"And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God Who loved me and gave Himself for me." Galatians chapter 2, verse 20.
THERE are times when the mystery of life and being overwhelms me. Why was I born? Any one of us may wonder whether we have as physical beings a place in the mind of God. I become more amazed when I try to plumb the mystery of myself. The generations that have preceded each one of us, the persons who produced persons until at last you and I arrive. I found no answer to that until I rejoiced with some measure of understanding in Christ my Saviour. The natural precedes the spiritual, the spiritual is the crown of the natural. Whatever of chance or caprice there may be in my existence and in the nature of my being, there is none in my spiritual birth which is of God. If I am a child of God it is because God loved me and if love is the end it must be the beginning. Everything in God is consistent and wherever the full light of love falls across my pathway I may know, sunshine or shadow, it is love all the way. The love of God is a wonderful love; for it is all inclusive. Because God loves you intensely, it does not mean He loves me less.
Even parents find it difficult to love all their children in the same way and to the same degree. And if they do, their children are doubtful of their success, but the love of God is sealed to me in the blood of Christ. While Christ died for the world we must always remember He died for individuals and it is with individuals that He is concerned. Now if the love of God is the secret of our being and of our redemption, it means that God has in love a purpose in and through each one of us. Remember the important facts that touch you as a Christian. The rebel will has been submitted to Him, sin has been forgiven, your human spirit dead in sin has been quickened, the Holy Spirit lives within you, Jesus is your Advocate in heaven. Surely that means that God has a purpose in and through you!
It is a grave omission to fail to recognise this basic fact at the beginning of your Christian life; for the Holy Spirit has been given to you in order that He may live through you, as He did through Jesus, the perfect will of God. What a blessed thing it would be if He had in us the spirit of perfect obedience that He has in Jesus! Nevertheless God Who gave us of His Spirit, knows us altogether, and there can be the triumph of His will in us, if not to the same perfection, at least in some degree. And it is the triumph of His will, as the Spirit can take up our whole personality for the furtherance of the purpose of God, that is our particular Christian service, and really makes our life for Him.
Christian service does not depend on office. Very often the Christian in fulfilling the will of God, finds himself appointed to some office but that is incidental and not essential. If I am in the will of God the possibilities of the office will be enlarged to the capacity of my obedience to God. If on the other hand I have taken office in any degree for itself, the office will Iimit my absolute obedience to God and therefore MY usefulness. I am not to take an office because others ask me, I am not to take it because there appears to be nobody else available and certainly not because I think I am the only one who can really do the work properly. If I step in at others' request or because of my opinion of myself I may be the tool of Satan to keep the right man out! The devil always quickly makes use of any motive in our hearts other than the pure desire to glorify God and to please Him. The proper course is to tell the Lord Jesus every morning and as often as you can through the day: "Lord, I am nothing, Thou art everything ". Get the balance of that thought (and it will need time for reflection) for that is the secret of blessed usefulness.
Nor am I to undertake service because I see a need. If we thought only of need we should probably never move 500 miles from our Church. Certainly nobody would ever get to China or Peru. The need is worldwide but your duty and mine is specific within the universal need. If we are continually influenced by need we shall become spiritual gipsies. The need is everywhere, and somewhere in the everywhere there is a service for every believer. No believer has yet been appointed nowhere to do nothing ! Hence as he makes the will of God his supreme concern he will be surely led step by step in progressive usefulness. Meeting a need as God intended, and himself being graciously renewed continually as the task to which God appointed him is fulfilled. If this is definitely determined in the heart then there will be given certain distinct conclusions. He will not surrender the task, no matter what may be the insults, obloquy, opposition, ingratitude displayed by others. A soldier must not desert his post simply because it is not quite as comfortable as he desired. The more the enemy is stalking through the undergrowth to secure his death the more faithful he must be. Better to die than to desert!
But if you take up a task without the imprimatur of the Spirit upon your commission, if you undertake it with any motive of self, then be sure the devil will either leave you in it because you are useless, or load you down with disappointments to depress until you give up, possibly never to be active again. On the other hand, once I have the Divine commission I shall never think of myself in it for life but just as long as the Lord desires me. I shall be as willing to step aside from the work as I was to step into it. I shall recognise that He may want me there for a time until some other, better qualified than myself is ready and if another must increase while I decrease that is entirely in the wisdom of the Lord and my heart will be at rest. Actual ability will be a side issue. Our little bit of ability or inability is a trifling matter, but how the Lord covets our hearts, our wills and our obedience!
We shall also cease to be temperamental in service or indeed in any other direction. It is of the first importance to recognise that in all vital service for God there is bound to be much that will try and test, hurt and wound, exhaust and cast down. If we do not get past the temperamental stage, if what we do we do because we are so disposed then whatever others may think, or we may think, the service we render will lack the spiritual fruitfulness that God longs to see crowning our labours. Calvary teaches that in every life there must be discipline and pain in the fulfilment of the worthwhile purpose of God in the life.
