Maybe you can identify with my thoughts on this Christmas Eve. Because if you’re in ministry, you’re a giver. All year long you give while others take. You are ready to step in when someone else backs out. You set aside your interests for the interests of others.
Since we left our home in America to live in Taiwan in 1980, most of our Christmases have been away from “home” and extended family. In time, our daughters grew up and left our home. They were leaving and we were left behind. By now we’ve gotten used to being far from family at Christmas time.
It helps to remember that Jesus was away from home on his first Christmas. Imagine how strange his new world felt when he set aside his majesty and inhabited the body of a helpless baby! He stepped down from the glories of heaven to live in a poor family among people who had little idea of who he actually was.
Being in ministry means we serve God by serving others. It’s not about me, it’s about others. What do they need? How can I focus on their interests? What do others want to do? How do they want to do it?
Jesus doesn’t ask us to do anything he wouldn’t be willing to do himself. We may tire of constantly serving others, but he gave his whole life, 33 years of it, as the Man serving other men. And as he was serving others, he was also serving us, who live 2000 years later. He didn’t just preach servanthood. He fleshed it out and modelled it.
Sometimes ministry means we have to give up some activity that we would love to pursue with passion. Ministry may put us in a time or place that makes it impossible. But we follow where the Lord leads us, dropping behind us things that would hinder God’s primary purposes in our lives.
Jesus did far more than that. Though he came to save us, as he approached the time when he would be separated from his Father in a death of humiliation and pain, he shrank from the idea. He had to consciously surrender his will to the Father anew so he could offer the supreme sacrifice and die in our place. He emptied himself of his own desires for the good of all people, including me.
Affirmation and Approval
Perhaps these thoughts have brought you, like me, to Philippians 2. Verse 6 describes that great step down when he was rudely awakened in the body of a baby. Verse 7 shows his life as a bondservant who was often overlooked. In verse 8 he bows in obedience to the cross. If you’ve been following that trail, you know what comes next. Exaltation and affirmation. Someday even Jesus’ enemies will bow before him and acknowledge him as Lord. I can’t wait to see that!
Sometimes we may wish for more affirmation and thanks from people, but we don’t have to wish for that from God. He doesn’t forget the “labor of love” which is our ministry. Our labor may seem to be in vain at times, but it is not. When we serve him faithfully, he smiles down in appreciation for what we do. Do you doubt that? Read Hebrews 6:10 and 1 Corinthians 15:58 as many times as it takes for you to sense his smile and approval.
So this Christmas I want to reach out to all of you people in ministry. You may be tired. Satan may tempt you to feel sorry for yourself. I encourage you to forget all that and focus on this: Jesus gave up far more than he will ever ask us to give up. He exhausted himself in service to a greater degree than we ever will. He sacrificed more than he will ever ask of us. And his smile of approval for faithful service is as sure as the promises of God. God sees your work. This Christmas take a few moments to bask in his love and approval.
May you each have a blessed Christmas wherever you are!