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Developing an Addiction for Christ

In my last post, I talked about the 5 symptoms of being addicted to the ministry for Christ.  It was based upon the KJV translation of a verse in I Corinthians.

I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,)
1 Corinthians 16:15

Today I want to talk about the steps that it takes to become addicted.  Again, I took them from a pamphlet that I got from the American medical community.

Curiosity causes you to check it out.  Sometimes seeing what someone else is doing for Christ will cause you to ask if you’re able to do something similar.  You step out in faith and see what happens.  After all, we’re encouraged in the Scripture to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”

Comparing your life with Christ to your life without Him.  How has the Lord changed you?  If you’re like most people, then you can look back on a life of death, sorrow, worry, and guilt.  Now, in Christ, your path should be marked with life, joy, faith, and freedom.

You develop a taste for it.  Most of the things that cause addictions start out tasting horrible.  It’s only after people get used to it that they get “hooked.”  It’s the same with the ministry.

Sometimes it’s hard working with people.  But as you get used to it, and especially the rewards of seeing changed lives, it gets better.  Pretty soon it becomes normal.  Experts tell us that it takes about a month for a habit to develop.

You start to become uncomfortable when it’s taken away (withdrawal).  Being a blessing to others causes you to become a giver.  When that happens, you have to draw on the sufficiency of Christ.  If something happens to stop the process, you feel like something’s missing.

As problems increase, your usage increases.  It’s easy to tell when someone is in the final stages of a “Christ addiction.”  When the normal believer faces a crisis – the loss of a job or a loved one – you don’t see them around for a while.  After all, they need time to sort things out.

Addicted people are different.  During times of crisis or turmoil, you find them seeking more fellowship, prayer, or worship.  Their goal is to use the strength of the Lord and His church to get them through the tough times.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?
Psalms 42:1-2

David understood the concept.  In my estimation, an addiction to Christ is the best thing you could ever experience.  It becomes your strength in weakness and your channel of blessing.  It will keep your walk with God from becoming stale or stagnant.

Cultivate this holy addiction!

Question: What’s your strategy for developing an addiction to Christ?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Are You Addicted to Ministry?

I normally don’t use the KJV in my posts, but this verse from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church gives me a lot to think about.

I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,)
1 Corinthians 16:15

Stephanus and his family were a great help to Paul as he preached the Word of God.  He goes on to tell a little more about them.  He tells the church…

…to submit to such as these and to everyone who joins in the work, and labors at it.  I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you.  For they refreshed my spirit and yours also.  Such men deserve recognition.
1 Corinthians 16:16-18

What was it about Stephanas and his family that caused Paul to describe them as addicted?

I looked up some facts, not from Christian sources, but from the American medical community.  How do they describe addiction?  You may think you’re “all in” for the Lord.  How does what these doctors say stack up to your experience?

You need an increased level to maintain the feeling.  Are you feeling tired and burned out by what you do for God?  Or are you hungering to go deeper with Him?  Addiction means that the amount you’re doing now doesn’t satisfy you the way it used to.  You want more, greater, and higher dosages in order to stay fulfilled.  I believe that’s the excitement of the ministry.

You are obsessed with the ministry.  What’s your thought life like?  When you’re not actively involved in your calling, are you still thinking about it?  Addiction means that it’s constantly in the back of your mind.  You continually think about ways to improve and increase what you’re doing for the Lord.

Even in recreation times, a thought, word, or something you see will trigger an image of what you could be doing to further the Kingdom.  Thinking about it is uncontrollable.

You are continually sneaking “quickies” throughout the day.  Addiction to the ministry is a lifestyle.  Do you find yourself sharing about Jesus at the mall, school or workplace?  Are you prone to spontaneously be a blessing to people around you, simply for the enjoyment of it?  Maybe you find yourself praying for people as soon as you hear about their need.  This is a sign of an addiction to Christ and His ministry.

You undergo a change in your appearance.  Does the knowledge that you represent Christ change how you present yourself to others?  Does the fact that you’re God’s ambassador to the world make a difference in how you live?  The more we become addicted, the more radical the change.  How much has your ministry affected you?

