Same old, same old…not quite

Someone asked whether I thought my work in ministry has really made any difference in people’s lives, or is it just ‘same old, same old’?  Perhaps it is a question you have considered in the ministry you are involved in as well, for we don’t seem to see much changing in the church, nor do we see revival, within the church or beyond.  Sometimes it may seem the opposite is true.  If only we had a tried and tested formula that would guarantee growth and revival.   Then again, to think that we could possibly change hardened hearts by ‘magically’ introducing a new outreach program, or delivering a more riveting sermon, is not only unbiblical, it is childish thinking. 

The winning of a soul for Christ is often difficult and attended with many discouragements.   If one’s ministry and effectiveness is to be measured by revival in the church, or the number of new converts coming in, then most of us, and yours truly included, should have changed careers a long, long time ago!  

When it comes to revival and winning people for Christ, we need to remember what Paul writes in Romans 8:7, “…the sinful mind is hostile to God.  It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.”  The devastating effect of sin has left the heart of the natural man very hard and unbelieving.  Sinful man, apart for the Holy Spirit, is blind to their own lost condition and need for a Saviour.   Matthew reminds us, “small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Mat 7:14).   

So, what is the antidote to becoming despondent in ministry and missions and thinking that nothing really changes?  Here are some suggestions which may be helpful to consider, and you might have some other suggestions that you can share with us.  First, God’s word is living and active (Heb 4:12).  It may seem like ‘same old, same old’ week in and week out, but the promise in Scripture is that God’s word, will not return to him void, but will accomplish the very purpose for which He caused it to be sent (Isa 55:11).   Just as last Monday night’s meal nourished you, so the word of God nourishes us when we read it, hear it proclaimed, and prayerful apply it to our lives.

Second, the work of saving souls belongs to the gracious and active work of the Holy Spirit applying God’s word.  However, in applying God’s word, He uses broken, cracked vessels like us (2 Cor 4).  We are called to be the Holy Spirit’s voice, and so we keep telling people about the good news of Jesus Christ as it comes to us from God’s word.  That is the way God has determined to draw people out of darkness and into his fold, the marvellous light of His Son (see Jn 10:16. Rom 10:14).  So, we do what the prophets of old did and what the New Testament prophets and writers did, we plead, implore people to repent and believe and to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ (2 Cor 5:20).   We are also the Holy Spirit’s hands and feet and so we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner, care for the widow and orphan, and a whole lot more so that they may praise our heavenly Father (Mat 5:16; Eph 2:10; 1 Peter2:12).   

So, it is not ‘same old same old.’   In thankful response to Christ’s saving work in our lives, we are called upon to be faithful workers, and our reward is not according to the successes we have, or the souls saved, although even one soul won for Christ is great reward.  Our reward, our wages, will be according to the quantity of our work.   So, while it is still day, we sow the seed, feed the hungry, help the sick and faint of heart, until we hear our Saviour say, “Well done good and faithful servant… come and share your master’s happiness.”  JZ