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  • Writer's pictureJack Selcher

Serving God Uphill


Jesus carrying his cross

Seeing that ministry to others is making a difference renews our energy and motivation to serve. But what happens when such evidence is scant? When we feel like we’re sprinting uphill, but maybe in vain?


For those who minister in the USA, I’d guess that’s more the rule than the exception. It sometimes seems that the people to whom we minister are maturing spiritually at a snail’s pace.

Their Christian commitment is at most a one-hour-a-week slice of the pie of their lives. So small as to be almost calorie-free.


Not seeing obvious spiritual fruit can undermine our motivation to serve. It can discourage us and make us consider gearing down our efforts or even quitting. It helps me to be patient with others' glacial spiritual progress when I remember I’ve been in the slow lane at times on my spiritual journey to become like Jesus.


The ongoing challenge for me is serving the Lord wholeheartedly for His results, not mine. That’s hard because my need to see a lot of fruit can become all-consuming (John 15:8). The lack of it frustrates me. So, how can we handle the frustration?


It helps me to think of Christian service as growing vegetables in different soils and seasons in my garden. The eastern end of my garden plot is more productive than the western end. The southern side is much more fertile than the northern side. Harvest starts in May and ends in early November. During the winter, only weeds grow.


I take the same care of the whole garden, but the return for my labor is far greater in the western and southern portions of it. And from May to November than in winter.

 

Similarly, some ministry soils in the world are far more productive than others, with people more receptive to the things of God. These include Nigeria, China, the Philippines, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Kenya, South Africa, Ethiopia, and Tanzania.1

 

In this season of my ministry, the number of people who engage with my Christian-oriented Facebook blogs is at least ten-fold more in the Philippines, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Cameroon, and India than in the USA. They are like the western and southern portions of my garden in summer. So, what can we conclude about serving God uphill?

 

God calls some of us to be faithful Jeremiahs. Ministry will always be uphill. Jeremiah preached the need for repentance to spiritually dead people no more responsive to his message than the physically dead (Jeremiah 7:1–8:3). The people in his hometown tried to kill him (11:18–23). He was often persecuted (20:1–6). He had two converts, Baruch and Ebed-melech, the Ethiopian, after over forty years of preaching (1:2–3). Many of us can identify with Jeremiah.

 

God chooses others of us to be faithful Peters. Peter experienced on the Day of Pentecost, about three thousand people repenting and turning in faith to Christ (Acts 2:41). And many more after that. He didn’t experience more spiritual fruit because he was spiritually superior to others who ministered. It was God’s choice.


The Apostle Paul writes, “But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong. When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile believers, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision. As a result, other Jewish believers followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy” (Galatians 2:11–13 NLT). We shouldn’t conclude that serving God uphill means we’re spiritually inferior to others who are experiencing more fruit.


It’s possible to be Jeremiah at some points of ministry and Peter at others. I’ve experienced both. In Africa, I’m Peter. In the USA, I’m still Jeremiah.


Whether Jeremiahs or Peters, we should continually refine our spiritual sowing, cultivating, and harvesting activities. God uses us best when we join with others to advance His kingdom. The key questions are both, “How can I minister more effectively?” and “How can we minister better to others?” Room for improvement is the biggest room in the house.


Improving how I use Facebook and my website in ministry increased the number of people I’m reaching. My daughter helped me upgrade my website’s quality. Ten months later, ten times more people are coming to it through Google search. Most of them live in the USA.


Serving God uphill is easier when we’re traveling with like-minded people. I’ve partnered with pastors who use my book, “His Power for Your Weakness—260 Steps Toward Spiritual Strength” as an evangelism/discipleship tool in Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia. I and other partners in the USA provide resources. The African pastors use them on the front lines of ministry to make more and better disciples.


Ministering alone is like trying to hit a baseball over the fence while swinging only with our arms. The whole body of Christ ministering together is vastly more powerful and effective than any single individual’s efforts. We should always seek to do ministry together with others.


Using newly developed technology and partnering with others can make us significantly more effective than old tools and ministering alone. The gospel doesn’t change. How we can most effectively communicate it does. #freediscipleshipresources #freeevangelismresources #freechristianleadershipresources 



See free spiritual growth resources for Christians at https://www.christiangrowthresources.com

God has equipped and empowered me to write His Power for Your Weakness—260 Steps Toward Spiritual Strength. It’s a free devotional, evangelism, and discipleship resource. Pastors have used it in Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia to lead more than 2,400 people to faith in Christ and teach the basics of Christianity to 3,359 people. I invite you to check it out. https://www.christiangrowthresources.com/his-power-for-your-weakness 


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