You are in “denial” – you continue deeper even though others may argue against it.  Some people may say that you’re doing too much for God.  After all, look at the lifestyle of most believers.  “God will let you get away with a lot less commitment.”  Arguments like these don’t even faze you.  You want to touch as many people as you can for the Gospel.

You may like to think that you’re addicted – after all, it sounds good.  But the truth is unless you’ve come to the place I’ve just described, it’s only wishful thinking.  Hey, don’t get mad at me – this is what the American medical community says about it.

If you find that you’re not addicted and you want to be – my next post will be about the 5 steps to becoming addicted!

Question: How has an addiction to the ministry affected your life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Arrogance – The Ministry Killer

How open are you to the constructive criticism of those who are further along than you?  It’s amazing how defensive we get when we find out what we’re doing isn’t the best.  Scripture shows that this has always been a part of human nature.

Did the word of God originate with you?  Or are you the only people it has reached?  If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command.  If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored.
1 Corinthians 14:36-38

Paul is concluding his exhortation concerning the gathering of the saints.  He has explained that the worship service is not a vehicle to show off how spiritual you are.  Instead, it should be a place of ministry and blessing for all who attend.

Having founded this church, Paul knew many of the personalities involved.  He also knew that some of them would resist his guidelines.  Because of this, he made some very strong remarks to get their attention.

God’s Word didn’t start with them.  As a matter of fact, the Apostle Paul was the first person to bring it to them.  He established their church.  Furthermore, they are one of many churches that were started by Paul’s ministry.

He then mentions two groups of people – those who think that they’re a prophet or highly spiritual.  He lets them know that if they really are sensitive to things of God, they’ll acknowledge that his letter is a Word from God.

That’s interesting.  We can look back on these events.  We don’t give it a second thought.  Of course, First Corinthians is the Word of God; it’s a part of Scripture.

But to them, it was something new.  Many of them looked at it as if it were simply another letter from Paul – the traveling evangelist.

They should have known by his lifestyle and the fruit of his ministry that what he said held a lot of weight.  He had pressed into the Holy Spirit more than any of them.  So they should have received this command accordingly.

I watch a reality show where a famous chef, making millions of dollars with his Michelin Star restaurants, tries to help struggling restaurant owners.  I’m blown away by some of their reactions.

Here’s someone who knows the restaurant business.  He knows what it takes to be successful.  Yet the owners resist his advice, telling him that he doesn’t understand their business.

I’ve seen this happen over and over in the ministry.  Young Christians, or even ministers, hear the advice of those who have already been through many spiritual battles.  Yet they resist the advice that could save their ministry, marriage, or church.

I’ve heard this so many times.  “You don’t know what I’m facing.”  “I understand what you’re saying, but I know what I’m doing.”

The unfortunate results are that they eventually crash and burn.  Their arrogance insulated them from the truth that could have protected them.  Take stock of the advice you’ve received.  Don’t put yourself in this dangerous situation.

Paul concludes with this summary.

Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.  But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.
1 Corinthians 14:39-40

We should take this to heart.  Don’t resist the gifts of the Spirit.  Yet make sure that they’re only used to build up the body of Christ.

Question: What advice have you received that saved you from future problems?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Love Defined

In my last post, we saw that ministry without love, no matter how powerful, is not up to God’s standards.  Love must play a major role in all that we do.

But do we really understand what love is?  People have so many ideas.  Let’s see what God has to say.

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
1 Corinthians 13:4-6

Think about what this verse says – patient, kind, not rude, and not easily angered.  Are there any times during which we have a better chance of doing this – times when it feels more natural?

Of course, it’s when we’re around people that we like; when we’re with our friends.  I was first able to grasp this concept while reading the book “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis.

Remember, this type of love carries with it no emotional attachment.  It’s purely based on decision and will.  True love cannot be based on emotion, it must be my choice.

I find that it’s easiest for me to treat people I like in this way.  Sometimes I choose to treat them correctly even if I don’t feel like it, simply because I like them.  This brings us to the definition of love that I first heard from C.S. Lewis.

