Ministries In The Making
There is an expression about running around like a chicken with its head cut off. I have never personally seen such a sight, but I am told by relatives who lived on a farm that this is possible. The body no longer communicates with the head. They are separated from each other. The body just runs around accomplishing nothing. Does our church sometimes remind you of a chicken with its head cut off? Nothing is accomplished because the body (the church) is not communicating with the head (Jesus). Or the people are not communicating with each other.
The Bible has an example of a better kind of chicken. Jesus is looking over Jerusalem and is grieving because the Jewish people will not recognize Him as the Messiah. (Matthew 23:37) He says how He longs to gather His people together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.
Like the hen gathers her chicks, Jesus longs to collect His people together to better protect and to better love them. This also evokes a sense of unity, of everyone belonging to the same group. The group is under the care, the leadership, and the guidance of the one true head, Jesus.
Which kind of chicken are you? Are you running around like a chicken with its head cut off, accomplishing little or nothing? Or are you like the hen in the Bible, caring for God's people? Actually, there is more than one way to be like the hen in the Bible. We can go to our church and help collect our brothers and sisters in Christ together. We can encourage a sense of unity and togetherness, a sense of shared purpose. And we can also go out into the world and collect people together. We can reach out to the unsaved and help them unite with the body of Christ.
Jesus longed to gather His people together. He had a great desire to do this. Do you think of your responsibilities at church as a chore? Do you think of your responsibility to be a witness for Jesus as a chore? Or do you long to serve the Lord, having a great desire to do God's will?
"I have so many things to do and so many responsibilities. But there is so little time for everything. And not enough energy. Being a Christian is really getting to be a burden." Most of us have felt like making these statements. But should being a Christian be such a burden? Granted, it isn't easy, but does it have to be so overwhelming?
Sometimes we work so hard because we think we have to keep things going. But we may be depriving others of the opportunity to learn and to grow when we try to do everything ourselves. Other people may have a different perspective and may provide valuable insights and ideas. Their fresh outlook could bring new vitality to our efforts and lighten our load.
The work load must be shared by the entire congregation. Some people will seem to be doing more than others, simply by the nature of their work. Their work is more noticeable. But people may be very busy serving the Lord, even though the fruits of their labor are visible to only the people most closely affected. If we think someone isn't doing enough, we can gently encourage him. But we should try not to judge him. We may not have all the facts.
People's lives go through cycles. Sometimes people need to be spending a concentrated amount of time in Bible study and prayer, or in some other kind of training. You may not think you are accomplishing much during these times, but you are actually preparing for a more productive future.
People go through periods of illness or other problems when they are less active. But even slow periods can be used productively. This is a great time to catch up on Bible reading and meditation. You may feel that you are being selfish by using so much of your energies dealing with your own problems. But learning to deal with difficulties may become a great asset to serving the Lord. You may later have opportunities to minister to people with similar problems.
A balance must be maintained. Maybe you are concerned that you aren't doing enough. Pray about whether you should assume more responsibility. Or maybe you feel you are doing too much, or have trouble meeting all your obligations. Pray about whether you should share your work load with others, or delegate responsibility to others. Serving the Lord does require effort. But it does not have to be a burden.
The Bible contains the teachings that Christians should follow. It tells of various ways to serve the Lord. It does not seem possible that any one person could serve in all the capacities that the Bible appears to be telling us to serve.
The Bible says people have different gifts. (1 Corinthians Chapter 12) Since the Holy Spirit distributes these gifts, we cannot blame ourselves for not being able to do everything well. We have not been given the ability to do everything well. But we can blame ourselves for not using the abilities we are given.
It isn't always as straight-forward as having a natural, obvious talent. We are often given talents that have to be developed and nurtured over time through Bible study and prayer. Abilities are also developed through training and feedback we receive during fellowship with other Christians. We learn through our experiences in life. We have to make a lifelong effort to find and develop our skills.
We see people, like Rita, who specialize in an area. Rita devotes a great deal of time and effort to the youth. But we do not have to specialize in each area of service to be able to contribute. We can just generalize and still contribute effectively. I will use missions as an example of generalizing versus specializing.
We can generalize in the area of missions by simply giving money to missions each Sunday and on Missions Sunday. We have effectively contributed, without devoting much of our life in the process. We could become more involved by working with the Missions Committee to educate others and encourage them to give. We could spend our vacation in a foreign country, helping with a missions project. Or we could specialize and devote our life to missions, as Kevin and Kim have done.
We must be totally dedicated to serving the Lord. But don't let the fear of not being able to "do it all" in a certain area prevent you from contributing in that area. All efforts will be appreciated. We may have a responsibility to serve in many areas. But there are different levels of involvement that can meet our responsibility in each of these areas. Generalizing in an area is a great way of getting your feet wet to see if you might want to specialize in that area!
Each of us has a responsibility to act on our convictions. Each of us must act according to our individual levels of faith. And each of us must act according to how the Holy Spirit is guiding and directing us. God will lead us. But before we follow, we must first listen to the voice of God to discover where we are being led.
But how do we listen to the voice of God? What might that voice say? And how should we respond to that voice? Let us explore these questions together.
By ourselves, we are unacceptable to God because we have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. But since Christ has cleansed us and has become a link between us and God, we may approach the throne of God. The Holy Spirit is our other link to God. The Holy Spirit communicates to God for us when we are unable to do so ourselves.
It is necessary for Jesus and the Holy Spirit to be links to God because God is holy and perfect. His thoughts and ways are vastly superior to ours. We have limited abilities and understanding. We are unable to comprehend just how endless His love is for us and how powerful He is. These links make it possible for imperfect and incomplete humans to develop relationships with a perfect and complete being.
