February 7, 2017

How Jesus Prepares People for Ministry

by Jordan Standridge

Ministry is hard.

easyYou’re probably thinking, “No duh, Jordan.” But there was a time that I actually thought that it was going to be easy. I’m prone to make the same mistake over and over again. When I sat in my pre-marital counseling, I thought that marriage was going to be relatively easy. Then, before we had our first child and we took our parenting class, I thought, “Man, this is going to be a piece of cake.” And then there were times sitting in seminary classes that I thought, “Sounds pretty simple to me!”

But then I got married, and even though my wife is the most gorgeous and godly woman I know, I still can’t stop from being selfish towards her at times, and despite the fact that I’ve listened to hours of Tedd Tripp’s thoughts on parenting, I still struggle when my children sin against me, and even though I went to the best seminary in the world (yes, I know I’m biased), ministry is still incredibly difficult. Sitting in a classroom is one thing, but actually experiencing the ministry is another.

Recently, as I had the opportunity to teach on Luke 9:1-9, I was overwhelmed with the concept of giving glory to God in our ministries. How does God get glory from us doing ministry? For over a year Jesus had done everything, and it was going pretty well. Yes, He was almost killed a couple times, even in His own town, but thousands were being healed, thousands were having demons cast out, and, as you read the verses right after this section, you see that thousands upon thousands were following Christ so far that they didn’t have food to eat and He had to feed the hungry crowd. Jesus was doing ministry perfectly.

And in these verses, He decides to step back for a time and sends out the twelve disciples to go do ministry for the first time.

Jesus didn’t have to do this. He could have done it all. The Trinity could have decided before the foundation of time to never create humans or to not allow human beings to share in ministry, and yet God decided to not only create humans but for human beings to be the instruments He would use to bring glory to Himself.

And so, Jesus sends out the twelve, but it is quite obvious here that the disciples are completely dependent on Christ. We throw around the words “give glory to God” very often in the church, but I believe this passage actually gives us the opportunity to define this term a little better.  In fact, Jesus gives us three gifts that drive us to admit or dependence on Him and that ultimately allows Him to receive all the glory and praise.

Jesus gives us the Power

And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. Luke 9:1

First, notice that the power of the ministry comes from God. The disciples are going to be given the ability to do miracles. They are going to be able to heal and to cast out daemons. But an even greater power that they are called to do is to preach the Gospel. There is nothing more powerful than preaching the very Word of Christ. The word used here is the word δύναμις (dunamis) which is where we get the word dynamite in the English language. It is quite obvious that these disciples were not very dynamic in and of themselves. They were a hot mess before Jesus showed up, and yet, here, after over a year of watching Jesus do all the ministry, they go out and do things that people had never seen.

It’s sad to look back even to just this past month and think about how many days I walked, worked, and witnessed by my own strength. I have no power apart from Jesus and his Word. Of course, you and I have no miraculous power. In only three short periods of history did God entrust men with those kinds of powers–Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, and some during the first years of the church age. Other than these chosen few, every man of God has to rely on prayer and God’s Word. And it has been more than enough to provide them with the ability to glorify Him.

It’s so easy for us to rely on our own power, but we must, in order to glorify Him with our lives, rely on His power, and admit that without it, we could accomplish nothing.

Jesus gives us permission

And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. Luke 9:1

Secondly, it’s interesting to note that He also grants them permission to go and minister for Him. It says that he gave them power and authority. Apart from the authority of Christ, we could do nothing. God is the Creator, and the One with the power, and yet He sends his children to go out and take the Gospel to the lost. He also gifts us with spiritual gifts that we are to use on the churches that He has allowed us to be a part of.

There’s an incredibly interesting verse here in this section. Jesus says in Luke 9:5 to His disciples, “If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”

This was to be a form of judgment on the house; they were called to walk up to a home try to share the Gospel, and if the home showed hostility, not only were they to leave but they were to—as a form of judgment—shake the dust of their feet. Judgment is completely God’s work and yet the disciples had permission, as ambassadors of Christ Himself, to pronounce the judgment in God’s stead.

