Category Archives: Thoughts on the Word of God

Don’t Despise a Tiny Start

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Is there a problem in this world that needs your help?  Is it bigger than you can conquer?

I remember when I heard about the great devastation that Hurricane Katrina brought to the Gulf Coast.  It made me want to do something.  What I wanted to do was pick up and go down for a long time to help people rebuild and recover, but I was only one thirty-year-old woman who didn’t really know anything about disaster relief…at all.  So what could I do?  Where could I start?  I really did not know, so I did nothing.

I sat and did do nothing…until Pastor Ian from my church asked the congregation for volunteers to help out with answering phones to help the Red Cross raise funds for disaster relief for the victims of the hurricane.  That was something I could do.  It was better than doing nothing, so I signed up for answering calls early in the morning along with Ian and another friend, Shannon, from our fellowship group.  We went to the radio station and jotted down payment information for the phone call donations that came in.  After our time was over, Pastor Ian, Shannon and I went to McDonalds for a coffee and breakfast, and a talk that would maybe change the course of all of our lives a bit.

We sat and discussed how satisfying it was to help.  But I still couldn’t shake the idea that I didn’t do much that day, I wanted to do more.  But how?  I expressed this nagging thought to my friends, and they thought about that, too.

A month or two passed.  Surely it was beyond the time I could be helpful there.  Then one day, Pastor Ian announced that they made a connection with churches working down in Mississippi.  These churches had been bringing the needed food in to hurricane survivors and were going to be moving on the colossal task of gutting houses and rebuilding.  Our church was going to send a team down.  I made a deal with God.  I would go down if He would work out my schedule to go.  In another month or two, I gave my notice at work for a different purpose—to move to another state out West.  Before I left, however, I would take a week to fulfill my vow to God to go to Mississippi.  A group from our church would soon be going again to help for a week, and I signed up to go.  My friend Shannon from our church group had already quit his job to go down indefinitely.

When I went down, we all worked very hard.  The devastation was great even several months after the disaster, and the need of people tugged on my heart.  I had planned on moving to South Dakota in another couple of weeks for ministry there, but I ended up taking a longer detour to help with the immediate needs on the Gulf Coast.  The parable of the Good Samaritan came to my mind…how could I pass by the desperate need here to go on to another “call of God”?

I spent half a year serving with awesome people, hundreds coming in every week from all over the United States to help, some there for a little longer than others, and all bringing a lot of hope to a largely devastated group of hurricane survivors.  We gutted, repaired, painted, dry walled and roofed houses and reminded people of the goodness of God.

Is there a need in this world that is knocking on the door of your heart?  Don’t be afraid of its size.  Dream big and don’t despise small starts.  Just do something toward meeting that need.  Answering phones was not how I had envisioned helping, but it planted a seed.  That was the beginning toward doing what was on my heart to do, though the problem of how to get there seemed insurmountable.

A little step can lead to another, and another, until you are actually making an impact on the world around you in the way that you had dreamed.  And others will follow.  The breakthrough you bring will bring others around you who can go beyond that door you’ve pushed through.  Pastor Ian’s connection to the disaster relief in Mississippi brought Shannon through that door– he stayed there helping in disaster relief efforts for a long time.  Eventually Ian’s efforts brought me through as well, not to mention many, many other members of the church who were able to tangibly help bring healing to a hurting place.

In the book of Zechariah, chapter 4 (of the Bible), the prophet Zechariah has a God-given vision of what was happening in the spiritual realms in Jerusalem.  In reality their city was in devastation– they had returned from captivity to rebuild what had been great once and now stood in ruins.  Their leader, Zerubbabel, had laid the foundation of the temple in Jerusalem, but people were feeling overwhelmed with the task ahead.  Could it even be done?  Would what they could do even make a difference in Jerusalem and to the temple?  Then an angel asked Zechariah “Who despises the day of small things?”  Were they despising the little bit they had begun? Possibly—it is easy to do!  God encouraged them; the temple would be rebuilt–even in Zerubabbel’s life time.

How would that happen?  “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty.”  And that is for us, too.  How will we ever accomplish bringing change for good to this world when so much is against us?  Not by might, nor by power.  Just by the Mighty Spirit of our Great God.  That’s all.  Don’t despise the day of small things.

