Do you ever wonder what the world would be like if Paul had had all the resources we have at our disposal? He ministered on foot, by horse, by ship, and yet was used of God to cover a vast region and make an unforgettable, reverberating, eternal impact on the church. I often wonder if, with our cars, planes, and social media, we are doing enough. I am certain that we will be accountable for the way we use our resources. My prayer is that we all grab the opportunities we have and use them for the greatest good.
Perhaps the biggest challenge in serving God is having to interact with people. Interestingly, many times, the “people” challenge comes from within the very flock, among our brothers and sisters in the faith. This could be why Paul told us to “do good to everyone, especially those of the household of faith.” It must be why Jesus said we will be identified as His disciples by the love we have for each other.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned that in serving God, there are three very important things that we will have to reconcile.
1) The Will of God.
The first is the will of God. I remember a time when I was so upset that I said to God, “I didn’t sign up for this.” In His characteristic way, He lovingly responded even before I had completed the thought. “Ah, but you did.” When I gave my life to Christ, I signed up for a whole lot. I am and will eternally be grateful for eternal life. Peace that passes all understanding. Joy unspeakable and full of glory. And oh, such love and comfort. God is extremely loyal and He always looks out for me. He invited me to sign up for all this and more. However, I also willingly signed up for plenty of discomfort. Persecution and haters. This whole “being the bigger person” thing.
And I signed up to willfully, enthusiastically, unapologetically line myself and my attitude up with the will of God. My journey to the acceptance of the truth that God’s will is for my good and for His glory would take another post to narrate. I’ll share later, Lord willing.
2) Free Will.
The second thing we need to face as we serve God is the will of man. Now, if you are aligned with the right people, this second thing will comfortably line up with the first. But I learned, after some time, that the will of man is something that I will often have to contend with, and something that even God Himself often honors. God can turn the hearts of kings, and I have seen situations where He changed people’s minds and, by extension, their very wills (because your will cannot be changed until your mind is renewed). And sometimes, His plans leave no room for, or will override, the will of man. For instance, no matter what anyone does or wills, Jesus will return one day. But sometimes, He will tell us to let people be. Jesus wept over Jerusalem, because He had often desired to gather the people under His wings, but they were not willing. Unfortunately, there may be times when you long to do something, even when God has sent you to help, but those to whom you are sent are not willing. It’s a difficult experience, but if God respects His children’s wills, then unless He guides us to pray or decree otherwise, so should we.
3) Practical Christianity.
The third thing is the fact that the free will that God gave to man can be exercised in a practical way that is both humanly reasonable and in agreement with God’s will and Word. The fact that something makes business or practical sense, or the fact that there is no verse to match it word for word, does not mean it is unscriptural, worldly, or against the Spirit’s leading. In fact, it may very well be the opposite. The Bible is full of common-sense tips for everyday living and for business success. Conveniences are not always sinful.
In walking in our callings as we fulfill the will of God, we will have to interact with human beings. And as we sense fruitfulness and growth, we will need to put structures in place that make it easier for us to flow. For instance, Jethro noticed that his son-in-law was doing too much, and said “Listen, Moses. This is going to burn you out before long. It’s time to delegate. Put the people in groups and appoint God-fearing leaders over them. Deal with only the very serious matters; the trivial ones can be handled by these leaders.”
Another example, and the one I’m thinking of, is in the book of Acts, when the disciples grew in number. Somehow, rumors began to spread. There was discontentment. The widows weren’t being taken care of and had been downright neglected. The twelve disciples called the rest and said, “Look. It doesn’t make sense for us to stop ministering so that we can serve tables. There are enough people here to do that. Let’s find seven God-fearing men who can take care of this, while we focus on prayer and ministry.”
Murmuring does not glorify God, and is, in fact, the reason why the Israelites were slain in the wilderness. But neglecting widows also does not glorify God. The disciples rightly noted the root cause of the murmuring, and moved to correct it. As a result of this, there was even more multiplication.
As we serve God, it is alright, if not downright reasonable, to ensure that the “small-small” things are taken care of so that our focus remains on Him as we do His work. However, in an atmosphere of mistrust, it is these very small things that the enemy can take advantage of in attempting to cause everything to crumble. In ministry, in marriage, in our careers, and in everyday life, it is these little foxes that, if not checked, can destroy the vine. Lack of trust can cause one or two people or groups to hold unwaveringly to their conditions, temporarily blinded to the very things their lives are supposed to preach – being honest, esteeming others above self, bearing one another’s burdens, and dwelling together in unity. Until we can be trusted with little things, we will not be trusted with big ones.
May we always remember who we are and Whose we are.