If God told you ahead of time that He was going to give you an unusual assignment that would impact the world for generations, I am sure you would go through any preparation to be ready. But that is not the normal way God makes His servants ready for His assignments.
God prepared Noah for 125 years. Abraham had to leave his country and family, waiting and learning through trials and mistakes before his mission was accomplished. Moses was prepared through two forty-year periods before being given his final assignment. David endured years of mistreatment by his employer until God removed him and made way for David. Though their training was not as long as these I have mentioned, Peter, John and Paul all went through intense preparation. NONE OF THEM KNEW AHEAD OF TIME WHAT THEIR FINAL ASSIGNMENT WOULD BE.
Would you be willing to allow God to prepare you over a long period of time for an assignment that was only known to Him? Would you accept every test as God’s way of preparing you for His work? Would disappointment, delays, criticism by others, loss of popularity or possessions, yes, and even your own failure cause you to give up and fall short of God’s planned assignment?
These questions and more, the Spirit has faced me with time and again. There have been times when I entertained the suggestion that it was time to give up. But the Helper in me confronted my mind at these times and brought me back to God’s Plan and Purpose for my life and ministry. As you read this last sentence, Jesus is looking into your hearts and is asking you the question; “ARE YOU WILLING FOR ME TO PREPARE YOU FOR WHAT YOU CANNOT SEE?”
From my own experience, I doubt we think much about divine ownership. Our default way of thinking is that we are in control of our own lives and rarely submit to a higher authority. Paul did not think that way. When he wrote to a young church about having moral backbone in dealing with immorality, he said, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So, glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20). That is divine ownership!
To one of his disciples, Paul reminds Titus to remind those in Crete that Jesus Christ “gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14). This brings me to my final quote from G. D. Watson:
“Settle it then, that He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue, or chaining your hands, or closing your eyes, in ways that He does not seem to use with others. Now when you are so possessed with the living God that your secret heart becomes pleased and delighted with this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, then you will have entered the very vestibule of heaven itself.”
This is the kind of ownership I want for you. Others may resist such total control of the Holy Spirit over every aspect of their lives, but it is the only way God will and wants to use you in finishing the task of preaching the gospel to every people group. DO NOT ASK HOW. ONLY SUBMIT to HIS OWNERSHIP. In His presence, He will show you the “how” as you submit.
“The Holy Spirit will rebuke you for little words or deeds or even feelings, or for wasting your time, which other Christians never seem to be concerned about, but you must make up your mind that God is an infinite Sovereign and He has a right to do whatever He pleases with His own. He may not explain to you a thousand things which puzzle your reason in the way He deals with you, but if you will just submit yourself to Him in all things, He will wrap you up in a jealous love and bestow upon you many blessings which come only to those who are very near to His heart.” G. D. Watson (1845-19240.
Paul, Luke or any of the other apostles could not explain for certain why they were led to some places and not to others. “And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them” (Acts 16:7). There was no explanation for this divine ‘Stop Sign,’ except for the obvious fact that God was opening another door for effective ministry. Paul had a “right” as a minister of the gospel to “reap material things” from those he preached and labored to, but he refused to exercise that right since he considered his work as a “necessity…laid upon” him by the Lord (1 Corinthians 9:8-18).
Never make others the standard for what you do. In some cases, there may not be a biblical mandate for what you do, but if you are truly led by the Spirit, you will not be under law but under the power of His grace to accomplish what others may not be able to do. Be careful not to make what you do a law for others. Stand on biblical principles.
“The Lord may let others be honored and keep you hidden and unappreciated because He wants to produce some choice, fragrant fruit for His coming glory, which can only be produced in the shade. He may let others do a work for Him and get the credit for it, but He will make you work on and on without others knowing how much you are doing; and then, to make your work still more precious. He may let others get the credit for the work which you have done, and thus make your reward ten times greater when Jesus comes.” (G. D. Watson, 1845-1924).
This test of character is perhaps the hardest for most of us. Our nature and surrounding culture has taught us to make sure we are recognized and given public respect. John the Baptist passed this test well. When the religious leaders were sent from Jerusalem to ask John who he was, he was very clear and said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord” (John 1:23). He refused to elevate himself to even a prophet or the Messiah, even though Jesus said he was “more than a prophet” (Matthew 11:9; Luke 7:26).
John further maintained his humble mind by saying, “He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). We will only produce fruit for God in our lives or ministry if the attitude expressed by John and Watson is deeply ingrained in the moral fabric of our souls. That does not mean we are wimpy about the truth. John did his greatest work in the wilderness by calling for repentance. The greatest work we can do is refuse publicity and point to Christ, “the Lamb of God” (1:29, 36).
There is a grave danger in following human models or traditions that are not solidly rooted in biblical principles. In themselves, they may not be wrong, but if they inhibit the movement of God’s work in any way rather than accelerate it, we succumb to a less effective method of doing God’s work, diminishing our fruitfulness in HIS ministry, and misdirecting those we serve.
I will never forget a life changing moment in our ministry some years ago. Tim and I were doing one-on-one training of some in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We had separated into our separate rooms to continue writing our observations on Scripture. I was nearly finished with First Corinthians when I read Chapter 16:8-9. “But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” I got up from my table and ran into the room where Tim was and with a very animated voice said, “LOOK AT THIS. Paul was waiting “for a wide door for effective work” in his ministry! We must do the same!”
It was as if the Lord had revealed one of the most important elements for our ministry. Most are in a hurry to go on the mission field and walk through any open door. I thank the Lord for their eager desire. But Paul waited in Ephesus to make sure God provided a door “for effective work!” This brings me back to another portion of the quote from G. D. Watson.
