I felt more like a decorator than a ministry leader. I wanted to help women fall in love with the Bible, not sit in my living room—again—ironing eighteen (supposedly) wrinkle-free tablecloths and brainstorming yet another clever centerpiece. I only have so many clever ideas in my little brain.
I felt fruitless and useless in ministry.
Whether we’re serving the women in our church or our friends and families, it’s easy to look at the meager fruit of our work and our unmet expectations and want to give up.
Consider the disciples. Christ’s misfit band of twelve envisioned “ministry” quite differently than it turned out. They expected they’d help Christ break Israel free from Roman rule and sit at His right hand, apparently all crammed onto the same throne. But that was before one of them led a mob of soldiers to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.
When the soldiers marched up with torches, lanterns, and weapons, the disciple’s courage fainted, and their visions of glory withered.
Jesus, knowing all that would happen to Him, came forward and asked, “Whom do you seek?”
“Jesus of Nazareth.”
Jesus answered with two words. “Ego eimi” (“I AM”).
How might our view of ministry transform if our understanding of the One we’re serving—Jesus of Nazareth—knocked us to our knees? Let’s consider our ministry as we gaze at Christ through His seven “I Am” statements in the Gospel of John.
1. I Am the Bread of Life
God gave the Israelites manna to eat—sweet bread from heaven—but those who ate it eventually died in the wilderness. The food could give them sustenance, but not life.
Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35, emphasis added).
Ministry can’t give us life or satisfy our souls. If we’re not surrendered to Christ and daily feeding on Him through His Word, the hustle and struggles in life will leave us spiritually starved and dissatisfied.
I grumbled as I sat on my soft living room carpet and ironed tablecloths for the Ladies’ Brunch. The apostle Paul sang praises to the Lord as he sat shackled in a prison dungeon. It’s not hard to see which of us was feeding on the Bread of Life and which was feeding on the fruit of her own works. I wanted a more satisfying ministry; Paul wanted Christ.
“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!” (Psalm 34:8).
2. Jesus Is the Light of the World
Jesus fed more than five thousand people with five loaves and two fish, raised the dead, and opened the eyes of a man who’d been born blind. Yet, a greater miracle takes place every time Christ shines the light of Truth into a sinner’s heart and gives him or her new life and the faith to believe for salvation.
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12, emphasis added).
We can design the most extravagant centerpieces for our ladies’ luncheon and serve the most delectable food, but if we don’t shine the Light of Truth into their hearts, we’ve done nothing of lasting value. We’ve simply entertained them. And left them in the dark.
Eternal value is found in shining the light on Christ, not ourselves. He illuminates our paths so we can see to step over the traps of the enemy and avoid temptations that lurk in the shadows of sin. Let us shine as beacons of Truth and Hope in a world that’s growing darker as the time before Christ’s return grows shorter.
3. Jesus Is the Door of the Sheep
Nothing is new under the sun. I know this Truth, and yet it seems the world is creating a new “door” to heaven every day—trap doors that lead to hell. My heart races when I think about the plethora of dangers my loved ones must navigate until the Good Shepherd leads them safely through theone door that leads to heaven—the Door of the sheep.
Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved” (John 10:7, 9, emphasis added).
Are we faithfully swinging the doors of our ministries wide open to the lost sheep and sharing the true gospel? Are we ensuring those in our care know how to winsomely share the gospel with respect and boldness? For those who will believe, the gospel slams shut and seals the trap doors that lead to doom and flings open the Door of the sheep.
4. Jesus Is the Good Shepherd
I once stumbled upon a hillside pasture dotted with sheep. Though I had good intentions, a strong fence and, more importantly, the intense stare of a Great Pyrenees sheepdog kept me from approaching the sheep. The fence and powerful pup no doubt deterred predators as well.
Jesus declared, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11, emphasis added).
God appointed the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day to shepherd His people, but they were worse than blind dogs. Rather than lay down their lives for the sheep, they abandoned them to the wolves for their own selfish interests. They loved the praises of men more than God’s flock.
Are we seeking to make much of Jesus as we care for His flock or seeking for the flock to make much of us?
Let’s hold our plans and dreams loosely but cling to our commitment to lay down our pride, dreams, and, if necessary, even our lives for Christ’s sheep.
Jesus has called us to care for His flock, but He didn’t leave us alone. Better than a giant pack of Great Pyrenees, the Good Shepherd is with us. He’s promised never to leave or forsake us.
5. Jesus Is the Resurrection and the Life
I laughed the first time I read John 11:39 in the King James Version. Jesus had just called for the stone at the entrance to Lazarus’ grave to be moved when Lazarus’ sister Martha questioned His wisdom. “Lord, by this time he stinketh.”
Four days of decomposing in a grave will make anyone stinketh. We’re all born dead in our sins. Some of us think we reek in our rotten sins more than others. But no one is beyond Christ’s power to be redeemed, restored, and resurrected.
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25, emphasis added).
Even after we’re born again, we don’t always carry the fragrant aroma of Christ’s salvation. Our ministries may be filled with such people. Let’s hold our breath if we must but never forget that Jesus can bring rotting corpses back to life. He can certainly transform a resurrected one.
Let’s pray fervently, serve willingly, and help roll the stone away. Just as Jesus called Lazarus out of the grave, He can call those you serve out of death and into eternal life. Never give up on anyone.
6. Jesus Is the Way, the Truth, and the Life
You’ve heard it said, “There are many paths to heaven,” “I have my truth, and you have yours,” and “The good die young.” Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, emphasis added).
The world today is no more willing than it was in Jesus’ day to accept that He is the one Way to heaven, His Word is the unquestionable Truth, and His death and resurrection are the sole means for eternal life. Fortunately, their “truth” can’t change the Truth.
Our postmodern culture spins from “truth” to “truth” like a hell-bent carnival tilt-a-whirl. We can keep ourselves from spinning out of control with it by maintaining a firm grasp on Jesus—the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Are we faithfully learning and teaching sound biblical doctrine? Imagine the impact on our families and communities if all our women’s ministries were famous for their dedication to studying and living out God’s Word.
7. Jesus Is the True Vine
Cut a branch off a vine and toss it to the ground. What can it do? Nothing. Even if it desperately wanted to (as if a branch could wish to do anything), it has no life in it to produce even a bud. The life in the vine must do it all.
Do you ever feel like a useless and fruitless branch?
Remember Jesus’ words: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, emphasis added).
When we abide in Him, the life of the Vine naturally flows through us and produces everything we need for life and godliness.
Christ doesn’t depend on us to produce a harvest of fruitful work. He’s the One who does the work in us. He gives us the desire and the power to do what pleases Him (Phil. 2:13). He equips us with everything good so we can do His will (Heb. 13:21). Christ does it all.
Can I get an Amen?
The Great I AM
Wherever you are today, dear Sister, whether you're ironing tablecloths on the floor or teaching a Bible study before hundreds of women—or even praising in prison—remember Jesus of Nazareth.
He who lives and works in you is the same Jesus of Nazareth who spoke the world into existence, purchased the salvation of all who will believe by His own blood, and caused an unholy mob to fall to the ground at the mention of His name: Ego eimi (“I AM”).
Rejoice! The Great I AM is with you always, even to the end of the age.