I recently had to stop in the road because two little dogs had dashed into the street. One crossed the road, but the other got confused and was wandering. I prayed for the poor things, but then I realized what they’d been after and was floored.
A large dog was jogging beside a woman. He stayed right at her side, never seeming to even notice the little yapper that was chasing after him. He never broke stride, never looked away. He was doing EXACTLY what he’d been trained to do.
And he was carrying his own leash. Literally. He held it in his mouth as he jogged down the sidewalk beside a woman who obviously had total trust in him. And the two made me think.
In a sense, we’re all like that dog. God calls us to run along beside Him, but though He gives us a guide (the Word and the Spirit) that He could use as a leash to control us, He ultimately leaves the decisions up to us. What do we do? What do I do? Do I actively choose to walk faithfully beside Him, not turning to the right or left?
Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
Under his direction
These first three words are the key. We must submit to Him as part of His body, completely under His direction. If we won’t be under HIS direction, totally submitted to HIM, why do we call ourselves Christians? To be called a Christian is to be called Christ Like, and Jesus Christ was so completely submitted to His heavenly father that He willingly took the unimaginably horrendous path to the cross.
So, as we are under His direction…
the whole body
The whole body, every part of it, is “fitted together perfectly.”
is fitted together
This phrase is in the passive voice, which shows that it isn’t the body that is doing the fitting together. The “fitting together” is being done to the body by God. (I Corinthians 12:18, KJV But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased Him.)
When we are under His direction, allowing Him to fit us together—letting Him put us where He wants us instead of insisting on putting ourselves where we want to be—we will be fitted together perfectly.
as each part does
Every part of the body has work to do. If a part of the human body refuses to work, the whole body suffers. The same is true of Christ’s body. We are not just here to be. We are here to do. (Ephesians 2:10, KJV, For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.)
its own special work
God gives each of us work to do and we can either do that work or not do it. If we choose to do our work, we are free to choose whether to do it well or poorly. If we choose not to do our work, we are free to choose whether to do nothing or to do someone else’s work instead.
We’ve a world of choices and only one is acceptable—to do that special work that God has set aside specifically for us. To do anything else is to fail Him, the body, and ourselves.
This even holds true when we decide to do ‘extra’ work. While being faithful to our own special work, we might still have enough time that we choose to go help another part of the body as well. This can be a wonderful thing, but if we move against His direction, stepping out on our own accord, the whole body will suffer.
This is not to say a man cannot be active in more than one ministry. If God directs him to serve in multiple areas, God will also orchestrate his service. If, however, he chooses to serve in multiple ministries against God’s direction, he is asking for trouble to visit not only him, but every ministry he touches.
We each have our own special work to do and He expects us to do it and do it with excellence!
it helps the other parts grow
What a gift! Can anything greater be said of a man than that he helps others grow? No. Here is a promise, a result, worth working toward!
And, to consider this from the other side, if this member of Christ’s body chooses not to be under His direction, not to fit in his assigned spot perfectly, not to do the special work God has assigned specifically to him, then he will inevitably hinder the other parts in their growth.
How much better it is to do what we know to do and do it in the way God intends!
so that the whole body is healthy
This is one third of what should be our goal, and is God’s goal, for the body of Christ—that we as the body be healthy and growing and full of love.
Unfortunately, though many individual churches are healthy, this cannot be said of the church as a whole, at least not here in the United States. Many churches have experienced splits and too often church members are not surprised when they learn of other members’ immorality. One can also find church buildings for sale in this nation that are available for purchase not because the churches have grown too large for them, but rather because they’ve died.
Obviously, if the church as a whole is not healthy, it is also not growing. I was somewhat surprised at one point, though I wasn’t too very shocked, to hear my pastor say in a sermon that the church in the U.S. has not grown since the 1970s. If this is true, something is obviously wrong.
and full of love
This, perhaps, is the saddest thing of all. God is love; you would think that His church would necessarily be full of love, but in how many churches will you find no gossip, no murmuring, no backbiting, no complaining… If a church is truly full of love, there is no room for these things.
So we, the body, fail the test. We are not fitted together perfectly, with each part doing its own special work. Why?
Because too many of us have never learned the difference between being a volunteer and being a called out, chosen one—the difference between one who casually offers, “I’ll do it,” knowing he has the option of quitting later, and the one who answers the call of his Lord, fully prepared to do anything and everything he is told to do. If the church is to be healthy, to grow and to be full of love, we as individuals must grow up first, moving beyond “I’m only a volunteer!” and into “I am a called out child of God who will fulfill my destiny!”
Jesus often used illustrations a gardener could easily understand. In looking at volunteers it seems particularly appropriate to follow His example. So let’s imagine the life of a certain volunteer plant.
There was once a volunteer plant. Like all volunteer plants, it popped up in an unexpected location. Some animal carried a seed into a side yard and dropped it, and there it grew. When the gardener found it, he had to make some decisions.
Should he move it to the garden where it could grow as he’d intended and receive all the right care? No, the plant had set its roots firmly right where it was; it would not be shifted to a more appropriate location.
Would it be best for him to cut this plant down so that it would not hinder the growth of the plants he had selected specifically for this area? He did not like this idea at all, for it was a nice enough plant and there was some hope that it would bear decent fruit even here, where it wasn’t supposed to be.
So the gardener chose not to cut it down, but to watch and ensure that it did not too greatly hinder the growth of the plants around it. If it proved too much of a danger, if the fruit it might one day produce seemed not to be enough to outweigh the damage it could cause, he would remove it.
So it remained where it had planted itself, though the gardener was never fully happy and kept a cautious eye on it always. He watched as it grew. He watched as it flowered. He watched as it produced fruit. He watched as it died.
The gardener had managed to minimize the damage this volunteer plant did to its companions. He had also harvested the fruit it produced, though this fruit was disappointing when compared to the fruit of similar plants that flourished in the other part of his garden. The gardener was sad as he disposed of its dead remains and considered what this plant could have been, what fruit it would have produced and how much better off both sections of his yard would have been, if it had only put its roots down where it belonged.
The gardener, of course, is God. The volunteer plant is the Christian who is a mere volunteer, one who does not understand the call of God, one who chooses where he will go and how he will serve instead of letting God plant him in the proper spot and serving as God calls him.
A mere volunteer goes where he wishes to go, offers only such assistance as he is inclined to offer, and remains only as long as he wants to stay. He may choose to plant himself in the very place God would have put him, but if his heart is not right or if his chosen place of service is not what God has planned for him, there will be problems. He may be of some benefit in this area where he chooses to plant himself, but he will never be all God wants him to be.
The Christian who plants himself in a location other than the one God has chosen for him will have, and cause, special problems because he is not where God wants him to be—in that place set aside for him where he can do the special work God has already prepared for him to do. (Ephesians 4:16, KJV, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.) He cannot help this alternate location as well as one who is called to it, and it is entirely possible that his presence will eventually prove harmful—to himself, to those around him, perhaps to both. He may manage to live the entirety of his days in this one, wrong spot and he may be happy, but he will never be fulfilled because he will never become all God has ordained him to be. Worse, the body will never be all it is supposed to be, because he is out of place.
When you consider plants, there is really only one difference between a volunteer plant and a weed. The volunteer plant is a cultured plant, one that is designed to serve a purpose. God obviously doesn’t want weeds in His garden. He also doesn’t want His cultivated plants putting their roots down in places not of His choosing.
A volunteer, according to the dictionary, is one who enters into an activity of his own free will. A mere volunteer not only enters of his own free will, but retains the right to free will, the right to say, “You can’t expect me to do that; I’m only a volunteer!” He will work only as hard as he pleases, do only the jobs he chooses to do and stay only as long as it suits him. He persists in thinking that it’s all about him, when in reality it’s all about HIM.
And Elijah came to all the people, and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people answered him not a word.
Elijah is speaking to Israel here and theologians say Israel is a type and shadow of the church. It is not hard for me to see the modern day church in this chapter…and the seeing makes me tremble.
When God called Abram He did a new thing. Man loved to worship his gods – plural – and God was calling on this man to commit himself and his children to worship one God and only one God – Himself. Obviously, Abraham’s children failed to continue as they had been taught; it didn’t take long for them to do exactly as God had predicted (when He spoke with them before sending them on into Canaan), to turn after other gods and worship them.
Of course, Israel wanted to have it both ways. They wanted to have all of the benefits of serving God, but they also wanted freedom to serve the other gods they’d taken a liking to…even one called Molech, to whom they sacrificed their children. God, obviously, was not pleased.
Nor is God pleased today when we choose to serve other gods. They may not go by the names Baal and Molech, but they are here and we serve them. Yes, it’s been said time and again, perhaps so often that the hearers now roll their eyes and refuse to listen, but it is true – anything that has a higher priority in our lives than God does is a god. Be it money, work, children, baseball…whatever…if it draws me away from God (big G), then it has become my god (little g) and He says, “I will have no other gods before me.” In this chapter of I Kings it is only the prophets of Baal that pay the penalty, but the whole nation eventually paid by being cast out of their own country, taken into Babylon in captivity and scattered all over the world. How much more accountable are we, who have the potential for a relationship with God that they could only dream of?