Recently the Lord spoke an incredible word of encouragement into my heart. What made it so incredible was that it articulated what has been my guiding principle of my personal life and ministry for many years. Let me share it with you:
The disciplined life in the secret place sets the foundation for effective ministry in the public place
It was in a very memorable way (I have written about this experience in previous blogs), where the Lord challenged me to make prayer the priority of my life. For many years now I have had a regular ‘appointment with Jesus’ each morning. I have learned that when my devotional journey is disciplined and regular, so many other dimensions of my life flow much more effectively and my resistance to the attacks of the enemy is much stronger.
I love reading life stories of spiritual giants of Christian history. People like Luther, Brother Lawrence, Hudson-Taylor, John Wesley, Watchmen Nee, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and A W Tozer to name a few. What I discovered in all of them was that they had one thing in common: they knew the importance of time alone with God. They lived a disciplined devotional and prayer journey that provided the key to them living an effectiveness life for God.
Let’s me take a moment to share what I learned from the word given. There are four key elements:
The disciplined life: Discipline is an ongoing process, not a quick fix. It involves hard work. For me this means that discipline doesn’t come naturally! Discipline is something in which both God and me are involved in. I have a responsibility in the matter. It boils down to the question, “Am I willing to pay the price?” If athletes put themselves through years of hard work and training to get a gold medal, shouldn’t I be willing to pay the price to be godly?
The secret place: I have written many times about the importance the secret place plays in my life. I add here again that it speaks of my desire to be alone with the Lord Jesus and to share intimate fellowship with Him. I listen as He speaks into life situations through His written Word or His spoken word in my heart. In the secret place the Holy Spirit works at a deep level to shape me more into the likeness of Jesus.
As followers of Christ, we are all called to the secret place. There’s no exception. This is where we learn to delight in Him above all else in our lives. We need to consistently seek His face in the secret place to ensure that we cultivate one of life’s most valuable assets, if not the most important—a secret history with God.
The foundation: Our spiritual life begins in a personal encounter with the risen Lord Jesus Christ. We grow in the things of the Spirit as we feed upon the Word of God and prayer in the ‘secret place’. That time alone with Jesus is the foundation upon which all else depends. With a good foundation, a building will stand strong and true. Neglect the foundation and the structure will fail. The same is true in Christian life and ministry.
Effective ministry in the public place: What is effective ministry? For me this question has become even more urgent right now as I moved back into secular employment earlier this year, after many years in ministry. My answer comes through a series of questions I constantly test myself with. This keeps me accountable before God.
- Is Christ being proclaimed and glorified?
- Is the Word of God being honoured and rightly used?
- Are people being drawn to Christ by the power of the gospel?
- Are people being challenged to grow in Him?
- Are people’s lives being transformed by the presence of the Holy Spirit?
- Are people seeing the qualities of a godly servant being demonstrated?
- Am I being true to my Lord?
I finish with this thought.
We must consider building our private ministry in the secret place before demonstrating our public ministry in the open. Entering and staying in the private ministry requires discipline and commitment. This will require paying a price but more important this is where Christian character is built and established.