The way of love is to treat people as if you like them – whether you do or not.  Also, I would add, whether you know them or not and whether you’re in their presence or not.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
I Corinthians 13:7

This is the atmosphere that should surround a ministry of excellence.  When you’re ministering to people, all these aspects should be evident in your work.  Too often, we’re guilty of loving our ministry more than the people we’re called to perfect.  This verse tells us that we’re to always protect, trust in, hope for and persevere for THE PEOPLE.

The ministry is a good thing.  But it’s still a thing.  Things can never be more important than people.  Excellence will never develop in an atmosphere where you love what you’re doing to the extent that you don’t care for the people.

You’re not their Lord, Jesus is.  Your ministry is never more important than God’s plan for their individual lives.  If you’re walking in excellence, in the way of love, you’ll be able to balance the two.

Love for people must start with your family.  Too many Christians think that it’s noble to give up their family for “God’s work.”

I even heard a guest minister once prove how devoted he was to the ministry by saying that his children were not walking with the Lord.  It was a sacrifice he had to make for the ministry.  I never let him preach at our church again.  God has never accepted child sacrifice.  The Bible is clear that ministry begins at home.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

It’s clear from the life of Christ (and we probably don’t want to hear it) that the way of love sees everyone as our friends.  Jesus even laid down His life for those who were His sworn enemies.

If so, then He included the whole race of mankind into His list of “friends.”  We cannot use this verse for an excuse not to love.  Christ’s example stops us from doing this.

He laid down His life for the Pharisee and the Atheist, as well as the disciples.  When you walk in the love of Christ, you exhibit the same evidence of love that He did.

Question: What is the evidence of the love that can be seen in your life and ministry?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

<Note – This post was an excerpt from my book, Breaking Free from the Pack – How to Develop a Spirit of Excellence available on Amazon>

 

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Useless Without Love

How do you rate churches or ministries?  What criteria do you use in determining their impact or effectiveness?  Let’s see what the Scripture uses as a standard.

In my last post, the Apostle Paul introduced what he called a more excellent way of ministry.  That brings us to First Corinthians, chapter 13 – the Love Chapter.

The word used for love, is the Greek word, agape.  This word is very significant.

Agape-love has no emotion attached to its definition.  It’s purely an act of your will.  It’s a choice that you make in how you treat others.

We know that Jesus Christ, Himself, commanded us to love each other.  If it were based upon feelings, then He could never make such a request.

Keep this in mind as we go through this chapter over the next few posts.  It’s up to you how you choose to treat people.  You’ll either walk in love or choose to follow the leading of your flesh.

The first thing we see in this chapter, are three things that human religion would point to as excellence in ministry.  Unfortunately, they’re not what God’s rating system includes.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
1 Corinthians 13:1

The first area is that of your preaching and teaching ministry.  What if I had the command of every language on earth?  I could preach the Gospel anywhere I wanted to.

I could stand before thousands and proclaim Christ.  I could be God’s messenger to the world.  After all, that’s what the word, angel, means (messenger).

According to this verse, without love, I’m not ministering.  I’m simply making a noise that gets people’s attention.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:2

What about the flow of supernatural power.  Certainly, that would mean my ministry is on track with God’s plan.  Not necessarily.

Signs, wonders, and miracles are things that we point to as indicators of success.

“Look at my ministry.  The miracles are proof that I’m in the center of God’s will.  Send me your offering.”

We think the supernatural move of God is an indication that we’re someone special.  On the contrary, it only proves that we serve a great God.  Paul makes it clear that no matter how many miracles in my ministry, without love I’m a nobody in God’s kingdom.

If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:3

The third area is one we’d probably never think of.  Self-sacrifice for others.

The word for flames is actually the Greek word, glory.  In other words, I use up every ounce of my physical strength for the benefit of others.

We sometimes think that we’ll give to the poor because God wants us to.  Or maybe because we see it as sowing seeds for God’s blessing.

The problem is that if I don’t give out of love…a desire to see the recipient blessed by my giving, then I’ve gained nothing.  There’s no profit, physically or spiritually.

