We expect ministry to be sunshine and roses. But service is about glorifying God through Jesus Christ. It’s about Him. Therefore, lest we attempt to steal the glory, we must be removed from the limelight. Lest we rely on ourselves, we must be brought low.

That being the case, ministry is messy.

In the disciples’ lives, we witness this when they returned exhausted and heart sore from their first two-by-two ministry assignment. During it they had learned of John the Baptist’s death. To debrief them, Jesus whisked them away on a “retreat,” knowing full well they would arrive at the end of themselves and he would ask them to feed 5000+. After they had come face to face with their inability and weakness, Jesus overflowed with compassion, healed multitudes, and walked on water, performing miracle upon miracle.

God was glorified, and the disciples learned more about Jesus. They grew. Another day in the life of the disciples. It’s the same for us.

This past weekend (In)courage hosted its (in) Real Life event, a worldwide webcast for promoting community among believing women. The impact of this event was phenomenal! God did above and beyond our wildest imaginings!

In January, my friend and I had signed up to organize this event for our church. Our plan was to do this together, hand in hand. We are like one girl, our gifts and strengths unified. We are partners in bible study promotion and instruction, small group leadership, and prison ministry. We also co-shepherd the spiritual growth development for women in our church.

If you read my blog regularly, you know about the book contract, the manuscript’s final edit, and my mother-in-law’s decline. These complicated our planning, propelling all the work into my cohort’s hands. She already had a full load. That would seem like enough difficulty, right? But my friend and I are strong, self-reliant women, hard nuts to crack, so God applied more pressure, wrenching this event entirely out of our hands and into Jesus’.

Administrative snafus multiplied, scheduling issues arose, indecision tormented, sleeplessness plagued, and computer problems bewildered. Then, in the middle of the last podcast on Friday, my daughter was floored by gastroenteritis. I was up all night, holding back her hair and hovering as she suffered. I arrived at the Saturday event sleep-deprived and nursing a migraine.

Enter Jesus. At our church, the results were fantastic! Our estimated numbers overflowed. Women opened up and bonded. Friendships were forged. We laughed. We cried. Each woman left energized and encouraged, embracing strategies to reach out and engage in community.

My friend and I didn’t pull off this event. God did. Jesus was exalted. Our hearts filled with joy as we watched him do it, receiving all the glory. This is what it looks like. This is the norm for effective service.

When trials multiply in ministry, know that ahead of you is a miracle. God intends to do something beyond your wildest dreams. He will do it in such a way that he is magnified, and you decrease. When this happens, he is glorified and people are drawn to him.

As my friend carried this alone, I watched her grow in Christ-reliant skills and confidence. She shone like a star in the universe, not only in how she organized the event and soldiered on in our other ministries, but in how she continued to encourage and care for me in my grief and manuscript travail during it all. She looked like Christ.

I learned more about yielding my expectations and myself into God’s hands. Jesus’ grip on my heart tightened. In suffering, he enlarged and swelled and filled my heart’s corners. My passion for the One who holds me in all things increased. I also grew in love and appreciation for my friend and her strengths. God bonded us, cementing our unity.

God transformed us, and God pulled off the event. It wasn’t sunshine and roses. It was better.

What does it look like when he increases and you decrease?

 

2nd photo from: (in)courage; 3rd photo from: FreeDigitalPhotos.net