 

–Maureen Silveyra

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The Importance of Favor

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“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” Luke 2:52

What a thought–Jesus growing in favor with God. Did he not already have that from the beginning? Where does favor come from and what does it mean?

I do not think you can take favor away from the idea of relationship. To favor someone is to trust them—to trust their judgment, to trust their character, and most importantly, to trust them with the things you regard as important.

Let’s take a parental look at favor. I have three children, all of whom I love very much. Whether they obey me, are nice, or make good choices or not, I will always love them. However, if one of my children was trustworthy in what I believed was right, made consistently good choices, and cared about what was on my heart—they would find special favor. They might not necessarily find more love. But I could trust them to walk out their lives confident that their choices would be good for them, our family, and others. I could trust them with things of value to me like passwords, keys, maybe eventually bank accounts when I grow very old.

The more I could see their heart was for me and that they had wisdom in these different areas, the more they would have access to my sacred things and have more influence over me. Also, as I trusted them more, they could ask for bigger and bigger things, and I would say “yes” more to these requests because I could trust they would not misuse it.

So, as Jesus grew, he must have proved to God his trustworthiness in human form over the things on God’s heart. And God gave him more influence.

If Jesus needed God’s favor, shouldn’t we seek this as well?  If we have the heart after God our father, wouldn’t we show ourselves trustworthy?  Might he consider our prayers more heavily?

My older son had been asking for his own computer for a long while. As we considered this request, our answer had been “No.”. Why? It was because of his disobedience at that time in a related area. We did not trust him to handle this freedom of having his own computer because he had not yet shown value for our hearts in this, nor had he shown us self-control. Would we ever consider saying “Yes”? We would if we could trust what he would do.

When we pray for thing and ask for things from the Lord, why would he listen and grant our request if we would be untrustworthy with it, or if we did not have his heart in the matter? This is just something to consider. If we were obedient to all that mattered to him, would we find a place of more influence over his heart?

Certainly we would find ourselves in a place to receive greater responsibilities and gifts.  Jesus’ mother Mary found favor with God—enough that he entrusted his Son, the Savior of the world to her care. King David, a man after God’s own heart received kingship over God’s people and a promise that his line would always have a king on the throne. But just having a heart after our heavenly Father or an earthly parent doesn’t automatically mean our requests are granted.

Even if my 2 ½ year old son had my heart for things and was trustworthy and obedient, I still would not give him the keys for my car and let him try to drive it. He has asked me and he has the desire…what is missing? Wisdom and skill (and legality, too). He doesn’t yet have the wisdom and experience to safely use the car even though he might be the most obedient son in the world…which he is not, yet!

“For whoever finds me [wisdom] finds life and receives favor from the LORD” Psalm 8:35 NIV

Along with having God’s heart and being obedient, our wisdom also helps to bring us into the LORD’s favor.  It is interesting to look back at the Luke 2:51-52 verses about the boy Jesus growing in favor with God and man. It connects his obedience to Mary and Joseph after they found him in the temple with growing in wisdom and stature and favor with the LORD.

Let us take Jesus’ example and be children after God’s heart. Let us grow in wisdom so we can be trusted with the “valuable things” of God. Let’s be obedient to his commands so he can trust our actions and see our love for him.  Lord, may we find favor with You.

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Keep It From Falling

“He is Lord, let him do what is good in his eyes,” said Eli.

Doesn’t this seem like a good response to what the Lord says?

Eli was priest over Israel before the kingdom was established and when judges ruled over the nation. We perhaps only hear about his story because his life intersects with a young boy named Samuel, whom God set aside as a prophet, and one of the most influential people in Israel’s history. Eli was ministering in the house of God when Samuel was given by his mother to stay and minister for all of his life before the Lord, and Eli raises and shapes the life of this young man as well as having raised his own sons who served before the Lord.

You might think that, with the same person raising them, Samuel and Eli’s sons would have had a similar regard for the Lord, but that was not the case. Eli received a prophetic warning that his sons would die for their great sin before the Lord, and that his family line would not continue to prosper. After this warning, God gave another warning to Eli—this time through the boy Samuel.

Even after a second warning, there was no repentance from Eli in the matter, and no recorded discussion Eli had with his sons. Eli seemed only to fear the people and not God. (Eli’s only rebuke to his sons came after he heard what people were saying about them, not after what God had said!) Eli’s response to Samuel’s revelation of God’s heart and of the upcoming disaster of his family’s lives was,

“He is Lord, let him do what is good in his eyes,” said Eli.

