Jesus didn't call us to be alone in our work for Him. He wants to give us ministry companions who offer affirmation, encouragement and correction.
Companions play an awesome role in the life of every servant. This is clearly the intent of both Jesus and the Father. Therefore it is crucial that we recognize whom God is sending to us, and why.
Jesus knew whom God had granted to Him and why. He said to His Father, "'I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your Word. Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me'" (John 17:6-8, NKJV).
The principle of companionship in the kingdom of God remains the same to this day. It is important to be able to recognize when God is sending you a companion or providing you with a dear friend, colleague, or co-worker to help you along the way.
God expects His people to work with one another in unity and harmony and will give them one heart and one mind to serve Him together. He never intended for them to compete with one another in His kingdom but to complement one another in their work.
You are naturally incomplete as a part of the body of Christ and need those whom God sends to add what is lacking and ensure your obedience. God places at your side those who will affirm His call on your life and the assignment He has given you. The skills, abilities and insights of companions will be invaluable to you as you work together toward the completion of God's assignments.
Confirmation of the Spirit
Prayer needs to play a significant role in recognizing the companions God sends: "While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them'" (Acts 13:2, NIV). God's Spirit will confirm a person's companionship to you and your companionship to him. Both must sense the Spirit's leading, or it is not of God.
During the years, several people have told me that God has called them to come and work with me in ministry. But God's Spirit has either warned me not to pursue them or has revealed to me that their character, motives or life situations were such that they would do far more harm to me in ministry than good. It is crucial that you have God's clear guidance and divine wisdom before allowing people to join you in ministry.
There may be times when you come to the realization that your companions no longer have your best interests in mind. Sometimes it may become clear that their hearts have shifted to other things, away from the common vision and ministry you once shared.
Of course, there are also times when you release companions because the Spirit has other plans for them. At these times I have rejoiced with my companions as they followed God to their next assignment and given them my blessing and encouragement. But any time a companion is released from working with you, regardless of the circumstances, his departure needs to be bathed in prayer.
It is imperative for companions to have one heart, mind and soul as they work together. A companion is one who understands your ministry call and affirms it to you. Such a person does not have his or her own agenda to fulfill through you, but rather a heart to see you succeed in all God has set before you to do.
Stewarding Our Relationships
Companionship is truly a matter of stewardship. Whatever God gives us He is entrusting into our care and expecting us to use for His glory. How we treat our companions will be noticed by the One who sends them (see Heb. 13:17).
We should love our companions, care for them, protect them and help them to grow in the grace of Christ as best we can. We are to pray for them, encourage them, inspire them and challenge them to be what God wants them to be. We are to lead them by example, love them as brothers or sisters in Christ, and serve them as Christ served His disciples.
We are also to submit to them "in the fear of God" (Eph. 5:21, NKJV). If you can think of even one occasion on which you would not be willing to submit to your companion, then you are not ready to have companions.
Another part of our roles should be to affirm God's call on our companions and to do everything we can to ensure their success and obedience to God's assignments. We are not to stand in their way or cancel their God-given vision or tasks.
We are in the perfect position to encourage our companions to pursue God's agenda for their lives and to use their God-given gifts for His service. They may lack self-confidence and need our prompting to venture into ministry. We can identify their potential and help them achieve God's best for their lives.
Making Christ Known Together
God's plans for your companions may not always be the same as your plans for them. It is important to seek God's will together rather than dictating to companions what your will is for their lives.
God does not send companions for your own personal benefit; He sends them because He has something for them to do and to become with you.
It may be that your companions are called to more prominent ministries and tasks than you are called to. It would be wise for you to encourage, bless and support them. When pride and jealousy rear their ugly heads, our usefulness in ministry begins to diminish.
It is important to see our spouses and possibly even our children among our primary companions as they begin to respond to God. It is crucial for a husband and wife to share the visions and dreams God has given them so that they can help each other achieve those dreams together.
The husband does not have the right to cancel the lifelong dreams and ministry visions of the wife simply because he wants her unqualified support for his own ambitions. Peter reminds us that a husband's treatment of his wife could have a direct impact on whether or not God will even hear his prayers (see 1 Pet. 3:7).
God's Agenda for Companions
I recommend spending much time in prayer over your companions and not taking them for granted. If God has sent companions to you, it would be wise to ask Him what He has in mind. Certainly He means to help you in your work, but also, you are to help them in their work.
We need companions to keep us alert and maturing: "As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend" (Prov. 27:17). The presence of a God-given companion is a great stimulus to grow in our relationship with God and to have a fruitful ministry.
Henry Blackaby is an internationally known Bible teacher and speaker. He is the author of several books, including Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God (LifeWay). Tom Blackaby, along with his father, Henry, is co-author of The Man God Uses (Broadman & Holman) and Anointed to Be God's Servants (Nelson).
Adapted from Anointed to Be God's Servants by Henry Blackaby and Tom Blackaby, copyright © 2005. Published by Nelson. Used by permission.