Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Effective Grace to Minister

laying on hands

by Dennis Pollock

The apostle Paul has to be considered one of the most effective ministers of the gospel who ever lived. He founded churches, won souls, and wrote inspired letters which have been blessing, encouraging, and instructing Christians for the last two thousand years. Almost single-handedly he transformed the church of Jesus Christ from a small Jewish sect into a major religion with universal appeal for people of every nation and every background. The day Paul’s life was abruptly arrested by a personal appearance of Jesus Christ was a very good day for the church. Whatever the church is today, it would not nearly so advanced if it were not for the life and ministry of Paul, the apostle.

People who are anointed with the Holy Spirit typically know that they are anointed, and Paul was no exception. He went about his life and ministry recognizing that he was both called and anointed, and that this anointing made him both effective and fruitful as a minister. One of the most illuminating passages along these lines comes from his letter to the Christians in Galatia in which he compares his own ministry with that of the apostle Peter. Paul writes:

… (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles), and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised… (Galatians 2:8, 9).

Paul not only knew that he was anointed to minister Christ, he knew that his anointing was for a specific people: the Gentiles (which means the non-Jews). God worked effectively and powerfully through Paul to reach Gentiles. Paul goes on to say that God worked through Peter to reach the “circumcised,” in other words, the Jews. These two men were both given a special grace to minister, but that grace was not the same. This brings us to a very important point about the anointing of the Holy Spirit for ministry: anointing is both specific and directed.

Effective Anointing

The Holy Spirit is the same, and the source of the anointing is the same. That source is Jesus Christ. But the working and the results are different. Notice that in speaking of both himself and Peter, Paul applies the word “effectively.” Anointing is effective! It gets the job done, it brings about results, and lots of them. This is perfectly in line with what Jesus promised, when He declared that if we will abide in Him we will bear “much fruit.” When Paul looked at Peter’s life: the powerful preaching, the amazing miracles, and the thousands of Jews who came to faith in Christ as a result, he could best describe it as the “effective” working of God in Peter. And when he analyzed his own life and ministry, he also saw effectiveness. But in his case, it was mostly Gentiles who were blessed, saved, and helped through his ministry. Two different men, two different anointings, two different harvests, and yet both effective and mightily used by God.

It is not as though Paul didn’t care about the Jewish people. He cared deeply. He was a Jew and the Jews were his own “kinsmen.” When you read the Book of Acts you find a pattern in Paul’s ministry that would almost be amusing if it weren’t so tragic. In most cities where Paul went, he began by preaching in the synagogues of the Jews. Almost every time there was controversy, criticism, and persecution. Paul became frustrated, saying something like, “Fine. If you don’t want the gospel, I will go to the Gentiles.” And sure enough, it was among the Gentile people, the non-Jews where he saw the best and greatest results, and the least persecution. It seemed like his own people just couldn’t take too much of the fiery preacher, but the Gentiles couldn’t get enough of him.

We see this happening right up to the very last chapter of the Book of Acts. Paul was at that time a prisoner in Rome. He brought together a group of influential Jews in order to share Christ with them. The Jews did what Jews usually did under Paul’s preaching. They criticized, they found fault, and they debated over the matter. Some believed but many did not. Paul had seen this before, and after a while he couldn’t take it any longer. He declared that they were fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy, which stated, “For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed…” He then announced: “Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!

Fisherman and Scholar

In comparing the two men, we can easily see why God anointed and called one to preach Christ to the Jews and the other to the Gentiles. Peter was a local, village fisherman. He was not highly educated, not especially well read, and could identify easily with the common Jews of his day. Paul was far more cosmopolitan. He was university-trained, well read, and highly intelligent. He could quote the Gentile philosophers in the middle of his sermons just as easily as the Jewish prophets. Paul quickly saw that the grace of Jesus made him free from the Jewish ceremonial laws, and could easily drop his Jewish ways and forms when among Gentiles without reservation. Peter heals lame manThese factors, in combination with the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit which rested upon him, made him incredibly successful at reaching people of other nations, and proved a powerful force in expanding the boundaries of the church, transforming it from local to international. Peter, on the other hand, was unmatched at reaching Jews for Christ – he did it far better than Paul ever could.

It’s a fascinating study, but it has far wider application for us than a mere history lesson about two of the great early church leaders. All of us who are in Christ need to see that any anointing we may have is not for everybody and everything. We are filled with the Holy Spirit and anointed with specific tasks and specific targets in mind (in God’s mind). Jesus is the only One who was anointed for everything and everybody – and He still is. But for the rest of us, our anointing is limited. It will touch this people but not that people. It will accomplish this work but not that work, it will be helpful in this circumstance, but absolutely useless in another situation. And the quicker we find this out, the more effective we will be and the more successfully we will be able to flow with the purposes of God for our lives.