Though this may seem like a godly response to the Word of the Lord since it does regard the Lord’s sovereignty, it lacks any sort of response or responsibility to what the Lord says. There is a verse in the New Testament that says in James 1: 22-25,

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.   (NIV)

Eli had a mirror placed before him, saw the sin, and then failed to respond to what he saw. His response recognized God’s sovereignty, but he did not honor the Lord by responding!

To put it into an every-day context, I have told my kids that there was a big mess in the living room, and if they didn’t clean it up, they would not receive their full allowance. But what do I really want them to do? Do I want them to fail? Of course I don’t. I want them to clean up the mess and receive their full allowance. I don’t desire their punishment. Neither does God. I believe God just wanted them to clean up the mess of sin.

So, if Eli’s response was not the best way to handle God’s rebuke, what IS a good response to the word of the Lord? Well, let us look at another man who received a rebuke and a judgment from the Lord. King David was known as a man after God’s heart, but he, too, sinned in a way that brought devastation to others. What was his response to the Lord’s correction? On both of the occasions, when he was confronted with the sin, he repented before the Lord, and begged, prayed and fasted humbly for God’s mercy on those whom his sin was affecting. No matter what God’s response was to his pleas, he took God’s words very seriously, and did not let the prophetic words from God he received fall to the ground. He did not look just to his own fate, but loved those around him enough to ask God for mercy on them, unlike Eli.

David’s adultery with Bathsheba was one of those instances. David had sinned, and then seemingly went on with his life, unaware of God’s grievance against him until the prophet Nathan came and gave David God’s words of rebuke and judgment on the sin. The word was that the son born to David would die because of this. David looked into the “mirror” of God’s word and saw himself as God saw him, and David repented. It was a very similar word as what Eli had been given about his sons, and yet the response was so different. David fasted and prayed up until the time that his son died in hope that God would change his mind. David showed concern for the next generation, and fear of the Lord. In another instance where God judged David for a sin, when David repented, God did take action in showing mercy. No matter what the outcome, God wants us to be changed when he gives a rebuke.

Eli’s response is similar to King Hezekiah’s, when the prophet Isaiah told him that everything in his palace and some of his own descendants would be taken away to Babylon because of his sin. Hezekiah’s response was like Eli’s, “The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,” and it goes on to tell why he responded that way: “for he thought, ‘will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?” Did this response take any responsibility for HIS actions? Did it look to the well-being of others around him? And though Hezekiah had walked most of his life in good relationship to God, he grew lazy toward the word of God at the end of his life.

God’s rebukes are not a bad thing.

Hebrews 12:5-6 says, “My (child), do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and punishes everyone he accepts as a (child). It is too much work to discipline those you do not care about. I put effort into my children, because I want to see them grow to have good character, and sometimes this requires rebuke. I take time to discipline them because I love them and care about who they are to become. Do not be discouraged by the Lord’s correction. This is how we grow to be like Him.

How does the word of God come to us? Is it always a rebuke? No! I believe God would rather be talking to us about his plans and what he is doing, not having to correct us. But remember, we will always be corrected as long as we are children of God.

The next sentence in the Bible after Eli said his final remarks of “He is the Lord, let him do what is good in his eyes”, the bible says in contrast that Samuel, however, feared the Lord and “didn’t let any of his words fall to the ground.” Samuel loved the Lord and knew that what God said was precious. He treated what God told him with honor and respect. Samuel walked with the Lord and obeyed him so that the Lord trusted him with many important tasks that were to be done in this important time in the history of Israel. Because of Samuel’s obedience to the Lord, Saul was established as first king over Israel, and then later, David was anointed by Samuel to be king. Samuel had to give some difficult words to individuals and to people of Israel, but he had the joy of a close walk with the Lord, an the opportunity to be in the middle of what God was doing.

Don’t we want to be there too? So let’s look at the words that God gives us, and make certain that we, like Samuel, do not let God’s words fall to the ground.

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Be Visionful

BE VISION-FUL  

“Where there is no vision, the people perish; but he that keepeth the law, happy is he”

Proverbs 29:18  21st Century King James Version

“If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.” 

