A Preacher Once Told Me --
that he would be glad when the church treasury was completely depleted, so the people would be forced to be more liberal in their offerings. As for me, if someone must feel obligated before he will be liberal in his offerings, then he may as well not bring an offering; for the term "offering" implies both a willingness, and liberality: and God, who gives liberally , (James 1:5), is pleased with nothing less. Mal. 1:6-14.
I believe there are two circumstances, pertaining to offerings, which prove beyond a shadow of a doubt where one's heart is in relation to trust and/or love of God. One is that of deep poverty, illustrated by the widow, and her mite. If a person in deep Poverty willinqly qives "to the Lord", who owns the cattle on a thousond hills (Ps.50:10), doubtless this shows his faith and trust in God, as well as a worship of love, well pleasing to God. Another widow illustration is l.Kings 17:8-16.
On the other hand, the person with great abundance who liberally qives "to the Lord", shows a precious manifestation of, and trust in, God. This shows the Lord to be his treasure and love, rather than the abundance of his goods: for he, seeing the coffers full, worships God not of necessity, but of love. God expects His people to bring His offerings, whether their circumstance be that of want, or of abundance; and as the widows aptly illustrate the former, so King David does for the latter. First, when the seer Gad instructs David to "rear an altar unto the Lord in the threshingfloor of Araunah"; and Araunah offers to give him the threshingfloor, along with the offering, and wood for the offering, David will accept neither; for he will not "offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which cost me nothing". 2.Sam.24: 18-25. David could have gotten out of this "cheap": but would God have been pleased? Or, maybe it wouldn't have been so "cheap"!
Secondly, when David proposed to "build God a house" (1.Chron.17:1-12), God forbid him to do so, giving that honor to SolomOn. David could have well taken the attitude; "Then let him build it; and that with his own wealth." Instead, we can rightly say of David that which Paul says of himself (1.Cor.15:10); "but I labored more abundantly than they all".
Indeed, far from "getting off cheap", David said; "I have prepared with all mY might" (1. Chron. 29:2), and then proceeds to give an exact account in verses 2 thru 5, (see also chpt.28:11-21): then also "--the chief of the fathers and princes of Isreal and the captains of thousands and hundreds, with the rulers of the king's work,offered willingly" (vs . 6): then the people also "offered willingly". (vs. 9).
Because of this, "David blessed the Lord before all the congregation: and David said, Blessed be thou, Lord God of Isreal our father, for ever and ever. Thine, 0 Lord, is the greatness, and power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, 0 Lord, and thou are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name.". l.Chron. 29:10-13.
In view of the preceeding, why would God desire an offering? But David shows, in verse 14, that it is not God who needs to receive, but rather it is he, and the people, who need to give: "But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee." Please read on through the end of the chapter in your Bibles.
Surely if God had not given so abundantly, David, and the people, would not have had so abundantly to give to Him (and neither would He have required it - see 2.Corin. 8:1-15, especially verse 12): but because they do have abundantly to give to Him, "the people rejoiced, for that they offered willingly, because with perfect heart they offered willingly to the Lord: and David the king also rejoiced with great joy". See verse 9. In connection with David's rejoicing, see also Hebrews 13:17.
It seems to me a person's joy in the abundance of God's gifts to him is increased in proportion to the abundance of his offerings in return to the Lord! The offerings of God's people are not determined by God's needs, but by the Joy of the giver!
In my mind this leaves but one point upon which to ponder; a point very much akin to the proverbial question: "Which comes first, the chicKen or the egg?". Or, in this case, Do we rejoice because we receive; or do we receive because we rejoice? I will leave this for your contemplation; and perhaps as you do, you would like to share your thoughts with me.
"When a man hasn't a good reason for doing a thing, he has a good reason for letting it alone." Sir Walter Scott
THE LAW OF SOWING AND REAPING Gal.6:7-8
I am continually amazed at how simple the Lord has made it for us to understand His ways! I am impressed more each day with the fact that it isn't the hardness of God's word that keeps men from obedience, but rather the hardness of the heart.
