While at CM Connect 17, my good friend Heidi gave a message on the main stage. She focused on the Scripture passage Ecclesiastes 4. Ministry has to be a calling – it cannot be just another job. Even when you’re living into your calling in Ministry, it can be very hard and exhausting. I think, personally, that sometimes those of us who are living into our calling are also in bigger need of a support system because we know that Satan does not want us to live into our calling. Satan wants to keep us from furthering the kingdom of God. Spiritual Warfare is real, my friends, and we need to make sure we are prepared for the battle.
Heidi explained that when we are at work, 2 are better 1. That is because the work we do – ministry – is NOT about us. It’s about God/Jesus. It shouldn’t be about us. If we are doing the work by ourselves, we identify that “I did that” instead of “God did that”. Ecclesiastes 4: 9 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil” (ESV). The NIV says, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.” When we work together, when we are in ministry because we are living into our calling – furthering the kingdom of God – we are sowing good seeds. We are laboring. Ministry is a Team Sport. It’s not something someone can do by themselves – not effectively. There are those who try and want to do ministry by themselves, but it doesn’t produce good fruit. The return for the labor of one person will not be anywhere near what the return of the labor of two or more is.
Two are better than one because if one falls, the other is there to help him up. Friends, we are not perfect people. We are a fallen people. We all sin. The only exemption of that is Jesus. We will fall. I fall all the time. I am so glad to have the ministry support system that I have. They catch me more times than they know. Outside of my co-workers at church, I have 5 very close friends that I can count on to help me up when I fall.
Often times, though, we have warning lights before a big fall. We need to pay attention to those warning lights just like we pay attention to the warning lights in our cars. We need to have people in our lives that also know when our warning lights are coming on. 1 Corinthians 10: 12 says, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (ESV). The key word in this verse is thinks. We need to be paying attention to our warning lights. We need to know that we are standing because we are not doing this on our own or for ourselves. When our friends tell us of our warning lights, we need to be ok with that and not get upset. We need to take heed so that we don’t fall.
Further in Ecclesiastes 4, we know that two are better than one because a second person will help us when we are cold. Do you know what your spiritual temperature is? Are you spending time in the Word every day? What about prayer? Are you actually building into your relationship with God? These are all indicators of our spiritual temperature. 2 Timothy 2:6 says, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of hands,” (ESV). Encouraging and affirming each other in ministry is fanning into another’s flame. One of the many reasons (and this is on the lower part of the list) that I love my “new” church (I’ve been there less than 2 months) is that my pastor, my co-workers, my volunteers, and the rest of the congregation affirm and encourage me every chance they can. Not only are they doing this for me, but they do this for each other. I also try to do this for them.
In Family Ministry – especially with kids and youth – we have volunteers that are in the trenches every week. I want my volunteers to know that I truly appreciate them, that they are amazing for what they are doing. I want to affirm and encourage them as much and as often as possible. I want to fan into their flame. As you go through your week, look around your “playground” and see who is falling. Hand out encouragement! That encouragement will keep you warm. Encouragement is warmth. Sometimes, in the more tough times in ministry, encouragement can be the only thing to keep you going. I’ve been in spots like that and to be honest, it sucks. But the encouragement is needed and it keeps you warm.
As I mentioned earlier, we need to be prepared for battle. Spiritual warfare is very real. Satan wants to bring us down. When there is just one of us in the battle, we can be overpowered. However 2 can defeat it. I’m a veteran. While I never saw combat, I did serve. I know that in order to be combat ready, you cannot do it alone. The military requires teamwork.
There will be times when you think you are going to land, but instead you’ll find that you are going to crash. I had this experience in ministry. I took a position where I thought I was landing, but instead, I crashed. I crashed hard. My spiritual temperature dropped, I fell, and I didn’t have a team to work with. Thankfully, I had a support system that prayed for me and helped me. They encouraged me, which kept me warm during the cold times. They were my battle buddies.
We have our battle buddies, but at the same time we still need to prepare ourselves for battle. Ephesians 6:10-18 tells us to put on the whole armor of God. However, even with armor, we have an uncovered part of our body – our back. When I was in the Army we did MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) training. We trained to watch our buddies’ backs. Why? Because it’s the one area that is not covered. Why is the back not covered? There’s 3 reasons: 1 – mobility reasons, 2 – you NEVER retreat, and 3 – you don’t go it alone in battle. There’s a level of trust you have to have with your battle buddies when you go to war. Battle buddies. We need them to survive the war. We need to be able to trust them, be transparent with them, and be close to them. Be a friend. Be an encourager. Win the war. Add Jesus as your third cord, and the strand cannot be easily broken.