I get all sorts of questions about certain Christian books, or what someone says at church, or even a word of advice given by a friend. Of course we shouldn’t look to judge or condemn any of these people, but how do we develop a Godly sense of discernment, to know if this is wisdom from God, or something that’s likely to lead me further astray?
Also, you might be looking to minister to someone, and maybe you want to hold it up to some sort of evaluation that can tell you whether this is good ministry, or if it’s that thing that Jesus condemned, when he referred to “loading people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and not lifting a finger to help them” (Luke 11:46).
So here are 7 ways to tell if this is good ministry:
1) Do you feel set free? Jesus said, “the Spirit of the Lord is on me…He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners” (Luke 4:18). Paul said, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (Corinthians 3:17). Paul says again, in almost a sarcastic overstating of the obvious “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1). If you hear something and you’re suddenly deeper in bondage, it’s not ministry, and it’s not from God.
You’ve been set free from having to pay for your sins, you’ve been set free from fear, and from any kind of shame. You’ve been set free from all forms of guilt. There is no more condemnation for you (Romans 8:1). You have been set free, and you are intended to live free.
2) Do you feel conviction? Whereas guilt ultimately drives us away from God, and keeps us stuck on a cycle of bad behavior, conviction always calls us to our higher selves. Conviction always says, “you’re better than this”. Conviction says “throw off the shackles, we don’t have time for this nonsense”. Conviction says “it’s time to rise up and put your foot on the neck of this sin that’s keeping you down”. If you hear something that gives you less guilt and more conviction, you’re on to something.
3) Did you learn something new about your sin? I don’t mean, did you learn a new way to feel bad about it. I mean, did you learn more about how your sin works in your heart and mind? We’re meant to be “wise as serpents” about sin (Matthew 10:16). What happens when we hide from our fears? What happens when we give full vent to our anger? What happens when we let jealousy cloud our thinking? Break it down.
4) Did the lies you’ve bought into begin to break down? It’s not enough to tell me the right thing to believe, you have to help break down the lie behind the wrong thing I’m already believing. Put your finger on that lie and drag it out in the light, and your job will be nearly done. Lies only work in the dark.
5) Has the road been smoothed out before you? When you read this book, hear this sermon, or get this piece of advice, are you out of the rut you were in, and up on smooth ground? If so, this is a very good sign.
6) Are you more aware of God’s character, and his love, and his presence? Guilt and fear and shame cloud our vision and keep us from seeing God for the loving, patient, and forgiving God he is. Set me free from all that manipulation the enemy is putting on me, and I can know and love God for who He is. And ultimately love is the only thing that will keep me on this path. You need to minister to me like you know that.
7) Have you been freed up to be closer to God? It all comes back to freedom. The best and most basic definition of ministry I know is: something that we do or say that helps remove the obstacles that keep people from moving closer to God. From there, God will draw everyone to Himself.