Can there be any doubt, according to the text, what is meant by "sowing to our flesh"? Is there any doubt that this refers to the same thing as those "cares of the world", and that "deceitfulness of riches" in Matt.13:22? That which "chokes the word"? The same as those riches (1.Tim.6:9) "which drown men in destruction and perdition"? The same as "he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God"? Luke 12:21. Then, can there be any doubt that we are "sowing to the flesh" if our passions are consumed on this world, and it's philosophies; along with it's goals, and measure of success? If so, we have replaced "the Lord thy God" (Deut.6:5) with "the World thy God"!
Just as far beyond doubt is the meaning of "reaping destruction" ! This is not some "purgatory" where those who have "sown to the flesh" will receive only a partial reward instead of a full one. No, this clearly is those "trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead" (Jude 12); that "second death" of Rev. 20:14.
Has the proof of the text ever been made more clear, or brought home more forcefully, than during the "days of Noe", and the "days of Lot"? Luke 17:26-33. Instead of "eating and drinking to the glory of God" (1.Cor.10:31); instead of eating "in due season, for strenqth", they ate "in the morning", and "for drunkenness". Ecc .10: 16-17. In other words, they began early each day; "in the morning; being so eager to fulfill their lusts -- which is the same as "sowing to the flesh". Instead of marrying, (and staying married), according to the law of the Lord (Matt.5:31-32; Rom.7:1-3; 1.Cor.7:815), they "saw all the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose". Gen.6:1-4.
What else did they do? They "bought and sold, they planted and builded". Did they do this for "food and raiment"? (1.Tim.6:8); or to "disperse to the poor"? (Ps.112:9; 1.Tim.6:18). No,they did it to fulfill the "lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life". 1.John 2: 15-17. In other words, they wanted it simply because they saw it; they wanted it for personal gratification; and they wanted it for the prestige. Compare also Ezek.16:40.
They "bought and sold"; and the price of their commodities was "the souls of men" (2.Peter 2:3; Rev.18:11-13): and this they did instead of putting it "into the bank" that God "might have required His own with usury". Luke 19:23.
They planted; but it was not the "planting of the Lord". Isa.60:21; 61:1-3. They builded; but it was not a "spiritual house" (Eph.2:20-22) to offer up "spiritual sacrifices" (1. Peter 2:5). Instead, they builded cities to call after their own name. Gen.4:17; 10:8-12; 11:19; Rev.16:19.
Has there ever been a generation since that has been more guilty than this one? The one "upon whom the ends of the world are come". 1.Cor.10:11. This whole generation, with few exceptions, is utterly consumed with the pursuit of the world, and what is to be gained of it: but, curiously, no one individual sees himself as guilty! It is always either the person, (and class, as the case may be), above him; or he rationalizes either the necessity, or the harmlessness, of his own doings: and "no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? Everyone turned to his own course, as the horse rusheth into battle." Jere.8:6. Read also Jere.8:7-12; 5:1; Zaph.3:5; Matt. 26:22,25.
Many believe that as long as they don't practice these things "in the church"; the "church" meaning that formal organization they attend on Sunday (most of the time); that there is no conflict with "the rest of their lives": but we are to "sow beside all waters". Isa.32:20.
As you have already noticed, there are many scripture references included in the above; and for this reason, I have not included the usual companion readings. I will simply encourage you to study the referenced scriptures as you read the article; which you will have to do, if you are to get the full benefit of the article.
"You cannot read the Gospels without seeing that Jesus did not tell men how to be good in the manner of the moralist of every age, He told them how to be happy."
Sir Thomas Taylor
It is both a wise and blessed person who knows both what
he does know, and what he doesn't know: and no one knows
every thing; and there is no one who doesn't know anything.
It is also true that some people are given the ability
to know something about several different things, but most
everyone has one area in which they have a special expertise.
If this is not so, then you have what has come to be known
as "a jack of all trades, and master of none". This person
may do many things reasonably well, but brings nothing to
Now there are some things I can do to a car as far as
working on one. I can change the oil and filter; change
out a radiator hose, or fan belt; replace an alternator,
or battery; and back when they were a lot more simple than
today, I could even rebuild an engine: but I was, and am,
a far cry from an accomplished mechanic.
There are certain things I can do which would fall under
the category of plumbing: but could I be classified as a
plumber? Hardly! If I applied to the State of Texas for
a plumbing license, they would never even consider issuing
one to me.