Apart from Christ choosing us and giving us permission to serve Him, we would not have any ability or desire to serve Him. With the dunamis (ability, power) God gives us the right to use the power of His Word and His judgments on the world.

Jesus is the one who provides

Thirdly, it’s fascinating here that Jesus tells them to go without taking any provisions. He instructs them,

“Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt.” (Luke 9:3)

There are many reasons for this, but ultimately, it is in order to show that it is God who provides everything we need in order to live as His ambassadors. The disciples were going to be taken care of.  They didn’t need to be concerned with where they would sleep, who would be responsive to the Gospel, or what they would eat or drink, the only thing they needed to do was to be faithful to share the message God wanted them to.

It is very tempting for us to rely on our own power. It is also tempting to live our lives thinking we are the authority, but, most of all, I think it can be very tempting to want to provide for ourselves. There are many people in the church who are hesitant to share the Gospel at work because they think they will lose their job, or they won’t get the promotion, or even that they will be seen as weird and have difficult working relationships.  But we ought to trust in God’s promises to provide us with the power, the permission, and the provisions we need in order to serve Him faithfully.

Jesus gets all the praise

Ultimately, it seems that the disciples, despite all of their imperfections, did a great job of exalting Christ with their lives. They made it clear as they went from house to house, that the power wasn’t theirs, that the permission had been granted by God himself, and, in their lack of worrying about where they would sleep and what they would eat, they demonstrated an incredible reliance on God that people hadn’t seen before. They really did bring glory to Christ, to the point that when Herod heard about what they were doing in Luke 9:7-9, he doesn’t ask, “Who are these twelve guys?” Instead, he wondered about just one man, and that was the man Christ Jesus, and asked, “Who, then, is this I hear such things about?”

That is the real definition of giving glory to God. It’s easy to say giving glory to God means we live for Him or we do things for Him, but false religions say that as well. The real definition of bringing glory to God has to be living in utter dependence of Him and doing things that only He can get the credit for.

It’s easy to get discouraged in life. Whether from broken relationships, lack of fruit, or trials that seem insurmountable. But usually, as I have evaluated my own heart, these moments come when I pride-fully rely on my own strength. Jesus sent out the twelve in order for them to put some feet on their theology and to strengthen it, but mostly to show them that it was utterly impossible to serve Christ without Him. Only when they realized this truth did they cause the people they came into contact with to ask, “Who is this Jesus?”

Is that true of your life? Are people watching your life and asking, “Who is this Jesus he or she keeps talking about?” Are you living in utter dependence on Christ? Are you bringing glory to Christ with your life?

Jordan Standridge

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Jordan is a pastoral associate at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA, where he leads the college ministry. He is the founder of The Foundry Bible Immersion.
  • Ira Pistos

    That was powerful Jordan. Very.

    I have a question about one thing. Regarding the shaking of dust from their feet in parting, as a testimony against them.
    You present it as a form of judgment and I’m curious how this is so. I see that it is clearly a testimony against, the evangelist as a witness for the Judge.
    Do you have as case for seeing this as a form of judgment that you could offer me?

    That’s just a very minor question about a detail in your outstanding post.

    Thank you Jordan.

    • Jordan Standridge

      I’m not sure I understand what your view is. The idea I see Jesus conveying is that the disciples as they shook the dust off of their sandals were casting a judgment on that house, in the sense that they are saying that they were unwilling to hear the Gospel and not worthy of even having their dust be on the feet of gospel ministers.

      • Ira Pistos

        As I said, it’s a ridiculously minor detail that unfortunately lodged in my head.

        As I sat here preparing my response, I read again that paragraph and now I’m shaking my head at myself. What you wrote is crystal clear and I can’t explain how I missed it yesterday.
        Maybe not enough sleep, whatever the case, the misunderstanding is entirely on me. Please accept my apology.

        As for the encouragement, that’s me thanking you for the same. You gentlemen, in the effort you apply to this work are priceless. You’re blessed in your service and my thanking you is me thanking our Lord who you serve.

    • Jordan Standridge

      thanks for the encouragement B.T.W.

  • Vinod Anand S

    Great post, Jordan. A timely and powerful reminder. As I am joining a seminary, this article directs me to God for my strength. A much needed one for me. Thanks.