Archive for the 'Discipleship Leadership' Category

24
Feb
11

Don’t Grow Weary – Don’t Be Deceived

  

I was drawn to an article on an online job search and career advice website this week (The Ladders: http://www.theladders.com/career-advice/depression-making-unemployment-longer). The article was written by a Ms. Debra Donston-Miller, a writer and teacher, and the article’s title was what caught my attention: “Depression Is Making Unemployment Longer”. As one who has been prone to depression in the past, and given my current under-employed situation, I thought I’d give the article a once over. The subtitle really summed up her direction: Depression and anxiety create a destructive cycle for job seekers, making it harder to find a job. My first response to that was, “Duh!!!” With all apologies to Ms. Donston-Miller, God is way ahead of her on this issue.

I was preparing to give a brief devotion to a care group in our church that’s aimed at helping people who’ve recently lost their employment. The verse I was going to focus on was from Galatians 6:9 “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (All Biblical quotes in this piece are from the English Standard Version – ESV)

At first glance, I wondered what was promised to us in this verse. I came up with the basic thought that if we hang in there and fight off getting weary, we will experience a reward. But since it’s taken out of context, we really need to look at it in relation to the surrounding verses. For brevity’s sake, I started at verse 6 and took it through verse 10. I could have gone further, but this was to be a brief devotion.

Galatians 6:6-10

“One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

  

First, to establish some background, I looked at who wrote this entire letter, to whom and for what purpose: The letter was written by the apostle Paul, to Christ-followers in Galatia (northern Turkey) who were being influenced and coerced into adding legalistic requirements to their trust in Christ. Paul was combating the “Jesus plus X” heresy of outsiders who were trying to discredit him and his teaching. We need to add nothing to Christ; are salvation is by faith in Him alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Starting in verse 6, Paul tells us what we’re to do as we are taught, informed, or instructed, presumably in the Word of God (the article “the” makes what’s being taught something about Jesus or at the very least doctrine). We are to share good things with those teaching us. Good things are deeds of benefit. However the Greek root for the English word “share” used here is fellowship. It means to distribute, be partakers with, or communicate to others. So the sharing, like the teaching, can take an oral form. As I was addressing a care group that comes together to encourage and help each other find gainful employment, this seemed to fit the situation well.

In verse 7, Paul warns us not to be deceived, which our dictionary today defines as “to be false or cause someone to accept as true what is invalid or false.” Here again, a look at the Greek can be helpful. The word in the Greek means to go astray, err, or wander, as well as deceive. We are often responsible for, rather than being victims of, our own deception. As we seek employment, self-doubt is one of our biggest adversaries. We can be guilty of fooling ourselves. Paul links this with another cautionary statement that God is not mocked. Mocking is when someone makes fun of or belittles another’s words or actions. The Greek term means to turn the nose up at, disdain or ridicule. God is not ridiculed. The world is standing by as we struggle to find work, ridiculing our faith. We can be deceived into thinking that God is not working with us, even that our faith is in vain, leading to the despair and depression that was discussed in the article I referenced earlier. But God is not mocked: not by extremists seeking to captivate new Christ-followers in Galatia and not by those of us seeking employment in today’s difficult job market. We dare not ridicule God in our actions or demeanor as we seek work and deal with the frustrations that come with that endeavor. He is our God and He cares!

In verses 7 and 8, Paul goes on to illustrate a point using farming as the example. He specifically talks about sowing and reaping. Sowing is the act of scattering seed for the purpose of gaining a crop. If we were to watch a first century farmer sowing in his field we might be tempted to think he was engaged in a very haphazard endeavor. Yet that farmer knew the amount of seed to cast for the ground he’d be covering in order to eventually gain a harvest. He would then be able to eat the harvest and perhaps even sell some of it on the market in order to buy other supplies and necessities. The act of reaping is to harvest a crop after it has been planted and grown to maturity. Personal effort and time are required to achieve the desired end.

In his illustration, Paul compares ministry to farming, with a foreseen harvest as the goal. Paul is talking about ministry, not seeking work. However, the job seekers today in a very real way are casting the seeds of their resumes and applications, with the hope of reaping a harvest of employment. Both endeavors take patience and time to see a full result. Important to note though is Paul’s admonish not to sow to the flesh, but to the Spirit. Here, by flesh, Paul is referring to the physical body, without any interaction of the soul or spirit. The flesh is our human and earthly natures, with their weaknesses and desires, apart from God’s holy influence and therefore prone to sin. We are warned here to do nothing based solely on our own intellect, apart from God’s wisdom. The following two passages support this:

Colossians 3:16-17

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

 

Philippians 4:11-13

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

 

The Colossian passage is a simple admonition to apply Scripture to our daily lives. The Philippian passage reminds us that God’s Word teaches us to live in contentment in all circumstances. It’s worth repeating: We should do nothing based solely on our own intellect, uninformed by the Word of God. This applies to all aspects of our lives, but for the care group I addressed in process with their searches for employment it applies to how we go about seeking and responding to the offers or lack of offers for work. We may not be able to see the ultimate results if we were to get a particular job. We are merely seeking employment. God however sees the “big picture” and how that deferred job might influence us to waiver in our testimony or wander away from the faith. A hard blow for us now (not receiving the job) may be a blessing down the road as God is protecting us from those who might take advantage of us in these difficult times. Our best possible course of action is to rely on God and His will and wisdom in our lives.