I can cook some things, but I'm not a cook. I can sew
a button on, but I'm not a seamstress; and so on.
On the other hand, if you put me on a fire truck, or some
other related equipment, I would be totally lost. I probably
would recognize a fire truck! The same is true with computers:
I might figure out how to turn one on, if you gave me
Could I learn to be a fire fighter? Or a computer operator?
Yes - as anyone could who is reasonably intelligent:
but I believe I have enough wisdom to know that I would never
be an expert fire fighter; or computer operator; or plumber;
or mechanic: and I also trust that I have enough wisdom to
know that if I need any thing of this nature done which does
require any special expertise, to go and find someone who
I'm sure by now the object of this is obvious: if you
need something which pertains to the ministry of a pastor, .
then you ought not to try "to do it yourself". Neither should
you go find someone who is not a pastor: wisdom dictates
that you find a pastor!
Well, you say, there are myriads of people who call themselves
pastors: but are they all true pastors? If not, how
do I know who I can trust? The same way you know who is
a true mechanic, or plumber!
If I take my car to a mechanic, and he can't tell me what
is wrong with my car, and what it needs to fix it, I assume
he has not the expertise necessary, (we used to call such
"shade tree mechanics") ,and I will find me one who does;
and can; and will: and if he doesn't, I will not go back
to him again.
Now, if you will find you a pastor, he can, and will,
be able to advise you in every aspect (herein lies the
expertise) of you life, through the gospel and/or the word
What if, though, you go to a mechanic, and he tells
you that your car needs a new carburetor, and you don't
believe him? Or you say, "I can't afford one"? Or you
think you know what is wrong, and you keep trying different
ones until you find one who agrees with you?
Obviously your car will not get fixed! Yet this is
precisely what usually happens with respect to people,
and their souls, and lives. They come to church (or occasionally,
although nowadays it is seldom, they will come
to the pastor individually), and when they hear the sermon
they either don't believe it; they don't believe they can
afford to do what is prescribed; or they go to another
one until they find one that is agreeable to what they
We must be careful, though, to not carry the analogy
too far. For instance, one way we generally try to assure
ourselves of one's expertise is to look to see if he has
a "degree". This may give us some assurance, in worldly
affairs, that the person knows what he is doing; but even
in worldly affairs this certainly is not fool proof, and much
less in spiritual matters: indeed, often a "degree" is cause
In opposition to all worldly wisdom, God takes one from
"following after the sheep"; one from gathering "sycamore
fruit"; two from a fishing boat; an harlot here, and a
thief there: and into these He puts His spirit to sanctify;
and then sends them forth with the word of life.
Find you one of these that God has called, sanctified,
and "put into the ministry": then if you can believe, and
follow his leading, your life will be "fixed".
"A good man says, I never trusted God but I found Him faithful;
nor my own heart, but I found it false." Quoted from
a collection from Augustus Toplady.
WHEN THOU ART CONVERTED, STRENGTHEN THY BRETHREN
Luke 22:31-34, with John 21:15-17
When is a man ready to be a pastor? In order to answer this question, we must distinguish between the call; the preparation; and the readiness.
Looking back at our first text, it is obvious Peter had at this time been called to the apostleship; but it is also obvious he was not ready to assume that office. Instead, he was at this time being prepared. Peter was ready only after he was converted; for to strengthen the brethren is the ministry of the office of pastor. 1.Peter 5:1-4; Eph.4:7-16.
Although they have nothing to do directly with the point we wish to make, we do need to make two quick observations lest some be led astray with other thoughts. First, the conversion of Peter here indicated has nothing to do with his being -- as we are prone to use the term today -- "saved"; i.e., regenerated; born again. Rather, as we shall discuss in a moment, it has to do with his being enabled to fulfill the ministry to which he has been called.
The second is that some may think this scripture invalid to illustrate our point, since Peter was an apostle, not a pastor. Our answer is, that although one may have all the credentials to be a pastor, but not an apostle; yet in order to have been an apostle, one must also have had the necessary credentials to be a pastor. In other words, though the apostleship required some extra qualifications, both offices required the same qualities.
Peter, then, must be converted before he is in a position to "strengthen his brethren": so must all God's ministers. What is this conversion? It is being brought from a state of self-sufficiency, to one of waiting on the Lord to lead by His Holy Spirit; an emptying of self. Until he has been emptied, a man is not ready to be a faithful pastor!
By a comparison of our two texts, we clearly sense the difference Peter's conversion wrought in him. In the first, we feel very distinctly Peter's self assurance, expressed in his words, "I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and into death"; but instead, he denied the Lord three times. What a different person we see in the agonizing Peter, after his conversion: and is it any wonder the Lord asked him three times, "Lovest thou me?". How we now feel his deep contrition, and carefulness, in the words, "Lord, thou knowest all things"! Instead of "I will", it is "Thou knowest"! for Peter now understands that God is the only I AM.
This pastor, though believing with all his heart the call to be a pastor first came over twenty five years ago; and although having actually begun some nineteen years ago; yet he is fully persuaded that he has only in the last three years or so been really emptied so as to be truly useful in the ministry. He once thought it sufficient, in order to be a pastor, to have a right doctrine; but has more and more been brought to understand, that though a right doctrine be essential, yet it cannot prosper but by a right spirit, through The Spirit.
That a man could be this long "in the ministry", yet not fully prepared, may seem strange to many; and in ordinary times, when the church was strong in the spirit and knowledge of the Lord, a man would never be allowed to enter the pulpit until the fruits of this conversion were evident; but these are extraordinary times when, for a lack of spiritual churches able to judge, God has had to use extraordinary means, converting His pastors by way of the wilderness -- and this pastor is not alone in this experience. "Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good" (Isa.7:15) may be said of the under shepherds, as well as the shepherd.
Without saying more, let me simply direct you to the bulletin insert, and the poem "The Watered Lillies"; for it surely and beautifully expresses the attitude of all God's converted pastors.
Psalms 51:10-13 2.Chron.l:7-10 Isaiah 6:1-8 2.Tim. 4:3-4; 2.Peter 2:1-3 Jude 4-13 Acts 9:3-16
A man whose inordinate love of money was ruining his life, once called upon a minister to argue a point in the minister's sermon. Perceiving the man's difficulty, the minister opened the Bible, pointed to the word "God", and asked, "Can you see that?" "Certainly", the man replied. The minister then placed a coin over the word, and said, "Can you see it now?" The man did not answer, but presently he said, "I understand."
I wonder what inordinate affections are obscuring our vision of God?
THE WATERED LILIES
The Master stood in His garden,
Among the lilies fair,
Which His own right hand had planted,
And trained with tend’rest care.
He looked at their snowy blossoms,
And marked with observant eye,
That the flowers were sadly drooping,
For their leaves were parched and dry.
“My lilies need to be watered,”
The Heavenly Master said;
“Wherein shall I draw it for them,
And raise each drooping head?”
Close to His feet on the pathway,
Empty, and frail, and small,
An earthen vessel was lying,
Which seemed no use at all;
But the Master saw, and raised it,
From the dust in which it lay,
And smiled, as He gently whispered,
“This shall do my work today:
“It is but and earthen vessel,
But it lay so close to Me;
It is small, but it is empty --
That is all it needs to be.”
So to the fountain He took it,
And filled it full to the brim;
How glad was the earthen vessel,
To be of some use to Him!
He poured forth the living water,
Over His lilies fair,
Until the vessel was empty,
And again He filled it there.
He watered the drooping lilies,
Until they revived again;
And the Master saw with pleasure,
That His labor had not been vain.
His own hand had drawn the water,
Which refreshed the thirsty flowers;
But He used the earthen vessel,
To convey the living showers.
And to itself it whispered,
As He laid it aside once more,
“Still will I lie in His pathway,
Just where I did before.
“Close would I keep to the Master,
Empty would I remain,
And perhaps some day He may use me,
To water His flowers again.”
THE WIDOW'S MITES - Lk.21:1-4
What a simple, but beautiful, message is set forth in this incident! Yet there is no doubt that the vast majority of those who know it so well have never learned this simple, beautiful, truth!
The picture here is of many casting in their offerings consisting of but a small portion of their over all worth, though the amount of the offering may have been considerable. On the other hand, the widow cast in her offering consisting of all she possessed, though the amount was but a pittance. The Lord rightly judged her pittance, though, to be far the greatest in terms of love and devotion.
