How do you measure a minister? By his oratorical ability? Leadership skills? Size of his church? The budget? His brains, brawn, bucks? These are the things the world uses.
An NFL coach reportedly said, “Winning football is everything. I don’t have time to spend with my family as I ought. If I have to lose my family to have a winning team, so be it.” Jesus said, “That which is highly esteemed among men is an abomination unto God.” You can tell what a man is worth by what he is committed to. Paul’s commitment was to the risen Christ. Brother Cary, you’re going into the ministry. I want to give you some ways I believe you need to measure yourself, standards set by none other than the apostle Paul.
In Acts 20:17-38, Paul says “You know, from the first day I came unto Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord....” (v. 18) Paul was serving the Lord. Cary, we’ve not asked you to serve our church. God forbid. We’ve asked you to serve Jesus. And as you serve Jesus, you will be a blessing to us. How did Paul serve the Lord?
- Tears. “...with all humility of mind, and with many tears” (v. 19). Paul was a man with a broken heart. He wept. I can tell you I weep more in my private life and my prayer life than I weep when I’m in this pulpit. No man can serve God without tears. Cary, men throw broken things away. God never really ever uses anything until it is broken. And I pray God that the things that break the heart of Jesus will break yours.
- Trials. “with…many tears...and temptations...” (v. 19). Here the word temptation means testings, trials, tribulations. Cary, you’re not going to be loved by everybody. If you stand for the Lord Jesus Christ, you’re going to have real enemies. Bible believers always have been and always will be hated. Get ready for it—it’s coming. If you cannot sense it in the air, you don’t have your antenna up.
- Testimony. “…testifying… repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 20). Paul was a man of God who put his faith into shoe leather. No man is fit to preach who does not have a personal soul-winning ministry. I thank God you’ve been a leader in that. There’s no cheap, easy way to do it. It wasn’t easy believe-ism. It was a message of repentance and faith. Never tamper with the message. We don’t need a new and a modern message for a new and modern age.
- Tenacity. Brother Cary, this is what I want for you. “…not knowing the things that shall befall me there... But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, that I might finish my course…” (v. 22, 24). You can tell the size of a man, Cary, by what it takes to stop him. Quitters, shirkers, and slackers quit when the going gets hard. Paul had tenacity, a bulldog grip on the truth. I’ve been in the ministry now for more than half a century. There have been tears and trials—temptations, foes, problems, and heartaches. But I pray God will never let me back up or let up until I finish my course.
- Triumph. “...finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus Christ, to testify the gospel of the grace of God...” (v. 24) What made Paul such a man? He was committed to serving a great Person. His faith was in the Lord Jesus Christ. No matter how far ahead you are in a race, if you stop running, you’ll lose. No matter how far ahead you are in a game, if you stop, you’ll lose the game.
Arturo Toscanini, the great choral conductor, was once conducting Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. The orchestra was perfect. The crowd went wild. They stood and wouldn’t stop applauding. The orchestra stood and bowed. Toscanini rapped his baton on the music stand. What was wrong? Toscanini said, “Gentlemen, gentlemen! I am nothing, you are nothing. Beethoven is everything, everything, everything.” I want to tell you—you are nothing, I am nothing, Jesus is everything, everything. And may we give Him the glory.