From our perspective 2,000 years later, we may be very critical of the disciples “disputing among themselves as to which of them was to be the greatest” (Luke 22:24). We may not do the same thing verbally, but in our hearts, we often compare ourselves with others and silently think we are better. Sadly, I confess that those have been my thoughts at times.
Jesus knew what was going on between His disciples, and wanted to make sure they did not leave the Passover with those feelings. After pointing to what kings do, He said, “But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves” (Luke 22:26–27). He, the Passover Lamb was about to give His life – the ultimate act of a servant.
Jesus puts Himself forward as the model. This is repeated in Matthew 20:28; “even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
It’s the lowliest place; even foot washing according to John 13:1-17. Paul confirms that we must have this kind of thinking in Philippians 2:5-8. This attitude is not optional for any follower of Jesus, much less those in leadership. Yet, we often think just the opposite. When greatness occupies our thinking, we become ineffective in our work for the Lord because we are more concerned about what people think of us rather than their growth in attachment with Jesus.
We often think of our faith being tested by circumstances, a major crisis like illness, loss of a job, or some other upheaval in our lives. But there is a far deeper test to our faith. When we sit alone with the Lord and our conscience, what do we honestly find in our hearts? Paul challenges the believers in Corinth as he was proposing to visit them for a third time, that they should do some self-examining before he comes to see where their faith stood.
“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? —unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Corinthians 13:5). If their faith in the Lord Jesus was genuine, then Christ was in them and that truth should have a direct impact on how they lived.
There are times when persons question whether someone else is a true believer. Paul makes it clear that the ultimate evaluation of another’s faith is done by the Lord, not us. “God’s firm foundation stands bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His” (2 Timothy 2:19).
That statement does not prevent each of us from testing our own faith, as Paul suggests, and making sure we do not fail the test. In most cases, when we test our faith, we will realize there is a real need of strengthening and making sure we are building on the right foundation, Jesus Christ, with the right materials that build our relationship with Him (see 1 Corinthians 3:10-15).
When did you last put your faith through this test?
Many of the problems we face in the Church arise from the lack of self-examination. Most of us are very quick to pass judgment on others before seeing our own failures. Jesus addressed this issue in His Sermon on the Mount.
““Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1–5).
Notice that self-examination clears up distortions in our own vision so we can see clearly what is taking place in others. It is so important that we first apply biblical truth to ourselves before expecting to help others with that same truth. When we follow Jesus’ teaching about this, we will find that He works in us a spirit of humility. This attitude will gain the respect of others, gain their ear, and then help them apply truth in practical ways.
Let’s help each other by modeling truth, NOT just demanding that others follow it.
I came across a quote today from Jim Elliot, the missionary to the Huaorani tribe in Ecuador. "Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God."
As my partner and I sat this morning talking and thinking about the amazing ministry the Lord has given us together for over eleven years, we reminded each other of the biblical principles we have learned along this journey. At each turn, challenge and opportunity God gave us, we wanted to “be all there.” Both of us are past three score and ten, but we want to give the Lord our all until the end. In leaving a legacy for the next generation and those who will carry on this work, we must leave them a model of finding, living and doing what we “believe to be the will of God."
For Jim Elliot, Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, Pete Fleming, and Nate Saint, this principle of life in the Lord’s work meant death. Their example reminds me of Paul’s attitude; “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell” (Philippians 1:21–22). “To live is Christ” meant that he was giving 100% to the work of the gospel so it would be fruitful.
This raises a very important question with each of us; what are we giving? If our attitude is half-hearted, others will notice our 50% and it will have no impact on them. Whatever the Lord has given you to do, give your best, not the left-overs.
It has been some time since I brought you reports from the front lines where training is taking place. These reports below are a couple of samples of what God is doing.
East Asia, December 1-10, 2019 — Let us thank God for G. and N. who opened the door for our ministry to key leaders in East Asia. There is a tireless evangelist who is leading many to our Lord. Her fruitfulness is in this place where most of the unreached people groups live. We worked with her and a dozen leaders who join her in planting churches throughout the southern part of this country.
Vietnam, December 11-15 — Six years ago, Brother B. asked Tim and Randy to pray for his ministry to reach and train leaders throughout Vietnam, and here Tim had the privilege praying for those who finished the 93rd training event. In addition to this, Brother B. is reaching out to other people groups, like the Hmong young man who may become a “Timothy” in this ever-expanding work.”
