Success is subjective. Winning an election might be considered successful to one party unless the means in which were used to win lacked integrity. At that point, the other party may not consider that win a success. Losing five pounds would be considered successful to the person losing weight, but to someone farther down this journey, it’s just water weight. When you look at successful ministry, you have to understand our idea of success is different than God’s. Success is starting with prayer.
Esther is one of my favorite books of the Bible. She became queen, living a life of luxury, and when her people were faced with extermination, Esther had to make a choice between doing the right thing or doing the popular thing (or the easy road):
When they told Mordecai Esther’s words, he had them respond to Esther: “Don’t think for one minute that, unlike all the other Jews, you’ll come out of this alive simply because you are in the palace. In fact, if you don’t speak up at this very important time, relief and rescue will appear for the Jews from another place, but you and your family will die. But who knows? Maybe it was for a moment like this that you came to be part of the royal family.” (Esther 4:12-14)
The very next verses (15-17) are important:
Esther sent back this word to Mordecai: “Go, gather all the Jews who are in Susa and tell them to give up eating to help me be brave. They aren’t to eat or drink anything for three whole days, and I myself will do the same, along with my female servants. Then, even though it’s against the law, I will go to the king; and if I am to die, then die I will.” So Mordecai left where he was and did exactly what Esther had ordered him.
How many are willing to fast or pray or stand at death’s doorway for the ministry God gives them to serve out? Esther doesn’t go into this request from Mordecai lightly. She doesn’t sign up at the clipboard after church and say, “Sure, why not.” She knows she faces death. She doesn’t step ahead of God, but calls on God through prayer and fasting to help her find courage and to pave the way for her to protect her people from death.
While Esther serves her king and Haman, God is already placing the pieces to send Haman to his well-deserved death. In Esther 6,
That same night, the king simply couldn’t sleep. He had the official royal records brought in, and his young male servants began reading them to the king. They came to the report about Mordecai informing on Bigthan and Teresh. (They were the two royal eunuchs among the guards protecting the king’s doorway, who secretly planned to kill King Ahasuerus.) “What was done to honor and reward Mordecai for this?” the king asked. (Esther 6)
The king couldn’t sleep. Esther’s people fasted and prayed and we find the King unable to sleep. A boring read of the official royal records was the perfect night cap. Instead of falling asleep, they end of discovering Mordecai’s heroism. While Haman plotted to kill Mordecai and the Jews, the king chooses to honor Mordecai for a past act of heroism. This is success.
Esther didn’t have to do anything in response to Haman’s plans except tell her King and walk in obedience to God’s calling to be a deliverer of her people. Her success in this was beginning in prayer and calling the closest people around her to pray for her act of obedience. God took care of the rest through dreams and people Esther had no control over. The lesson here can be applied to the simple act of ministry.
- Gather a circle of trust and build the ministry on a foundation of prayer. Seek God’s face as it builds and wait on God’s next move.
- Don’t let fear motivate you to make the wrong choices. People pleasing destroys ministries.
- Be patient. The Lord knows what He is doing, and He will move in His own timing. As hard as it is to wait, wait we must if we truly desire God’s results from a ministry He is building through us.
Truly, a ministry that is God’s will doesn’t need perfect circumstances. Obeying God doesn’t require a perfect government or economic system. It does require that we move Him above all our wants and needs, trusting Him to provide when it seems like making the right choice will leave us destitute or lead to a death of a dream. Esther is one of my favorite examples of how prayer is the first step for a successful ministry, but also an example to anyone facing a difficult choice somewhere between the godly choice and the easy way.
So call your people to prayer…