If you want to be miserable, just let your feelings take over. Soon you will feel that others do not like you, and a thousand things will build up because of that feeling. People are sure something terrible is going to happen—they feel it! The Devil has them on the run. The Christian who give in to his feelings will minister little that will be of help. He will constantly be seeking some word to soothe his feelings. But someone will always have a word to keep those feelings upset. The just, if they are to minister, are to live by faith, not by feeling.
While we cannot complete the catalog of the Devil’s devices, let me mention one more: bitterness. Paul reminded us that the Devil takes advantage of an unforgiving spirit (see vv. 10,11). James warned against bitterness (James 3:14,15). Hebrews 12:15 commands a diligent search of heart lest any root of bitterness spring up to cause trouble and defilement. Colossians 3:19 warns husbands not to be bitter against their wives, and Ephesians 4:31 says that bitterness must be put away. Is it any wonder the Devil works diligently at keeping some bitterness working among the saints?
If we find ourselves to be miserable Christians, we are faced with a choice—either we go on the way we are going, or we find a cure for our misery. Either we go on in our selfish way, nursing our feelings and our imagined wounds, or we move on in the things of the Lord where blessings flow from our lives.
To find a cure for our miseries we must be sure we have settled the matter of forgiveness. This means we accept God’s forgiveness and forgive those who have sinned against us. A doctor once said that if he could assure his patients of forgiveness, he could dismiss half of them. Do not take the matter of forgiveness lightly; it is not easy to forgive and forget those things which are behind us. It is, however, part of the cure for a miserable life. David was right when he said, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile” (Ps. 32:1,2).
The ministering Christian must learn to avoid feeding his feelings. Some people complain that they are very sensitive, that their feelings are easily hurt. Of course! In this we are all brothers! To avoid feeding our feelings we must not constantly talk of the hurts we have received in the past. We must not allow our minds to dwell on them but must keep them busy with better things. It will help greatly if we can remember not to believe everything everyone tells us about ourselves or about others. Let us learn to think of ourselves as Romans 12:3 teaches: “For I say,… to every may that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”
In thinking about others, let us learn from Romans 12:17,19-21: “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men…. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengence is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink…. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
The Christian who wants to minister in this life must learn to rejoice in the Lord. The Lord does not change. He is the same yesterday, today and forever (see Heb. 13:8). Rejoicing in the Lord gives a solid foundation from which to operate, for He is not moved by circumstance, people, the weather or feelings. Rejoicing in the Lord does not mean we become hypocrites, saying one thing when we think another. It is not trying to act as if nothing had happened. To rejoice in the Lord is simply to acknowledge with God that things are not what they seem to be at all. Things are certainly not what we feel they are. Things are surely not what the Devil says they are.
To delight ourselves in the Lord also means that we acknowledge His Word to be true, His ways to be right and His will to be ours. We regain the wonder of being a child of our heavenly Father. We know He cannot fail, even though all else does fail. We know that, in spite of everything, out of the believing life, will flow rivers of living water (see John 7:38). No longer are we to be miserable Christians but ministering Christians.
The Christian who wants to minister must take up his cross and follow the Lord (see Luke 14:27). This means the end of following the crowd or your own way. To put it simply, it means putting God first in all things. This will not be easy. It is easier to talk of the crucified life than to live it. To take up our cross means that we will have no confidence in our own abilities but will have total confidence in the Lord Himself. It will surely mean some inconvenience to ourselves. When our Lord used the cross as a symbol of dealing with the self-life, He certainly did not intend to convey to us the idea of something easy. It is like dying. But the Christian who takes his position with Christ in death and resurrection will be the ministering Christian.
Dwelling on what you are in Christ will help cure your miseries. We have been forgiven, pardoned, brought into His family and made a part of His Bride. Think of it! “The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe” (Prov. 18:10).
The ministering Christian must learn to fight the good fight of faith. We are to be overcomers in this life. Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:10-16: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.”
The ministering Christian will settle in his mind once and for all that God is God. Things are not beyond His understanding and control. God is not at His wit’s end. There is no panic in God’s plan. Things move to a climax when and where He chooses. Remember, if God is God and if He is your God and if He has declared His love for you, and since He cannot lie, things are not what they appear to be. There is no other way we can explain Romans 8:23: “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” A thousand things happen every day which are beyond our comprehension; we simply know God is God, and we rest everything there.
The ministering Christian must take care to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The full vessel has no room for other things. If Christ is filling the life, there is no room for bitterness, no room for self-pity, no room for hurt feelings and no room for grudges. The Christ-life rejects all these simply because there is no room for them. The heart is free to minister because Christ is all in all. “Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (I Cor. 1:30,31). The ministering Christian will surrender to Christ as Lord. Christ will be all he needs, and Christ will use the surrendered vessel to minister to many. You can depend on it.
Chapter portion from Straight Thinking About Spiritual Growth, by Ord L. Morrow, published by Back to the Bible in 1977.