I have observed and witnessed the body of Christ, of which I am a part, for many, many years now. Overall, I see and hear the tremendous desire in each of us to be doing the will of God. I believe that most of us sincerely want to hear those words of our Heavenly Father as He pronounces His favor over us. "Well done, good and faithful servant!" Matthew 25:21 I am also very much aware that we risk the reward of heaven if we fail to be obedient to the Lord. No one will enter into heaven just because of good looks or good deeds. We can be involved in good deeds while being rebellious to the Lord. The religious leaders of Jesus day were doing many good deeds -- they were givers to the poor, helpers to the widows, they fasted and prayed. But their hearts were cold to the people. They were more concerned about looking holy then they were about living holy lives. Today we risk the same self-deception and need to continually look to our heart and to the motives behind everything we do. Is it done or said to please the Father, or to please man?
We are living in a generation that the Spirit of the Lord rests mightily upon. It is prophesied continuously that we are the generation to see the return of Jesus. How we long for this day -- even as our ancestors longed for and hoped that this day of resurrection might come in their lifetime. How terrible it would be if we were to miss it because of our indifference to obey that which the Lord has called us to.
Since I was a teenager, I have known the call of God on my life -- that there was a ministry that the Lord was preparing me for. For most of my life I have looked for that ministry to fall into place. I thought that the Lord would open the door and I would simply walk through. The Lord would show me glimpses of what He desired for me to be doing and I eagerly embraced the call. It is only in recent years however, as I have meditated in the Word, that I have seen how I've been missing the call. We are not to focus on the 'someday.' We are to be all that God has called us to be, this day and every day. I thought that I was not ready yet and that God still needed to prepare me for this ministry that He has called me to. There is truth to this. But as I was waiting for that time to come, I was not making full use of the call that each and every one of us is called to do and be. That is, to be conformed to the image of Jesus, and to carry out the great commission .
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. ... Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'" Matthew 25:31-43
Our first call is to obey Him and do what He has called us to do in His Word -- to be His servant to others -- to be like Jesus. "Full of grace and truth." "Going about doing good and healing all who were oppressed of the devil." This doesn't have to be in crowds of people. This doesn't have to be in church buildings or revival tents. This is to be each and every day -- to the hungry, the thirsty, the sick and the lonely. It's not even my job to get people saved. That is the job of the Holy Spirit. My number one act of obedience is to seize the moment, and to grab hold of every opportunity to tell people how much God loves them and to show them his love by providing for their needs. They will come into the fullness of salvation as they experience the love of God. The Lord wants us to reach out to others, usually one at a time, to administer love and healing. When we are found obedient to do this, we will be prepared to do even greater works.
For those of us raised in the religions of the modern church, this commission went solely to those bearing the titles of pastor, evangelist and missionary. We were to invite our friends and neighbors to church so the men of God could get them saved. How ignorant we have been!
The call of God on our life, whether apostle, prophet, pastor, evangelist, or teacher, is very valuable and important and must be sought after. We have each received an anointing that separates us to the office that we have been called to. This is not of our choosing or of our making. We already operate in these ministries to the degree that we have allowed the Holy Spirit to work in and through us. But in the process of running towards these calls, as Paul told Timothy to do, we must not overlook nor minimize our first call -- to be like Jesus -- going about doing good and healing. The office that we have been called to, will actually be obtained as we set our focus on today and what we yield over to now. That anointing will increase and empower us to greater decree's of authority as we learn to do good to ALL and to heal ALL who are oppressed by the devil. All means all. That means there is tremendous opportunity to be doers of God's Word, every day.
We rub elbows with people every day -- and every day we are called to do those people good -- and heal them where they need healing. That means taking our precious god of time and stop worshipping it. Time is one of the greatest attributes that God has equipped us with, and we've turned it into a god and let the pressure of it control our lives. If we are on our way to do something -- no matter how legitimate that errand is, and we stop to minister to someone's need, does this not qualify for laying down our lives for another? "Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his brother." Sometimes I think it would be easier on us if we were asked to literally die for another, then to take the time to minister to the hurting people all around us. The magnitude of the hurts can be overwhelming. I too reason it out. I could leave the house in the morning, after ministering to the needs of my own household, and return home at night having spent the entire day ministering to one and then another and then another. There are hurting, crying and dying people all around us. The world has never been in such a mess. Yet, I don't believe this is what God is asking us to do. There are examples in His word of how to handle the pressures of people and their needs, set forth by Jesus himself. He did not minister to the people every day. He kept himself separated for prayer and quiet fellowship with the Father. He did not exhaust himself, nor did he take on the responsibility for the world's problems in the limitations of his flesh man. He used his time wisely -- he made the most of the opportunities that presented themselves and he wisely took care of his own spiritual foundation through prayer and fasting. Let me say too, that I believe we receive supernatural abilities when we are ministering to others, to be sustained and energized in our human bodies and minds. (This qualifies for the law of sowing and reaping -- give and it's given unto us.) Again, there is a balance to be sought after. The encouragement that I seek to give is addressing the opposite side of giving too much and that is where most in the body of Christ live -- we don't give enough.
In laying down our lives for others, it means crucifying our fleshly nature that wants the gratification of seeing to my need's first -- the god of me. Choosing to help others when we see a need, instead of passing them over to stick with my plans. (The parable of the good Samaritan) I'm firmly convinced this is God's number one desire for us that qualifies us for the Kingdom. Yet we've allowed religion and man's reasoning to keep us from wholly obeying God.
