I spoke this message to our fellowship on
July 30, 2002. It was one of those days
especially set apart for prayer and waiting
upon the Lord. We began with hours of
worship and adoration, during which the
Lord became very real to us.
What I share here was the result of a
growing burden God gave me during that
time, calling us to remember once more that
we must continually draw near to Him, to
hear Him and grow in our love and understanding
of Him. To try to do any ministry
apart from this is a sad mistake.
Our emphasis—no matter what we
do—must always be to know the Lord and
His ways. Only then can the work be done in
total dependence upon Him. Only then can
our work bring Him glory.
May the Lord draw you closer to Himself
as you read this.
I’m looking for one who will wait and watch
For My beckoning hand, My eye—
Who will work in My manner the work I give,
And the work I give not pass by.
And oh the joy that is brought to Me
When one such as this I can find—
A man who will do all My will,
Who is set to study his Master’s mind.1
Recently in our ministry, there has been
a spiritual renewal taking place in the
lives of our leaders on the mission field. As
a result, these leaders have called for 90 days
of continuous chain-prayer, involving thousands
of people, to seek the Lord for greater
spiritual reality and renewal among those
who serve with us.
It all began when some of our senior
leaders met for four days of planning and
consultation concerning the ministry and
what needed to be done. Because the work
is growing so fast, we remain with only one
thing that is permanent—change. Every
two or three years, new systems need to be
deployed to handle the increase. People
have to be transferred. Strategies must be
reworked. It is often out of sheer necessity
and urgency that these meetings are called.
Several meetings were scheduled throughout
the Indian subcontinent, with the first
one taking place in North India with 25
leaders present. As usual, their time started
off with the first few hours of the first
day’s meeting in a time of worship. The
room was filled with worship and prayer,
but as time went on, the prayers wouldn’t
stop. They continued on into the evening,
and the Lord’s presence became very real
in that place.
God began to speak through one of the
senior leaders in attendance. With a specific
word given to him, he spoke what the Lord
was saying to the leaders individually. The
Lord knew just what each one was facing
in their lives and ministry, and He exhorted
them and spoke the exact word needed at
After this, a general message from the
Lord was given for everyone in the meeting.
The essence of the message was, “You are
extremely busy in doing My work and meeting
the desperate need of the lost world.
You sacrifice and suffer for Me. I am very
happy and very pleased with what you are
doing for Me. You share My concern, My
burden, and I am well pleased. But, at the
same time, I am sad because your love for
Me is growing thin.”
There was no judgment, no condemnation
in what God spoke to them. But those words
changed the entire agenda for their meeting.
Instead of seeking solutions on how to handle
the work, their first priority became just
to stay in the place of prayer and worship and
draw closer to Him.
At the next meeting place, a similar incident
happened. God began to speak the exact
same message through someone else.
Discerning that this was a serious matter
on the heart of God, the leaders called for
everyone throughout our work to take time
and personally seek the Lord concerning
When I heard what had happened and all
that had taken place, I began to think deeply
about what the Lord had said during these
meetings. It reminded me of what He spoke
to the church of Ephesus. He commended
them for all the good work they were doing,
but then, just like in our leaders meeting, He
said, “I am sad also.”
I know your works, your labor, your
patience, and that you cannot bear those
who are evil. And you have tested those
who say they are apostles and are not,
and have found them liars; and you have
persevered and have patience, and have
labored for My name’s sake and have not
become weary. Nevertheless, I have this
against you, that you have left your first
love. Remember therefore from where
you have fallen; repent and do the first
works (Revelation 2:2–5, emphasis mine).
In the midst of intense work and ministry,
the Lord was saddened. Why? Because their
love for Him was fading away.
Nothing about their ministry had
changed. The Lord said that He had seen
their work, their labor, the patience and
endurance that they had in it all. He commended
them for their work and the lives they were affecting. But somehow, in it all, their hearts had changed.
My brothers and sisters, we can be in the
The ministry that was first done unto Him
and out of their love for Him now began
operating under a different intent. If we are
not careful, we can become so consumed
with serving the ministry God gave us and
forget the Lord Himself.