Love is the determining factor in how God rates a ministry.  Keep that in mind as you work for the Lord.

Question: How can you tell if love plays a role in what you do for Christ?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Body Envy

Have you ever looked at what somebody else is doing for God and it made you feel inadequate?  Are you intimidated by those in a leadership position?  That’s not God’s perspective.  Your place in the body of Christ is a unique one.

Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.  If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.  And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.
1 Corinthians 12:14-16

Paul uses parts of the body to illustrate this point.  What if the members of your natural body could think for themselves and communicate?  What would they say?

Look at your feet and hands, for instance.  They both have similar bone and muscle structures.  They both are placed at the end of your limbs.

What if your foot felt inferior to your hands?  Your toes are too short compared to your fingers.  After all, they can’t grasp or pick up much of anything.  And they’re too far away from your mouth to be able to feed you.

Does all that mean your foot really doesn’t belong to the body?  Absolutely not!  Your foot wasn’t created to do the things that your hand was.

Your feet were designed to bear the weight of your entire body.  In conjunction with your legs, they can move your body around from place to place.

In the same way, you can’t look at how someone else operates and conclude that you’re of no value.  You were created for your own unique calling.

Paul also talks about the eyes and ears.  They live very close to one another on the head.  They’re both set onto holes mad just for them.

But they do very different things.  Your eyes are in holes that allow light to come in.  Your ears, on the other hand, only receive sound waves.  Your ears were not made to respond to images.  Your eyes were not made to see sounds.

“Brother Jones is so sensitive to the needs of those around him.  He really shows the love of Christ.  I don’t know why I’m so useless in that area.”

That’s foolish thinking.  We all receive from the Lord in different ways.  That’s why Peter could respond to God while he was praying and Paul had to be knocked off his horse to get his attention.  God uses us the way we are without comparing us to other people.

We’re all designed with different purposes in the mind of God.  The church would be a pretty boring place if we were all the same.  Paul put it this way…

If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?  But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
1 Corinthians 12:17-20

You need to rejoice in the unique way that God made you.  Find that place in Him where you belong.  Then fulfill your personal calling without comparing your walk to anyone else but Christ.

Question: Where do you fit into the body of Christ?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Ministry Support

We’re continuing our look at Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  We’re at the point where Paul is discussing his role as an apostle of Christ.  This is within the greater context of the principles surrounding the “grey areas” of sin.

This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me.  Don’t we have the right to food and drink?  Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas?  Or is it only I and Barnabas who must work for a living?
1 Corinthians 9:3-6

He makes it clear that because of his ministry to the church, he should expect to be supported by those churches.  He shows this by comparing his ministry to others that they knew of.

This was the practice of the day.  Apostles and ministers were given some sort of income.  It could have been monetary, food, lodging, or other things that they needed.

Paul explains that this is only common sense.  If you work, you should be making your living from that work.

Who serves as a soldier at his own expense?  Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes?  Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk?
1 Corinthians 9:7

I think that it’s interesting to hear the words that Paul uses.  Nobody serves, plants, or tends without expecting to make a living from it.  These are all a big part of church work.  Why do some people think it’s so wrong for ministers to make a living from their ministry?

Paul shows that the Bible itself proves his point.

Do I say this merely from a human point of view?  Doesn’t the Law say the same thing?  For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.”  Is it about oxen that God is concerned?  Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he?  Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest.
1 Corinthians 9:8-10

Paul uses this Old Testament law to bring out a New Testament truth.   Ministers are worthy of being supported.  The apostle concludes this by using a very clear statement.

If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?  If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?
1 Corinthians 9:11-12

We want our ministers and pastors to be there for us.  We want them to pray for us when we’re in trouble, visit us when we’re sick, and encourage us when they preach.  Yet in many churches, they want all this and more while the minister has to work extra jobs just to feed his or her family.

There are others we look to in this way.  We want the Fire, Police, and hospitals to be ready to serve us at a moment’s notice.  So we pay their salaries accordingly.  How much more should we support those who keep watch over our souls?

Question: How have you been helped by a minister who was there in your time of need?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2019 in Encouragement, Ministry, The Gospel

 

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