Recently, I was discussing the idea of Kingdom “promotion” and advancing in ministry life with a fellow missionary and friend. We were discussing all the great things we see God doing in our ministries and dreaming of the “more” we are believing will come.
As we discussed where God was taking us, though, we also began sharing how we see God using other people around us who seem to be a little farther on the journey than we are. These are people we look up to as examples and who we aspire to emulate in certain ways. However, the dark side of comparison soon came into play in the conversation as well. After doing a little heart-check, it became clear that there are obstacles in our own hearts that keep us from the “promotions” in ministry and God’s Kingdom which He wants to move us into.
Before we can get our promotions, we must first deal with our hearts concerning two chronic problems in the Body of Christ today: criticism and jealousy.
Two Hindrances to Kingdom Promotion
The first heart problem – criticism – creeps in when we judge someone who ministers differently than we think they should be doing it or we devalue his ministry because it does not measure up to our standards and preferences. These criticisms may be because his ministry isn’t doing as well as our own and, therefore, we think he hasn’t figured out what we have, or it may be because his ministry is thriving and growing and ours is not doing as well, so we assume he must not really be as faithful to the gospel as we are and is simply entertaining people in order to draw a crowd.
The second heart-problem – jealousy – comes into play when someone has something we don’t or has achieved a level of success which we think we deserve more than they do. This could be invitations to speak at prestigious events or public recognition he receives from the community, media, or internet traffic. It could be as little as him raising support for his small mission field assignment quicker than we do. Jealousy can hit us at all levels of ministry, large or small.
Not only are these problems destructive to our own ministry and what God wants to do through us; they are detrimental to the mission of God in the world. When these two problems rise in our hearts, they reveal a judgmental spirit at work in us, which seeks to break unity in the universal body of Christ, thereby hindering the fulfillment of God’s gospel commission.
Identifying Jealousy and Criticism
Jealousy and criticisms among ministers are not new things. Just look at the disciples. They were constantly arguing about which one is greater (Luke 22:24; Matt. 18:1) and seeking an opportunity to sit at Jesus’s side when the Kingdom is fully come (Mark 10:37) while also trying to hold down those who were not one of the group (Mark 9:38-40). These were issues then just as they are now, and they were issues that Jesus immediately sought to correct in them.
As ministers, we must all admit that this isn’t just an “out there” problem. The truth is we all deal with these tendencies on occasion.
I recently had lunch with my senior pastor, another church planter, his associate pastor, and a seminary student. In the course of conversation, there was name-dropping of ministers we associate with (or would like to). There was some talk of church sizes, number of salvations, and programs — you know, all the normal minister-to-minister conversation stuff. I am not downplaying that it was an enjoyable lunch.
However, if I am honest about encounters like these, it is sometimes too easy for me to walk away looking at the good things God is doing in someone else’s life and ministry and be overcome with a jealous desire for Him to do it for me, even ignoring the things He is doing in my own life already. Now, that isn’t my heart 99% of the time. The truth is, most of the time, I don’t even think to look for self-promotion. I want people to see Jesus, not me. Yet there are times when I am feeling like things aren’t going the way they are supposed to or at least as good as they could be, and the jealousy bug creeps in.
Three Keys for True Kingdom Promotion
As I began to pray about this issue and ask God how we should protect our hearts from jealousy in the Kingdom of God, He gave me a few key things that are vital to not only preventing criticism and jealousy from taking root but are vital for us in receiving the legitimate promotions in our ministries which the Lord wants us to receive.
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me” (John 15:4, ESV).
If we really want to fulfill the destiny that God has created us for (Eph. 2:10), we won’t find it by looking at what other ministers are doing and how God is using them. Instead, we must look only to God and see what He wants to do in us. It is in intimacy with Him that we find out who we are and what we are called to do (Check out this video I did on “the heart of intimacy”).
“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much” (Luke 16:10, ESV).
“…Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more” (Luke 12:48, ESV).
Once we have been in the secret place with the Lord and received our individual assignments from the Holy Spirit, the key to receiving more opportunities and bigger, bolder assignments is that first being faithful in what He has called us to today. It is great to dream about the future and to ask God to give you big visions for where He is taking you. However, we cannot pursue the visions of the future so much that we neglect to act on His directions for today.
Our faithfulness today builds a trust in us in the Kingdom of God, demonstrating that we can be trusted with more!
“‘The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward'” (Matt. 10:41, ESV)
It is a well-established principle in Scripture that shows, when you honor what God is doing in another, it opens up a supernatural pathway for Him to do the same for you. I believe one of the primary reasons our enemy stirs us up to jealousy and criticism in our hearts is because he knows that dishonor will block us from receiving that blessing for ourselves.
To me, this fact is the most interesting reality concerning jealousy! We get jealous because we want what they have, yet the Bible teaches that the way God intends us to receive what they have is by first honoring what God is doing with them! Jealousy and criticism are the devil’s sinful alternative to God’s calling on us to show honor, created to block us from receiving an impartation of what they have. Romans 12:10 actually teaches us that if we want competition in the Kingdom of God, it is to “outdo one another in showing honor.”
I believe it is time for the church to seek unity, be faithful in our own callings, and to grow in honoring God’s hand on others. It is time to build one another up and reach out in fellowship rather than criticize and give into jealousy which tears down and only looks inward.
It is time for each of us to fight these judgmental spirits in ourselves. It is time for us to seek intimacy with the Lord, be faithful in whatever He calls us to do, and to honor His work in others. Then we can celebrate together as He promotes each of us upward in His timing for the sake of the Kingdom of God.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on www.AnthonyIngram.com.
Featured Image by Jake Hills