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Accepting Our God-given Role

May 9th, 2018

A maskil of the Sons of Korah. As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. (Psalm 42:1 NIV)

Psalm 42 is one of the most beloved of the psalms, and has been so for many generations. The inspired author, nameless though he be, depicted his own soul like the female deer in the wilderness whose thirst drove him to drink at the streams, even though the act endangered her, for that was where the predators lurked. The imagery describes the soul of the believer that longs endlessly for the satisfaction that comes only from knowing God, from worshiping Him, from communing with Him in prayer and devotion times. Wise is the person who knows that only communion with the Lord Himself satisfies the souls.

The backstory of this psalm is intriguing, however. It was a “maskil” or a type of psalm, song, or religious hymn, from the “Sons of Korah.” The Korahites were a clan of the Kohathites, one of the main branches of the Levites, and some of them had rebelled against Moses in the wilderness (Numbers 16). They were unhappy with the task that God had given them – detailed in Numbers 3:27-32. Every priest was a Levite, but not every Levite was a priest. The Kohathites were to care for the articles in the tabernacle – to transport them, to clean them, and to maintain them. It was humble but necessary work, yet they desired something bigger in their eyes, not an opportunity of service, but power and control.

Some Reubenites also joined them. Reubenites were descendants of Reuben the first born of Jacob’s twelve children. God had by-passed Reuben’s descendants in favor of Judah’s descendants – Judah was the fourth born. So the descendants of Reuben had reason, in their minds, to complain and rebel against leadership. Like the Kohathites they were not satisfied with inclusion in the family of Israel, but rather they lusted after prestige and dominance over others. They wanted position and respect over their kinsmen.

They are examples of all those in the family of God, among the believers, who have lusted for power and position and have been discontent with the roles and the places that God has given to them. James wrote, “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice” (James 3:16).

But somewhere along the historical timeline, there arose descendants of Korah with a different spirit, and this precious psalm came from them. The sons of Korah also wrote Psalm 84, with its memorable line: “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked” (Psalm 84:10). They had learned that the true treasure of their souls was not power or dominance over others, but the Lord Himself. It does not matter who among the people of God is set before the family of faith to teach, or lead in worship, or lead in decisions. It is all done for the glory of Christ and for the spiritual benefit of God’s people.

We misunderstand spiritual gifts. We think that the greater gifts of teaching and prophecy are given because God loves those who receive them more than those who have the lesser gifts. That is precisely backwards from the true reality. God’s gift of a pastor to the church is not because God loves pastors, but because He loves His people. God’s gifts to us are not because He loves us, but because He wishes to share His love with others through us.

Whatever God has called us to do is important; whatever role He has entrusted to us is a precious one. Some gifts are greater than others in terms of their strategic value to the church, but no Christian is greater than another Christian. Whatever gifts and opportunities He has given us, we should do it with all our hearts, sincerely as unto the Lord Himself. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” (Eccl. 9:10).  “Whatever you do, work at it with your whole being, for the Lord and not for men” (Col. 3:23). Whether we receive any recognition from others or not, so long as it honors God and blesses the work of Christ, this is all that matters.

 

Daily Devotions, Spiritual Leadership

The Call of Service

February 23rd, 2017

As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. (1 Timothy 1:3-7 ESV)

The Apostle Paul was clarifying for young Timothy the motivation of Christian service – and this applies to lay people and ministers alike, in fact, it applies to all that we do for Christ in our worship, devotion, service, behavior, obedience, prayer, witness, and lives. The motivation is to be nothing other than love for Christ that comes “from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

False motivations: For lay people and for ministers there can be many false motivations. Among many there is simply the motivation to appear intelligent or educated. Many people receive little respect at their work place or among their family and friends, so they seek respect in the church. They wish to appear wise before others. In the verse above we read about those who devoted themselves to myths, genealogies, and speculations. These had to do with the Gnostic heresy of the First Century church, that had speculated on a long mythological genealogy of Christ. It might be impressive for someone to be able to rattle off names of mythical (not biblical, like Matthew 1) names of fictitious beings, but this was not from God.

There are also motivations of financial rewards, but, honestly, these seem not to be so common because, frankly, there is not so much money in Christian work. That is not to say that there is none, however, and some, such as Marjoe Gortman, did find a way to manipulate people in the name of Jesus to give him a lot of money. But there are motivations for service in the name of Christ just for the sake of our old sinful nature, and not for the glory of the Lord. So, lust, pride, and every evil thing can come from anyone in church leadership who is there for nothing other than selfish ambition: “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice” (James 3:16 ESV).

And there are other inferior motivations: Some serve Christ and desire positions of leadership out of guilt or pressure from their parents. Some service Christ and in the church because they know how to do it and are simply comfortable in it.

It is important to recognize these false motivations because even when we are motivated by the truth, we might still receive some of these other “rewards” and desire them. But we should see them properly that the respect of others, the financial rewards, the affirmations of parents and others we respect, or the sense that we are involved in a good and noble work – none of these should be the reasons we serve, nor if they are taken away should they be the reasons we stop serving. I have known a number of people to quit the ministry simply because they did not receive the support of people that they thought they would receive.

True Motivations: The true motivation for service is love for Christ “that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” Paul in His first epistle to young Timothy did not dwell on the injustices of ministry for Christ, or even the difficulties that the minister will face from the hands of Christ’s people themselves, rather his focus was upon the grace of God that had been directed to Paul. He wrote: “But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:16 ESV).

Jesus said, “He who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47). And in the context the meaning was clearly laid out that the disciple who is aware of how great the Lord’s mercy and grace to him are, will love Christ the greater and will serve Him the more sincerely.

A sense of personal call is also an element of sincere motivation for service. It must be coupled with love for Christ, along with this sincere conscience and genuine faith. The call is the inner sense that God has spoken to us personally and called us to serve Him in the Ephesians 4 sense, as a pastor-teacher. The call should be confirmed by the body of Christ, and not just claimed when the body of Christ cannot see or sense evidence of the call.

An awareness that salvation is found in Jesus alone: Another true motivation is the confidence that Christ is the answer for the needs of the world, that salvation is found in Him. We are not the answer, but He is. It matters little or nothing for me to be recognized by others, but it matters greatly for Christ to be recognized. Paul called himself and the others who served with him stwards of the mysteries of God (1 Cor 4:1).

Christ calls us to be servants, stewards, bond-slaves, but He has also called us friends (John 15:15) and even His brothers (Rom. 8:28-29). These are the motivations for service. Whether we are respected, obeyed, followed, rewarded, or admired really means nothing. The only admiration a true disciple should long for are the words of Christ: “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord.”

1 Timothy, discipleship, Spiritual Leadership , ,