I believe the way you answer the following three questions do an excellent job of revealing the “practical reality” of your walk with Christ (Col 3:18). By “practical reality,” I mean either those times when “ministry” includes working alongside dynamics that aren’t agreeable or safe, or… you’ll see what I mean.
Here we go:
1) If you had to create a billboard that promoted a relationship with Jesus Christ and you couldn’t mention anything about heaven or hell or how Christ helps you with your problems, what would your billboard say?
2) You’re the Good Samaritan. But instead of encountering the victim after they’ve been beaten and robbed, you encounter him as he’s being beaten and robbed. What does your ministry look like?
3) Your neighbor’s house is on fire. You’re working alongside several people put out the blaze when all of a sudden you realize that among those you’re working with, there are several whose lifestyles you seriously disagree with. Do you keep working to put out the fire or do you walk away believing that it’s wrong to be a part of any effort involving people who don’t believe as you do?
If you had to create a billboard that promoted a relationship with Jesus Christ and you couldn’t mention anything about heaven or hell or how Christ helps you with your problems, what would your billboard say?
It’s not “positive thinking,” it’s “profound thinking.” And you’re not using Him or His Word to forward your agenda as much as you’re following His Lead in order to accomplish His Purpose, know His Peace and wield His Power in way that translates to a game winning strategy regardless of what race you’re running.
Your “ministry” is not just what you do at church. It’s the way you excel and achieve by doing the right thing at the right time in the right way for all the right reasons regardless of where you are or what the circumstance may be. That includes the way you show up to work on time, the way you love your family, the way you vote, the way you work out and even the way you mow your lawn!
Paul says in Colossians that you need to be doing everything in a way that merits Christ’s Signature. When you make a point of doing everything “…with all your might” and couple that with the moral excellence that characterizes the believer who’s on top of his spiritual disciplines, you’re not the kind of employee that people hire, you’re the kind of person people promote (consider the story of Joseph).
Do it right and you are perpetually poised on the threshold of great things as a believer because you’re processing every moment as an ordained opportunity and not just another task to get done. He created you to make a difference and not just an appearance. Put that kind of approach into place and you won’t look at a Monday morning the way way ever again!
How does Jesus help you succeed? That’s the question you need to answer in this exercise. It’s not just how you “deal” with life, it’s how you “succeed” in life. Messages like:
- Don’t just be smart, be wise (Jas 1:5)
- Don’t just be happy, be fulfilled (Ecc 12:13; Jn 4:32; Gal 5:22-23)
- Don’t just be right, be effective (Lk 12:11-12)
- Don’t just be confident, be certain (Matt 7:24; Phil 2:13; 1 Jn 5:13)
- Don’t just prosper, succeed (Josh 1:8)
You have the Mindset, the Manner and the emotional Muscle of God cruising through your veins. In other words, His Spirit lives in you. That’s the Divine Trademark that’s been stamped on your life (2 Cor 1:22)! You have the ball! Move it down the field and put some points on the board!
He’s not just a Divine Emergency Kit. He’s also a Divine Tool Kit. He doesn’t say you’ll never be broke, nor does He say you’ll never lose or be sad. What He does say is that if you stick with Me, I’ll make you wise (Jas 1:5). If you make Me your priority, I’ll make your Strong (Is 41:10; Phil 4:13). And if you follow My lead, I’ll make you the kind of person who lights up the room when you walk in (Job 29:11; Matt 5:16; Jn 5:35; Phil 2:15; 4:8)!
There are times where something tragic has happened or you’re up against the wall and, apart from God, you have absolutely no other options. In those times, should someone come alongside you and suggest that if you had more “faith,” you wouldn’t be as concerned or as sad, you’re not listening to someone who’s sensitive as much as you’re hearing someone whose approach to Scripture is based on a handful of verses as opposed to the Bible as a whole.
We are to, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Rom 12:15) Denying yourself or others what amounts to a healthy emotional response to a loss or a threat is neither holy nor compassionate. We don’t grieve like those who have no hope (1 Thess 4:13), but we do grieve. Courage isn’t the absence of fear as much as it’s the strength and the confidence to do the right thing regardless of how scared you may be.
We have access to that Strength and Confidence in Christ (Is 41:10), but Jesus wept just before He raised Lazarus from the dead and He also sweat just before Golgotha.
Yes, there’s rest and healing to be had and it’s important to remember who you are apart from Him and how utterly dependent you are on His grace (Jn 15:5). But He’s created you to make a difference and not just an appearance. Because of Who He is in you, you lack for nothing as far the resources needed to achieve and excel (1 Tim 4:8; 2 Pet 1:3).
What we’re talking about here is not the minimizing of the holy compassion and the divine charity that is needed to strengthen and comfort those who are hurting. What we’re emphasizing is the fact that you are more than your wounds and better than your sin because of Who it is that lives and moves within you. That said, yes, there is a time to hurt and a time to heal, but there’s also a time to win and you don’t want to let yourself become more preoccupied with what you can’t do instead of what it is that He can do through you. That’s motivating and that’s the kind of thing you want to have on your billboard! Things like:
|Don’t Just Try. Win.
|Do It Right
|Dream Big, Pray Bigger
|Don’t Just Make an Appearance, Make a Difference
Your situation is not something to be processed merely as a random collection of walls and warnings. Rather, it’s nothing but doors and directions when you allow His Truth to shape your perspective.