–Proverbs 29:18  The Message

What is vision?  Vision can be seeing ahead to some future time, sometimes by imagination, sometimes by logic, and at other times vision is a God-given thing.  So much of the Bible was written down because God had given people some vision or promise of their future, the future of Israel or the future of the world.  That is what God is up to—showing us where to go and  what he is going to do–something to hold on to in the middle of the confusion of the world around us—vision for His plans.

In one of our often-told Old Testament stories, a young man of seventeen, named Joseph had a dream.  He was given a vision by God that Joseph and his brothers were binding sheaves of grain in the field when suddenly his sheave stood straight up, and his brother’s sheaves bowed down around it.  He had a second dream that the sun, moon and eleven stars were bowing down to him.  These dreams were God-given, about a future time when God would raise up Joseph to power over the nation of Egypt as well as over his brothers and family.

Joseph believed these visions, so he did not lose sight of God’s plans in the middle of the circumstances around him.  Even at the beginning, Joseph’s dreams were not based in the reality of what he saw around him.  He was one of the least of his brothers (the second youngest), and would not naturally have authority.  They were nomadic, and were not a settled people of influence.  How could his dream be true?  It was not based in the natural.

And yet he did hold on to the visions God had given.  He did not lose sight of it in the middle of the circumstances around him.  How do we know that?   Joseph did not let go of the vision he received from God, or he would not have continued to be righteous while the world set him up to fail.   Joseph’s family—those closest to him—brought his greatest opposition and his betrayal into slavery.  Then, after being sold as a slave, and working well for his new master and gaining his owner’s favor, Joseph was wrongly jailed by his this man for his master’s wife’s false accusation of rape.  If Joseph had lost sight of God’s vision, he would have given up hope and living righteously, since it had only gotten him in trouble so far, but he did not.  God does not care about people’s plans, he makes even the things meant for destruction into something he can use to bless the righteous person.  God even used what Joseph’s brothers meant for destruction to bless them through their brother!

Things do not always look like we think they should when we are in His will, but, as Romans 8:28 assures us,

“…we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

God fulfilled the vision he gave Joseph that one day he would rule over his brothers and parents and the land when Pharaoh, ruler of Egypt gave favor to Joseph, and made him second to Pharaoh in Egypt.   God fulfills his purposes despite how circumstances may look.  Remember Proverbs 29?

Joseph had vision and kept God’s law until the vision was fulfilled. Vision requires tenacity and godliness.

What is the vision God has given here?  We are blessed with the problem of many people who want to follow the Lord and a small building in which to do it.  What happens when we have so many capable members of the body of Christ ready to serve?  It is time to commission them to move out like the apostle Paul did, into the world, and reach even more people with the awesome love of God so that all people here can be empowered to do what the Lord has called them to do.

We can choose to stay comfortable, but that is rarely where God wants us to be.  I can think of no heroes from the Bible who made comfortable decisions.  Vision requires faith that God will do what we cannot entirely see.  There is little faith needed when we are comfortable.  The joy comes when we press into the excitement of the unknown—which can sometimes be a little scary; it is then that we get to see what God is capable of.  Rarely did God show his strength or miracles when people were comfortable…

Let us look at the apostle Paul.  It is ironic, in a way, that he is known for his visions from God, because he began having no sight of what God was doing at the time.

Paul began with knowledge of God—he was well trained in the word of God—and a zeal for God as well.  He was so zealous, that he was ready to persecute and have killed those who were following what God was doing—those who had the vision of what God was doing in that time—those following Jesus.  But Paul lacked God’s vision despite how religious he was and how well-intended were his motives.  God had to take away Paul’s physical vision when God encountered him in a blinding light on the road to Damascus, so that he could see with his spiritual eyes what God was doing.

After God gave him new vision (spiritually and physically),Paul was ready to be zealous for God’s true purposes.  This would not come easy.  God assured Ananias, the man who prayed for Paul’s vision to return, that Paul would suffer for his faith, and he certainly did.  But Paul had the joy of the vision set before him—that God wanted him to bring the good news to people who had not heard.  Seeing things through the eyes of God is so rewarding! Paul and his friends took joy even when persecuted because they could see that God was working and bringing people into the kingdom…what excitement and what a treasure!

Paul was commissioned by God to bring people into the kingdom, and then establish groups of believers who would gather together.  He would empower them to be who they were called to be, calling out their gifts God had given them, not to be used purposelessly, as they had done before, but to use them for the kingdom of God, together as a body of Christ, all different parts—different giftings that needed each other.

