Let me share with you my own testimony that has brought me to a realization of the truth that set me free. In 1985 I made a promise to God. I told Him that for the rest of my life I would do anything I ever had an opportunity to do for Him. And for the next ten years, I honestly and diligently did that. I did everything I felt that God had called me to do and many things that I felt He had called others to do, but they had declined on doing. My head only shook in one direction. It would only go up and down, never from side to side. I reasoned that the more I did "for" God, the closer I would be "to" God. I believed the Bible verse that taught me I could do nothing without Him, but I reasoned that with His help, "I" could do anything. I had a lot of lessons to learn and I am apparently not a fast learner.
I willingly and stubbornly stayed in that lifestyle of hard work and constant "trying hard" for a long time. After ten years of attempting to live up to my promise, I had become completely disillusioned by ministry. Nothing had gone as I had planned. I had not grown any closer to God in that ten-year span of service, despite my dedicated efforts and difficult labor in the church. I hadn't grown spiritually. I had only grown tired. I became so frustrated with my efforts to serve God, my family, my church, my employer, and my own needs that I finally reached a point where I couldn't handle it anymore. So one day I told God, "I quit.".
That was exactly what He had been waiting to hear. With that declaration, God knew that He had me right where He wanted me - at the absolute end of my self-reliance and feeble attempts to serve Him in my own strength. Shortly after my stated resignation from ministry, I attended a conference and heard Esther Burroughs, who has now become my favorite speaker, make a statement that God used to completely and irrevocably revolutionize my life. Esther Burroughs said, "God is not nearly so interested in what you are doing as He is in what you are becoming."
She continued to explain that my service "for" Him was not nearly as important to God as my relationship "with" Him. WOW! That concept hit me like a brick. The last ten years of my life had been consumed with service to the point of neglecting any time of fellowship with Him. There was simply no time for that with all that I was doing "for" God. Something had to be omitted from my daily life if I was going to be able to do everything I felt I had been called upon to do and that something always seemed to be time spent just being with Him and enjoying the privilege of intimacy with Him.
Suddenly, like a lightening flash, the Holy Spirit exposed the scheme of the enemy to me. Satan is so cunning. His methods are precisely calculated and customized for each of us. He knew that there was no way he could tempt me to quit serving God. So he changed his tactics with me, lured me with the appeal of good works, and attempted to "wear me out" so that I would crash, thereby putting me out of commission. That's exactly what happened, but like everything Satan intends for harm, God took what seemed like my defeat and used it for His glory and to my best.
God began to work in my life and has continued to teach me since that day. He showed me that in 1985 I had surrendered to "ministry" but when God showed me the truth through the words Esther Burroughs spoke that day, I surrendered to Him and Him alone. That opened the door for experiencing intimacy with God through Christ - something God had always wanted me to experience. Such intimacy empowers me for ministry. Without it I am powerless.
Since then ministry has become more exciting and at times even busier than before, but there is a huge difference! God has taught me that ministry is not what I do for Him, but instead what He wants to do through me - and real ministry is always by His power and not my own limited abilities. Without time spent in fellowship with Him I don't sense that power and I won't operate out of it. But when I am constantly aware and dependant upon the life of Christ in and through me, I will get to see God do amazing things all around me!