A study of John 14:1-31 will put this into a Biblical perspective. In this chapter, Jesus is teaching His disciples before His death. We will see that Jesus is more than just a link to God. Jesus is the only way to God.
John 14:5-6 "Thomas said to him, 'Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?' Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, then you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him.'"
John 14:15-18 Jesus continued, "If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever -- the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you."
John 14:25-26 Jesus continued, "All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you."
What have these passages revealed to us? We cannot receive instructions on the Word of God through "hands-on" training from Jesus, as His disciples did. So the Bible is the first place to look for instructions, for it is the Word of God. The Bible gives us all the information and all the guidelines we need to live our lives in a way that is pleasing in God's sight. The Bible tells of God's great love for us and His forgiveness, shown most through Christ's taking our place on the cross.
Prayer is also essential for listening to the voice of God. The Holy Spirit is able to translate our thoughts and desires to the Father. The Holy Spirit is also available to remind us and to teach us about Jesus, as we learn about Him in the Bible. Prayer is the key to unlocking and releasing the power of the Holy Spirit. Prayer directs God's love and His power into our lives and the lives of those around us.
There are other ways that we can listen to the voice of God. God may choose to speak to us through other people or through circumstances. God has many ways to reveal His will to us, if we will only take the time to listen.
When you discover that prayer can bring results, does this mean you have a special ability to pray? Or are you just realizing that all Christians need to pray and should expect results, within the will of God?
If you receive a letter from a missionary, does this mean God wants you to become a missionary? Or are you just realizing that all Christians have a responsibility for spreading the Good News about Jesus, including locally, nationally, and abroad?
Should you work with the youth or elderly, be a member of the choir, a Sunday School teacher, a member of a committee, a preacher? Each task is important and equally necessary to the proper functioning of the body of Christ. Which task you select is not as important as why you selected the task and how you carry out that task. When you follow Christ's example in your activities, you are serving God, regardless of the task.
Look around to see if there are any tasks that are not being performed. Should you fill in the gap? Or is there some other specific area to which you feel you are being led by the Holy Spirit? How do you know if the Holy Spirit is leading you in a certain direction? Ask God to tell you!
It may be as simple as experiencing joy or peace when you act or think in a certain way, in a way that pleases the Lord. You may be being led toward something if your mind keeps going back to it. Or maybe you worry about something; if you don't do it, it won't get done. If you keep making a lot of excuses why you cannot do something, ask God why.
Maybe something irritates or agitates you. Maybe God is allowing a thorn to be planted so you will try to deal with the irritation. The process of removing the irritation will lead you to God's will. You will know you have found God's will when you are no longer agitated and have peace again.
In summary, doing the will of God will always result in your feeling closer to Him. Not doing the will of God will always result in your feeling like you are ashamed or you want to push God away. These feelings are barometers and guides to help you recognize what God expects of you. Listen to them!
Is there some area in which you have considered serving? Do you have a talent or gift that you would like to develop and explore? Maybe you are hesitating because no one has ever asked you to serve in the area in which you feel led. If that is the case, let me extend an invitation to each and every one of you right now. This church is a family of believers. We need the love, the support, the talents, and the gifts of all the members of the family. Now is the time to put your talents and gifts to use. Now is the time to prepare for the harvest of souls.
Maybe you would like to try something new, but have fears of what the congregation will expect. This might be something that is new to the congregation, or something that is just new to you. Don't be afraid to try something new. Just express what you are feeling and where the Lord is leading you. Tell a leader of the church that you would like to try something. Ask if someone can provide some training or guidance. Ask for the church to be patient with you. And it will be.
I was afraid to teach the prayer classes. I thought, "What if I make a fool of myself? What if no one believes me? What if I share my hopes and dreams with the church and people just stare at me and say, 'Hey, fool! What are you babbling about?'"
Well, that did not happen. The congregation supported my efforts. They helped get the classes scheduled, they came to the classes, and they learned in the classes. I survived a new experience and so can you!
But the prayer classes were successful not because I am the best teacher available. The classes were successful because it was God's will that our church be more committed to prayer and the Holy Spirit was guiding my efforts. Your efforts will be successful, too, when you work within God's will and within God's timeframe. The Holy Spirit will guide your efforts. Your work will be fruitful. And God will bless you.
I am not going to ask anyone to make any life-long commitments by asking you to select an area in which you feel led to serve. But I would urge each and every one of you to ask yourself some questions. Do you spend enough time studying the Bible? Do you spend enough time in prayer? When the "right" opportunity comes along, will you be prepared?
Sometimes I worry about what is to come. But am I so egotistical as to assume that my puny mind is capable of second guessing what God will do next? Am I afraid of not being prepared? Or am I just afraid that if I don't search diligently, I might miss an opportunity when the "right time comes"?
Consider this. Is God's love so finite and His power so limited that He must "pigeon hole" us into a specific task, role, talent, or spiritual gift? I think NOT. I am putting limits on God by thinking I must force myself into the right slot. God can use us in a variety of tasks and roles. And we have the Holy Spirit living in us! That means that a person may receive only one talent or gift. Or a person may receive several talents or gifts and may assume a variety of tasks or roles.
God has not set any limits on me, so why should I set limits on myself? The same is true for each and every one of us. God won't settle for "less" and neither should you! We may grow in one role for awhile, or for a long time. We may later move on to other roles, and grow in them, as well.
Your decision to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour was a life-long (even eternal) commitment. Should your devotion to serving God's will be any less? Will you at least make the commitment to pray to God every day, asking Him to lead you to where He would like you to be?
Just put yourself in the hands of the Lord and see what God has planned. Watch, hope, and pray. And be prepared for action by studying the Bible. And trust me on this one: when the Holy Spirit tells you the time is right, you will know.
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