Starter vs. Reliever

Allow me to illustrate this truth with two different examples. First, a sports story: In the 1980’s the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team drafted a big, strapping young man named Todd Worrell. Todd was a pitcher and could throw the baseball extremely hard. With his large size and his blazing fastball, the Cardinals assumed he would make a great starting pitcher. For those of you non-baseball fans, a starting pitcher is supposed to pitch through most of a nearly three-hour game. It takes a lot of stamina, but usually large, strong pitchers who throw hard make great starting pitchers. The other type of pitcher is the relief pitcher, whose job it is to come in and “relieve” the starting pitcher toward the end of the game, when the starter gets tired and begins to lose steam.

Worrell simply didn’t function well as a starter. He would pitch beautifully for the first thirty minutes to an hour, but then he would seem to tire and allow too many hits and runs from the opposing team. His managers kept starting Worrell, thinking he would get over this, but the results were dismal. Finally, it was decided to make the hard-thrower a relief pitcher. Suddenly Todd Worrell was a new man. He pitched effectively and began to win games. Within a short time, he became one of the best relief pitchers in baseball.

Cardinal manager Whitey Herzog commented: “From the day they put him in the bullpen (made him a relief pitcher), he seemed to be a different pitcher.” When Todd found his proper role in baseball, his effectiveness went through the roof. What a tragedy it would have been had the Cardinal management stubbornly insisted that Worrell continue as a starting pitcher. His career would soon have come to an end. But once he found his place, he began to thrive, which is always the result when the right man or woman is placed in a situation which perfectly matches their particular skills, and in the case of those who follow Christ, their particular calling and anointing.

William Branham

One example of a man who moved out of his sweet spot was the minister William Branham. William was somewhat of an enigma in the 1940’s, fifties, and early sixties. He was uneducated and not particularly intelligent. He was not a great speaker; in fact many would consider him a poor speaker. Yet Branham rose to become one of the most well-known Pentecostal ministers of his generation. One Pentecostal historian wrote: “Branham filled the largest stadiums and meeting halls in the world."

The thing that propelled Branham to such a prominent place was his healing ministry. Clearly, people were healed wherever he ministered, and in far larger numbers than in the meetings of most other ministers. This seems to have been God’s special grace gift to this simple man. In 1951 a U. S. congressman was miraculously healed in one of his meetings, after being crippled for 59 years, and sent a letter sharing his testimony to all his fellow congressmen.

But after becoming prominent and highly successful in a healing ministry, Branham grew restless. He began to fancy himself a great teacher with divine insights and revelations from God far beyond those of anyone else. Other ministers attempted to warn him to stick with the healing ministry and stop trying to be a deep Bible teacher. Well-known minister Gordon Lindsay told Branham that he was not a teacher, and that he was only bringing confusion to the body of Christ. Branham replied that he wanted to teach, and he was going to teach. The truth was, as a teacher William Branham was pathetic. Not only were his teachings disjointed and painful to hear, but in addition he began to teach all sorts of bizarre and cultish doctrines.

A couple of years after Lindsay tried to warn him, Branham’s life was brought to an abrupt halt as a result of a head-on collision on the highway. Today, almost nobody remembers William Branham. It pays to stay true to your own special and unique calling of God.

Finding our Place

How do we find our proper place in God’s great gospel program? First of all, we must belong to Christ. We receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior, believing that His death on the cross was for the forgiveness of our sins, and that He rose from the dead on the third day. There is no point in talking about calling or destiny or following your dreams or fulfilling God’s plan apart from this. Until we receive Jesus Christ and are born again, all other pursuits are meaningless. But once we do receive Jesus, and the filling with the Holy Spirit He gives, we must begin to actively seek to discover Christ’s ultimate plan for us.

This will usually involve a process of trial and error and elimination. In my life, I have made all sorts of efforts at Christian ministry. Some have been moderately successful, some have been more successful, and some have been outright failures. As I grew older I realized that just because you want to do something, and even if you can do it reasonably well, this does not necessarily mean that is where you should spend your time and expend all your energy.

We must discover not merely something we can do, but those tasks and that ministry for which God has created us while in our mothers’ wombs. We must follow Paul’s lead, until we too experience an “effective working” of the Holy Spirit operating in us, which will bring blessings unto many, and glory unto God. We must “lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of us.” As we look to Jesus, our Good Shepherd, it will happen!

 

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