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Divine Failure

Earl Middleton No Comments

failure3Jesus came to his own, and his own received him not (he was sent to be rejected, God knowing he would be rejected because His people, Israel, were still blind and not ready). So to as many as received him, to them he gave the authority to become sons of God. [Jn 1:12]

Jesus often referenced this by saying, “I’m sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Later, Peter would also be sent to Israel, to feed and shepherd the converted, not win the lost ones.) MAIN TRUTH HERE: Church people say there is no failure in God, and scripture suggests that God always gives His people the victory. But my bible also shows me that just because God sent you doesn’t mean you will succeed! At least not always on the first go round. Sometimes embedded in the core of your call and commission (and hidden from you) is your penultimate rejection and failure. We can’t always judge the validity of the commission by the fruit of the mission.

Jesus didn’t get much fruit in Israel, but instead plenty of contradiction and rejection. I experienced the same thing in the baptist churches I was sent to, plenty of contradiction and rejection, and very little fruit. That doesn’t mean I was not sent, or that I messed up. It means it was a Jesus Mission, doomed to poor numbers and high frustration from the start!

And Jesus Missions are just like Jesus’ mission: short lived! There is no glory in a Jesus mission, only failure, and in the end, a cross. A shameful, painful conclusion to a launch that held such promise of great things. BUT, if you can remain faithful on your Jesus Mission and submit to the cross, glory WILL come…AFTER! On the other side of every Jesus Mission is a resurrection, and a second coming!

According to Rudyard Kipling, success and failure are both impostors we should treat the same. Don’t let an impostor define you! Instead, know who you are and expose the impostors in your life for what they really are! When God sends you on a Jesus Mission (a suicide mission, a D-Day mission, a 300 mission, a charge-the-hill-knowing-you-will-be-killed mission) it’s because He 1) trusts you; 2) values the message He has put inside of you, His treasure in an earthen vessel; and 3) prioritizes process over props and spoils and results.

So, if you’re on a Jesus Mission, know that 4) your faithfulness to the message is the true mission, not spectacular results. Know that 5) if you’re faithful to the message your mission will be brief. Know that 6) your cross is not the end of your ministry, just your mission; you’ll be back! Know that 7) your resurrection won’t convince everybody, you’ll still have many doubters. And finally, know that 8) you won’t get total vindication until the Second Coming, when every eye shall see!

100 Proof!

Earl Middleton No Comments

“In the 18th century and until 1 January 1980, Britain defined alcohol content in terms of “proof spirit,” which was defined as the most dilute spirit that would sustain combustion of gunpowder. The term originated in the 18th century, when payments to British sailors included rations of rum. To ensure that the rum had not been watered down, the test or “proof” was by dousing gunpowder in it, then testing to see if the gunpowder would ignite. If it did not burn, the rum contained too much water and was considered to be “under proof.”” (I got this from wikipedia, so get a grip and don’t trip!)

Gunpowder burn was the 100% spirit proof for alcohol back in the day. What is the 100 proof of authentic, spirit-bred, spirit-led ministry today? Fruit! For some 20 years I pastored (or perhaps merely attempted) churches from one side of the country to the other and produced the same results: no fruit. Although there were clear ministry gifts in place, a love for God and a seriousness about winning souls and building the church, year after year the churches I led continued with the same, wonderful people, and dismal conversion stats. And when you’re pastoring a church, which is a lot like managing a vineyard, eventually the owner, who’s in the vineyard business for production, is going to demand an accounting, and there are only three possibilities: decline, stagnation, or growth. Fewer grapes, the same amount of grapes, or more grapes. I saw decline. I saw stagnation. But I never saw any growth.

THE EVIDENCE THAT YOU ARE IN THE RIGHT MINISTRY FOR YOU IS YOUR FRUITFULNESS! If there is no fruit in your life ministry, but you are saved, you’re in the wrong place and/or ministry. If you’re in the right place and/or ministry you will bear much fruit that will remain because you were ordained by Jesus to do that ministry in that place (Jn 15:8). The proof of your ordination (having been set in place by Jesus) is your fruit. The proof of any person’s or ministry’s ordination is its fruit.

So, you might be asking, “How were you able to stay in the pastorate for 20 years bearing no fruit if you were gifted, loved God, and wanted to win souls?” Good question. Corny-but-true answer: I was able to stay in the pastorate for so long (without bearing fruit) because I had no prayer life. Oh I prayed once in a while, especially when something really big was coming up. And I prayed before meals and for people and at public ceremonies. But a daily routine of seeking God’s face? Nah! That was something I taught, but didn’t do myself. And I’m sure a piece of my rationale was, “I spend all day with (working for) God, I don’t need to spend regular time with Him in the mornings, too!” That attitude in itself is an indication of misplacement. When God really plants you in a ministry, you will recognize your utter dependence on Him and have no choice but to seek Him regularly just to breathe! Once I began praying regularly I became more sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit in ministry. It took all of two months for God to arrest my heart and convict my conscience that I was in the wrong area of ministry. Three months after that He moved me out of the pastorate and into an area of ministry where I becoming much more fruitful.

Is your life and ministry 100 proof? Show me the fruit!

To learn how to build an effective personal prayer time with God and find your place of ministry, click here.