As we come to my initial verse, Paul urges us not to grow weary. That can mean that we feel like we’re failing. We can begin to lose heart, feel weak, faint, fatigued, utterly spiritless, worn out, burnt out, exhausted, and/or discouraged (Hello, Ms Donston-Miller! This is what you’re article is addressing). God, in His all-knowing wisdom, sees us seeking work, and knows that we are likely to grow weary. That state of mind will also begin to pull us away from the very things that will build us back up: fellowship with those of like faith, ministry that enriches others and our selves, times in personal devotion or worship of God. Paul’s inspired advice: don’t go there!

Finally in verse 10, Paul mentions three distinct groups that should employ and receive his advice:

  • We/us.” The first group is the author, the Galatians, you, and me; all of us who know Christ and serve Him. As opportunities come our way, even as we seek employment, we’re to continue to do good. This begs the question: To whom?

  • Everyone/all men.” This second group consists of people, whether or not they are Christ-followers. We are to take every opportunity to share the good things God is doing in our lives with everyone (1 Peter 3:15). After all, He has given you salvation, hasn’t He?

  •  “The house hold of faith.” Putting it simply, this third group is comprised of Christ-following believers, who belong or are related to us by family or relationship. We are encouraged to care for all our fellow men, but particularly those who trust Christ with us. What a beautiful illustration of the care group I was to address.

 

This brings us back to the question: Can we claim the promise of Galatians 6:9 today? Looking back over the contest, I think we can say, guardedly, yes, if we labor as well for the Gospel and our Lord. However, we do not have the right to dictate the time God, in His sovereignty, will fulfill that promise. Our job is to avoid growing weary or ceasing the good we can do (ministry, worship, witnessing, sharing the good things of God, etc.) as we have opportunity and as we continue the search for employment. And the good we do includes keeping our spirits up; joyous if you will. We serve a great and glorious God, who loves us and has given us the greatest gift in life. Our testimonies, particularly in times of trial and testing, can speak volumes of our faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

GB&G2U

27
Jan
09

Enthused to be Used

I am not one to use trite phrases (okay, not all the time), but one has become lodged in my thinking recently: the idea of being “enthused to be used by God.” This occurred to me as I was preparing a brief devotional study for a small group on the privileges we have in leading others to become disciples or followers of Jesus Christ (basically discipleship). My preparation led me to the book of Colossians.

 

To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 1:27-28 (NKJV)

 

I see a broader application of the statement “Him we preach…” in verse 28, that extends to any of us who are in a position to lead others into a closer walk with our Savior. We are privileged to preach Jesus Christ, and by “preach” I mean the simple public, visible, and demonstrable proclamation of the truth of the risen Lord. It must first be a public proclamation in that it does no one any good to attempt to proclaim Christ privately. For some it is a very real risk to publically express our belief in Jesus Christ, but a risk we are all called to take nonetheless.

 

The proclamation of our faith in Jesus Christ is to be visible. The New Testament writer James mark-of-the-christian2declares that “…faith without works is dead…” The watching world should see our Christianity, not just hear about it. Francis Schaeffer * hints of this in his work “The Mark of the Christian.” Using passages in John 13, Schaeffer argues, “…We cannot expect the world to believe that the Father sent the Son, that Jesus’ claims are true, and that Christianity is true, unless the world sees some reality of the oneness of true Christians…” Not just hear about it, but see it.

 

The proclamation of our faith is to be demonstrable; illustrating, explaining, and making clear the evidence of our faith in a very real and very personal Savior. sfofa1You may have noticed I have purposely left any verbal component to these ideas. We tend to think of preaching and proclaiming our faith in terms of what we say, like reciting the correct formula. In this case, I like the old axiom attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi that says, “Preach the Gospel at all times…if necessary use words!”

 

Furthermore, we are privileged to warn every man (woman and child). I see this as more than advising someone of danger, but the delivery of encouraging counsel. When I looked up what it means to warn someone, I found it to mean putting something in the mind of another. To those who put their trust in us, we are to deliver wise counsel and encouragement in all areas of their walk with our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

We are privileged to teach everyone, which is dialogue and discussion with others for the purpose of instructing them. Beyond the dialogue depicted here, I also think of our behavior as teachers, both before and away from those we disciple. As a teacher, I not only have the privilege of sharing what Jesus did (His history) with those I disciple, but also of demonstrating in my daily life how, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, we are enabled to live a more Christ-like life (living out our theology). We are privileged to teach, not just with words, but with actions.

 

Finally, we have the privilege of seeing those we disciple ultimately “perfect” in Jesus Christ. Not without flaws, for we will never be in that state until we are before our Lord in glory (and yet that too is hinted at here). Perfect in that we are all coming into full maturity, both in integrity and virtue, and becoming more Christ-like in word, thought, and deed.

 

It was here, as I reviewed these two verses, that I my enthusiasm was kindled. I realized as I engage in the discipleship of others for Christ, I should be very enthused by all these privileges. And enthusiasm is a most fitting description. In both verses studied here, Paul uses similar phrases; “in Christ” and “Christ in you…” The root word for enthusiasm comes from a combination of two Greek words: En + Theos, meaning God Within, God inspired. That Christ is in me and that I am being perfected and brought to maturity in Him should result in enthusiasm that overflows about being used by God. I am enthused because of the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit. I am enthused to be trusted by my Lord to disciple others to follow Him. In short, I am enthused to be used by God.

 

What makes you enthusiastic?

 

What privileges of ministering for Jesus Christ have you been given?

 

Do you approach those opportunities to minister enthusiastically?

 

Does what you say, what you do, and how you do it proclaim the faith of someone who has Christ within them?

 

God Bless & Grace 2 U

 

church-at-the-end-of-the-20th-century* Regarding the Francis Schaeffer quote, it is extracted from an appendix of a larger work noted here: Francis Schaeffer, The World At The End Of The 20th Century, (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press) 1970, pgs. 138-139. 

 




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