“Let all the peoples praise you, O God!” (Ps 67:3)
Central America, January 2020 — “I am happy to tell you that the Lord continues to add more people to be disciples of Jesus. This Friday and Saturday January 10-11, I will be presenting God's Plan for His Disciples to a pastor and his leaders of a congregation who are taking responsibility for being a church full of knowledge of the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit. We are united in prayer, always believing that the Church is in revival throughout Nicaragua, Central America.”
How thankful we are for what God is doing in different parts of the world. If you would like to receive our newsletter, go to our contact page and sign up for the newsletter.
Events of today caused me to think much more deeply about how sinful behavior of Christians affects Divine Persons. As I was pleading with someone who has fallen into sin, the Spirit directed me to Ephesians where Paul expressed something about the Spirit we need to carefully consider.
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). This verse is found in the middle of very clear exhortations to put off certain sinful practices that are a grief the Holy Spirit.
Since the Holy Spirit dwells within the believer (John 14:17, 23), how careful we must be and quick to obey both the Word and His promptings in us. We often act as if there are no consequences to our behavior. When we read a verse like Ephesians 4:30, we should immediately realize that sinful actions, words and attitudes have a direct impact on our relationship with a Divine Person who lives within us. Can we bear to grieve Him without immediate repentance?
Perhaps one of the greatest examples of a servant of the Lord enduring when there was every reason to give up was the Apostle Paul. As you read these verses below, think of what he endured.
“With far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” (2 Corinthians 11:23–30).
Three times in Paul’s ministry the pressure seemed beyond what he could bear, and he turned to the Lord asking for relief. In return, the Lord responded; ““My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
No one may know exactly what you are going through, but I am sure that if you compare it to Paul’s experiences, it would seem much less. There is something that you can experience in the same way that Paul did; the sufficient grace of Christ and His power. May that rest upon you with its full weight and sufficient power!
There is no one who calls themselves a “Christian” or follower of Jesus that does not face times when even prayer is difficult. There are many missionaries who face discouragement; when ministers of the gospel think their work is fruitless or the opposition becomes so intense that they felt driven to the point of giving up. Even when we have gone through a period of success and fruitfulness, the enemy will often attack us personally from nowhere and we succumb to thoughts of ending our work. I have!
John Hyde recounts how young missionaries came to India to evangelize in some way and struggled with either their circumstances or faced obstacles that seemed too great. One young missionary slept in a room with a “picture of a stony hill with a little green grass here and there. On the top of the hill is a tree; most of the branches on one side have been entirely swept away by the wind, and only a few scraggly limbs remain on the other side. On this picture is printed, “Endure when there is every external reason not to endure.” Then it has the quote from Hebrews 11:27 about Moses; “He endured as seeing Him who is invisible.”
What makes the difference between giving up and enduring is not what we see with human eyes, but what we see by the eye of faith. Nothing can give us this vision except a close walk with the Lord. Before you turn from this blog to the things in your day, consider Paul’s words; “God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are” (1 Corinthians 1:28). Use your eyes of faith and see God’s purpose and power. Keep going.
Those of you who follow this blog and our ministry, know that we strongly recommend having a quiet time with the Lord in the morning. Obviously, there is nowhere in the Bible that commands that this be the only time for prayer and meditation on God’s Word. Consider the following verses that Isaiah wrote prophetically of the Lord Jesus.
“The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward” (Isaiah 50:4–5).
Notice what was happening during this time with God:
The early hours are the best hours when our minds are fresh and before they are cluttered with things we face in the world every day. I trust you will find wonderful communion with the Lord as you make this your daily habit.
The teaching of Jesus in Luke 16:1-13 is often overlooked. You could sum up these verses in two words: “faithful” and “dishonest.” The point of these verses is summarized in verse 10; ““One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.”
We have often been led to believe that the bigger the job, the more we can show our abilities and prove our worth to others. The opposite is true in God’s eyes. He is looking at how we handle the “very little” things in life. They may in fact be things that no one else sees except God.
This principle is further confirmed in Luke 19:17; “And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’” Notice how God expands responsibility based on being “faithful in a very little.”
The opposite is also true. Anyone who is dishonest in small things will do the same in bigger responsibilities. John Hyde pointed to two conditions that are necessary for God to use us. “Obedience in everything, even in the least, surrendering up our wills and taking the will of God. The next step is purity. God wants pure vessels for His service, clean channels through which to pour forth His grace. He wants purity in the very center of the soul…purified by the fire of the Holy Spirit.” (Praying Hyde, page 47). What color are your “very little” things in life?
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