When they found Him, they said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” Mark 1:37
Things were going really well for Jesus at this point. He had just received public, voice-from-the-sky approval directly from God and overcome a serious “wilderness” experience. People were in awe of him and demons were fleeing before him. He was becoming incredibly famous throughout the area and now Simon is telling Him that people are literally hunting him down in order to hear his message.
Things were fresh, dynamic, and effective, everything that we like ministry to be. But then Jesus says something that just blows the top of my head off:
But He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.” Mark 1:38
What? Jesus, this is an incredibly fruitful ministry that you have with these people. They love you, why would you leave?
In saying this Jesus not only makes a statement about His own purpose, but also establishes two important principles for ministry: 1) Our purpose is definite and we cannot abandon or change it or with our circumstances change; and 2) the success of a ministry is not necessarily dependent on its popularity.
Jesus came to preach His message to the world, not to become famous or to receive approval. Even though his ministry to the people of this area was effective and productive, He couldn’t forget why He came or change His purpose. When God gives us a ministry, we cannot simply abandon or change that ministry to suit our circumstances. God, not the terrain, sets our course. The standard for success has less to do with results than it does with faithfulness. While this is important to remember in difficult circumstances, it is also true when things are going well.
Let’s say you are a farmer on your way to town sell some chickens and along the way you see this lush, fertile field. Well you can’t just abandon your plan and stop to plant this field because it’s a great opportunity; your chickens will go all Animal Farm and peck each other to death. And then they’re coming after you.
Maybe that’s not the best analogy. If I was on my way to the chicken market and happened to see a fertile field, my first thought wouldn’t be, “I wanna plant that field!” It would be, “Why the heck am I a chicken farmer?”
Here’s another one. Let’s say you are a student pursuing a degree in electrical engineering but you’ve been playing some bluegrass on the side. Then, Ellen happens to see your video on YouTube and offers you a record deal (yeah, she has one now). While you may be able to justify abandoning your plans to become an electrical engineer, if your parents are paying your tuition they get to weigh in on the idea.
You are not able to change your plans arbitrarily if someone else is paying the bill. It’s a somewhat cold example, but bear with me. Every gift God gives us, every experience we receive is His investment in us. He grooms us for a specific purpose. As if that were not enough, He even places His own Spirit in us. That kind of investment gives Him the right to define both our ministry and the standard for our success. That often means a fresh, dynamic, and effective ministry but not always
It’s a subtle distinction but an important one.
Faithfulness, not fame.