This is why He cries out to them (paraphrase),
“Repent and return to your first love.
Then continue with the ministry I have given
you. Minister because you love Me. Whatever
you do, do it as unto Me.”
What is doing the Lord’s work in the
Lord’s way? We must properly define it so
that we may be able to attain it.
In Matthew 25:40 (KJV), Jesus defines true
ministry—doing the Lord’s work in His way—
in one simple sentence: “Verily I say unto
you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of
the least of these my brethren, ye have done it
Christian ministry, by nature, affects and
benefits humanity. We serve God by serving
people. The ministry that God has called you
to is never isolated from the people He has
placed in your life. However, there is a balance
that must be kept in Christian service.
It is not just a balance of external priorities,
what is done first and what is done second,
but one that runs much deeper and is the
well out of which all ministry springs. It is
the attitude of the heart.
Doing the Lord’s work in His way is living
in the awareness that whatever we are
doing, whatever ministry the Lord has called
us to, forever we maintain the understanding
that we do it unto Him. Our service must
be rooted in Him, motivated by our love for
Him and done with the desire to exalt His
name and His name alone.
There will come a time when each of us
and the ministry the Lord gave us to do on
this earth will be tested by fire (see 1 Corinthians
3:13). Only that ministry which was
done in His way will last. It does not matter
what it may have looked like on this earth, it
does not matter how well-known it may have
been or how much fruit it may have seemed
to produce. If it was not done as unto Him,
it was not done in His way . . . and it will
not stand in eternity.
My brothers and sisters, I share this message
with you soberly, knowing how easy it
is to run about with our own ideas and our
own agendas. Everything can look so good
and we can seem to be running on the right
track. But if our understanding toward ministry
has moved from being one of ministry
unto Him to getting results, building a name
and serving the people, we are dangerously
How All Is Lost
How is it that, even in ministry, we can
lose our first love?
It all begins when we neglect to come into
His presence and sit at His feet. It is in His
presence that we grow in our understanding
of Him and His ways, and are equipped to go
and carry out the ministry He gave us to do.
Our lives take on the atmosphere of living
moment by moment waiting, listening for
His voice and being sensitive to Him, seeking
to do what He desires.
But when we walk away from this, unfortunately
it doesn’t mean that all ministry
screeches to a halt. In fact, the “ministry”
can seem to carry on as usual. The need
is still there. The people are still there. Yet
when we choose to carry on without waiting
before Him, we take the first step off of
the right road. We may take well-meaning
actions to see the ministry continue, but they
are independent actions if not born out of
One of these well-meaning actions, for
example, is taking on work that God did not
give to us, just because the need is so great,
the opportunities seem unlimited, and we
are driven by urgency.
I know for our ministry, the need is absolutely
huge, mind-boggling. We need to get
the Gospel to so many people before they
die and are lost for eternity. So it is logical
and reasonable to be absolutely committed
and fully involved in doing everything we
possibly can to reach the lost. But if we do
this independent of Him, our love for and
intimacy with the Lord begin to fade away
and our ministry cannot be pleasing to Him,
no matter what kind of fruit it is producing.
As a ministry, we have found that the
safest thing we can do is to come into the
Lord’s presence and draw closer to Him, that
we may know His ways and follow His lead.
In the beginning of our ministry, we would
ask the Lord, “What more can we do?” Now
it is different. As one of the fastest-growing
movements, we are continually challenged
and confronted with so many things we
could do. So much so that our major concern
has become, “Lord, what should we
Another independent action that results
in the loss of intimacy and love for the Lord
is when we fail to stop and ask Him how He
wants His work to be done.
Oftentimes, meeting the current needs
becomes more important than how ministry
is done. It is in response to necessity that we
often create new structures, new systems, new
leaders and new training, and we just keep
being pulled in all kinds of directions. It is
easy to be so consumed by the immediate
that it eventually becomes the focus.