There are three other incidents noted in scripture by which I would like to further illustrate the truths contained in this act of the widow: (1) David's offering on the threshing floor of Araunah, 2.Sam.24:18-25; (2) the weeping woman, who having washed Jesus' feet with her tears, wiped them with the hair of her head, Lk.7:36-50; and (3) the parable of the unprofitable servants, Luke 17:7-10.
In the first, we see David commanded to offer to the Lord an offering on the threshing floor belonging to the man Araunah; who learning of his King's necessity, offers to give to David not only the threshing floor, but also the necessary offering, and the wood with which to consummate the offering: but David would not hear of it, because he would not "offer unto the Lord a sacrifice which cost me nothing". In essence, this is what Jesus is saying concerning those in the incident concerning the widow: in comparison to her's, their offering cost them nothing. Are we offering the Lord that which cost us nothing? If so, will He be pleased with it, be it ever so much?
In the second, we find a woman; a "sinner"; coming and anointing Jesus' feet with precious ointment; washing them with tears; wiping them clean with the hair of her head; and then kissing them. This in contrast to Jesus' host, who gave Him no water for His feet; he gave Him no oil to anoint His head; and greeted Him with no kiss; all of which were the customary courtesies of the times extended to the lowest of guests. Why the great contrast? Because the one loved Him greatly, and the other not at all! Also the reason for the great contrast between the widow, and her contemporaries: in comparison to her's, their love was nothing at all. How is our's in comparison to these two women? How much do we consider Jesus to have forgiven us?
In the third, we find the servant, after having worked laboriously in the field all day,instead of sitting down himself to supper, must first serve his master; who, as it is implied, worked not at all! Yet for all this, he has done only what was his duty! So with our widow: she did not do more than she should have. The real lesson in this comparison is that those who cast in of their plenty did not even do what was their duty: and it yet remains that only those who have "left all, and followed Him" (Luke 5:28) will enter into the joy of their Lord.
Thought for the week: we do not leave all in order to be saved; rather, they which have been saved leave all because they have been saved. Please read the following companion scriptures.
The Pearl of Great Price Matthew 13: 45-46
What is received. Mark 10: 28-30
Love to Christ compared:
Love to others. Luke 14: 25-33
Love to self; John 12: 25-26
Why He is worthy of this devotion:
He first loved us: I.John 4:10
And that totally. John 13: 1
It is impossible for those He loves to do less. l.Peter 2:21-25
"In the kingdom of God, the reward of a great service is the opportunity to render a still greater service." Lyman Abbott
ON LOVING THE LORD
There Are Many --
who say; "I love the Lord; I want to serve the Lord". However, judging by the scripture,I find few who really do. Not to say that people who make this statement are not "sincere": it is just that they make this boast based upon what they understand this to mean, rather than a sound understanding of what God requires.
Let's take preachers, for example. What is it that causes a man (or, in our day, a woman) decide to "be a preacher"? Why, they want to "serve the Lord"! Oh, I know there are a few who are insincere; those who from the beginning regard it as nothing more than a career; but this is the exception, and not the rule. We will not concern ourselves with these, as they sooner or later become all to obvious.
As for the rest, let us begin with those women who would "serve God" by becoming a "preacher". Can anyone serve God by disobeying God? The answer is obvious. The scripture is very plain concerning the place of women in the church: "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law, and if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church." It's evident that the woman who would "serve God" by becoming "a preacher" is in direct opposition to God; and instead of receiving the reward she hopes for, will instead receive "the reward of unrighteousness". See 2.Peter 2:10-16.
With women, then, it is an elementary thing to show that those who presume to serve God by preaching do not know what it means to serve God, (The scripture is just as succinct as to how women ARE to serve God. See 1.Tim.5:1-5; Titus 2:3-5), but what about men?
Let us begin with those that become "preachers" only for a time; for when they have "much goods laid up for many years", (Luke 12:19), they "retire" to a life of pleasure. There is not one word; one example; not one hint in the scripture of God ever having called one to the ministry, and then "retiring" him - that is, unless you consider retirement to be exile, such as John suffered; or being forcefully carried into Egypt, as Jeremiah was; or being cast into prison, as Micaiah was. No; the only way God "retires" His called servants, is when He calls them home!
