written by: Warren Wiersbe
If you were asked to name the one spiritual commodity that was indispensable for maintaining a ministry that honored God, what commodity would you select?
Faith? Certainly faith is important, for “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 1l:6). Prayer? Another good choice, because “you do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2). The power of the Spirit? Jesus warned us, “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Whatever we do in our own strength is sure to fail. Doctrinal purity? Vitally important! “Preach the Word” (2 Tim. 4:2).
All of the above are certainly significant ingredients for an effective ministry, but the one ingredient that is supremely important, yea, indispensable, is the one about which Jesus questioned Peter three times: “Do you love Me?” (John 21:15-17).
Flocks and Families
Marriage counselors keep emphasizing to fathers and mothers, “The most important thing you can do for your children is to love each other and let the children know it.” When children know that their parents love each other, they find in that love the security and inner nourishment they need.
What’s true for the family is true for the flock. The best thing we can do for the sheep is to love the Good Shepherd, for only then can we shepherd the flock faithfully the way the Good Shepherd commands. If our ministry to the sheep isn’t the expression of our love for the Lord, it won’t be ministry at all. It will only be religious activity that will run out of steam in a very short time.
Getting and Giving
If we truly love Jesus Christ, we will love his lambs and his sheep, some of whom may not be too easy to love. Love for Christ gives us sustaining power when the going is tough; it gives us patience when the flock is unruly; it gives us faith to trust Christ for the help we need.
Love for Christ is what separates true shepherds from hirelings (John 10:11-16). The hireling asks, “How much will I get?” while the shepherd asks, “How much can I give?” The hireling asks, “Is it safe?” and flees when he sees danger coming, but the shepherd stays with the flock and protects the sheep from the wolves. The hireling lays down rules for the sheep, but the true shepherd lays down his life for the sheep-who may not even appreciate what he does.
The prophet Ezekiel reproached the spiritual and civil leaders of his day because they exploited the sheep and left them to wander helplessly (Ezek. 34). The leaders were interested only in feeding themselves not in feeding the flock. If Christ’s shepherds would read that chapter regularly and pray over it, they would experience revival in their own hearts and love their sheep more.
How do we love Christ?
We love him the same way-only deeper-as we love those dearest to us. We spend time with him. We listen to him in his Word. We talk to him in prayer. We joyfully do what he tells us to do. We seek to delight his heart and glorify his name. We put his interests first. We make whatever sacrifices are necessary to fulfill his will for his flock.
Certainly loving Christ means spending time with him daily in worship, prayer, meditation, and self-examination. It’s frightening how many shepherds are too busy to “take time to be holy.” We wonder what they will say when the Chief Shepherd appears.
Lovest Thou Me?
In 1775, John Newton, the composer of “Amazing Grace,” wrote a letter to evangelist George Whitefield in which he said: “When our dear Lord questioned Peter, after his fall and recovery, he said not, ‘Art thou wise, learned and eloquent?’ nay, he said not, ‘Art thou clear and sound, and orthodox?’ But this only, ‘Lovest thou me?’ An answer to this was sufficient then; why not now?”
Indeed, why not?
©2003 WWW used by permission. Originally published in Prokope, January-March 1997. This article copyrighted by the author and is for your individual use. Reproduction for any other purpose is governed by copyright laws and is strictly prohibited.
Dr. Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) was an internationally known Bible teacher, author, and conference speaker. He graduated in 1953 from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. While attending seminary, he was ordained as pastor of Central Baptist Church in 1951 and served until 1957. From September 1957 to 1961, Wiersbe served as Director of The Literature Division for Youth for Christ International. From 1961 to 1971 he pastored Calvary Baptist Church of Covington, Kentucky south of Cincinnati, Ohio. His sermons were broadcast as the “Calvary Hour” on a local Cincinnati radio station. From 1971 to 1978, He served as the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago 1971 to 1978. While at Moody Church he continued in radio ministry. Between August 1979 and March 1982, he wrote bi-weekly for Christianity Today as “Eutychus X”, taught practical theology classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and wrote the course material and taught a Doctor of Ministry course at Trinity and Dallas Seminary. In 1980 he transitioned to Back to the Bible radio broadcasting network where he worked until 1990. Dr. Wiersbe became Writer in Residence at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids and Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. In his lifetime, Dr. Wiersbe wrote over 170 books—including the popular Be series, which has sold over four million copies. Dr. Wiersbe was awarded the Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA).