Friday, March 16, 2007

Of What Value Is Your Gain?

Just a few weeks ago, the Father asked me a difficult question. "What if I told you to take your name off everything you do and everything you have done? Would you still move forward in ministry? Would you still serve with the same fervency? Would you still lead people to me and speak my praises?" Honestly, my first response was "Of course I would." Yet, I answered without truly pondering over the question God asked. I didn't really meditate on how difficult that would be. I would feel so disappointed and unappreciated. I'd feel used and alone. I'd, in a sense, feel like a failure. Eventually, my response turned into a prayer. I had to ask God to show me myself. What are my real motives? How much value do I put on PERSONAL GAIN in ministry?

Of course I also began to think about the Body of Christ as a whole. We can't help but gain something by worshiping God, but how much emphasis do we place on the notoriety, the prestige and the honor? How much do we long for the networking, the encouragement and the popularity? How much do we seek the stuff, the money and the gifts? What about the service and the praise? When we think about it, how many of claim to worship God just so we can gain stuff from the world?

Yes, it is happening. Think of all the worldly artists whose careers have taken a dive. Where do they run? The Gospel industry. Why? Less competition and lots of consumers. Easy reception. Natalie Cole, Patti Labelle, Whitney Houston, RUN DMC, MC Hammer, Tony Terry, R. Kelly, Smokey Robinson, Al Green, Michelle Williams – and so many more. These are all examples of people who never truly converted, yet reap the benefits of a minister, or one who carries the Gospel. The worst part is that it’s our fault! The CHURCH has put so much emphasis on personal gain that we’ve forgotten about true worship. Ministry has become a business. Why do we buy the music and movies from those who are literally making a mockery of the Gospel? Why do we praise those who prostitute salvation? We do it because we have weighed personal gain more than God’s glory. Yes, we will buy a CD, lie and say that we are worshipping God though the song is written and PERFORMED by an unholy vessel, and then complain to God when He doesn’t move. How long will we care about a nice beat and a cute tune more than we care about God’s glory? When will return to the point when our integrity is more important than our personal entertainment?

What is the value of your gain?

Phil 3:7 But whatever former things I had that might have been gains to me, I have come to consider as [one combined] loss for Christ's sake.

God really had to purge me of many things. In fact, each time I ascend to a new level in Him, there are things in my life that must be shed. There are parts of me that must be forsaken. There are gains that I must count as losses.

God spoke to me many years ago and explained that He’s not moved by the success stories that many feel should afford them a special spot in “ministry.” The education, the money, the acquaintances – they don’t mean a thing if God does not receive the glory! Too often, believers rely on their worldly accomplishments more than their spiritual relationship with the Father. The anointing cannot be bought. Many are called, and few chosen. Thank God that his role book is not based on credentials.

On the other hand, God is also tired of being limited and confined by our pocketbooks or lack of education. How many times have we disobeyed God because we were moved by our lack of resources more than His command? I am guilty!!! “Father, I can’t correct her. She has a doctorate degree… Lord, I can’t go there and preach. I don’t have gas money… Father, I don’t feel right telling her to fast. She is diabetic.” Yes, we all do it.

God said to count it all as a loss. In other words, consider it be insignificant.

Phil 3:8 Yes, furthermore, I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord {and} of progressively becoming more deeply {and} intimately acquainted with Him [of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly]. For His sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish (refuse, dregs), in order that I may win (gain) Christ (the Anointed One),

I must be free as I deal with this next segment of Scripture. Paul said that he counted all as loss for CHRIST’s sake, not his own. I am sick and tired of hearing Christians use their own failures as a pulpit commercial to make them look and seem holy and deep. Let’s just be real! Believers have made a habit of preaching the “Woe is me” testimony, and God is not pleased. It does not glorify the Father. The motive is wrong. So many times, I have been approached even by prophets who have nothing to impart other than a sad testimony. The worse part is that this is often their only claim to holiness. Too many have been taught that loss equals holiness. No – it’s SACRIFICE that leads to holiness. Loss and sacrifice are two different things.

If I lose my home because I didn’t pay the mortgage, that’s a loss. If I give up my home at God’s instruction, that’s a sacrifice. If I lose my children because I’m a poor mother to them, that’s a loss. If God instructs me to release my children to another country for missions work, that’s a sacrifice.

