Faith In Action - 1 Peter 4:1-11
If God wrote a want ad perhaps it would read like this:
Kingdom workers needed immediately. Urgency of task and shortage of workers makes it mandatory that we expand our labor pool immediately. Recent resignations have left many openings.
Frequent absenteeism will force us to make unwanted cutbacks in services unless we expand work force immediately. Ability not as essential as availability plus an excellent training manual is available. Training manual has been tried and proven over the past two thousands years.
We hire regardless of sex, race or age. Diverse backgrounds welcome and even helpful. In the past we have used peasants and poets, kings and fig pickers, fishermen and doctors, harlots and queens, young lads and wise old men.
Main qualifications: firm faith in Christ, a soft heart and a thick skin.
Work not suitable for everyone. Must be able to withstand criticism of fellow workers and shirkers who often insist on their rights while ignoring their responsibilities.
Jesus said, ""The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." (Mt. 9:37,38) What the church needs most are those who are willing to serve. There is plenty to do . . . . just not enough hands to do it.
God is not looking primarily for a church that has a lot of people . . . He is looking for those who not only hear the word but those who act on it. He is looking for a mobilized church. . . .a church where people serve each other out of love for Him. That's why this last element of our mission statement is so important. When we are equipping people to serve we not only expand our ability to minister, we bring glory to God.
Excuses for not being involved in Ministry
I've served my time
What would happen if parents took that approach with their children: "O.K. I've been this child's parent for ten years and I think I've done my part . . . .it's time for someone else to take over."? Obviously this kind of person would show that they did not understand the concept of parenthood. Once you become a parent you are always a parent. Your relationship with your children changes over time . . . but you never stop being a parent.
The same is true of the child of God. Jesus warned us: (Luke 9:62) "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." Jesus tells us plainly: if you don't plan to finish the job . . . don't start it. In Acts 20:24 Paul writes: " I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace."
O.K. here is the key question: When did Paul feel he had finished the race? At 65? When he had served for 5 years? 25? 40? No, it wasn't until he was on his deathbed that He wrote: (2 Tim. 4:7) "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." Paul didn't feel he was finished with his service until his life was over.
Christian service has no retirement age. It is a marathon run, not a sprint. A retired Christian worker is not only an oxymoron . . . it's sin.
I don't Know Enough
Do you realize that the most important pre-requisite to serving the Lord is a willing heart? Moses didn't feel qualified, but God used Him. Jeremiah felt he was too young, but God used Him. Saul felt unqualified to be King, but God used Him. He can use you, too.
Besides, the best way to learn is to do. People learn more by experience than by lectures.
We want to be a church that helps train you. We can provide Bible Studies, give personal counsel, and provide other types of leadership training. But first, there must be a willing heart.
I'm Too Busy
In Joshua 24:15 we read: "choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."
The same question is posed to all of us: who are you going to serve? I know you will say you want to serve God . . . but whatever is standing between you and ministering in His name, dare I say it? ---- has become your God.
Jesus said it plainly: Mt. 6:33 (NLT) "he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern." If you are too busy to serve . . . you are too busy.
I don't Want to Get Involved
First, it is important that those who are new to the church and are uncertain about their relationship with Christ understand something. It is o.k. to listen, to consider, to be uninvolved. Take your time . . . be sure . . . count the cost.
But for everyone who has declared their resolve to follow Christ I must say: "think carefully about what you are saying." When you come to Christ, you are coming with a willingness to follow . . . a willingness to serve. When you joined the church you promised before God and the rest of the congregation that you would "serve the Lord with your time, talent and substance." You may not have taken the promise seriously . . . .but God does.
And let me ask a simple question: What if God had taken that attitude with you? Or, What if those friends or relatives that introduced you to Jesus had adopted that attitude? You would be on the road to hell. Thank God, He DID get involved. I pray you will too.
What the Bible Says
Peter writes: "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. (11) If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ."
Everyone Has a Ministry (v.10)
Peter tells us that God has given every believer a ministry. Paul tells us the same thing in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12. The Biblical teaching is clear: we all have a place where God wants us to serve in a significant fashion. Everyone has a "spiritual gift" - an ability that equips us to serve God in a special way.
The gifts God gives are varied. Some are very public, some are not. All are significant. Paul likens our gifts to parts of a body. Each part is important. None can exist for long without the others.
The move toward more and more of a professional ministry is a move further and further from the Biblical truth. Ministry is not for "professionals" it is for disciples.
Our ministry is meant to enrich each other (v. 10)
I noticed a cartoon several years ago in Leadership magazine. It was portraying a Christian singer "ministering" at a piano. His words were rather indicative of our time:
"I'd like to share a song with you that the Lord gave me a year ago -- and even though he did give it to me, any reproduction of this song in any form without my written consent will constitute infringement of copyright law, which grants me the right to sue your pants off. Praise God...."
Ministry is not about US . . . . it's about Him. God has given us gifts so we might enrich each other and glorify Him.
Do you understand? The church is healthy to the degree that the people of the church are involved in ministry. When people sit on the sidelines the church becomes ill and handicapped. We need YOU.
God uses our area of ministry to extend His grace (v.10)
When we minister in some capacity we become channels of His grace. Our faithful service reveals God's grace to those around us. But, the converse is also true - when we fail to do what God has called us to do we restrict God's grace in our own lives and the lives of others.
