A friend asked me to tell her, in one sentence, what God has been saying to me recently. The question caught me off guard because He’s been saying so much on so many different topics that, for a moment, I had to think. How to put it in one sentence?
Then I saw it. Other than the times He’s come to encourage me and help me through something, or to answer one of my myriad random questions, everything He’s said has ultimately been about me getting ready – ready to be used.
I’m not talking about being used as a speaker or writer, both of which I’ve done before and loved. I’m talking about being used every single day of my life.
I’m to stick close to Him, constantly listening for the Spirit’s whispered, “There. He needs help,” or, “Stop. She’s crying out for someone to listen.”
I’m to be prepared and able. For those two nudges, anyone could respond, but He’s calling me to more. I’m to truly grasp who and what He is in me and who and what I am in Him, to understand the authority I have as a believer when it comes to dealing with demonic activity.
I am to have His Word firmly planted in my heart, ready to be brought out and used as the Sword of the Spirit that it is. There are two important things about a sword. You cannot use it if you don’t have it (I’m talking memorization, not just carrying a Bible) and you can’t use it if you don’t know how to use it.
I’m to stay on the offensive. This is something that’s been churning in me for a while, that as a Christian I’ve been living my spiritual warfare life on the defensive. No military leader wants to fight battles defensively. He knows the best chance of winning any battle is to stay on the offensive.
I am to live thankfully trusting, because this is where peace lies, and peace – His peace – is one of the most vital elements of all.
I am to love with compassion. I am to love like never before, being intentional about expressing the love of God to the people He puts in my path – whoever they are.
So, almost everything He’s been saying recently falls into one of these categories. Really, there’s nothing new here. But that’s the point, isn’t it? We never know what’s coming, but He does, and He wants us ready to face it head on.
God wants children who love Him above all else, children who obey Him completely, children who walk with Him—following His lead instead of choosing their own paths and expecting Him to bless them anyway—children who not only know Jesus as Savior, but also as Lord.
God wants children who understand the truth of the words spoken to King Saul, that obedience is better than sacrifice, that He will not condone us doing things our way even if our way does look good in man’s eyes and seems to result in great things for the church.
God wants children who follow in the footsteps of Jesus, the One who did and said, and only did and said, what the Father wanted, who obeyed all the way to the cross and beyond when His Father called.
God wants children who don’t say, “I have decided I want to…,” but say instead, “I have decided to do what God wants me to do.”
sons and daughters
who understand what it means to be CALLED.
Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.
The question is not, “Am I called?” but rather, “What is my calling?” Speaking specifically in the realm of the church, we must ask, “To which local church has God called me? To which ministry or ministries within that church has God called me?” We are to seek the answers to these questions and, having found them, lead lives worthy of His calling.
The Word is specific here as it refers to “your calling.” So first we are called with a specific calling. No man should walk in another man’s calling; God expects each man to walk in his own. A man’s flesh may declare that it wants to work in one ministry, but if God has called him to work elsewhere he would be walking in disobedience if he chose to follow his flesh’s lead—this would certainly not be an act of a life that was being lived worthily.
And we must consider carefully what it is to lead a life worthy of one who is called by HIM.
If one were called by the President—that is, if the President of the United States were to call on a man to do something—one assumes that he would not only do it, but do it to the very best of his ability. Who in their right mind would consider giving the President of the United States anything less than work of the highest quality? But we are not called by the President. We are not called by any mere man. Rather, we are called by GOD.
How is it, then, that we too often offer Him second or even third best…or nothing at all? Do we consider Him to be less important than the President? Do we subconsciously take advantage of His quickness to forgive? Do we find that, since we can’t see Him with our physical eyes, it is easier to ignore the fact that He is there and waiting for us to move, waiting for us to do (and do well) what He has called us to do?
When God calls us to a local church, He expects us to be active in that church. (Hebrews 10:25, KJV, …not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.) When He calls us to a specific ministry, He expects us to serve actively in that ministry—being where we are supposed to be when we are supposed to be there and doing all we are supposed to do to the best of our ability, with the right heart.
He has given us the great honor of calling us; it is also our honor to live lives worthy of this calling.
But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, “Why did you make me like this?” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?
Yes, He does!
The notes in my study Bible point out that the one being used for noble purposes has no right to consider himself any better than the one being used for common purposes, because both are made from the same lump of clay. I see it the other way, too. I, who am made for common use, have no right to consider myself less than he who is made for noble use. Truly, this is something God has spoken to me many times through the years – which means, of course, that I need to be reminded.
I’ve seen people who were made for noble use, and being used nobly, thought themselves even better than the use to which they were put. So many years spent active in the music ministry gave me more occasion than most to see how ego affects the clay; I’ve seen people actually leave a church because they felt their talents weren’t being shown off as much as they should be. This type of thing makes me ill.
It is in the nature of man to exalt himself. I know this, because I deal with the tendency on a personal level much too often. I look at other people doing certain things and think, “I could be doing that; I’m good enough! Why can’t I be allowed to do it just once so that I can show the world I’m able?” Wrong motivation!
It took a lot of years for me to accept the fact that I was made for common use…and to prefer the fact that I am. When ego is set aside and the truth is out, it becomes apparent that I wouldn’t want to be a vase sitting on a shelf, only rarely filled with flowers and placed at the center of the table. I would rather be the tea pitcher, always on the table, at the center of things, appreciated on a daily basis…almost taken for granted even…by the whole family. In my own mind, before coming to this Scripture, I have compared myself to a ball bearing – something no one sees, but that is essential to keep the mechanism running smoothly. How much better would it be if we all would simply accept ourselves as God has made us, accept our positions as He has placed us, and be what He has called us to be today – freely and fully – without trying to see how we might use today’s position as a stepping stone to the future, without regret or recrimination? Oh, what we could accomplish in this world!
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.
Anyone who isn’t helping me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me.
I like this translation. We’ve probably all heard, “He who is not for me is against me” – possibly so many times that we only give mental assent to the truth and move on. But…
This is a vital verse for those who think to sit on the fence; it makes it crystal clear that there is no fence. It is even more essential that the import of Luke 11:23 be grasped by those who religiously attend church services every Sunday morning, arrogantly thinking that in merely attending a church service they have completed their Christian responsibility. Jesus says otherwise.
“Anyone who isn’t helping me opposes me…” Can He express it more simply than this? If I think I can merely sit in my padded pew and do nothing to help Jesus expand His kingdom, if I think I can ignore the Great Commission that was given to each of us, I am in gross error. I am also in opposition to Jesus. There is no passively sitting and doing nothing; Jesus says that if we do not actively help Him, we actively oppose Him.
“…and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me.” Here He speaks even more strongly and more clearly. Yes, He honestly does expect us to work. He expects us to go into all the world and preach the gospel (Mark 16:15) and, in the local church body, He expects us to be fitly joined together with everyone else, each of us doing our part to supply the needs of the body (Eph 4:16).
What work does He call us to where the church is concerned? Just as it is in the physical body, so it is in a church body – each part supplies what it is designed to offer. In my case, for nearly thirty years this meant serving in the Music Ministry…even after coming on staff full time. The next person may fit in entirely differently, serving in ways that have never occurred to me. The bottom line is that we are both working with Jesus to build up the church and expand the Kingdom of God so that He will not say of us, “They are actually working against me.”