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by Jacob Ninan
Every student in Sunday school has heard of the Bible's heroes, and everyone who has read Christian biographies has seen what `mighty men of God' have accomplished. They hear the call for Josephs, Moseses, Davids, Elijahs, Daniels and Pauls. But many sincere believers who set out to become heroes and heroines for God become frustrated because they cannot manage to be what they would like to be. On the other hand, many other sincere believers think that they are insignificant in the kingdom of God and useless to God because they are no heroes or heroines but only `ordinary' people. But this is absolutely wrong! It is as though God who distributed the talents and gave them only one is scolding them for not having more!
God certainly has His heroes and heroines, and He values them highly. But these are a very small percentage of the large number of children He has, or the large number of members He has in the body of Christ. The large majority of God's people are `ordinary' people with no outstanding gifts.
One guideline we can have in deciding what is normal for a Christian is to imagine how the world would run if every single Christian was doing a particular thing that we are considering. Imagine, for example, if all the Christians were travelling to all the parts of the world preaching the gospel. Who would then be available to run homes, farms, shops, schools, hospitals, offices, factories, etc.? We can immediately understand that God has not called everyone to be doing that. It was a commission Jesus gave only to the apostles - (the word `apostle' means `one who is sent out'). On the other hand all of us are priests and kings (Re.1:6). We are all called to reign in life (over sin and circumstances) and offer up our body as a living sacrifice to God (Ro.5:17;12:1).
In fact it says very clearly in God's word that He has given only some to be apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists, etc. (Ep.4:11). Their job is to equip the saints to build the body of Christ (v.12). It is the work of the saints, who form the majority of the body and who are not noted to be apostles, prophets, etc., to build the body of Christ. In other words, it is the ordinary people, who build the body of Christ by doing ordinary things!
Many of these men and women of God have been discouraged because they somehow thought that only `heroes' mattered to God. They love the Lord and want to serve Him, but feel that they do not have the abilities or opportunities to do so. This is because they thought that to serve God is to be an apostle, prophet, teacher, evangelist, etc.!
When people think about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, they usually tend to identify a limited set of activities as those enabled by the Holy Spirit. Even after combining the several lists available in the New Testament, one tends to look at it as a finite list. As a result a large number of godly men and women find themselves as not having any of those gifts. The result is a sense of uselessness and insignificance.
To serve God is simply to do what He wants us to do! (1Co.4:2LB). When we think of the hundreds of things we have to do each day, if we do what He wants us to do, that is serving God. Does God want us only to read the Bible and pray, or does He also want us to cook our food, wash our clothes, eat our food, go for work, read the newspaper, play with the children, go shopping, or sleep? If we do these things when God wants us to do them, are we not serving God? Do you think this is going a bit too far in defining what it is to serve God? God's word says that it is the Lord whom we serve whatever we do when we do it heartily as for the Lord (Co.2:23,24). We can glorify God by eating and drinking too when we do it to the glory of God (1Co.10:31).
The important thing is to do what God wants when He wants it and how He wants it. That is what counts as faithfulness. We understand easily that if we sin we are not serving God (Ro.6:22). But if we sleep when God wants us to read the Bible, or read the Bible when we should be helping in the kitchen, that is not serving God either. If we have `fellowship' with the brothers when God wants us to help the children with their homework, that is not serving God. If we work only when our boss is watching us, or we are too lazy to complete our work in time, that is not serving God.
God referred to Jesus many times in the Old Testament as `My Servant'. When He expressed His delight over Jesus at the end of thirty years of life on earth, Jesus had not done anything that would usually be considered as `serving God' (Mt.3:17). But actually it was a truly outstanding work Jesus had done in those thirty years by doing all the time just what the Father had told Him to do (Jn.5:30,19). It is in this same way that all of us also can be outstanding servants of God, even full time servants of God!
What a liberating truth this is for all who have been discouraged thinking how insignificant they are! Mothers who are confined to their homes cooking food and looking after children, brothers who think they cannot serve God because they cannot preach like some of the others or because they cannot read the Bible much because of the heavy toll of work and travelling to and from work, those who are confined to their beds because of sickness, wives who are restricted by their husbands from going for the church meetings, etc. - add your particular situation to this list. Now we all can serve God by doing what He tells us to do!
Our God is not a hard taskmaster as the devil tries to make Him out to be. He will not try to reap where He has not sown (Mt.25:24). He will not ask us to do things for which He has not given us abilities or for which He has not provided opportunities. For example, we do not have to feel guilty that we are unable to go for a meeting because we are sick, or to read the Bible because we are too tired! But we need to do only what God has made it possible for us to do. We are unfaithful only if we neglect to do what we can do, when God wants us to do it.
We do not have to go to a Bible college in order to become servants of God. Jesus never did. The apostles too did not go through any formal training programme. Our daily life is our best training school. It is what we learn here that we can give to others (2Co.1:3,4). Knowledge of the art of public speaking, meaning of Greek and Hebrew originals, church history and comparative religion can make us impressive but not helpful. But when we have learned something through our trials and pass it on to our fellow saints under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, that comforts, encourages, exhorts, challenges and builds up the others (1Co.14:3). That is prophesying, whether it is from the pulpit, as a few have opportunities to do, or at a personal level, as all of us have opportunities to do. It is not the pulpit that makes us prophets - or teachers or evangelists - but the anointing of the Holy Spirit in our daily life.
If God has been merciful to us, let us show our gratitude to Him by serving Him (Ro.12:1). Let us stop complaining about lack of opportunities, but listen to the Holy Spirit to know what He wants us to do each moment. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, all of us can be witness for Jesus - all of us in Jerusalem - our home, neighbourhood, place of work - and a few of us going out to Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world (Ac.1:8).
Some part of our witness may be just in being different from the world around us, not mainly in external things such as clothes, but in what we value and live for. Some part may be in telling others about what Jesus has done for us and what He can do for them. Some part may be in comforting and encouraging those who are going through difficult times. Some part may be in teaching our children about God's ways and bringing them up in His discipline. In these and many other practical ways we can be useful to God and our fellow human beings. And if we do all these things according to the will of God and for His glory, we are true servants of God.
Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him, and then asked him to tend His lambs and sheep (Jn.21:15-17). This is the essential qualification we must have if we are to serve Him. Peter loved his Lord, and was sincerely willing to lay down his life for Him if needed (Jn.13:37). Therefore he was able to serve Him even though he had earlier fallen under pressure.
The woman who was forgiven much loved Jesus much (Lk.7:47). Because of her love and gratitude towards Him, she anointed His feet with a perfume she had bought at a great cost. `Wise' men may say that she should not have wasted all that money like that but should have given it to the poor (Mt.26:9). But Jesus not only accepted her `service' but also appreciated it as being something worthy to be mentioned wherever the gospel was preached (v.13). When we do things out of our love for the Lord, it may be that more mature people think that we should have done things differently. While we certainly need to press on to do things more and more wisely, we need not condemn ourselves. Each of us can only live according to the level of understanding we have received. In fact God Himself does not expect us to do more! We must also not judge others when they serve according to their level of life.
Let us not worry about whether others recognise us as servants of God, because it is not them we are serving but God who sees all things in secret. Let our joy be only to see that He is delighted with us and that His work is accomplished through us. Then we will truly be His heroes (Mal.3:16-18).
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