And the king granted them to me because the good hand of my God was on me. (Nehemiah 2:8b NASB)
Two decades after it started, Operation Christmas Child continues to deliver millions of shoe-boxes with gifts in them to children all over the world. Their goals of delivery go up with every coming year. This ministry has become an international success.
It all started back in 1993 when David Cooke reached out to Franklin Graham and requested help to meet a need that had become a burden on David's heart. Graham agreed and has been helping Cooke ever since to realize his vision and help meet the great need that the Shoe-box ministry meets.
All great ministries have an origin. If you think about all of the successful ministries in this country and around the world, we tend to only see the end result. What we usually don't see is the humble beginnings or origins of those ministries. We also do not see the many hours of labor, and toil involved in making those ministries a success.
If all you did was begin reading in chapter 6 of Nehemiah you will miss so much of what made the building of the walls in Jerusalem so successful. They built the walls in record time! Only 52 days! All the while they experienced great opposition and persecution from without and within.
Even though Nehemiah enjoyed great success he never lost sight of where the power and the strength came from to do the work, and he also never lost sight of the fact that all success came from God.
So I answered them and said to them, "The God of heaven will give us success; therefore we His servants will arise and build." (Nehemiah 2:20a NASB)
Nehemiah had a great ministry. He was used of God to lead a great mission to rebuild the walls in Jerusalem around the temple. He enjoyed success in this ministry because God's good hand was upon his work. He also had success because all successful ministries have two things in common:
1. All successful ministries meet the need that was the burden of origin for that ministry.
2. All successful ministries only operate to bring glory to God.
Every great ministry has these two things in common as their focal point of success. It is not about fame, or recognition. It is not about money or power. It is about meeting a need and bringing all glory to God Almighty!
Every great ministry begins with a burden. Someone or some group will have a great burden to see something happen for the Kingdom of Christ, and they will work towards creating an environment where that need can be met, and to the degree that they are able to meet that need will determine the overall success of that ministry.
The word that is often translated "ministry," is a Greek word that literally means, "service" or "waiting on a table," and this service is done with a willing (voluntary) attitude.
We have been brainwashed by popular culture to only see success in certain ways. So, unless you are on TV, or unless you are some popular sensation or have gone viral, you are truly successful. Too often, we judge success in quantity over quality as well. We sacrifice the quality in meeting a need so that we can inflate our "numbers" to make it seem that we are successful.
However, as I have written about before, quantity at the expense of quality is never a good thing.
In the church, there is error in thinking about ministry in that we tend to only think of ministry as something the Pastor does, or something a Deacon may do, but certainly not me! We always tend to think of ministry as something someone else does.
However, this is not what Scripture teaches about ministry. Ministry is service, and ministry is true leadership, because the biblical model for leadership is in fact servant leadership. Since ministry is literally about service, then by serving in the capacity to which we are fit for, then we are demonstrating true leadership in the church, and in the world.
Every person who has been regenerate, born again from above, has at least one Spiritual gift, given to them at the moment of salvation by the Holy Spirit of God. This Spiritual gift is for the building up of the body of Christ, and it is for the ministry or serving within the body of Christ.
We must serve! We must be in ministry!
So what are the origins of a great ministry? Let's go to the book of Nehemiah for the answers.
1. A need is presented.
The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah. Now it happened in the month Chislev, in the twentieth year, while I was in Susa the capitol, that Hanani, one of my brothers, and some men from Judah came; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped and had survived the captivity, and about Jerusalem.
Nehemiah had a true burden for his people. He knew a great number had survived the captivity and were there in Jerusalem but he wanted a progress report. So he requests information based on the burden of his heart.
Because if his inquiry he was able to assess the nature of the situation and have enough information to know how to act, when to act, and what would be needed.
What burdens you? What needs has God presented to you that He has equipped you to meet?
2. A need is prayed over.
When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. (Nehemiah 1:4 NASB)
Upon receiving the news of the state of Jerusalem and the people in it, Nehemiah proceeds to weep, mourn, fast and pray over the situation. He cares so deeply about the state of Israel that it literally moves him to tears and mourning.
When was the last time a burden that you had moved you to tears? That is a sure way to know if it truly matters to you.
When was the last time you fasted over something? Now, I don't have eating in view here primarily, but a much larger view of fasting that encompasses anything that we can choose to give up for a season so that we can focus all the more on God, in prayer and service.
The need you are seeking to meet by creating or establishing a ministry in your life may in fact require you to give up something that you enjoy so that you can free up the time necessary to perform that ministry in service of others.
The key word here is choose. Christians don't take fasting very seriously anymore. I can see why concerning how the Pharisees approached it, and how modern day Pharisees still approach it, but this does not excuse us from using any excuse when it comes to ministry.
Our burden for ministry should so consume us that we seek it with all of our heart because we know that God will get the glory in our service, and He can get glory in our fasting. This doesn't mean you give up something you enjoy forever, but it does mean that you may need to fast or give up something for a season so that you can better focus on God and the need He has placed in your heart.
I have done this in my life. There are a great many things I enjoy in life, and there have been times where I have gone without certain things because there was a greater need in life that required my attention for a season.
3. A need is acted on.
And it came about in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, that wine was before him, and I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence.
No need can be met without action. Nehemiah knew this, and I hope you know it. Nehemiah could have all the burden in the world, he could weep and mourn for years if he wanted to, but if he never gets up and acts on that need then it is all for nothing. No success will come because no needs will be met, and no glory will be brought to God.
Nehemiah acted because he had such a strong faith in God. He believed that this burden he had for the people of Judah was a real one sent straight from God Himself. So, when the time came, Nehemiah had zero issue speaking up and acting upon that burden and seeing that the need would be met.
Not everyone will build a wall in 52 days, not everyone will begin and grow an Operation Christmas Child, but EVERYONE, EVERY CHRISTIAN can and should be meeting needs and doing so through and by the power of God and to His glory!
Every great ministry has the same origins. There is a need, it is prayed over, and it is acted on. I pray we will follow the example of Nehemiah.