So we come to the first requisite which determines if a man is "serving God" as a preacher: has he been called of God to do so! Preaching is a call, not a choice! Therefore if a man can "retire" from preaching, it is evident it has been a thing of his own choice, and not a call of God. .
Is it important that a man be called of God? Can he not, of his own "free will", decide to serve God, even as a preacher? No; for "no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron". Heb.5:4. Once again, the only example we have in scripture is of those who God has, as it were, pressed into service; some of the most vivid examples of which are Amos (Amos 7:14-15); Jeremiah (Jer.1:5-7); Moses (Ex.3:10-4:14); and Paul (1.Cor.9:16-17). If, therefore, a man presumes to take upon himself to "serve God" as a preacher, he is guilty of the very same thing as the woman who presumes to do so!
How does a man know if he has a call from God to serve Him as a preacher? It ought to be partially obvious by the above: if he has no other choice! Also add to the above Rom.11:29: "For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance". I'm not saying the truly called will serve against his will; I'm saying he will not take upon himself to do so. Neither am I saying a man whom God does call will always serve in the same capacity: some will become infirmed; all who live will become old; some will become old and infirmed; and there will be some who will, in effect, be "retired" by the churches (God help us) because they consider such to have become incapable of being a "pastor". (This happens because -- and agin, may God help us -- the churches don't know what a preacher's callig is! They do not think in terms of his calling being to preach the gospel; but rather in terms of all the other tasks which have grown up by tradition around the office of pastor -- such things as visiting hospitals; attending various meetings and functions; and so forth. Precious few can even conceive of a preacher as Peter did in Acts 6:2-4: "It is not reason that we should leave the word of God and serve tables, --- But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.") The life of a God called preacher, though, whatever life he has, will always be that of a preacher!
If he is a God called preacher, you may take away his goods; his family; his health; throw him in prison; or whatever you will, and he will always be ready to preach upon every opportunity: not for his own gain -- whether that be fame or fortune -- but because "the Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings to the meek --." See Isa. 61:1-3.
To Be Continued.
ON LOVING THE LORD continued
Who Loves The Lord --
and desires to serve Him? Last issue we began to show that one can only love and serve God as he obeys! We began by discussing the desire of some to serve God as a "preacher". We will now finish our example of the preacher; then continue on to discuss what is commonly termed the "lay person".
The second way a man may know he is called of God to be a preacher is if God deals with him as with a preacher. (Just as he may know if he is called to be a child. See Heb. 12:5-8.) "And how", you ask, "is that?" By putting him under "the sentence of death", as Paul describes it in 2.Corin.1:9. "And what", you ask, "is that?" Let me try to explain by my experience.
When I first began to preach, my thought was, "What a glorious experience this will be for me". My thoughts were of building, if not a large church, then at least a "nice sized" one, along with the honor and amenities that accompany such success. I thought I was now on top of the world!
Why did I think this? Because I was young and foolish; and as those two will do, I ignored the pattern set forth by the scripture, as well as that set forth by the faithful ministers of God's calling. Instead, I looked at the lives and experiences of the host of "successful" preachers, and thought my experience would be the same.
I did not long remain (thanks be to God!) "on top of the world"! In fact, it wasn't long until I thought the world had fallen on me! God began to purge me of all kinds of sin; sin that I wasn't even aware of - pride, lust, greed, vain glory; and before He had accomplished His purpose, I was sure He would destroy me body and soul! When God called me, I thought I was already a preacher: little did I know that He had, at that time, only called me "to be one" -- future tense!
Don't misunderstand. The purging and teaching is never totally completed, but there does come a time when one becomes such as can be useful. See 2.Tim.2:21. Neither are preachers the only ones to know firey trials: all God's people do. See 1.Pet.4:12. The preacher, though, "must be first partaker of the fruits", as Paul says (2.Tim.2:6), that he may comfort those he is called to serve. As the "chief Shepherd" (1. Pet.5:4) must "taste death for every man" (Heb.2:9), so must every man who would serve God as a preacher. Where there is a "chief Shepherd", there are lesser shepherds: and "it is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his Lord". Read the tenth chapter of Matthew, along with Matt.20:22-28.