We are called to serve with enthusiasm (v.11)
God has not called us to "do our duty" or to "get by". He calls us to excel. He calls us to do our best, to strive for excellence, to "give it all we've got".
We might not have great abilities. We may not have great opportunities. However, we can serve enthusiastically with what we have and where God has placed us. It was Moody who said: "I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And that which I can do, by the grace of God, I will do." With that simple commitment, God used him to bring revival to England and America
Peter says God will supply what we need. He also says our enthusiastic service will bring glory to the Father.
How Do I Know Where I Should Serve?
Let me give you three simple principles:
First, make sure you are part of the body. It is important that first things come first. You cannot serve until you have settled the issue of your personal relationship with Christ. Do not commit yourself to the church as an organization, my friend. Commit yourself to Christ. Come clean about your sin and rebellion. Receive the forgiveness he offers through the cross.
Second, determine your S.H.A.P.E. This tool for evaluation was developed by Saddleback Community Church and their Pastor Rick Warren. Each of us has a number of factors that figure into God's choice for our place of ministry.-
Spiritual Gifts. As you look through the Biblical list of spiritual gifts (Romans 12, ! Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4) do you see any gifts that sound like you?
Heart. What do you feel passionately about? Are you passionate about youth? About fellowship? About music in worship? What you care most about may very well point you in the direction where God wants you to minister. (BEWARE: not everyone feels as strongly about these things as you do.)
Abilities. What natural talents and abilities do you have: music, craftsmanship, writing, office skills? It is likely that God will use some of these.
Personality- Where you serve will depend somewhat on your personality. If you had a gift and heart for evangelism and were an extrovert you might be one going door to door to talk to people about the gospel. However, if you are an introvert then you would be better suited for one on one evangelism. You might be more comfortable organizing outreach events or working with publicity.
Education- this falls into several area: 1) you spiritual maturity. What do you know about the faith. 2) Your painful times. Some of the best skills you have are the ones you learned in the furnace. The most compassionate people are the ones who have been the recipients of compassion. . . or who have needed compassion and NOT received it. 3) your education what do you know how to do? What academic credentials do you have? 4) your ministry experience. What other ministries have you been involved with . . . and what did you learn.
Now when you get a clear picture of who you are . . . what your S.H.A.P.E. is, you have a much better focus of what God wants you to do. When you are in your area of ministry all these things will be in harmony. To serve in an area that is at odds with your heart, will leave you unfulfilled. To serve in an area outside of your personality will leave you frustrated.
That leads us to the third thing, experiment. The best way to know if a certain ministry is what you are called to is to give it a try. One of the things we want to do as a church is give you the freedom to Experiment. We want you to be free to try things, to dream, to reach. When you come in with an idea we'll let you run with it. And even if the project doesn't work, we will rejoice at your faithfulness in seeking to serve. Be bold, be daring, be persistent.
My yearning for our church is that we would progress through the five stages of our mission statement. My prayer is that we would reach many people with the Gospel, that we would provide a church family for them which will strengthen them and help them to dig deep roots. And finally that we would begin to act on what we are learning by serving the great Lord who has saved us.
My hope and prayer is that we would have a church full of people willing to dream. Wouldn't it be great to see people step forward and say they want to . . .
Expand the meals program for hospitalized . . . I'd say "go for it"
Develop a program to help those on a fixed income repair their homes . . ."I'd say, "Sounds good"
Begin a Radio ministry with all the tapes we have on hand . . . "I'd say, "Bless you"
Begin a ministry to our college aged youth by sending monthly packages . . I'd say "Great!"
Inform our community of our events and programs . . . I'd say, "Pass the Word!"
Form a Visitation Group to visit folks: in the hospitals, to invite newcomers over for lunch, to extend outreach to new members of our community, to visit with our shut-ins, to check up on those just returned from hospital. ...after wiping away a tear, I'd say, "may your tribe increase!"
Willing to plan and organize Mission trips . . . I'd say, "may God grant you success"
Willing to lead and play in a worship Orchestra . . . I'd say "May God work through you"
Willing to write for and perform Drama . . . I'd say, "May God give you creative insights"
Willing to write new songs for the Lord . . . .I'd say, "May the Lord put a melody in your heart."
Ask if they could take over the Extended Care monthly ministry . . . I'd say (after I regained consciousness) "I know God will use you."
Willing to form Support Groups (blended families, divorce, singles, parents) . . . I'd say, "Share God's compassion"
The most exciting part of this is that I know I haven't thought of even a small percentage of the things that God might want to do through you. Maybe your the one who will make a significant reduction in our church debt; or the one who will take our children's ministry to a new level; or the one who will open doors to people we weren't even aware of. Be willing to try . . . to serve....to reach. My promise to you: We will not shoot down your idea but give you the opportunity to try.
There is much that can be done. . . . We have to stop thinking like a church who's only concern is survival . . . . I don't want to merely survive ---- I want to change our community with the Gospel. I don't want to worry about balancing the budget . . . I want to worry about doing what is right and what is needed. I think you share these feelings.
I believe God wants us to be a community of the faithful characterized by G.R.A.C.E. He wants us to be a fully integrated, effective, growing, and mighty tool in His almighty hands. And by His leadership and grace . . .we will do so.