God's Word tell us that if we are not faithful in the little things, He will not entrust to us the greater things. "Thank You Lord for Your mercy towards me...and Lord, give me boldness to speak to those You send my way. To never again fail to speak when You give me the opportunity."
I have long believed with all my heart that I was totally submitted to the Lord, to do whatever He would tell me to do. But I know that it seems easier for me to pack up my family and move us to Africa then it sometimes is to tell an acquaintance about my Jesus. I can reason it out -- I am basically a private person and tend to protect my space. I've been hurt by a lot of people and feel very vulnerable. I want to protect myself from being hurt again. I resent obtrusions unless I've given permission -- through a smile, by eye contact, by a touch of the hand. I really do love people and have tremendous sensitivity to their hurts. I can see past the smile and read the eyes to see if the eyes share that smile or if they are filled with hurt. I love to talk about the Lord and share in the testimony of all that the Lord has done for me. I am a public speaker and am not intimidated to stand in front of a large crowd and talk. Actually, there is nothing else I find as fulfilling as talking about the Lord. But, when I've been invited to come and speak to someone, or when someone has come into a bible study that I am leading, I feel safe in talking. If they reject me in those situations, I feel it is not a rejection of me personally, but in what I am saying. (I especially love it when people receive what I say, and react with life changing benefits!) Jesus himself stood up in front of a group of people and read from the scroll of Isaiah, and as he spoke he was well received. "All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips." Luke 4:22
We all want that love and acceptance. But how do we handle the situations where people don't like what we say? What prepares us for those inevitable times that we will be scoffed at, rejected and ridiculed? It's bad enough if someone doesn't like me, but it's worse if that person lets others know that they don't like me! What if I am embarrassed publicly?
I am convinced that it is the "what ifs ...?" in our thoughts -- the reasoning from our emotions, that have held us back from feeding the hungry (spiritually and physically) and from giving the thirsty (spiritually and physically) something to drink.
It is fear of man's opinion and fear of failure that have kept the masses of people in the position of being average and just fitting in. Being normal is comforting to us. When you think about famous people, those who are remembered in history, they are rarely the normal ones. It is the one that dared to go past fitting in and took the risk of being odd -- the scientists, who aren't remembered for their hundreds of failed experiments, but for the one that worked. It is the powerful evangelist that rocks the nations with the power of God without fear. It is the politician that dared to propagate a different way. Everyone who has ever accomplished anything for the Kingdom of God has had to step out of their comfort zone and reach out past man's opinion to obtain the approval of the one that we serve, our Father.
If we could base our lives and ministry on Luke 4:22, and expect to be like Jesus in this one verse, life would be easy and merry. But, that one scripture only tells of the initial reaction of the people. Their amazement at what Jesus had told them was because they did not comprehend what He was saying. After all, He had read from the prophet Isaiah -- and they were used to being read to from the scrolls. It was common to have many readers and speakers. They were not used to just one pastor who got up every Sabbath and spoke, like we are in most of our churches. It was not until He continued to speak that they began to react. Reacting quickly and with major rejection! For within a few more minutes these same people who spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips, "Were furious...they got up, (before He was finished speaking -- before the meeting was over) drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff." Let's think now about the words to the song, "To be like Jesus, to be like Jesus! All I ask is to be like Him." Yes! I want to be like Jesus when the people all spoke well of him -- I want my audiences to be amazed at the gracious words that come from my lips. I want to be accepted. I want to be popular and have the people be warm and friendly and invite me out for dinner afterwards.
Now, I ask you as well as me, is it not easier to be rejection by one person on an airplane or in the office, then to experience a whole Sunday morning congregation rejecting us? And the reality is, the risk is usually so minimal. I am totally convinced that the Holy Spirit goes before us and places the people in our paths that we are to minister to. He has already prepared their hearts to receive at least a seed that I could have planted. It might not be harvest time for them. It's not my job to do anything but obey the Lord. It's His job to do the work in their heart. As for the co-worker, has not my life already been a testimony of how I live? Does he not already know that I am peculiar and that there is something different about me? Should I not trust the Lord enough to know that He is greater than this situation and would have gone before me to prepare that man's heart as well. We each need to prepare ourselves everyday for the opportunities that the Lord puts before us, at the grocery store, the gym, to my neighbor's child. The list of opportunities we each face is varied. God does not judge our faithfulness to Him based on numbers of lives that we touch. It is the quality of each and every day as we lay down our lives and live for Him.
"Seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness and all these other things shall be added unto you." Luke 12:31 The Kingdom of God for which we are to seek, is to be eternally minded. "...set your hearts on things above ... set your minds on things above and not on earthly things." Colossians 3:1,2 Nothing in our lives is as important as our eternity. It is to acknowledge that God is our God and He only will we serve. We do not serve man -- but God. God will call us to minister to man, but it is still God that we serve and as His servant we obey His voice. To recognize and acknowledge that God alone is our source -- that He alone is the one that we look to for all our needs to be supplied. When we are convinced and fully assured of these important truths, we will step out of our fears and be like Jesus. "Speaking what the Father told Him to speak, going where the Father directed Him to go and doing all that the Father instructed Him to do. We are getting there, praise God!! Line upon line and precept upon precept, we are learning and growing.
"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ ... Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." Colossians 4:1-6