Matthew 10:7-8 “As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.”
The prayer in today’s reading is in 9:38, where Jesus tells His disciples, and by extension us, to ask God for harvest workers, but this chapter is about Jesus Himself sending out harvest workers, and they were some of the very people He had been talking to, telling them to pray. This is one of the fundamental principles of prayer that too often gets overlooked: any time we pray for something, we need to be open to being used by God to answer our own prayer. That said, this passage is of extreme importance to anyone who answers the call to ministry. I really like the NIV here (for once). My understanding is that it is indeed being true to the Greek grammar when it says, “as you go.” Ministry isn’t something you do after you get somewhere, it’s a lifestyle. I recall one time fresh out of seminary, if I’m not mistaken, when we were on a fairly long trip and stopped at a truck stop. I had a bumper sticker on my car that said, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” As I was pumping gas, someone at the next pump over noticed the sticker and said to me, “Not perfect, eh?” I didn’t launch into “The Four Spiritual Laws” or anything else, but just replied, “Definitely not.” I’m not sure what else I said, just a few words, but I had the distinct impression that I had given a clear, and strong, witness to that man. That’s the kind of thing Jesus is talking about here, I think. Divine appointments don’t show up in the calendar app on our phone! We are to be open and available to the Holy Spirit 24/7/365, not “saving up” for “revival meetings,” or even for when we are at church. Actually, church services should be focused on ministry to God, and the rest of the time we’re to be ministering to people. It is also of great importance that Jesus was clear that ministry is to be without charge. He goes on to say that ministers are to be well taken care of, but it must not be on the basis of a bill for services rendered. There have been countless violations of that principle! If we fail to remember that God is the supply for our physical needs, we will find that the supply of spiritual power for ministry dries up as well, and that is sad indeed.
Since I have been in “full-time ministry” for well over half of my life, this is of extreme relevance to me. Of the specific areas of ministry Jesus mentioned here, I’ve never raised a dead person and I’ve never encountered anyone with leprosy, but I have certainly been aware of God operating through me. The amazing thing to me is that He would use even me to do it! I seek always to help believers grasp that God wants to use them as well. Too many people think their failures and weaknesses are too great for God to overcome! When we gauge our “ministry potential” by our own abilities, we are cutting God out of the picture altogether, and that guarantees failure. I have had to learn that when Paul said, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength,” (Philippians 4:13) that applies to absolutely everything He asks me to do. My ministry is effective only to the degree that I allow Him to operate through me; I can’t possibly do it on my own.
Father, thank You for this strong reminder. Thank You for the privilege of blessing a brother and sister yesterday. That felt good! Thank You for using me in various ways, big and small. Help me be increasingly available as Your minister, so that people will know, recognize, and respond to Your love, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!