How do we prepare ourselves to go forth and be ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ?

The Greatest Preparation for Ministry: Understanding God’s Word

by Amanda Beattie
9/6/17 IHOPU

With ever-increasing urgency, the world is crying out for answers to injustice and crises. Our newsfeeds, radios, and televisions bombard us daily with images of people in desperate need. We see wars, famines, and governments in chaos across the globe with societies plagued by substance abuse, racial hatred, violent radicalization of young people, and so much more.

And then there’s the whole thing about a still-future time of the greatest tribulation the earth has ever seen. That, too.

This is the world that Jesus has called us to be salt and light in. When He commissioned us to go and make disciples of all nations, He already knew that this is what the nations would look like. He even told us as much ahead of time (Matthew 24:25).

And He gave us the command to go and minister anyway.

How is it possible to be the fragrance of Christ in the middle of all this? Where do we start when there is so much that needs doing? As the stream of crises keeps coming and the nations keep raging, demanding answers, demanding for us to choose a side, what do we even say? How do we prepare ourselves to go forth and be ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Specific ministry assignments will, of course, have different practical requirements, but towering above all of them is the crucial necessity of understanding God’s Word.

God’s Word Is a Message of Hope

Our world has no shortage of human opinion and human effort blaring over the airways and flooding our news feeds, incessantly pulling on our attention and our heartstrings. Because we are constantly swimming in a sea of noisy, contradictory messages and causes, it’s easy to unwittingly assume that this is what we need to imitate in order to be relevant. Which side of the argument do we stand up for? Which hashtags do we retweet? Which political party must we throw our support behind? How does our ministry fit in to any of this?

It takes a conscious choice by the grace of God to pause and instead ask, Should our ministry fit into any of this? Are we going to engage in the world’s battles on the world’s terms, using the world’s tools, or are we going to have something to say that’s of a more enduring value?

What the world does have a shortage of is the Word of the Lord. Solomon recognized the limitations and ultimate futility of human effort, lamenting that all the works done under the sun are “vanity and grasping for the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:14). In contrast, Isaiah prophesied that the word of our God stands forever (Isaiah 40:8), and that it always accomplishes what He has sent it to do (Isaiah 55:11). If we want to transcend the frantic, futile cacophony that the nations are roiling with, we need a firm foundation in God’s Word.

Anyone can attempt to take action on pressing issues of the day, but it is only the Church who is able to speak life and redemption as she does so. Anyone can provide practical relief to the hurting and distressed, but it is the people of God who can couple it with a message of hope in the God who restores all things. Anyone can raise their voice in protest or support of any conflict, yet only those who have perceived and marked God’s Word can speak prophetically into the chaos (Jeremiah 23:18). In whatever assignment the Lord calls us, our effectiveness in ministering there is deeply entwined with our understanding of the Word of the Lord.

Understanding Scripture as Preparation for Ministry

Having a firm understanding of the Scriptures prepares us for ministry in several ways.

So we can know God.
Firstly, and most crucially, it helps us know and relate to the God in whose name we serve. The Bible was not just given to us as a list of rules; it’s a testimony of the very heart of God for His creation. Everything from Genesis through Revelation tells us something about who He is. From His patience, mercy, and righteousness in His dealings with Israel, to His compassion and zeal in the Prophets, to His nearness and self-sacrificing servanthood in the Gospels, we see His wisdom, love, and glory woven throughout. The more time we spend in the Word in prayerful study and meditation, the more we come to know our God. This draws us to Him in love, giving us confidence and clarity about who He is and what He wants for this earth.

So we can minister after His heart.
Secondly, understanding God’s Word equips us to minister according to His heart. When we grasp more and more the way the Scriptures reveal His immense love for the lost, we can, in turn, evangelize with both accuracy and love. When we grasp the Word’s testimony of God’s zeal for justice, we can more consistently and righteously serve and advocate for the oppressed. As we see the bold declarations of Scripture about Jesus’ victory over sin, death, and the grave, we grow in faith to lay hands on the sick. As our hearts are undone by the biblical witness of how much we have been forgiven, we are more able to extend mercy to our friends, family, and whomever the Lord has placed in our sphere of influence to minister to.

So we can speak truth in love.
Finally, understanding God’s Word helps us speak truth in love, even in the midst of contentious or confusing circumstances. Anyone who has spent much time with people can testify that people are messy and complex, with a dizzying array of life experiences. Sometimes they’re facing things that we, as individuals, have no experience with. Sometimes they’re wrestling through conflicts and challenges that have no easy answer. In delicate, confusing, or painful situations, copy-paste sermonizing doesn’t cut it. However, this by no means indicates that the Lord has nothing to say, or that the Scriptures must ring hollow for people caught in perplexity.

But to minister this Word, our understanding of it must go beyond just having a list of topically relevant verses at the ready, as if the Bible is a quick-reference guide for all of life’s conundrums. Nor is it sufficient to merely comb through the Scriptures for passages that immediately mean something to us, skipping over anything that seems esoteric, confusing, or perhaps reserved for another time and place. Prophetic, relevant ministry calls for both a broad and deep understanding of the Word, wherein we gain genuine understanding of God’s nature, His will, and His big picture plan of redemption for this earth.

Prayerfully learning God’s Word gives us more than pat answers. It helps us become familiar with the principles of His kingdom and the attributes of His nature. The more these things are written on our hearts, they change us; and the more they change us, we can’t help but see how profoundly relevant they are to real life on this very real, tangible, and complicated earth.

Growing in understanding of the Word takes time and intentionality, but it is the key avenue He has given us for becoming “thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17). And in God’s mercy, it’s available to all of us if we prayerfully receive His words, treasure them in our hearts, and apply ourselves diligently to understanding (Proverbs 2:1–5).

Father, I ask that You would fill us with the knowledge of Your will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. Make us those who stand in Your counsels, who mark and perceive Your Word, and who have ears to hear what Your Spirit is saying to us. May Your voice and Your written word speak louder in our hearts than all the clamoring and chaos of this world, and may we be faithful messengers who know Your heart and who can bear witness of the things we have seen and heard.

How can you grow in understanding God’s Word and speak it to others?

If you want to grow in knowledge of God’s Word, then training at International House of Prayer University (IHOPU) can be the right next step. Experience ministry training in the context of 24/7 prayer with the Word being sung and prayed night and day. Spring programs start in January. Learn more at ihopu.org.

Amanda Beattie

position

    Amanda Beattie has served as an intercessory missionary at the International House of Prayer since 2003. Called to the NightWatch (the hours between midnight and six), she has served as a musician, prayer leader, and a teacher in the Fire in the Night Internship. Herself an IHOPU graduate (2007), Amanda has a passion for equipping believers with the tools they need to understand the Bible and to grow in the knowledge of God. She currently lives in the Kansas City metro area.

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