Do it right and you are perpetually poised on the threshold of great things because you’re processing every moment as an ordained opportunity and not just another day to get through. Put that kind of approach into place and you won’t look at a Monday morning the same way ever again!
Go God, boo devil! Make a Difference!
For more reading on one’s “billboard,” click here.
You’re the Good Samaritan. But instead of encountering the victim after they’ve been beaten and robbed, you encounter him as he’s being beaten and robbed. What does your ministry look like?
Life isn’t always sectioned off in a way where the resulting shapes are characterized by straight and even lines. In order for the Truth to make an impact, you have to follow Christ’s example and communicate it in a way that addresses, not just the situation in general, but the unique “shape” of the situation to include the personalities that are involved, the topic being addressed and the setting that you’re in.
Rarely are you going to be in a spot where only one verse applies. Instead, there will be several verses to consider which is why it’s so important to be taking your cue from God’s Spirit and His Wisdom as opposed to a collection of guidelines and techniques that you manufacture on your own based on a portion of God’s Instructions as opposed to the whole Handbook .
Standing up for what is right is not always done in the absence of a physical / violent altercation. There is an evil out there that doesn’t respond to a gentle rebuke or even a stern warning. And to twist Christ’s admonishment to “turn the other cheek” or God’s command to not take revenge on someone for a wrong they’ve done to you in order to justify not standing up to Goliath or to insist that Jesus was talking about a pocket New Testament when He told the disciples to go purchase a sword, is an irresponsible and inaccurate application of God’s Word.
‘Turning the other cheek” is the biblical response to an offense, not an assault…
As in much of Jesus’ teaching, pressing his illustration the wrong way may obscure his point. In fact, this would read Scripture the very way he was warning against: if someone hits us in the nose, or has already struck us on both cheeks, are we finally free to hit back? Jesus gives us a radical example so we will avoid retaliation, not so we will explore the limits of his example (see Tannehill 1975:73). A backhanded blow to the right cheek did not imply shattered teeth (tooth for tooth was a separate statement); it was an insult, the severest public affront to a person’s dignity (Lam 3:30; Jeremias 1963:28 and 1971:239). God’s prophets sometimes suffered such ill-treatment (1 Kings 22:24; Is 50:6). Yet though this was more an affront to honor, a challenge, than a physical injury, ancient societies typically provided legal recourse for this offense within the lex talionis regulations (Pritchard 1955:163, 175; see also Gaius Inst. 3.220). (“Avoid Retribution and Resistance”, IVP Commentary, accessed April, 2 2009)
And to suggest that the New Testament somehow nullifies every Divinely sanctioned use of force in the Old Testament is to suggest that God changes His mind when it comes either swinging your fist or firing a weapon.
He doesn’t change His mind.
Ever (Num 23:19).
Judges 3:1-2 makes it clear that God placed a premium on making sure that the Israelites knew how to fight. It makes sense, given the number of times Israel was called upon to strap on their swords and do battle with the enemies of God.
In the New Testament, while Jesus does make it clear that to be reckless and hasty in resolving to remedy any and all disputes with a weapon is foolish (Those who live by the sword, die by the sword [Matt 26:52]), and He encourages believers to respond to insults and offenses by “turning the other cheek,” the context and verbiage of His admonishing the disciples to arm themselves taken along with God’s obvious endorsement of military force in the Old Testament compellingly demonstrates the Truth and Biblical place of “sanctified violence.”
So, if you were to come on a scene where bandits were beating and robbing someone, you’re doing the right thing by stopping them however you need to in order to stand up for what is right and protect those who may not be able to protect themselves.
Your neighbor’s house is on fire. You’re working alongside several people put out the blaze when all of a sudden you realize that among those you’re working with, there are several whose lifestyles you seriously disagree with. Do you keep working to put out the fire or do you walk away believing that it’s wrong to be a part of any effort involving people who don’t believe as you do?
Solomon followed the example of his father in that he contracted King Hiram of the Phoenicians for laborers and building materials. David used the cedar logs, stonemasons and carpenters provided by King Hiram to build his palace (2 Sam 5:11). Solomon used the same resource for the cedar needed to build the Temple (2 Chron 2:3).
King Hiram resided in Tyre and ruled over a people who were descendants of Canaan. Canaan’s father was Ham who was the son of Noah that had demonstrated an outrageous disregard for God in the aftermath of the flood. Noah saw the same belligerence in Canaan and rightfully prophesied that his descendants would go on to become perverse idolaters and wind up being the object of God’s Wrath in the context of the Israelites conquest of the Promised Land.
