But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, Philippians 3:7,8
If we were to define what it is to have a successful ministry, how would we define it?
I remember that in my years of ministerial training, in the Bible Institute, there was no shortage of those who believed that being successful consisted in having an agenda full of daily activities, and they viewed with disdain those who had nothing to do.
Situations haven’t changed much since those years. Today there are those who define ministerial success in terms of the number of mission trips, the size of the church, the number of parishioners, how many books have been written, even the number of invitations to preach in other churches that we receive.
Many of us put the success down to ministerial titles. There is a race to obtain doctoral degrees in theology, in being known as apostles, prophets, or the like, even in the number of other ministers who are under our “coverage”.
In light of these current definitions, many of the renowned biblical personalities would have no place and could not be considered successful ministers. An Elijah who spends three and a half years in hiding, sheltered in the house of a widow in Zarephath of Sidon, fleeing before Jezebel. A Jeremiah, most of his days persecuted, imprisoned in the king’s prison, despised and vagabond. And so, others of whom we even preached for having a life of dependence on God, but who in their time were not considered as men of God.
To begin with, success according to the world is measured by the achievements made in a given period of time. That’s why we’ve noticed that many companies celebrate a “day of accomplishment”. Success is measurable.
According to Scripture, success is not measured; success is weighed by what God has commanded us to do, and how much of that we were willing to do. The best definition is found in Paul’s epistle to the Philippians:
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, Philippians 3:13
We make a ministerial mistake when we want to celebrate a “day of accomplishment”, because it lends itself to sowing pride and vanity. It is not biblical even when we argue that we emphasize it “for the glory of God”.
Ministerial success is not measurable. Wanting or trying to measure our performance places us in God’s position and defiles us with arrogance. The most typical case is the case of the census of David, who in spite of knowing that his execution depended on the Most High, wanted to measure his military strength, and received a strong rebuke for his raving.
And David said to Joab and to the rulers of the people, Go, number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan; and bring the number of them to me, that I may know it.…..5 And Joab gave the sum of the number of the people unto David. And all they of Israel were a thousand thousand and an hundred thousand men that drew sword: and Judah was four hundred threescore and ten thousand men that drew sword… 7 and God was displeased with this thing; therefore he smote Israel. I Chronicles 21:2-7
For those who seek ministerial success, they should know that it begins with a reputation for loss of all things. It is not a play on words or a metaphorical interpretation of the Word. One of the spiritual principles of the Word is that Scripture is not a book of poems to try to understand it metaphorically.
What do we think the rich young man understood when Jesus said to him, Go, sell all that you have and give to the poor? For that reason he left very sadly, because Jesus was not asking him to interpret His words, He was speaking literally.
To reckon all things for loss, and surrendering everything. Not figuratively, literally. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews emphasizes the value of having everything for loss:
For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance. Hebrews 10:34
It is a spiritual principle, originating in the way Jesus began his earthly ministry.
But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: Philippians 2:7
The weight of this act consists in understanding that material things defile, and burden people with a spiritual weight that prevents us from operating according to the Grace of the One who called us. Paul recognized in his time that material things impregnate ministers of purposes not according to the Will of God.
No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. 2nd. Timothy 2:4
For that reason, Paul recommends that we have to divest ourselves of all those material things that are part of our achievements, and of our material goods because they act as spiritual anchors that prevent us from moving in God.
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1
In another of his epistles, he presents them as causes of defilement.
Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. 2nd. Corinthians 7:1
Surely there will be those who believe that we are exaggerating the Word, seeing things that do not exist. Why did Daniel decide not to defile himself with the king’s food? Because if we were to see, even the legumes were the king’s property.
Daniel arranged not to bind himself to the value of the king’s things, nor the proposed position of dignity, and to demonstrate it, they renounced the assigned food and opted for a rough diet, and for his whole life, the ten days were only a test for the eunuch to allow it.
His decision, as the Epistle to the Hebrews refers to, choosing rather to be afflicted with God’s people than to enjoy temporary comforts of sin, was what made not only their faces look better and more nourished with flesh than the other boys who ate of the king’s food ration, but also no other was found among them like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: And in every matter of wisdom and understanding which the king demanded of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his kingdom.
It is not symbolic, then, when Paul speaks of reckoning all things as lost. It is to deliver them literally, because of the weight of sin -spiritual ballast- that material things possess. Let us remember that what Satan offered Jesus at the end of his forty days of fasting was precisely material things: All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them:
How paradoxical! The world has given us the wrong idea of “success”. It has pointed out to us that to be successful means to increase, to multiply.
The Scriptures call us to reconcile ourselves with the purposes of God’s Will and make us understand that we should not measure our performance by the pagan concepts of the world.
We are called, called by the Eternal God, Almighty, to execute and establish His purposes on earth, in many cases, we will not be seen by the people, because the Lord will keep us anonymous. We should not be interested in how the world measures success. We should be concerned that we are in the place that God wants, and fulfilling His Will. Therefore, the story of the heroes of faith, chapter eleven of the Epistle to the Hebrews ends: Of whom the world was not worthy.
So, if we want to have a successful ministry, we already know how to start it: stripping ourselves of the burden of sin that material things possess. Let us remove all those material things to which we have bound ourselves, those that we always carry with us, those that would hurt us to lose. Let us have only what is necessary and let us not fill ourselves with unnecessary things. Success in Jacob began when he divested himself of even properties of daily personal use. He discovered liberation from material things.
Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments: 3And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went. 4And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem. 5And they journeyed: and the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob. Genesis 35:2-5
As ministers of a new covenant, we should not become pregnant with the business of life, we should be in the business of our Heavenly Father.
Let us begin to give today, let us remember that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. Acts 20:35
All biblical quotations are taken from the King James Version.
Pastor Pedro Montoya
Ph. (407) 764-2699
 Mark 10:21
 Hebrews 11:25
 Daniel 1:15
 Daniel 1:19
 Luke 4:6
 Hebrews 11:38