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8. Life a Ministry

8. Life a Ministry
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Whosoever would become great among you shall be your minister', and whosoever would be first among you shall be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
— Jesus

Looked at from a purely commercial standpoint, the life of Jesus Christ was a failure. His place in the world was obscure, His occupation a humble one. The work of His hands commanded only the usual recompense. From the world's point of view His contribution was merely that of an average man.

Even after His public life began He seemingly failed just as signally as before. He made Himself of no reputation among men. In the

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field where His greatest visible success lay, the delivering of men from sorrow and trouble, He sometimes failed. "He saved others; himself he cannot save," they cried when deriding Him. All the way to His ignominious death He stood before self-satisfied men, chief priests and Pharisees, as a failure. Why? Because He and these men were living from entirely different standpoints. Men were living largely from the external; Jesus was living from within. Men were reckoning success then as the world reckons success today, largely in terms of numbers and figures and the possession of external things.

After two thousand years we can see that the life of Jesus Christ, lived so obscurely, so unostentatiously, really was not the failure that it seemed; that He was living a life that in the long run was the only successful one. For today, when His contemporaries have passed away and are forgotten, His life stands forth among men and within men as the inspiration of all love and all goodness, the inspiration of all success.

"The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister"; and all real Godlike living is the spirit of ministry unto others. Someone

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has given the following definitions:

  • Selfishness: mine, not thine.
  • Justice: mine and thine.
  • Love: thine, not mine.

We speak of love as unselfish or selfish. There is no such thing as selfish love. Such a thing would be a paradox indeed. Love always gives: selfishness always expects to receive. The law of love must ever be the law of giving, the law of ministration to others, not from sense of duty but from very spontaneity and delight. What mother ministers to her children from duty? What father makes daily provision for his own because he is their father and the law says he must? Why, the very heart of parenthood springs out spontaneously and with joy supreme to minister to the child in every possible way even before it can ask or think what it wants.

Pure love is always asking itself, "What can I give," never "What shall I receive." God is pure love. Parenthood is a little of God, so to speak, come forth into manifestation, the offspring of God.

God, the source of all life spiritual and physical

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God, the only source of real success and joy, abides in Christ within us. "The King of Israel, even Jehovah, is in the midst of thee." "The kingdom of God is within you." "I in them, and thou in me," said Jesus.

God gives without thought or hope of return. So do we as soon as we become conscious of an indwelling Christ; we cease any longer to expect or desire to be ministered unto.

If we would live the life of real success, real joy, real Christlikeness, we must keep the current turned to flow from within outward instead of in the opposite direction.

God says: "If thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul: then shall thy light rise in darkness, and thine obscurity be as the noonday; and Jehovah will guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in dry places, and make strong thy bones; and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not." Of course "if thou draw out thy soul," it could not be otherwise. All drawing out of the soul is a drawing out directly from the fountainhead within, from Him who is all life, all light, all good, to minister

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Him unto others. And as the water of life flows through you to minister to others it must necessarily first refresh you with new life, and light, and joy on the way.

Oh, how we have mistaken and misunderstood Him who is the Way! How we have missed the joy of service by letting our ministry to others be from a sense of duty, thus striving to satisfy the conscience, in a way, by afflicting our souls and feeling that such a sacrifice was acceptable to God and in some way an aid to our growth in grace.

Listen! "Is not this the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and . . . when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him? . . . Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thy healing shall spring forth speedily; and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of Jehovah shall be thy rearward. Then thou shalt call, and Jehovah will answer; thou shalt cry, and he will say, Here I am."

No man can live unto himself and not be a

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failure both spiritually and physically. Such living causes the stream of life and light to form backwater, and the body as well as the soul shrivels for want of new supplies from the Fountainhead. It is only when you draw out your soul that your healing shall spring forth speedily, because health is nothing less than the life more abundant that the immanent Christ made manifest through the body. "I am . . . the life," said Christ. "The life" thus implies His recognition of only one life. God does not live unto Himself. His greatest desire is to get into expression, into visibility, as life, love, joy, all good.

The divine Father of us all is forever trying to manifest Himself in what the dear old Scottish minister, George MacDonald, called "a reckless extravagance of abundance." He might have manifested Himself in a few flowers; but instead He fills to overflowing the very brook-sides, the unused and often unseen valleys with a perfect wealth of foliage and beautiful blossoms. He gives from the very joy of giving. Whenever He is let give in nature without the interference of man, His giving is truly an "extravagance

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of abundance." Can this desire to get into expression as the fullness of all that He is —not of all that He has—be less than it is in nature when it comes to His highest creation, man? Surely not.

Imagine a great reservoir fed inexhaustibly from everliving springs within itself. Leading out from this reservoir but never separated from it are innumerable little streams, each ending in a fountain. A fountain is simply a receiving and distributing station, it is never self-existent or self-feeding. Each one of the fountains is a separate and individual center for distributing the water it receives. It is constantly renewed from the one great source without any effort on its own part. Its sole business is to distribute what it receives. At its external extremity each little fountain is separate and distinct from all the others, but at its inner extremity, at the center, it is one with them all.

This is exactly God's relation to His children. He is the reservoir, we are the receiving and distributing stations; He is the vine; we the branches. "One God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all." "We are

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also his offspring." "Call no man your father on the earth: for one is your Father, even he who is in heaven."

There is no obstruction between this great reservoir and any individual fountain except such as man himself puts there. Each one is, as Emerson says, the inlet, and may become the outlet of all there is in God. But each one must keep his own fountain free for the great stream to flow through. He must not let it get dammed up by selfishness. There must be a constant outflow in order to keep water pure, cold, and invigorating. No one need plead with the water of a spring to flow. It is bound by its very nature and "desire" to make room for the pressure of new waters, which are every crowding up from its living center to flow wherever they can find a free outlet. If one outlet becomes obstructed the water simply seeks more room through another, for flow it must by the law of its being.

New life, new wisdom, new fresh love and joy and power more than we can ask or think is waiting every instant to flood your being and mine from the great reservoir God: "Eye hath

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not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him."

But if either consciously or unconsciously we have closed up the outlet by refusing to give out to others what we have received — "And what hast thou that thou didst not receive?" — by mentally living unto ourselves alone; by sharply, shrewdly looking out for number one first, last, always; by feeling that it isn't our duty to minister unto others without return; if as a part of worldly wisdom we have repressed the God-given, loving impulse to distribute freely and without thought or hope of return what we have received; if we have turned the current in the opposite direction by seeking what we can get from the world instead of what we can give to it—then we have so choked up the living stream of good that God Himself is powerless to pour into us the very things for which we may be praying.

Christ is the light of the world. Christ is within us. This light is ever fed from the great fountain of all light, the Father in Him: "I in them, and thou in me." God made each one of

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us to be a radiating center, constantly shining outward toward others in a spirit of ministry and giving. If you draw out your soul to satisfy the afflicted, then your light will break forth as the morning and your darkness will be as the noonday (See Isa. 58:8-10); for I, very Christ, who have come to abide within you, I am the light of the world, and when anyone draws out his soul he draws Me out.

But if you put a bushel over your light by harboring the thought of not letting your neighbor receive from you anything for which he makes no return, you will simply find yourself walking in the darkness. "If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is the darkness." As Christian Gellert said, "whoever in the darkness lighteth another with this lamp [Christ] lighteth himself also; and the light is not of ourselves, it is of Him who appointeth the suns in their courses."

The Spirit of Christ is ever the spirit of ministration. We are not called upon to give that which we have not but only that which we have received. When Peter and John were going into the Temple and saw a certain lame man lying

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at the gate of the Temple, where he daily asked alms, Peter said to him, "Look on us." Acts says: "He gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something {some money} from them. But Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but what I have, that give I thee. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." Who shall say that Peter did not give more than any amount of money or alms? "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, shall they give into your bosom. For with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again."

Jesus knew the immutable law when He said this. He knew that "every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights." He also knew that all giving tends to larger receiving.

"There is that scattereth, and increaseth yet more;
And there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth only to want."

"Freely ye received, freely give."