But Paul realized he would be a fool to brag on himself. He realized that everything he accomplished was only through Christ working through him. Therefore, he said he would never want people to think of him above what they should.
We need to realize that everything we do for Christ is because of Him and never desire to lift ourselves above others.
II. Realize God is In Control, V7-8
To help keep Paul humble, God allows him to suffer with a thorn in the flash. The bible says God gave Paul a thorn lest he should be exalted above measure. God allows things to happen to us in our lives, Roman 8:28-29.
God is sovereign and has a purpose and a plan. His desire is for us to become conformed to the image of His Son. It is not a promise that this conformation will always be easy or happen in a way we would desire.
Paul prays three times for God to remove the thorn. It is not wrong to pray for the relief of problems in our lives. But we must realize that God will do what is best for His children and be willing to accept God’s will for our lives.
III. Realize God’s Grace is Sufficient, V9-10
God’s response to Paul was that His grace was sufficient. It is God’s grace that saves us. His grace is sufficient to enable us to have all of our sins forgiven. His grace is sufficient to enable us to spend eternity in heaven. Therefore, His grace is sufficient to enable us to go through the dark days of ministry.
He adds the truth that when we become weak, we become strong. One of the reasons we struggle with the thorns of ministry is our pride. We say, “I have given my life to serve Christ, I stepped out by faith to start a church, why am I going through this?”
We must become weak and be empty of self. It is not about us. We must realize that we, in our strength, can’t build anything for Christ. That is why having a method focus or a skill focus is not the answer.
Here is the key to it all. Paul says that he would rather glory in his infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon him. Paul came to the point in his ministry that he realized these dark days would get him on his knees. Paul knew that this time of introspection, praise, and petition would result in the power of Christ resting upon him. He came to the point that he gloried in infirmities because he knew what would result in them. Notice in verse ten the list of infirmities Paul took pleasure in during his ministry. When was the last time you rejoiced or took pleasure in a ministry infirmity?
You might never have the preaching style another pastor has, but you can have the power of Christ resting upon you. You might not have the resources another church has, but you can have the power of Christ resting upon you.
As I have traveled the country, I have seen God building His church in churches that are doing everything wrong according to the church growth experts. But these churches had the power of Christ resting upon them, and God was blessing them, and they were growing.
I’m not saying that you should not try to improve your ministry skills. You should always be growing in your God given gifts required to be the pastor God wants you to be, II Timothy 2:15.
The key principle you need to understand is that you cannot put your faith and trust in these things. However, you are striving to have the power of Christ upon your ministry. And with His power upon you, He will lead you into the programs and methods He would have you use for the ministry He has called you to do.