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Lessons about God's grace in ministry
Have you ever read David in the Psalms saying things like, ‘Though you probe my heart and examine me at night, though you test me, you will find nothing; I have resolved that my mouth will not sin', and just thought, ‘well good for you David! I'm not sure I can say that with such confidence'? Some days this year it has felt like I'm on a downward slope from quiet time to bed time. I'll start the day setting my mind on Christ and praying for help to fight sin, then 5 minutes later I've said something really daft to my wife which hardly built her up. Then I go off to work at church and continue my negative trajectory when I'm reminded of the task I should have done or the email I should have sent but failed to. I then proceed to get frustrated with a co-worker because of something totally insignificant which I make into something worth getting annoyed about. I most likely do this simply to make myself feel better that I'm not the only one who screws up.
The effect of this repeated cycle over a year of my apprenticeship started to create a heavy burden on me. Sometimes one feels dangerously unaware of their inadequacy and considers themselves to be God's gift to the church. But at other times it is actually the acute awareness of your failings – that you did a duff Bible study, again, and that your heart was envious for your co-workers gifts, again – that becomes the danger. For me it has been the guilt and feeling of failure that has troubled me most.
But I praise the Lord that I can be liberated to press on in my ministry, and press on to kill sin, because I stand 100% righteous before my Lord.
And the way the Lord has lifted that burden is through a fresh wonder and delight in the sweetest gift of grace – Christ's righteousness given to me. Paul tells us of his joy in this truth in Philippians 3v8-9: ‘I consider [my religious performance] rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ - the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.' This year I have felt all too aware that I have no righteousness of my own, and certainly not a righteousness that comes from my performance in ministry. But I praise the Lord that I can be liberated to press on in my ministry, and press on to kill sin, because I stand 100% righteous before my Lord. While my seniors at work may look at my achievements and see the failures as well as the successes, God Almighty looks at my work and my life and sees Christ's ‘death as my pardon, and his life as my perfection.'
Phil Tinker is now assistant pastor at The Globe Church. He wrote this piece as a ministry apprentice in 2010.