A church can rely too much on their pastor to do all the different jobs and make the church happen.  That is not God’s intent, however.  The pastor is to pray and give the church the heartbeat of what God is doing and pump this blood to the parts of the body that is the church (as Acts 6:4 implies as the apostles passed on work to others so that they could “give their attention to prayer and the ministry of the word,” and we, together, fulfill the vision of God by serving in the areas which God has gifted us in service, teaching, sharing, administration, the arts, etc.  When we each take part in this, we are a healthy body of Christ, and have the joy of seeing God’s vision fulfilled.

I Corinthians 12 is a chapter where Paul describes the church as the body of Christ. When we are not doing our part, the body is not healthy, because its liver is not doing its part and the left leg may be waiting for someone else to be the left leg and the person filling in that void is really an eye.  And maybe the ear is trying to be both the foot and the lungs since the foot and lungs have not stepped up to the plate.  Do what God has called YOU to do.

the people who had visions from the Lord. Israel might not have seen it themselves, but they knew the character of those who told them what God was up to.  Even Paul and Peter were given visions that the other apostles had to trust, but the apostles did so since they knew the characters of these men.  What counts is that we hold on tightly the vision God sets.

“If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.” 

–Proverbs 29:18  The Message

Jesus said “blessed are those who do not see and still believe”

Let us choose to be blessed.  You may be one who sees the vision of this church plant or you may not be seeing it with your own eyes, but only relying on those here who do see the vision.  Let us step out in faith, and trust that God is calling this body to plant a new ministry.  We may not have the vision ourselves, but we know the character of those who see it and believe it is a vision from the Lord.  When we follow the Lord in faith, it does not mean we will not have difficulty—likely we will find much opposition as both Joseph and Paul did, but it means we will see the fruit of what God is doing in a very special way, and the joy of partnering in God’s kingdom work.  Let’s keep the vision before us, because, as Proverbs 29:18 says “those who attend to what he reveals…they are most blessed.”

Let us be most blessed!

Lord, God, give us Your vision for this place, for our lives and for each other.  We release to You our love for what we know and are familiar with, to grab on to Your awesome plans.  AMEN!

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The High Calling of Waste Management

I heard a loud crash of metal, and looked up to find the origin of this unpleasant noise.  I scoped out my surrounding to find that there was a garbage truck, emptying the dumpster from a nearby business into the large garbage truck, but it was losing a lot of garbage as it was doing its work, and making a very big mess in the process of cleaning up the garbage of others.

A reality hit me here.  We often do the same thing with the messes in the lives of people around us.  People do things that hurt us or they live a destructive life that does harm to others.  Likely we, ourselves, have hurt others and done things that brought destruction to others lives to differing degrees…after all, that is what sin is, and we are “all sinners.”

But what happens when someone asks for forgiveness, maybe cleans up their act, gets their life straight, starts making healthy and not destructive choices?  Well, in essence, they have picked up their trash, and have put it in the dumpster, for removal.

But what happens next is what I began pondering.  Like the garbage worker, we may facilitate taking out other people’s trash–especially if we are in ministry in the church in any way.  Did you know the job as garbage disposer is an important one?  This may not seem like a great responsibility, but it is.  It is in how we deal with the garbage, that we either make a big mess out of it for others, or we neatly assist in bringing the trash to where it belongs in the first place.

I Corinthians addresses the sexual sin of one of the members of the fellowship, and essentially says that that sin needs to be “cleaned up.”  The Apostle Paul said that the church needed to “expel the immoral brother” from the fellowship.  The church was being affected by the garbage of sin within the community.  But it would seem from 2 Corinthians, that the guy at fault here actually turned his life around and was grieved by his actions when the community of believers expelled him from their company.  So he had thrown his garbage in the dumpster, finally.  This believer had put it in the right place and was ready to get rid of sin in his life.

Now comes the reaction—this is where the trash workers come in.  The community of believers did not seem to know what to do with this response.  Paul had only told them to expel the man from their lives, but didn’t give them instructions about what should happen if he turned his life around.  Now what?  Do you keep on punishing someone?  Do you bring up their sin?  Do you treat them badly because of their past?  Do we continue to ignore someone after they have made things right?  How we deal with the sins of others is so very important.  This was the point at which they would decide if they would throw the trash of another man on the ground too, and dispose of the sin badly, or if they would totally and neatly pick up his mess and take it out of the town.