We can be spending all our time trying to
get the track built for the train to run on, trying
to organize and facilitate, yet never stopping
to consider that maybe the Lord doesn’t
need all these structures and plans. Maybe He
has all kinds of other ways to do this ministry.
But we are so consumed with our business
mind and structure and logic that we just
keep on doing things in our own ways.
Recently I have been increasingly concerned
about this, and God’s speaking to
us has strengthened that concern. I wonder,
“Lord, is this the way we should be functioning
and serving You?”
We have often seen how God, in His
mercy, steps in, like in our leaders meeting,
and changes our plans, setting first thing first.
I am so thankful that the Lord had the
freedom to come to us in that way even when
none of our leaders expected it. It is a relief to
know He is with us, watching over the work.
It was like spending a day out in hot, humid
summer weather and finally getting a good,
cool shower. It is refreshing! “Ah yes!” He is
with us and He is leading us.
At the same time, I was made aware that
we must be careful and concerned about
how we proceed in serving the Lord. By no
means do I want you to think I am saying
we should stop our work and not do what
we are doing. That is not how it works. In
fact, it seems the more we take the time to
wait and hear from the Lord, the more actual
work that we do—but rather in His strength,
This is how the Lord’s work is done in His
way—by loving Him more than the ministry
He gave us to do, by waiting in His presence
to hear His voice and by continuing in
that sensitivity to Him so that we are always
doing His will, in His strength.
All that brings glory to God and lasts in
eternity must have its origin with God,
not with ourselves. Ministry is something
given to us by God. Jesus called the disciples
to follow Him; they did not call themselves.
Jesus called Paul. John the Baptist was a man
“sent from God” (John 1:6, emphasis mine).
Along with this, there is another principle
present all throughout the lives of people
mentioned in the Bible. Over and over again
we see that waiting upon God precedes the
unfolding of His plan or purpose.
One example is seen in the life of Isaiah.
It was as he waited in God’s presence that he
received the call to be a messenger to the
children of Israel (see Isaiah 6:1–9).
This is also how it happened with the
disciples’ ministry after the ascension of
Christ. Scripture says, “[Jesus] commanded
them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to
wait for the Promise of the Father” (Acts
1:4). It was as they waited upon God that
they received His call for their lives, and then
they went out proclaiming His resurrection
The calling of Saul and Barnabas happened
in a similar manner. Acts 13:2–3
tells us, “As they ministered to the Lord and
fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to
Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which
I have called them.’ Then, having fasted and
prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent
Notice especially verse two—it was “as
they ministered to the Lord” that they heard
Him and found out His plan.
It was not when they had a committee
meeting (although there is nothing wrong
with committee meetings). It was not when
they met to discuss the tremendous needs
(although that is a good thing to do). It did
not happen because somebody challenged
them and said, “You had better get out there
and do something about all those lost people.”
It was not when they did something that
was a nice, wholesome, well-planned and
thought-out thing to do. It was as they waited
upon the Lord.
Before the world began, God knew
Barnabas and Saul would be the ones serving
Him in this manner. We see this same principle
at work in the life of the prophet Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the
womb I knew you; before you were born
I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to
It is encouraging to know that before the
world began, God knew the purpose and
plan that He has for each one of us (see Acts
17:26). Whether our human mind and our
logic can grasp it or not, it is true. ‘‘ ‘For I
know the plans that I have for you,’ declares
the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity
to give you a future and a hope’” (Jeremiah
However, like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Saul and
Barnabas, we only learn of the plans He
already has prepared for us as we take the time
to come into His presence and hear from Him.
Of Greater Importance
There is also another principle we see all
throughout Scripture, one that I am much
more concerned about. That is, we must
remain in the attitude of waiting upon the Lord.
One incident in David’s life perfectly
illustrates the importance of this.
In 2 Samuel 5:19, we are told, “David
inquired of the LORD, saying, ‘Shall I go up
against the Philistines? Will You deliver
them into my hand?’ And the LORD said to
David, ‘Go up, for I will doubtless deliver the
Philistines into your hand.’ ”
And so, after hearing from the Lord, David
did what He said, and he was victorious.
