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Ministry to others comes from the overflow of a heart filled with the Spirit.

You have heard it before. I have too. I have preached it before, but it is worth repeating. Ministry to others comes from the overflow of a heart filled with the Spirit. If we are to be the kind of ministers that God asks us to be, then we will only do so by abiding in him.

Seminary student, aspiring to the ministry, hear these words: ministry is not simply about how much you know. Pastor, remember the demands of ministry and family cannot serve as excuses for distance from the Father. Such is a recipe for disaster in all areas.

I was freshly reminded of this while studying Mark’s gospel with my church. In the fourth chapter, Mark makes a statement. It is small and subtle, so it is easy to pass over. Nevertheless, it is a principle that rings true and serves as a guide to the minister.

“Pay attention to what you hear. By the measure you use, it will be measured and added to you,” states Jesus in a conversation with his disciples (Mk 4:24). These words come at a transition point in a teaching discourse by Jesus, and they serve to tie together much of the previous thought on hearing the word of God and the responsibility that brings.

At the beginning of the passage, Jesus delivers the parable of the sower. He cautions listeners about the manner in which they receive the word. There are multiple ways to receive God’s word but only one that produces fruit. “But the ones sown on good ground are those who hear the word, welcome it, and produce a crop: 30, 60, and 100 times what was sown” (Mk 4:20). The admonition of Christ is to be open to the word, to hear it with gladness, welcome it, and let it do it’s life-producing work in your heart. Fruit grows in the lives of those who receive the word rightly.

Immediately following these words, Jesus continues with another word picture. This time, his subject is a lamp. “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket or under a bed? Isn’t it to be put on a lampstand” (Mk 4:21)? In short, lamps have a responsibility. That may sound curious, but what good is a lamp without oil, a flashlight without batteries, or a candle with no wick? Furthermore, lamps shine for the benefit of others.

Mark uses these two images back-to-back in the same discourse. Lamps are meant to shine, just as plants are meant to produce fruit. Each of these pictures points to the essential nature of their subject. The reason we plant things is so they will produce fruit. The reason we light a lamp is so that it shines. For the believer, receiving the word with openness and allowing it to work on us produces abundant fruit in our lives. It causes us to grow and it causes us to produce. However, Jesus’ remarks about the lamp make it clear we are to produce for the benefit of others. The fruit in your life is meant to be picked.

After these two principles Jesus delivers these words, “Pay attention to what you hear. By the measure you use, it will be measured and added to you” (Mk 4:24). It would be tempting at this point to read karma into the Scriptures. After all, that sounds right: what goes around comes around. But such a move would place the source of this blessing in the effort of the hearer. No, the source of this blessing is the Spirit himself, and the Spirit heaps blessing on those willing to use it. Do not think of karma but of the widow woman using her last bit of flour to make food for Elijah and her son (1 Kgs 17). Every time she went to that flour jar, she found what she needed. This is the promise given by Christ.

Minister, if you welcome the word, and you are renewed by the Spirit, it will be measured out to you by the amount you use. You can serve, you can spend yourself for others, because there will always be enough. The Spirit is the source of our supply.