Paul said that a little bit of yeast works through the whole batch.  Unforgiveness is like that, too.  If we do not forgive when someone turns their hearts back to God’s standards and back to his people, then we are the ones that have a garbage problem now, not them.  We are making a mess out of the garbage that was taken to the right place in the first place.

What should our response be?  Paul let the Corinthians know the proper response.  He said, “If anyone has caused grief…the punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him.  Now, instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.  I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.” (2 Corinthians 2: 5-8 NIV)
Love is the right response in waste management.

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Well-Resourced

well-resoucedJesus was born into a humble situation. He was born in a shelter for animals as his family traveled to Joseph’s hometown for to pay taxes. When he grew up, his ministry was not run out of a temple as glorious as the one Solomon had built for God. Jesus had no church building or temple to call his own to shepherd his followers in. He chose to minister out of the fields, to have no home, to reach those who did not fit into the acceptable circles of the religious world. His ministry changed the lives of hundreds during his days of walking on the earth, and millions to this day.

How did he do it? He had little of monetary resources. How did he change the lives of so many?

He knew that the resources of heaven were His. His love, word and deeds changed the lives of those around him. He showed his disciples to do what he did. He lived ministry, and only needed what the Spirit could provide. We only need what he did.

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The Apostles’ Treasure

1 Corinthians 4:9-13

“For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena.  We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men.  We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ!  We are weak, but you are strong!  You are honored, we are dishonored!  To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless.  We work hard with our own hands.  When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly.  Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of this world.” (1)

I have questioned why, when coming back from a difficult missionary placement, I felt so beat down and small.  I expected that when I arrived back in my church, I would be warmly welcomed, perhaps asked about the work, my experiences, and what the Lord was doing there.  I was not, which left me feeling even more rejected than I had been.

It made me question if the only valid ministry in the eyes of the church was one that didn’t leave you poor and needy, cursed by people and disliked.  That is what it seemed.  The church I had been a member of for 8 years didn’t mention my ministry when I came back, even though they had sent me out in prayer, and I felt as though the church leadership was ashamed that I had been beaten down by it and was in need of healing.  I felt my weakness was deemed to disqualify the work that had been done.

Even during my time on the missions board at my church, I heard the believers say that a missionary’s poverty on his arrival back from the field was his own mismanagement of money.  Thankfully this was not about me, but I certainly took it to heart since I came back quite poor.  It was not considered that it was just the nature of serving people with all that one has, that one gives up much of earthly comfort.

That is why these 1 Corinthians chapter 4, verses seem so tremendous to me.  I had figured that the apostle Paul had the support of his churches and enough income not to struggle; or else he had enough faith that God would give him what he needed in great measure.  So…all was not easy for Paul and the other apostles.

It also seems in Paul’s letter, this great gap between apostles/missionaries, and the general church body has been present since the beginning of the church.   And that—even with the miracles God has provided for the church and the Apostles—they still didn’t live in abundance, and did struggle and face trials.  Real ministry does not necessarily look glorious to the world, or even the church, but it is the call of the apostle.

Even the prosperity philosophy of the church was present back then, as the Corinthians call themselves “kings” according to Paul.   There is truth that the Lord blesses his people.  But many people of the Lord didn’t prosper according to the world, and cannot be a standard to judge someone’s closeness with Jesus.  Even Jesus himself did not have any earthly prosperity, and yet he was walking in his calling.  God provided his needs.  He did not give him castles of gold on the earth during his first coming.

An apostle’s work requires him to give up much, to prosper God’s kingdom.  In a way, it is like the priests of the Old Testament, whose portion of wealth was in the Lord God, not earthly treasures.  This call is not a call for everyone, but it is for some, and it is important for the church to acknowledge and understand these few people who live a very different lifestyle for the kingdom of God.

And if you are a missionary or apostle, be encouraged that your struggles are not for nothing, but have been preceded by those who have walked in faith before you.  We do walk by faith and not by sight, and we also remind ourselves that the struggles on earth will not compare with what awaits us in our true home in the kingdom of our God.

(1)The Holy Bible, New International Version ®, 1973, AMG Publishers, Chattanooga, TN. Pp1335-1336

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