Read 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8.

Just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts. (1 Thessalonians 2:4)

Pittsburgh. The city of three rivers. Right there at the focal point of the city center the Allegheny, the Monongahela, and the Ohio rivers flow together and erupt into a fountain that is always spraying upwards.

[Did you ever notice that with just a slight twist “always praying” becomes “all-way spraying”?]

Just kidding. Three rivers never flow together into one spot. Instead, two rivers flow together and one flows out. Otherwise you’d have a pool of stagnant water.

If you love God, no doubt you have been given a ministry of some sort. Love of God and love of neighbor flow together into ministry. The love of God never stagnates in a pool: it flows into one, out of that one, and into another. The love of God poured into you flows out toward others.

Maybe your ministry is simply caring for your family, or your coworkers, or your neighbors. Maybe it is serving others in another way. Maybe it is intercession. But some kind of outlet is necessary if love is to keep pouring into you.

Paul describes healthy ministry. It

  • Is approved by God. Ministry is never strictly your own doing. It is led by love. Water must flow in to flow out again.

  • Is not to please mortals, but to please God. Ministry can get derailed by a desire to please those you serve.

  • Does not spring out of trickery or deceit. There is no hidden desire to get something out of the ministry, whether money or power or praise or even feeling good about yourself.

  • Does not flatter. Flattery obscures God’s word.

  • May be greatly opposed. Effective ministry may result in persecution or suffering.

  • Is gentle, like a mother caring for an infant.

  • Is born out of love: it results from love so deep that it is a sharing of self. As God shares himself with us, so we share ourselves with others.

Can you lose yourself entirely in your ministry, becoming a clear, unhindered channel through which love may flow?

It is when you are empty that you are truly ecstatic.

Harry Plantinga

Harry Plantinga is a professor of computer science at Calvin University and the director of and