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What constitutes a failed ministry? Limitation of love.

Throughout time, there have been multiple times when God has sent to earth people so determined in their faith and love that they would be able to minister to people who would not respond. Isaiah was told that his ministry would cause the people to turn even further away from the Lord (see Isaiah 6:10). Ezekiel was told that his determination against opposition was crucial for the work he would do:

7 But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me: for all the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted.
8 Behold, I have made thy face strong against their faces, and thy forehead strong against their foreheads.
9 As an adamant harder than flint have I made thy forehead: fear them not, neither be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house. (Ezekiel 3)

Many others faced similar lack of response.

How would one measure the value of the ministry of these people, since there were no obvious cases of people becoming more like God as a result?

The current mayor of Chicago recently responded to a reporter's question of how he would know if the city's public schools were a success by measuring how much money they spent on them. While the stupidity and implicit graft of his comment sets a low bar even for mayors of Chicago, there is something to be said of the application of his metric to other things.

While it seems strange to measure a school's success by inputs rather than outputs, this is actually the only correct way to measure love.

Love is the willingness to innocently suffer for the benefit of another. What is the greatest measure of love? The love that Jesus has. And in what did that entail? Paying the greatest possible price for others.

To elucidate a bit of this love, let's reread a passage from John 15:

9 I have loved you as the Father has loved me; Love others as I have loved you.
10 If you would keep my commandments, you must love others as I have loved you, just as I kept my Father’s commandment by loving you as he loves me.
11 I tell you these things to show you how you can obtain the joy that I have for yourselves, and so that the joy you have can be filled.
12 This is my law: that you love one another as I have loved you.
13 There is no greater love than to dedicate your life to others, independent of the degree to which they recognize and receive it.
14 You are my friends if you keep the law I have given you.
15 I can no longer call you my servants, because the servant does not know what his master does. I have called you friends because I have made known to you everything that I heard from my Father.
16 You have not yet chosen me, but I have already chosen you, and I have provided you with the experiences and information necessary so that when you chose to finally depart from the cares of this world, you will bear fruit, and that fruit will remain, so that anything you ask the Father in my name, He will give you.  (John 15, My Reflection)

At this point, the Lord already knew that his disciples would flee from him when the time came for his arrest. He also knew that while he was going to a place they could not yet come, his ministry to them provided the seed that would sprout after he left, nourishing them through the process they would undertake to grow into more of the potential he made possible for them long before they provided any reason to believe it would make any difference.

Though a subset of disciples turned back to the Lord after his arrest and others after his death, the meridian disciples didn't realize the potential of the mortal teachings and example of Jesus. That event was reserved for our time. This raises the question: How much response is required for someone to fully receive a ministry? How much of the content must they receive, and in how much time? Can it be said that the meridian disciples received the ministry of the Lord, or did they only receive the ministry of the Holy Ghost? Comparison of the events during and after the Pentecost versus prior to would suggest that the latter. Thus we see that it is possible to technically reject a minister even if you receive much of what they taught after the fact. To fail to accept an invitation fully when it is given is to reject something that God offers you, whether it is received partially or after the fact.

Great suffering for others does not need to include rejection from those you minister to, but it certainly contributes to the magnitude of the price paid. After all, to love someone who loves you back is much easier than to love one who hates you.

43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5)

If the life and ministry of Jesus Christ is any example, a ministry that includes great suffering for the benefit of another, in absence of any present evidence that it bears any fruit is a successful ministry. In fact, the more intense the price paid in spite of lack of response, the greater fidelity that ministry has to the Lord's. 

Just how much can be obtained, and how much revealed, in the face of a lack of response to lesser things? The end times will answer this question.

I have not yet revealed to you everything that my Father has revealed to me. Whether I reach that point is the Lord's choice, but I have already made mine. I have invested every ounce of heart, might, mind, and strength that I have to that end, continuing in this ministry against every possible intensity of opposition, including the lack of anyone who has responded in any way that would make it worthwhile, far beyond the point that anything here could ever compensate. The time where this presented a trial to me has long since past. I have been true and faithful to the love that the Lord has shown me in the love that I have shown you, even if it is a light shining in the darkness.

You have not yet chosen the Lord, but some of you will. Some of you will one day pick up the Lord's cross, take his name upon you, and serve others with this same love. When you are converted, you will feed his sheep by demonstrating to the world what Jesus is like by being like him yourself:

The multitude of your public fruits will cause the world to see more of my Father’s goodness, and you will make many disciples for me. (John 15:8, My Reflection)

The time has come to love others as Jesus loves you, to respond to how God has loved you by loving others the same way. As you do so, detached from any limitations imposed by expectation of response, you will find your ministry successful, no matter who changes, how much they do, or how long they take to do so. In doing so, you will come to perceive much more of God's love than you yet see and feel.

Those who love others without limit will find and feel God's love without limit.

I tell you these things to show you how you can obtain the joy that I have for yourselves, and so that the joy you have can be filled.