Yes, we want to blame God for OUR OWN FAILURES, then use it as a selling point when trying to convince others that we are holy. God is not pleased! True SACRIFICE is voluntary. True SACRIFICE is active, not passive.

Phil 3:9 And that I may [actually] be found {and} known as in Him, not having any [self-achieved] righteousness that can be called my own, based on my obedience to the Law's demands (ritualistic uprightness and supposed right standing with God thus acquired), but possessing that [genuine righteousness] which comes through faith in Christ (the Anointed One), the [truly] right standing with God, which comes from God by [saving] faith.

Oh, I pray that our desire will begin to line up with that of Paul’s. He did not desire anyone to think him righteous because of his own doing. That’s a very serious desire. He didn’t want to be recognized because of his obedience to God, nor his possessions or even his faith. Truly, Paul expressed a desire to be NOTHING accept a conduit of God’s grace and exaltation.

Phil 3:10 [For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope]

Oh, what is our PURPOSE in ministry? The Father showed me some things about my own motives that disturbed me. He showed me some things about the Body of Christ that made me cry, weep and travail in prayer. Our purpose in ministry should be simply to be intimate with the Father. Our purpose and motive should be that we want to share with Christ.

When was the last time you truly suffered and gave God praise for it? Shouldn’t suffering be something we seek in ministry? We are to share the suffering and the death of Christ in order to please our Father. When was the last time someone was offended by a message you preached? When was the last time someone “uninvited” you to a conference in fear that you would shrink the crowd of attendees? Shouldn’t this be our purpose in ministry? When was the last time someone forgot your name when you were about to share the Word of God? Shouldn’t this be a reason to rejoice in ministry?

FLESH DIES in the presence of true ministry. Only God is seen. Only the Father is heard. Intimacy is multiplied.

Phil 3:11 That if possible I may attain to the [spiritual and moral] resurrection [that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body].
Phil 3:12 Not that I have now attained [this ideal], or have already been made perfect, but I press on to lay hold of (grasp) {and} make my own, that for which Christ Jesus (the Messiah) has laid hold of me {and} made me His own.
Phil 3:13 I do not consider, brethren, that I have captured {and} made it my own [yet]; but one thing I do [it is my one aspiration]: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,
Phil 3:14 I press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward.

Even in all he was willing to sacrifice, Paul recognized one thing we so often forget – HE HAD NOT YET ARRIVED! Despite all the sacrifice, Paul still had a hope. He still realized that the God he served was bigger than anything he could ever give. There was still a godly fear and reverence for him to be accepted by God. He still CONFESSED THE PRESS! Ahhhhh…

Many of us don’t CONFESS THE PRESS because our form of ministry is too easy. It’s filled with large honorariums, shoes, purses and suits. It comes with glamour, notoriety and popularity. THERE’S NO PRESS IN MESS. Oh, it’s easy to do the thing that brings comfort to the flesh and ignores the spirit.

Where are the saints who are suffering for the Lord’s sake, but are still able to bridle their tongue? Yes, I believe there are some who suffer, but truly count it a loss. No one has to hear the sob story, because God received the glory and the soul was content. Hallelujah! I pray more of us grow to this point.

Where are the ones who are broke, but still give God glory? Where are the ministers who literally carry pain in their bodies because of the prayers they put forth on behalf of the people? Jesus produced sweat of blood in his prayers. When was the last time you got up from prayer with sore knees, stomach cramps, or even a dry mouth because of the spiritual warfare? PRESS… God is calling us to PRESS IN.

In conclusion…

Is 61:3 To grant [consolation and joy] to those who mourn in Zion--to give them an ornament (a garland or diadem) of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, the garment [expressive] of praise instead of a heavy, burdened, {and} failing spirit--that they may be called oaks of righteousness [lofty, strong, and magnificent, distinguished for uprightness, justice, and right standing with God], the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.

For many years, this Scripture has inspired and encouraged me. Realize today that ashes must often come before God will grant beauty. Beautifying oneself while trying to hide the ashes does not bring glory to the Father. Sometimes a heavy and burdened spirit must exist before God can transform it into a spirit of praise. “Faking it until you make it” doesn’t bring Him glory. Every now and then, mourning must come before God sends joy. Denial will not bring Him glory.

What is the value of your gain today? When will we realize that God doesn’t get the glory in that which we do in our own strength and intellect. Is there not a motive when we rely on our selves to do “good works.” Count it a loss, and watch God move!

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