“Others may be allowed to succeed in making money, but most likely God will keep you poor, because He wants you to have something far better than gold, namely, a helpless dependence on Him and the joy of seeing Him supply your needs day by day out of an unseen Treasury.”
From our experience over the years, when we do not wait on the Lord for this quality of opportunity, we waste the Lord’s time and resources. After hundreds of years, the task is not finished of spreading the gospel to every people group. It will be done, it can be done, but we must seek the Lord for HIS “wide door for effective work!” Don’t follow money, the crowd or tradition. Follow the Lord!
“If God has called you to be really like Jesus, He will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility, and put upon you such demands of obedience, that you will not be able to measure yourself by other Christians; and in many ways, He will seem to let other good people do things which He will never let you do.
Other Christians and ministers, who seem very religious and useful, can push themselves, pull wires and work schemes to carry out their Christian goals, but these things you simply cannot do. Others may boast of their work or their writings or their success, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing, and if you ever try it, He will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.”
G. D. Watson (1845-1924)
As Jesus was about to leave His disciples and this earth, Peter became concerned about his fellow-disciple John, whether he would die as Peter would. “Jesus said to him, “If it is My will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me” (John 21:22). The path of commitment God has chosen for me may not be the same as someone else. The most important thing for each of us is that we are walking in closeness with the Lord and know what His will is for us. As the path for Peter and John were different, so was Barnabas and Paul and neither violated the Scriptures. God’s work is accomplished best through our intimacy with Him, not following men.
We live in a world where numbers mean a lot to most people. Big bank balances, bulging retirement accounts, and mega churches that boast large numbers seem to be the measure of success in our day. This was not true with Jesus.
“And He sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box” (Mark 12:41–43). The impact of this single widow was greater than all the others put together!
“And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach” (Mark 3:14). Of these twelve disciples, two men are said to “have turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). The gospel spread from Jerusalem to Rome in 25 years. We could list hundreds of examples of what God is doing today in secret, that begins with what is small and unseen.
It was not the amount this widow had or how many disciples were released into evangelism and the planting churches that made the difference. It was their total commitment to give and serve with what God had given them that made the difference. You will never know how much God will do through you until you surrender everything you have and are to Him, and not concern yourself with the results. “ONLY GOD…GIVES THE GROWTH!” (1 Corinthians 3:7).
Over the years we have been invited to train large groups of pastors, church planters and church leaders. Our experience in doing this has taught us that it is very difficult to connect with individuals and make sure they understand the Scriptures and principles being taught. As I like to say to those we work with, we want to become more and more effective in the work we do for the Lord, and large groups are not effective. With this desire clearly in mind, we find ourselves returning over and over to the model in Scripture.
“And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable” (Mark 7:17). Notice the three points in this verse made His teaching effective.
1. Jesus entered a house. It was a limited space and thus created an intimate atmosphere where teaching would become very personal. It would be absent of distractions that we have in public places.
2. Jesus left the crowds and public places so He could be in the intimacy of a house. This move is opposite from the popular attitude of leaders today. They think the greater the numbers at events the more successful they are. It narrowed the audience to those who were truly interested in His teaching and removed those with curiosity.
3. It is very difficult and almost impossible for individuals to ask questions in large crowds. In a household setting, there is freedom to ask for clarification, deeper understanding and seek answers to questions of the heart.
This principle needs to be thought through carefully because it runs counter to our culture. If you desire God to use you and be effective in spreading the gospel, teaching biblical principles, and impacting lives with a godly manner of life, you will need to rethink the setting you use.
A study of Jesus ministry reveals that He used various ways to proclaim the gospel, perform miracles, and teach His disciples. One of these venues was when He “entered the house” (oikos). At one occasion, Jesus was approached by a “ruler…saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live” (Matthew 9:18). Jesus could have just spoken a word, as He did in John 4:46-53, and this daughter would live, but not in this case.
“And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, He said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping” (Matthew 9:23-24). Jesus wanted to first remove distractions from the house so He would have their full attention. He was also concerned that the whole household would see what was about to happen to this precious life. “He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose” (9:25).
Jesus wants to impact whole households and whole families with the gospel. As He sent the twelve out in Chapter 10, part of His instruction to them was; “whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you” (Matthew 10:11–13). They must use their God-given discernment to determine whether the “house is worthy.” The peace the disciples had was in the gospel; nothing else. We have the challenge to begin movements of God through impacting households with the gospel. The success of this is not in our ability, but in discerning the Spirit’s leading us to those who will receive it.
There are times when we labor in a place and leave without seeing any evidence of God working through introducing God’s Plan for His Church (GPHC). We leave the result to Him. To our surprise, God secretly works and brings about the fruit at a later time. This is very humbling!
We had introduced GPHC in a place in a S. E. Asia country, and left a bit discouraged that work had not been done on the lessons when suddenly we got written reports and pictures from some of the students. I share some of their comments below. They have been edited for understanding.
“When I attended the (GPHC) training, I compared the Early Church to how we are starting a church. It is different to the Early Church. Before I am not attending the training, I used my own experiences. After I attended the training, I know my experiences are not right, so I committed again to be like Early Church. I am praying to develop churches like Early Church.”
“I can hand over to our infant believers what I learned from the Church Planting Training course (GPHC) so they may be able to make good disciples.”
“I am benefiting from God’s Plan for Church Planting training as follows:
1. I know now what I need for the church planting ministry in my life.
2. I have been confirmed through the Church Planting Training.
3. I can do practically and effectively the ministry.
4. I am seeing the importance of conversion of the soul.
5. I will give the gospel to the needy people. After, I will mature them in the Christian life.”
These are clear evidences that God is at work in their hearts. Will you pray with us that God will continue His work in them and they will become strong in the work of the Lord in their country and the people groups around them. We say with Paul, “I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
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