A few verses later, David is faced with an
almost identical circumstance. Once more
the Philistines had stationed themselves in
the same valley, and once more, they were
waiting to attack Israel.
It would have been natural for David
to respond to this battle as he did the one
before. After all, the previous plan had been
a success, and the enemy and the location
were exactly the same. David could have easily
said, “Well, it’s the same situation so let’s
just forget about another prayer meeting. We
know how to get the job done. Let’s go and
put these Philistines to flight.”
But David didn’t do that. Instead, he took
the time to once again seek the Lord.
Second Samuel 5:23 says, “Therefore
David inquired of the LORD, and He said,
‘You shall not go up; circle around behind
them, and come upon them in front of the
mulberry trees.’ ”
“You shall not go up.” Do you see that?
God had a different plan this time, and David
only learned of it because he lived in the
atmosphere of waiting upon God, to hear
from Him and obey. By this, his ministry was
done in connection with Him and unto Him.
There is the requirement that as we continue
in the journey the Lord has us on, we
must stop often along the way and find out
what He is saying. By doing this, our love for
the Lord stays strong, the ministry that began
out of that love for Him remains in Him and
the work done is accomplished in His way.
There are hundreds of Christian organizations,
churches, groups and ministries that
began so well. But somewhere along the way,
somehow, a lot of them stopped waiting
upon the Lord, causing their love for Him to
grow cold. As a result, their ministry ended
up in the flesh, and once again the Scripture
is fulfilled—“Are you so foolish? Having
begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected
by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3, NASB).
God addresses this same issue with His
prophets in Isaiah 29:13 (NIV), saying, “These
people come near to me with their mouth
and honor me with their lips, but their hearts
are far from me.” They may look real and
authentic; they may have started well; their
service may appear genuine, but it is not. It
cannot be because their hearts are now far
When we stay in the attitude of continuous
dependence upon God, what has begun
in the Spirit remains in the Spirit and bears
Doing the Lord’s work in His way is of
paramount importance. If we continue the
work without His direction, leading and
strength, it won’t be His work at all. It will
be only a hollow shell that might look all
right but in reality has no life and bears no
We must come into His presence and
wait upon Him, to hear from Him and know
But it’s not always easy to wait.
If we are honest, we will admit that we
are usually restless when we have nothing to
do. We need noises and things happening all
the time. We want to be kept busy and have
something to do at any given moment of the
day. Most of us have difficulty just being quiet
and still, waiting before the Lord.
Why is it so hard to wait? Oftentimes it
can be because our motive in the ministry
In the past, we have had a couple of
families on staff with us who left the ministry
because they were dissatisfied, feeling as
though they were not doing what they considered
In one particular situation I remember
a wife who said, “I came here to serve the
Lord, and I have no ministry.” This family
had two children to take care of, but for
her, raising those children in the fear of
the Lord, serving her family and being an
intercessor for the lost world was not real
ministry. She wanted to do something that
appeared more significant.
Please understand. It is good to long to
serve God in the best way we can. But discontentment,
and grumbling just because we don’t like
what the Lord gave us to do is not good. We
must be able to discern between truly desiring
to please the Lord and our own restlessness
We must be able to discern what is motivating
us in the work of the Lord. A lot of
times we can be pulled in many different
directions by the needs around us. And we
can like it too.
The work of the Lord certainly has its satisfaction
for the flesh. There is the crowd of
people, the results, the praise, the attention
and the “thank-yous”—all of these can really
make the flesh feel good. We definitely enjoy
the attention, the limelight and the sense of
accomplishment and self-worth that come in
But what we are called to in serving Him
must be rooted in pleasing Him and done
out of our love for Him—not our own gratification
and glory. It must be for His.
Two Kinds of Servants
In Ezekiel 44, we find two groups of servants
of God. One group were the Levites
who spent their days busy, busy, busy in the
outer court of the temple serving the people
who came to worship the Lord.
