A Minister

Ephesians 3:7. “Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of His power.”

Paul understood that he had been given an incredible privilege by the grace of God; that his mission to take the gospel to the Gentiles was unique, and that he would be empowered to do that ministry through the grace of God.

I want to pause here to say a couple of things in regard to Paul. There are some who feel he gives himself too much credit, talks about himself too much; these same people tend to feel that he’s given too much credit for his epistles in the New Testament.

To the first complaint, I point to the many times Paul introduced himself as a servant of God, a prisoner of grace; he called himself the chiefest of sinners, and took no credit for the mission God had given him.

To the second complaint, personally, as I write these posts, I am fully aware that Paul was only the instrument, and God was the Author.  I think Paul knew it as well, and had no false pride.  In fact, I believe it humbled him that God had entrusted him with such a gift.

I don’t know how anyone can read his letters to the churches and to the people he loved and not see his compassion, his humility, and his lack of self-importance.

And I’m looking forward to meeting him in heaven.

Don’t take Anything With You!

Matthew 10:9-10. “Provide neither gold, nor sliver, nor brass in your purses, Nor scrip for your journy, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.”

As Jesus continued to give directions for this first mission of the disciples, He said  something that must have startled them:  “Don’t take money, don’t carry extra clothing, staves, or shoes.  Earn your keep.”

But wait!  How will we pay for our food, our lodging?  What if it rains and we get wet, and we have no dry clothing?  Really, Lord?  Shouldn’t we go out and raise support first?

And before you become offended, I’m not saying a single thing negative about the practice of raising support for missions.  I believe the churches should support their missionaries. So why was Jesus asking His disciples to go on this journey so unprepared, in terms of physical needs?

I believe there are two principles Jesus wanted His disciples to learn, and that can apply to us today, as well.

First, they themselves had received the message freely, and they were to give it the same way.  The Gospel is to be free, without money or price.  How often have churches, down through the centuries, paid for ministers, rented out pews, given fairs and dinners to raise money for the church—but overlooked the winning of souls to Christ!  Christianity should never be about entertainment to bring people (and their wallets) to church.  It should always be about bringing souls to Christ.

Second, going out with no provision whatsoever forced these men to depend wholly on the Lord, Who had sent them. Jesus wanted them to learn that He would always meet their need.  He did that through the people who heard the gospel of the Kingdom.

Later, we read in Luke 22:35, Jesus asked the disciples, “When I sent you out with nothing, did you lack for anything?”  And the disciples said, “No, Lord. Nothing.”

If God calls us to a task, He will always provide the way when we walk in simple dependence on Him.

I think we’ve lost sight of simplicity.  I was having a conversation the other day, remembering some of the youth banquets that were given years ago.  The people who were involved remembered going to area grocery stores and asking for the decorations that were being taken down and replaced with new promotional materials.  They came home with loads of useful, colorful things. They worked hard to set up all sorts of scenes, from a Hawaiian theme to an “under the sea” setting, all done with elbow grease and a lot of joy and laughter as they worked together.  The meals were prepared by volunteers, and they were delicious.  The after-activities were inexpensive and fun.

Today, we’re following the world’s example of having to go to luxury hotels for dinner, arriving in limousines, and traveling to expensive places for entertainment.  Nothing intrinsically wrong with that, but I have to ask: How has the “upgrade”  helped our young people to become more spiritually mature? How has it taught them to depend on God’s provision?

Seems to me the missions trips they take to third-world countries have a lot more to do with softening their hearts for God than the hundreds of dollars that are spend on a one-night banquet.

And now I’ll get off my soapbox.