Tyre, however, was a boundary and not a target (Josh 19:29). It’s not that the Phoenicians were a God fearing people (Ezekiel 26:2; Lk 10:13). They were descendants of Canaan, but those that resided in Tyre were able to somehow distinguish themselves in the sight of God as being undeserving of the punishment that was doled out to Sidon and other neighboring Canaanite cities. Perhaps that was one of the contributing factors that allowed for a friendly relationship between Hiram and David and then, later, Solomon.
Their true, spiritual colors would be revealed later when they cheered as Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Israel and for that they themselves would be destroyed, as Ezekiel prophesied in chapter 26.
The point being, however, that God can, and often does, use unconventional means and a variety of spiritual dispositions to do His work. In those moments, you want to support His efforts and not question them any more than you would refuse the cedar coming from Hiram simply because he was a Canaanite. Yes, he was an idolater, but he was used by God to do good nevertheless.
At one point, the disciples were agitated by the fact that some people were casting out demons in the Name of Christ, yet they weren’t a part of Christ’s inner circle of disciples…
38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward. (Mk 9:38-40)
However petty the disciples may have appeared to be – as far as feeling like they were only ones capable of doing any good, being that they were a part of Christ’s inner circle – it’s not an uncommon complaint.
Appearances can be distracting. A person’s manner, their background – if it doesn’t line up with tradition or convention – it can be mistaken for something sinister.
Fact is, the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it (Ps 24:1). Everything that was created was made by Christ and for Christ (Col :16;Rev 4:11), so however dirty or different the glove may be, it’s the Hand inside the glove that’s doing the work and you don’t want to be so preoccupied with appearances or qualifications that you fail to appreciate how God uses different people to do His bidding.
That doesn’t mean you throw caution to the wind and assume everyone is reading from the same page of music. 1 John 1:4 says to test the spirits, but that’s not always accomplished by focusing exclusively on a person’s checkered past or a vulgar outburst.
King Cyrus is a great example of how God can use someone that doesn’t have a relationship with Christ and may even be a little offensive in their manner to do God’s bidding.
The Jews were in exile and their city was a mess. The Temple was a heap of rubble and the walls were completely torn down (see 2 Chron 36:15-19). God had said that the Jews would be allowed to return, but if you were to look at an aerial photo of Jerusalem, you’d be pretty skeptical – especially given the very unlikely scenario of your enemy permitting the reconstruction of your city let alone financing it.
King Cyrus of Persia would put things in motion by paying for the rebuilding of the Temple and issuing a decree that would allow any willing Hebrew to return to Jerusalem to get it done.
Here’s the thing:
Cyrus is addressed by name in Isaiah 45. God refers to him as someone He has anointed for the sake of his people. He also says of Cyrus:
For the sake of Jacob my servant, of Israel my chosen, I summon you by name and bestow on you a title of honor, though you do not acknowledge me . I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is note beside me. I am the Lord, and there is not other. (Is 45:4-5)
Cyrus didn’t believe in God, but that didn’t change the fact that God used him to accomplish the reconstruction of Jerusalem.
The same thing applies to us be it a politician, a doctor, a contractor or any kind of service provider. No, you don’t applaud their sin but you do support them in whatever role they’re playing in accomplishing God’s Purposes. In other words, you vote for King Cyrus, you make the appointment, you go with the best option and you don’t sneer at the cedar that’s being delivered to your doorstep for the construction of whatever God is building because its being delivered by a bunch of idolaters (see sidebar).
There’s a difference between compromise and wisdom. Basing your convictions on personal preferences seasoned with some carefully selected Scriptures that can be taken out of context and made to sound like a solid biblical reinforcement of your prejudices is not the same thing as basing your outlook on Scripture as a whole and refusing to allow your life’s experiences to replace the Word of God simply because you’re more comfortable with your opinion than you are with the Truth.
Discipleship is not being accurately presented if it’s taught as something that only applies in the context of a crisis. Standing up for what is right is not always accomplished by a mere rebuke. David defeated Goliath with a sanctified response that included both a weapon and a word (1 Sam 17:45-47). And however rough around the edges God’s human instrument may be, Scripture proves over and over again that your focus needs to be on the Plot and not the players in order to determine who you should support and who should resist.
There is, and always has been, an aggressive campaign in place to exchange the Truth for a lie (Jn 8:44; Rom 1:25; 1 Peter 5:8). If the author of that campaign is to be defeated, not only can we not afford to be petty, we don’t have the time to watch our countermeasures fail because they were based more on tradition than they were on the Substance of God’s Word.
And even when your convictions are on point, your delivery has to be just as Inspired if the end result is going to be a legitimate win (Prov 15:23; 25:11; Mk 13:11; Titus 2:7-8).
The bottom line is this: You’re here to make a difference and not just an appearance. Christ is the Filing Cabinet and not just a file folder and to restrict His Instruction and all the advantages that accompany obedience to those times that line up with your traditions is to gut His Word, kill your witness and give the opposition all the more opportunity to do some damage.
On the other hand…
Be the kind of workman referenced in 2 Timothy 2:15 and you’ve got a winning strategy in place that will benefit you and everyone He puts in your path because instead of you working without Him, He’s now the One working through you.