I’ve said it before… ministry starts with relationships. And since people aren’t as perfect (or as humble) as I am, relationships are hard.
One constant in life is that people are disappointing. People don’t live up to our expectations of behavior. We’re not talking about expecting them to find a cure for cancer or to win the war against the machines – but to generally be Biblical. Like you can expect your kids to obey their parents, or your spouse to treat you with love and kindness. We can and should expect those we have relationships with to abide by those Biblical principles.
But the thing is expectation isn’t enough. We are here to minister to them. Which means that we want to help them grow. We want them to meet Biblical expectations more and more every day. And they’re not going to do it if we just let them be sinful without doing something.
But how do we look at this issue? The easiest way to look at this is with children. When you first are dealing with children, you have to lower your expectations of them to practically nothing. If they share their toys once, it’s a big deal, if they clean up half their toys, it’s a big deal, when they poop in the potty once, it’s a big deal. How many times do people dance when you poop in the potty? Because, man, if that were the case, there’d be a party in my house right now.
Actually, it’d be the second party of the day. If a third grader gets an A- on a simple arithmetic test, we’re happy. If they get an F on a calculus test, we wouldn’t be upset because that would be ridiculous. But that’s exactly how we treat people.
You have to consider, “What spiritual grade are they in?” and approach it appropriately.
Another thing, we tend to treat each situation separately, as a Pass/Fail exam. Let’s say your kid didn’t put the dishes away like they were supposed to. FAIL! Punish them. But wait… what if they put the dishes away 9 days in a row before missing one? They didn’t get an ‘F’ for today, they got an ‘A’ for the past 10 days.
So do we praise, thank, encourage and keep track of Christ-like behavior, or do we just keep track of failures? Can you imagine if God treated our sins that way? Showing His just wrath every time we sinned?
But instead He shows patience, grace and faithfulness because… He intends for us to grow. He has intended for us to grow into the image of Christ, which by the way is called, “sanctification”. And it’s a lifelong process. And if we claim to do God’s will, then we help others in their sanctification process, to become more like Christ. This is called “ministry”.
So what do we do now?
1. You must make sure your heart is right. You have to first be Christ-like if you are to make help them be more Christ-like. Know that God is growing YOU through this first. Grow and display the fruit of the Spirit and other Christ-like traits.
2. Identify the Christ-like traits God is trying to grow in them. The situation is secondary, it’s always a matter of the heart. Identify which Christ-like traits (fruit of the spirit) they are missing which is causing problems.
3. Pray for wisdom, your heart and their heart. Everyone is different so you must approach them differently. Wisdom will tell you the who, what, when, where, why and how of ministering to them.
Growth doesn’t happen quickly, so always have a long term approach. If you want to fix your relationships, you first work on your relationship with Christ. Then you can help their relationship with Christ through wise, long-term ministry. Only then will your relationship with them truly improve.
PHP 2:1 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,  then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Take Time To Pray: Ask God to help you show the same grace to others as He has shown to you. Also, ask for wisdom on how you can help those closest to you grow more Christ-like.
Today’s Fruit of the Spirit: Gentleness.