Evidence of Useful Ministry
Christian maturity can be hindered and stopped by enemies of maturity within and outside the believer. Yet, John writes, “The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
Specific evidences mark a believer who is moving toward the image of Jesus Christ. First, the believer bears the unmistakable family resemblance and expresses the character of Jesus Christ in his habits and attitudes. The maturing believer is an answer to the world as the world!
The believer’s work is also a clear evidence of maturity. A growing believer is a useful believer. As maturity increases, the believer is better able to accept responsibility. One of the greatest thrills of a parent is to see his or her child grow and become a useful member of society. Similarly, useful ministry is proof that we are coming to our goal as believers.
Our earliest glimpse of man is of his usefulness in the Garden of Eden: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15). God is shown throughout the Scriptures as creating the world and working in it. When God made man, His intent was that man would “rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground” (Genesis 1:26). God further commanded man to live all over the earth and bring it under control (Genesis 1:28). At this point, God was very pleased with His creation.
Then sin interfered with man’s fulfilling this ministry. He was driven from the Garden and from his place of shared dominion over the earth. But there was still to be work for man. God told Adam, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. . . . By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground” (Genesis 3:17–19).
Thank God that through Jesus Christ, humans can be redeemed from sin by faith! Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can again do the useful works that God intended. The pattern for our useful ministry is Jesus himself.
Christ’s Example of Usefulness
Luke begins The Acts of the Apostles, “In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven” (Acts 1:1). Later, Luke emphasizes the usefulness of Jesus’ work: “He went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil” (Acts 10:38).
Early in His ministry, Jesus healed a paralyzed man on the Sabbath. Then Jewish authorities persecuted Him because He had done this on a Sabbath. Jesus answered them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working” (John 5:17).
The Father’s Glory
Jesus would do nothing against the Father’s will. He lived entirely to accomplish the Father’s purpose. Jesus said, “My food. . . is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” (John 4:34). And at the end of Jesus’ life, He proclaimed to His Father, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4).
THE BELIEVER’S MINISTRY
Fulfilling Jesus’ Ministry
In John 14:12–14, Jesus declared: I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
Do you understand this declaration from Jesus? The believer will give proof of Christian maturity by doing the works Jesus did. These works will glorify the Father as did the works of Jesus himself.
We have seen in our earlier study that the subject of maturity in the Bible is sometimes compared to farming. Jesus used this illustration in a powerful teaching on the believer’s ministry. Jesus said, “I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last ” (John 15:16). In this teaching, Jesus also stated that He is the vine and the Father is the gardener. The believer is likened to a branch that bears fruit only as it remains in union with the vine.
The believer’s fruitfulness is evidence of his ministry. But each believer must remember that his or her ministry is a fulfillment of Jesus’ ministry. The believer “can do nothing” without Him (John 15:5).
Showing Maturity Through Works
Growing Christians must be useful. Apostle Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16–17: All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
The phrase “thoroughly equipped” in the original language expresses the idea of maturity. God’s purpose is to bring us to maturity or completion through His Word. Then we will be able to do works that glorify Him. Again, the good deeds which follow will be evidence that we have been fully qualified to do them, and that we are maturing in Jesus Christ.
In Colossians 1, the apostle Paul tells of his prayers for the early Christians:
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:9–10)
Ephesians 2:8–10 combines the subjects of how and why God saved us. While focusing on the importance of the believer’s good deeds, let us not forget that a person can be redeemed only by means of something else.
Let us conclude this section by reemphasizing two points concerning the believer’s works:
1. A person is not forgiven or saved through his or her works. Salvation comes only through faith in what Jesus Christ did on the Cross. The death of Christ paid the price for humanity’s sinfulness. Now we can be saved through God’s grace. This grace is undeserved and free.
2. Although works do not save the sinner, or redeem the believer, they are an important part of our purpose or goal as Christians. We are born to glorify the Father through useful lives.
Continuing by the Holy Spirit
Evidence of the Holy Spirit’s control of our personality is Christ’s character in us. But the evidence of the Holy Spirit’s control over our mind and will is works that continue Christ’s ministry.
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are special abilities given to the believer. Romans 12 and Corinthians 12 teach on these special abilities. Romans 12:5–6 says,
In Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.
Different functions of the members of our physical body illustrate well the spiritual ministries of believers. The fingers must be able to do specific tasks, but the toes are not like the fingers. Very few people could use their toes like their fingers! Yet, the toes help us hold our balance, walk, run, and so forth.
First Corinthians 12 is the most studied Scripture concerning gifts from the Holy Spirit. Paul writes,
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. (1 Corinthians 12:4–7).
Another three gifts in this passage have to do with unusual scriptural spiritual power: (1) the power of special faith, (2) the power to heal, and (3) the power to work miracles. These powers enable the believer to do many of the amazing works Jesus did.
The last three gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:8–11 have to do with special abilities to think and understand above the human level. These are: (1) a message of wisdom, (2) a message of knowledge, and (3) the ability to tell the difference between gifts that come from the Spirit and those that do not.
Each of these special abilities makes it possible for believers to do works that show the likeness of Jesus Christ. These gifts must draw attention to Jesus, not to the person through whom they operate. First Corinthians 14 instructs us how these gifts are to function.
Jesus told a story about work, which involved two sons (see Matthew 21:28–31). When the father asked the older son to work in the vineyard, the son refused but later changed his mind and did the task. The father made the same request to the other son, who promised to work in the vineyard but did not follow through on his promise. Then Jesus asked those who were listening, “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” The people who were
listening replied, “The first.”
The message in that story is clear. It is doing the will of God that counts—not talking about it. A powerful evidence of Christian maturity is a life of usefulness.
Jesus informed the righteous that good works they had done for needy people were counted as having been done for Him (see Matthew 25:37–40).
There are many such Scriptures that we could study. Our purpose, however, is to demonstrate usefulness as evidence of Christian maturity. Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven ” (Matthew 5:16).