So we see that one cannot "love and serve God" in the capacity of preacher unless he is called to do so. Also, there are sure and certain manifestations as to whether one has been called. God never leaves in doubt as to their salvation, or their place of service. One may be in doubt for a while, and/or at times, but one cannot remain in such a state indefinitely. See I.Corin. 2:10-16.
The "lay person", then, can learn from the "preacher". The same principles apply to both. God's requirement is the same for both: we must "walk worthy of the vocation" to which we are called. Eph.4:1. This applies first to the general call of salvation; but, as seen by the context in which the command is found, it also applies to the call to service: both are alike in nature - according to His will, and forever! True servants are chosen of God, both to salvation and service, (2.Tim.2:4; Eph.l:4; 2.Thes.2:13; Rev.17:14), and never "retire" from either: they never would, even if they could!
In the term "love, and serve God", we have both the essence of the call to salvation, and the call to service. The essence of salvation is "thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart"; and the proof of that love is "keep my commandments". Herein lies the "simplicity which is in Christ"; of which Paul speaks in 2.Corin.11:3.
Most who would "love and serve God" think in terms of doing some great thing; as Naaman, the Syrian did. Compare 2.Kings 5:8-14. This was the snare the Corinthians fe11 into. As Paul put it, "every one -- hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation": but his command is, "let your women keep silence"; and "if any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord". See 1.Corin.14:26-40.
If we would love and serve God, we must obey Him in simplicity. King Saul found this out to his own condemnation, as will many in our day. "Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifice, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to harken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry." To get the full implication, read 1.Sam., chapter fifteen.
We can do no better than to close with Malichi's words concerning them that serve the Lord: "Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: -- and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall ye return and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth Him not." Mal.3:16-18. Could it be that true love and service to God is to fear Him, and to think upon His name? Ah, yes!
is the name of the game in today's world: and there is certainly nothing wrong with success. In fact, THERE ARE NO SLUGGARDS IN CHRIST'S KINGDOM! for although we are to "bear -- one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal. 6:2); yet at the same time "--every man must bear his own burden" (Gal. 6:5). The scriptures are replete with admonitions conveying the spirit of WORK; WORK; WORK! Even those scriptures that enjoin us to "stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord"; and, "wait upon the Lord", are not encouragements to idleness, but rather to prayer and praise!
There are, however, different ways by which "success" is measured and/or viewed; and certainly the way a child of God; and a servant of God; deems himself to be "successful" is quite different from that of a man of the world. The man of the world is "successful" when he has gained notoriety and fortune for himself; while a child of God sees "success" as having gained notoriety for his Lord, and "fortune" for his fellow man. 1.Corin. 10:24.
There are also varying degrees of success: "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus". Phil.3:13-14. (Now this in no way implies that salvation is gained by degrees; for in the very next verse, Paul says; "Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded". As this is not the topic here under discussion, we will leave the discussion of this distinction to perhaps another time. Suffice it to say here that every man, at the time of regeneration by the Holy Spirit, is made whole; complete; and nothing can, or need, be added to it. Heb. 10:12-18; Col.2:8-11; and such like.)
As for me, I think I will have deemed myself to be "successful" when I have accomplished three things; and those three things simultaneously:
1. To preach the gospel of Christ in all it's truth; it's purity; it's beauty; and it's glory;
2. To preach this gospel in all the power of the resurrection of Christ;
3. And, while accomplishing the above, myself be totally obscure.
Shall I ever in this lifetime be totally "successful", according to the above measure? I seriously doubt it, although I trust I sincerely desire it. I do hope that I may at least gain such success in the judgment of my brethren: and I do not mean this in the sense that I might be praised of my brethren, but rather in the sense of their judgment, as opposed to my own.
How to accomplish such success? I don't know: God knoweth! Perhaps the hope of my success could best be expressed in the words of a simple prayer: "Lord, in this way also, HIDE ME BEHIND THE CROSS!"
After all, it's not "Well done thou fruitful servant" we long to hear; but,"Well done thou faithful servant". Quoted from a letter from Bro. Virgil Key, pastor at Omega Baptist Church, Arley, Alabama.