Below is an excerpt from “The Lord’s Work Done in the Lord’s Way,” which was originally a message spoken by Dr. KP Yohannan at Gospel for Asia.
When our ministry to the people around us is done as a ministry unto the Lord—doing His work in His way—there will be no striving. There will be no human sweat.
Because sweat signifies man’s effort. The first time sweat is mentioned in the Bible is in Genesis 3:19. Because Adam had eaten from the forbidden tree, God told him, “Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread” (Genesis 3:17–19).
Sweat is a result of the curse that sin brought. Because of it, the ground would not yield its fruit without man’s effort and sweat.
Scripture also tells us that those who ministered before the Lord in the inner court were not to wear anything made of wool, anything that would cause them to sweat. “And it shall be, whenever they enter the gates of the inner court, that they shall put on linen garments; no wool shall come upon them while they minister within the gates of the inner court . . . They shall not clothe themselves with anything that causes sweat” (Ezekiel 44:17–18).
This is a picture of the kind of service that honors the Lord. Work done out of man’s ability, smartness or money can be a horrible sweat. But when you come to the place in your life at which you begin to live and serve in His strength, you understand what it means to bear His yoke, which is easy and light (see Matthew 11:28).
In this way, the assignment He gives you will never destroy you emotionally or physically. It will not tear you apart. Why? Because you are not working in the realm of human talents, resources and strength. You are not producing it out of your own labor and sweat. There is no longer any flesh involved. It is Him—ministry unto Him and empowered by Him.
This brings tremendous freedom and liberty to laugh and be content and joyful in whatever comes. It makes no difference whether you are asked to turn the world upside-down or just to be a doorkeeper at the house of God. You simply do the work that He has given you in the strength that He supplies as a ministry unto Him.
Forsaking Our Own Ways
Is your life full of suspense, frustration and discouragement? Are you worried about the future? Are you anxious and frustrated, discouraged in the ministry and ready to quit? Are you one saying, “This ministry stuff is hard. It’s not fair. I just want to do some ordinary job and have a normal life again”? Maybe you need to learn from the life of the prophet Isaiah.
Roy Hession, in his book “When I Saw Him . . .”: Where Revival Begins1 relates Isaiah’s encounter with the Lord. He starts out by describing him, from the first five chapters of Isaiah, as being a man full of anger. As a prophet, he is speaking the words of God, but you can hear his anger and frustration in it all. Isaiah is really sweating. He is trying to do what God called him to do, but in his own strength, ability and sweat.
Then in Isaiah 6 something happens.
“I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!’ ” (Isaiah 6:1–3).
Isaiah “saw the Lord.” This changed everything. In God’s holy presence, he becomes absolutely
undone. And not only did He see the Holy One, but listen as he describes in detail the heavenly creatures who cried out, “Holy is the LORD!”
Each seraphim had six wings. Notice how only two of the wings were for the work of flying; the other four were used to veil themselves.
These were incredibly glorious and beautiful creatures, but the One who sat on the throne was far greater and infinitely more beautiful and awesome. The seraphim didn’t want their presence in any way to divert attention from the One who sat on the throne, so they covered themselves with their wings.
Please understand. Isaiah’s ministry was preaching! He was a powerful orator—a prophet! But suddenly, as he stood in God’s presence with the veiled seraphim, he saw how his work, all his service was just filthy rags because it was done in his own strength. He was striving and sweating doing the ministry.
My brothers and sisters, we must have this type of experience in our ministry. We must continually see the Lord. By this our ministry remains focused on the Holy One, and we live in His presence and minister in His strength. Like the seraphim, the majority of our ministry must be not the work, but be ministering to the Lord—in everything seeking to exalt Him, to magnify Him and to bring all the attention and praise to the One on the throne. Like John the Baptist, we must live with the ministry mindset that “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30, NIV).
When God took away Isaiah’s uncleanness, his ministry was transformed and without sweat. The same thing happens to us as we continually come before Him. We are taken up with Him and lost in the wonder of His presence. Then our ministry and what we can do no longer matter; it is only Him and seeking to bring Him glory.
My brothers and sisters, this is the way to live! Let us lay down our striving and our sweat and do His work His way. Then there is nothing to get frustrated and worked up about, and our lives bear good fruit that endures for all eternity.
1Roy Hession, “When I Saw Him . . .”: Where Revival Begins (Fort Washington, PA: CLC, 1975), pp. 17, 21–22.
Excerpted from The Lord’s Work Done in the Lord’s Way by KP Yohannan. Copyright © 2004 by KP Yohannan. (Carrollton, TX: GFA Books).
More about Dr. K.P. Yohannan Metropolitan: Dr. KP Yohannan is the founder and director of Gospel for Asia, a Christian mission organization deeply committed to seeing communities transformed through the love of Christ demonstrated in word and deed. He is a prolific writer with more than 200 books published in Asia and 11 in the United States. With 4 million copies in print, Yohannan’s landmark book, Revolution in World Missions, is an international bestseller that has literally changed the course of mission history in our generation. His Road to Reality radio program airs weekly on more than 200 radio stations in the United States, Canada and around the world.
More about Gospel for Asia: Gospel for Asia comes alongside thousands of national workers and supports them through prayer and assistance as they bring hope to the neediest in South Asia. GFA is engaged in dozens of projects, such as caring for poor children, slum dwellers and widows and orphans; providing clean water by funding wells; supporting medical missions; and meeting the needs of those in leprosy colonies. Through GFA’s Bridge of Hope Program, tens of thousands of children are being rescued from the generations of poverty and hopelessness. Gospel for Asia also has a one-year School of Discipleship in Texas for young adults seeking to grow in their walk with the Lord.
Click here to read more articles on Patheos by Dr. KP Yohannan Metropolitan.