As you know, I've been settling in to the Book of Acts for some time now. My spirit is inspired by the boldness and determination of the Apostles and disciples of Jesus to establish a believing Body that could walk out the teachings and commandments of the Lord. We tend to think that they had it all "together" on that Day of Pentecost; that they knew exactly how to advance this new "Kingdom" to which Jesus was calling them. But they were relying on the Holy Spirit to guide them into this new realm and new life, just as Jesus had. They ministered to the people, to each other, and to the Lord.
As I was reading in the 13th Chapter of Acts, it was just prior to Paul's first missionary trip. Scripture tells us that "While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them' ” (Acts 13:2). I was struck by those words ... the believers were ministering to the Lord. What did that mean, and what did it look like? Other translations read "serving the Lord" or "worshipping the Lord". But I sense that "ministering to the Lord" is more accurate, with a deeper significance for us. As the modern Church, or Body of Christ, we are certainly aware of the need to minister to people. Their needs are so obvious. And the Lord certainly doesn't need us in order to be God; after all, He is self-sufficient, right?
Further study revealed that this idea of ministering to the Lord is apparent throughout the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 10:8 tell us that after giving the Torah at Mount Sinai, God set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the Lord to stand before the Lord to minister to Him and to bless in His name, to this day. And the whole design of the early Tabernacle, and later the Temple built by Solomon, was intended for ministering to the Lord; to minister to His Presence in the Holy of Holies.
What did this ministry to the Lord look like? We get an idea in 2 Chronicles 31:2 ... And Hezekiah appointed the
divisions of the priests and of the Levites, division by division, each
according to his service, the priests and the Levites, for burnt offerings and peace offerings, to minister in the gates of the camp of the Lord and to give thanks and praise. Here, ministering to the Lord involves the giving of thanks and praise.
But then there is the ministering to the Lord in Joel, chapters One and Two ... Put on sackcloth, you priests, and mourn; wail, you who minister before the altar. Come, spend the night in sackcloth, you who minister before my God ... Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the portico and the altar. Let them say, "Spare your people, Lord." Here, the meaning is obviously about interceding on behalf of the people of the Lord.
Ultimately, I think that ministering to the Lord is centered on ministering to His heart. As modern-day priests, we come before the Lord giving Him the praise and thanksgiving He is due for His abundant Goodness, as well as fasting and interceding on behalf of His people from our broken and burdened hearts. Both facets of ministering to Him touch His heart.
However, the more I studied all the examples in the Word of ministering to the Lord, the more I became convinced that there is another important component to this concept -- that ministering to the Lord should take precedence over ministering to the people. In other words, we must be careful not to get so caught up in doing the work of ministering to the people, that the work becomes our focus. We must never forget that it is the power of our Lord that allows us to do the work.
I don't want you to misunderstand me -- I believe God honors our desire and obedience to minister to people's broken hearts. But I think He desires something deeper between us and Him. We must not become consumed with the excitement that comes with ministering in this realm. We must never lose sight that God desires that we minister to Him in His realm; through our praise and intercession, revealing our trust, confidence, and dependence on Him.
So, I find myself more aware of how I perceive this ministry that God has called my husband and I to. Have we made it all about the work we do for the Lord, or are we mindful that our priority is to attend to our Lord? To exalt and glorify Him, seeking to be in touch with His heart? It is through these efforts to minister to Him that our ministry to others will bear more fruit. And that is why my prayer has become, "Father God, I want to enter into Your Presence, connecting my heart to Your heart. I want to make You my priority; praising you and giving you all the glory for my Kingdom work. I want my ministry to You to overshadow my earthly ministry. I want to be ever mindful of pleasing You first, and of being worthy to be set apart to do Your work. Lord, help me, Your humble servant, to be a blessing to You and others". For me, that is what ministering means.
Revelation 1:6 To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood and made us a kingdom, priests to [minister to] His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.