Spiritual Vitality: Keeping Alive in the Word — Jake Betlem
As ministers we have a massive responsibility to impart the life of Christ to those God has entrusted to us to serve and lead. The only thing we have of value to give to others is what we have first received from Him. It is imperative we remain alive in Christ as the living Word of God. It’s only the Word when apprehended by revelation, and spoken with authority, that carries the power for change. Without the Word and the Spirit working together in our lives we don’t have the vitality from above to impart His life.
“Our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life”
2 Corinthians 3:5,6 (NKJV)
E.M. Bounds says “The true ministry is God-touched, God-enabled, and God-made. The Spirit of God is on the preacher in anointing power, the fruit of the Spirit is in his heart, the Spirit of God has vitalized the man and the word; his preaching gives life, …The life-giving preacher is a man of God, whose heart is ever athirst for God, whose soul is ever following hard after God, whose eye is single to God, and in whom by the power of God’s Spirit the flesh and the world have been crucified and his ministry is like the generous flood of a life-giving river.
On the negative side E.M. Bounds says, “the preaching that kills is the letter; shapely and orderly it may be, but it is the letter still, the dry, husky letter, the empty, bald shell. The letter may have the germ of life in it, but it has no breath of spring to evoke it …this letter preaching has the truth. But even divine truth has no life-giving energy alone; it must be energized by the Spirit, with all God’s forces at its back.
The life-giving preacher is a C3 minister! We remain absolutely dependent on God through His Word and Spirit. We abide in Him and understand apart from Jesus we can add nothing of spiritual value to our life or others. Our heart yearns and thirsts for His presence, searching out His word by the Spirit of grace, declaring what He has revealed with conviction and authority. We are not those that labor in vain but build His House with God, through God, and for God.
Three things that help me maintain a healthy vital connection:
deficit • dependence • determination
I choose to see myself in deficit – a state of being inadequate, impaired, and insufficient in myself. A place of ‘I need God’. Being in deficit is an asset in the Kingdom. Paul said “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me”.
A sense of deficit in our lives creates dependence on God. When we are dependent, that is, totally relying on God, it will cause us to search the Word more earnestly and draw on the resources of God’s held within scripture.
This mixed with determination – an attitude of “I refuse to walk away empty handed” – makes a sure recipe to receive in a time of need. The minister has need every week to receive from God, in fact daily, not just to feed the sheep but for his own spiritual vitality.
In Luke 11:5-13 Jesus reveals to us how we should approach God in order to receive what we need from His Word and Spirit. He teaches us:
- God will always give what we ask in accordance with His will
- We have covenant rights to receive from Him
- With determination we must be engaged in our relationship with God – it’s not just about living passively under a revelation of grace
- Our faith should not just be in the ‘letter’ but more so in the character of the one that wrote the ‘letter’.
The story in Luke 11 is about a person that has no bread in his house and because a travelling friend arrived at midnight he now needs to go to his neighbors place to get some bread. This man is in deficit and completely dependent on his neighbor to help him out. And because of his determination he receives all that he needs. These three people represent you, God, and someone in need (our congregation or anyone we are called to help). Jesus said to them:
- Suppose you went to a friend’s house – The Word is not just a set of precepts and promises, but a person named Jesus. Our priority, first and foremost is that God becomes our friend.
- at midnight – not a great hour to visit your neighbor. To receive from God rarely is convenient, it takes discipline to go there.
- and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves – a specific request and the loaves represent the Word. We need to receive specific words to help the people in our lives.
- for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey – the motive to receive is with the other person in mind.
- and I have nothing to set before him – unless I receive from God I have nothing to give.
- and he will answer from within and say, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and we are all in bed. I can’t help you this time. Resistance to receive from God is part of the journey. What we do at this point is critical because the temptation is to go away empty handed.
- I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, Relationship is insufficient in itself to receive from God; we need to be deliberately engaged.
- yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs. This is about determination. It’s not about nagging or begging God. It is about acting on our rights within the relationship.
- he will get up and give you what you want so his reputation won’t be damaged.
God has willingly placed Himself into a covenant relationship with us through Christ and, therefore obligated himself to provide.
“If you ask anything in My name I will do it”
Let’s not walk away empty handed.
C3 Church Oxford Falls – Beyond Missions Director