2 Corinthians 12:19 Everything we do, dear friends, is for your strengthening.
This should be true for every minister of the Gospel, but sadly, ministers struggle with being self-centered just like everyone else. I think the majority at least have this as a goal, but just as Paul himself discovered, perfection is not for this earth. (Philippians 3:12-14) We are continually growing, and that is as it should be. If there were any true “paragons of perfection” walking around, it could be discouraging to those who recognize their faults! The marvelous truth is that in building others up, we ourselves are built up. Building others up helps us overcome our own self-centeredness, which opens us up to receiving the joy of the Lord. Quite a few years ago someone came up with JOY as an acronym for the priorities that indeed lead to true joy: Jesus, Others, Yourself. I am constantly having to point out to people that selfishness never leads to happiness; at best, it leads to temporary pleasure. Being in full-time ministry is something of an intensive course in that very truth. There is nothing more satisfying than leading someone first to repentance and faith and then into committed discipleship, but that requires committed discipleship on the part of the minister as well. God desires and intends joy for us, (John 16:24) but the more we focus on getting and grasping joy for its own sake, the more elusive it becomes. That’s just as Jesus said about life itself. “Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” (Luke 17:33)
I have experienced this from all directions. I have had times of being focused on myself, and they have never done much good for me or for anyone else. I have also experienced the joy of seeing others blossom as I have ministered to them. In marriage, I have experienced what I tell every couple before I will do their wedding: the more I focus on my own happiness, the more it flees from me. The more I focus on my wife’s happiness, the happier I become. Recently the Lord has given me great joy in seeing one of my spiritual children escape from a trap of the devil. I think I’m happier than I would be if I were the one doing it! The more I give myself to my Lord through giving myself to those around me, the more blessed I will be.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for all that You are doing, in individuals and in this church as a whole. May we indeed grow to be and do all that You desire and intend, drawing many into Your kingdom for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!