Then so far as we can see in the New Testament the service of the believer is centred in, and radiates out from the local church. It is the church that sends forth to service. It may well be that no believer has any right to enter upon a service the sense and validity of which is not also apparent to the local assembly to which he belongs. Where we find our fellowship there he should receive the inspiration to service. The life of the believer is bound up in the local Church as being part of the larger entity. There does not appear to be any evidence of believers worshipping in one fellowship and working in another. Where we worship, there we should serve, and the individual service should emerge out of the corporate worship.
In this way also we should recognise that every believer without exception is to be useful. To some may be given special ministry of prayer, to others of personal testimony. Yet again some may have the gift of utterance while others may be endowed with grace and ability for personal dealing but all are to be useful. The common illusion that professing Christians may attend the worship on a Sunday, once or occasionally, and then resort to a life for the rest of the time bereft of Christian service may be very convenient but it is a complete denial of the grace of God. With these thoughts in our mind we may contemplate our service. If it is in our heart to be obedient, to be just what He wants us to be, where and when, then we may be confident that He will surely lead. It may well be that the first real call to service will be very insignificant. It will have no glow about it, may seem indeed the sort of service anybody could render. Hardly of the standard suitable for ourselves, but you will remember that our Lord Who now exercises supreme authority in heaven was apprenticed, if I may say so, by tasks that took Him lower and lower.
Great tasks require great humility for their effective discharge in the eyes of God and some humbling process is essential. Hence, as obedient servants, we should be ready for whatsoever the Lord may appoint. This line of introduction shall deliver us from the deception of publicity. How easily we may assume that the value and vitality-of service is in ratio to its publicity! It may be well to know that wherever a true work of God is required of anybody in the comparative blaze of publicity, special Divine provisions are made to keep the heart from pride. Those provisions are not usually seen by the unthinking, who are obsessed with the glamour of publicity. In any event the only way we can please God is by being willing to be and to do what He requires. If we must decrease while another increases then, this being the Lord's will it must be ours and ours not merely submissively because we cannot help it, but ours with all our hearts because it is with all His heart and wisdom, too.
Service that means eternal blessing to others and renewal of life and energy to us, is that service into which the Spirit leads us, whatever its nature or notoriety. Once this truth is mastered and we are mastered by it we shall put our utmost into the lowliest task, as men call it; we shall not envy others who appear to be more greatly used, neither shall we be discouraged because we do not seem to receive the same expressions of human appreciation as others. It will really be our joy to do the Master's will and what joy that is! There is another important consideration. However difficult the task and no matter how apparently fruitless, we shall not be discouraged, at least not easily! Most of the real success of service lies hidden within the invisible. Sometimes indeed, we are called to service, the essence of which is not in success as men call it, but in faithfulness.
Jeremiah was a faithful servant of God but he was permitted to receive very little encouragement from men. He was called to speak a word to deaf ears and hard hearts so that men should be without excuse. He never saw scenes such as those on the Day of Pentecost, he never saw a city turned upside down with the Gospel but he did his duty, he discharged the task God wanted to be done. No doubt he was continually discouraged but as we survey his ministry to day we are amazed at his fidelity and courage. If, so far as we know, we are what God wants us to be, where God would have us be, and doing what He would have us do, there will be granted to us many inward renewals of life and grace from heaven which will carry us through. We shall also remember that by the Indwelling Spirit we are to do the "greater things" because Jesus has gone to the Father. Those greater things are partly hidden from us because probably we have no power of assessment; but we may trust the Lord concerning them and know with assurance that God is doing greater things in and through every truly obedient servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.
This leads us to see that obedience must be linked to faith. Our service, if it be the expression in our lives of His will, is to be rendered energetically, enthusiastically, humbly, fervently and with that sure confidence that every moment is counting in the purpose of God. Folk may discount us, we shall certainly be rejected in some directions, our pride will be searched out, we shall know ourselves to be nothing and may sometimes discover that others estimate us likewise; but obedience and faith are the watchwords of service. We are engaged where we are and in what we are, just because we honestly believe it to be not merely the Lord's permission but the Lord's appointment. We would as gladly give it up if it were His will, as continue; we would not give it up, no matter what our feelings, if we knew it was His will for us to carry on.
Well, then we may be certain that God will use it to fit in with His eternal purpose. We may not be a mouth speaking great things; we may be nothing more than a hair of the head but we are functioning in the will of the Lord and by the power of the Holy Spirit and that means service supreme. Does all this make very much difference? Paul in his first letter to the Corinthian Christians (1Cor:4:15)) speaks about teachers and fathers. There are some Christian workers who are teachers, but there are very few that are able to be fathers, who can be so used of God to bring forth children of life eternal. Perhaps that is the trouble in our churches now? God is wanting not merely those who can speak and declare the truth, but those who's every word and action is a vitalising power in the deeps of others. Impossible? Well it is, to those who are not interested in the ways of God; in the service that is the fulfilment of His will, but it is just the normal ministry of those who are His to do His will. Such you may be if in all your service you follow the gleam Divine and are not turned aside to your own devices.
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