One of my ministry goals is to be able to say with Paul at the end of ministry, “I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:26-27)
If the Ephesian church became jacked up a few years after Paul’s ministry he was innocent of their blood. He was faithful in His ministry. He declared to them the whole counsel of God. He left nothing out. He preached on the joyous things and the difficult things. He preached in tears and he preached with smiles. He unfolded for them the entire redemptive plan—the parts we like and the parts that are hard to swallow.
I want to be able to say that at the end of the ministry that the LORD has called me to.
I am convinced, however, that verses 26-27 do not happen without being able to say with Paul in verse 24, “I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” If I have a tight grip on my own life and I try to preserve my life, my job, and my comfort then I will not be bold enough to “preach the whole counsel of God”.
Preaching the whole counsel of God means more than preaching an expository sermon from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. Preaching the whole counsel of God means standing up against power-hungry leaders that would happily damage the flock for their own gain. It means faithfully preaching a text even if it’s hard to be heard of the moo of the churches sacred cow. It means getting in the lives of broken and rebellious people on a Thursday afternoon when you would rather be doing sermon prep. It means being poured out continually. Suffering. Being misunderstood. Being at times lonely. Being rejected. Being an outcast.
Unless you’ve already become convinced that what is precious is not my life—organized, controlled, comfortable—just the way I like, then you will not preach the whole counsel of God. You’ll play it safe. You’ll be silent when you should speak. You’ll speak when you should be silent. You’ll hedge your bets and call it “protecting the church”. You’ll avoid conflict like the plague and offer a dying people “peace, when there is no peace”.
When the Gospel Transforms
But when the gospel transforms our lives like it did the Apostle Paul we truly get over ourselves. We come to see that what is really precious is the unchained, unbound, unstoppable gospel of Jesus Christ? We come to believe with Zephaniah that "The LORD…will famish all the gods of the earth, and to him shall bow down, each in its place, all the lands of the nations.” When Christ who cannot be lost is all that we have we are able to preach boldly because all that matters is already ours.
Not only will we preach boldly but we will also loosen our grip on the flock that the Lord has entrusted to us. Because this is no longer “my ministry” but it is only a small part in a much bigger story we can become like Paul and “commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified”. When the ministry is no longer mine and my name is no longer attached to it, then I can actually entrust the people to the Good Shepherd.
Paul was no super-hero. He was drinking from the same fountain that is available to us today. The gospel is deep enough, wide enough, and powerful enough to captivate any minister of the gospel and stir our hearts to say, “my life means little, what I really want to see is the kingdom advance.”