These men were responsible for preparing
the sacrifices and getting them ready for
offering. Twenty-four hours a day, they were
busy in the outer court, where it was full
of people and noises. Many people saw the
work the Levites were doing; it was a very visible
thing. They were dragging the animals
in, sacrificing them and putting them on the
altar. These men were in great demand by the
multitudes, pulled in all different directions,
motivated by the screaming needs around
them and all that needed to be done.
But there was also another group—the
sons of Zadoc. These were men of the inner
court. Where they stood, there was stillness.
Unlike the outer court, the inner court was
silent. Deadly quiet. The only individual
there was God. There was no busyness, no
service in front of people, no demand but to
come into the holy of holies and minister
unto the Lord.
Let me ask you—which group are you
in? Are you like one of the sons of Zadoc,
more concerned with coming into the holy
of holies and ministering to the Lord than
being busy serving the people? Or do you
just keep going, going, going, moved in
every direction with the busyness of the ministry?
These are serious questions we must
This reminds me of the story of Martha
and Mary in Luke 10:38–42 (NIV).
As Jesus and his disciples were on their
way, he came to a village where a woman
named Martha opened her home to him.
She had a sister called Mary, who sat at
the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.
But Martha was distracted by all the preparations
that had to be made. She came
to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you
care that my sister has left me to do the
work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered,
“you are worried and upset about many
things, but only one thing is needed. Mary
has chosen what is better, and it will not
be taken away from her.”
It is clear in this passage, although our
flesh would much rather be in the center of
attention, that the better thing is to be more
concerned with sitting “at the Lord’s feet listening,”
rather than busy with all the ways we
are trying to serve God. It wasn’t that Martha’s
service was wrong. Not at all. What was
wrong was that “Martha was distracted” from
her first love by all of it. Jesus said Mary “has
chosen what is better”—to leave the busy
place of the outer courts and come into the
inner court and minister to Him.
Purify Our Hearts
But the truth is, we all have the same
problem—wicked hearts. We’d rather be one
of the priests who are busy standing before
the people, active in what is immediately
needed. We want our ministry to look dramatic
and effective. Our flesh wants to glory
in the praise of men.
Just think about it. If asked to do a job
that is below our educational qualifications
The Lord’s Work Done in the Lord’s Way
or beneath our dignity, how glad are we?
How eager are we to continue if the results
are not what we would like?
As humans, we often measure godliness
and spirituality by external activities or a certain
type of behavior that we see in people.
The Pharisees were considered extremely spiritual
people by the way they fasted and prayed
and put on a humble demeanor.
Yet we know how Jesus spoke of them,
identifying them for what they truly were
and pronouncing the worst judgment upon
them (see Matthew 23:13). Despite how
spiritual they looked, they did not know the
Father. And without that, all their religious
activity meant nothing. The motivation
behind all their action was full of self, not
love for God. The motive is what makes the
work spiritual or unspiritual.
We shouldn’t worry about how things
look, what people might be saying, or
whether or not there are the results we
thought there would be. Our number-one
concern must be to know Him and His ways
and to follow His lead.
When we live like this, what happens,
whether good or bad in man’s sight, whether
productive or useless in man’s opinion has
no bearing. We are not working for human
beings. We are doing it because of our love
for Him. It is ministry unto Him, and this
May we be reminded of the words of Paul,
who facing incredible responsibilities, great
need and overwhelming difficulties still said,
“None of these things move me” (Acts 20:24).
The difficulties and problems, all the blessings
and praise, the good and the bad that
happened, none of these things changed his
course. Issues of personal life or loss did not
sway him. All he wanted to do was the ministry
the Lord gave him to do. Nothing else and
nobody else motivated him.
Please, we need to evaluate what our
motive has been in serving the Lord. Are we
seeking to meet the need around us, or are
we seeking to know and please Him? Are
we controlled, motivated and energized by
our talents and by opportunities that present
themselves? Do needs and others’ voices
guide our course? Or do we really know, in
our innermost being, that we are serving our
King? Ask yourself these questions.
Whatever we are doing, whoever we are
serving, we must be able to do it all with the
heart attitude that we are doing this for no
one but our God.