The Nature and Dynamic of Ministry and The Nature and Purpose of the Church (continued)
The Growth of Ministry Is Through
"Afflictions" - "Consolations" (continued)
If we really say to the Lord, "Lord, make my life a ministry of Christ," this is how the ministry grows, this is how it goes on. This is how to be an effectual minister. This is how the ministry proceeds, deepens, and becomes more fruitful. Believe me, dear friends, if the apostle is representative of ministry and if we as servants of God are to be spiritually fruitful - if really true ministers of Jesus Christ, there will be in the background of our lives the secret sufferings, a hidden history with God under His hand.
If you are going to be a true minister of Christ, ministering Christ, He is going to take you into some deep experiences with Him, very deep experiences, where you will discover something that is going to be a great value to others; for it is the crucified and suffering servant of God who is really the fruitful one, the one of whom you can say: "That man is not talking out of his library, from his books, that man knows what he is talking about - he has been there. He has been in it. This has come out of the travail of his soul." Read 2 Corinthians again in the light of how the ministry grows. Oh, I speak and say these things to you, but God only knows how I hold my breath, for we do know that if the Lord has done anything at all, it has been by a hard way. It has been by the "afflictions" of Christ that we might know the "consolations" of Christ; and, as the people of God, what do we want? information or consolation?
I know what your answer is over that, but I want you to notice that this is something terrific in the whole cosmic realm, for ministry is not just limited to the people among whom we move. This kind of ministry is "cosmic ministry." What do I mean? I mean this: the god of this age had blinded the minds of the unbelieving, lest as a precaution, as a move, a strategic move, lest the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God should shine upon them. If our gospel is hid, it is hid in them that are perishing in whom the god of this age had blinded. - What is such a ministry? It is the undoing of that devilish work of spiritual blindness. All spiritual blindness is not just natural, it is satanic, and you have got to have something that strikes there beyond the merely natural condition, that strikes right home to the source of that condition, "he hath blinded."
satan is "the god of this world," and the trouble at Corinth, as the whole of the First Letter shows, is that the world has laid its deadly, paralyzing hand upon those people. The world and the old humanity lie under a curse. Does that sound strong, brethren? But have you never said, "this accursed self." It is this accursed self that is in the way all the time. Yes, that humanity lies under a curse from the beginning, and this world lies under a curse which means that that humanity and this world can never go through to God's end as it is. The end of that humanity and of this world is what? destruction, removal right from the Face of God. Paul saw this as to the Corinthians, the natural man intruding, and this world - its judgments, its standards, its conceptions, its values, its ideas - among these people in the church; controlling, influencing - the world of Corinth had come into the church at Corinth - in its mentality, in its manner, and in its procedure: how the world does it ... that was at Corinth.
Yes, our natural man lies under a curse, our old humanity lies under a curse. It cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God because God has put His veto on it. It is vetoed, and this world is vetoed as to God's things. And who had done it? The god of this age, the prince of this world; and when God breaks in, He said: "Let there be light," because darkness is not of God; it is of the devil. And here we have it in the spiritual part: "He hath blinded" - the god of this age, blinded and brought into darkness this old humanity, and when God says, "Let there be light," the work of the devil is undone and the judgment is removed and that should be the effect of ministry.
(continued with # 36)