I did an in-depth study many years ago and reached a very important conclusion.
WHAT I do is important. Getting into God’s Word, learning what He wants me to do, and making sure I do the right thing… Important. But even more important than WHAT I do is WHY I do it.
In other words, motivation is everything. God doesn’t just want our actions to be right, our appearance and performance to be acceptable; He wants our hearts to be right. I can go to church, hug my neighbors, raise my hands in worship, give liberally in the offering… but if my heart isn’t in it, if I’m only going through the motions so I’ll look good to others or satisfy some legalistic need inside of me, I’M WRONG.
And if I’m wrong, the only thing I need to be doing is getting right. It’s time for me to go to Him and ask for His forgiveness and help, to pray with the psalmist, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” [Psalm 51:10 (KJV)]
I once read that Smith Wigglesworth, who had a phenomenal ministry, never read any books other than the Bible.
On the one hand, this is hard to conceive. The amount of material that was available to the avid reader, even in his day, is staggering. Could one really turn aside from all of it? On the other hand, the Word is so rich, so full, that I often feel like the time I spend in it is too short, that my morning alarm going off is a rude interruption.
And I have seen evidence, in me, of what Wigglesworth talked about. He contended that faith is based on knowledge of Who God is, and that we gain this knowledge as we are in His Word. In fact, he said, “if you see imperfect faith – full of doubt, a wavering condition – it always comes of imperfect knowledge.”
That makes so much sense! My faith is stronger today than it has ever been. Yes, it grows as it is tried and strengthened, much like a muscle grows under the same conditions, but it grows as it does because it is rooted in my ever-increasing knowledge of Who God is.
Staying in the Word really is a necessity for the one who wants ever-increasing faith.
…let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
A lawyer type once said that Hebrews 10:16-31 is written like a contract, with verses 16-21 sharing God’s part, 22-25 sharing our part and 26-31 sharing the consequences of our breaking the contract. God, of course, does not break contracts.
Bearing this in mind, verses 22 through 25 become vitally important to the believer. Verse 22 first calls for us to draw near to God. In my experience, this is one of the most consistently disobeyed commands God gives. It is one thing to think, “I love God,” or “I live for God,” and another thing entirely to climb up into his lap like a child does with his father. Why? Time is an obvious excuse. We fill our lives so completely that we effectively push God right out of them, repeatedly promising to get with Him later. In too many cases, later never comes.
Another obvious reason for our failure is that when we draw close to God our faults become entirely too obvious for our own selves’ comfort. Indeed, Scripture commands us not only to draw near to Him, but to come with true hearts, a thing that requires self-judgment and humility. Too, we are to come in “full assurance of faith.” Few children have the nerve to approach their fathers, to draw truly near to them, when they’ve done wrong. Their hearts are not pure and they know it; they cannot come in “full assurance of faith” because they know they’ve earned punishment rather than their father’s loving touch. So it is with us; flesh shrinks back, drawing away from God rather than straining towards Him, so we must deal with the flesh first. We must put it down so we can exalt Him.
But oh the rewards that come when we judge ourselves, repent of our sins, and are able once again to draw near to Him, when we do take the time and put forth the effort to draw near to Him. As a little girl, climbing up into my earthly father’s lap might have been a wonderful thing, but climbing up into my heavenly Father’s lap is so far beyond this earthly experience that it denies the comparison.
…the message they heard was of no value to them,
because those who heard it did not combine it with faith.
“They,” in this case, are those who Moses led out of Egypt. In the previous chapter, the author shares what God said about that generation and how their refusal to trust in and obey Him resulted in them not being able to enter into the rest that God had promised to give them in Canaan. They heard the same message that the next generation heard, but they only heard it; they failed to mix the message with faith, with action.
Some think that faith is merely believing, that if they hear a message and believe that message, then they have mixed the message with faith, but the Bible speaks otherwise. A message mixed with faith results in action. In the case of the Israelites who had fled from Egypt, the action would have been the taking up of arms and conquering of Canaan. They only heard the message, however. They did not really believe. Their faith, such as it was, was dead, useless.
James reminds us…
2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?
2:17 …faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead
2:20 …faith without deeds is useless…
2:26 …faith without deeds is dead.
I had to fight the temptation to copy all of James 2:14-26 here. It reveals so very clearly that faith and action absolutely must work hand-in-hand.
I do not want to miss out on that rest my God has promised me. I want all that He has set aside for me. I refuse to miss out!
Having made that decision, what is required of me now? Action! As I hear the message, if I do not want it to be of no value to me – do not want to be counted as no more worthy than that group of faithless Israelites – then I absolutely must combine the message with faith, faith that steps out and does whatever the message calls me to do.
It was that combining of message and faith that resulted in my salvation in the first place. Who knows how many times I’d heard the message previously? All those earlier hearings had been of limited value, however, because I did not act on them, did not combine them with faith. Yet on that one, specific day, while I probably heard the very same message spoken in much the same way, I reacted differently. I combined the message with faith and took a step toward the altar, I accepted all that Jesus did for me when He offered His life up as the sacrificial substitute for mine, and I was forever changed. Far from being of no value to me, that morning’s message was priceless.
Remembering this – the moment and the results of what happened in that moment – how can I fail to ensure that the message always is of value to me? Yet I do fail. There have been far too many times in my life when I’ve heard a message and done nothing with it, not even mixed it with a tiny bit of faith, a little bit of action. What have I missed as a result? What seeds did God try to plant that I let die before they bore fruit, killed by my own negligence, my own lack of faith-based action?
I can’t change the past. I can only repent and commit to a changed future…and I do.
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
“Be diligent,” Paul says to Timothy. “Be diligent,” God says to us. Diligence requires action…sincere and consistent action. Again, we are reminded that it is completely unacceptable for us to sit and hear the word but do nothing with it.
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God
Here, then, is our goal – our reason for being diligent. We desire, in truth we must have, our heavenly Father’s approval. How? What must we do? In what are we to be diligent?
…a worker who does not need to be ashamed…
So we are to be workers, and not just ordinary workers, but workers who are so good at what we do, so thorough, so careful, that we need never be ashamed of either ourselves or our work.
…rightly dividing the word of truth.
And this is why we, as these diligent workers, need not be ashamed. We are mature and learned in the Word. We do not ignore the Word – we cannot if we are to divide it. We do not take the Word and twist it into new meanings to suit ourselves. No, we are to be “correctly analyzing and accurately dividing – rightly handling and skillfully teaching – the Word of Truth.” (AMP) We are to diligently do this; and in this diligence we will receive God’s approval.
And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
In this letter, Paul speaks to the members of the church at Philippi. This Scripture, specifically, is a declaration he makes after referring to the financial support they have given him. As I am also a giver, and one who gives to missionary work like Paul’s, I have every right to claim this promise for myself. And, oh, the promise that is contained in this one verse!
And my God…
MY GOD! We’re not talking about man, here, but about God – the Creator of the universe, He who is all and has all, the Alpha and Omega… I AM.
Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines supply as, “To fill up, as any deficiency happens, to furnish what is wanted; to afford or furnish a sufficiency.” I love this definition! As any deficiency happens, God will fill it up. He will furnish what is wanted or lacking. He furnishes a sufficiency or, put simply, “enough.”
…all your need…
My pastor is fond of saying, “All means ALL,” and through the years this truth has lodged in my spirit. Paul isn’t declaring here that God will supply some of what we need; he is saying God will supply ALL we need – all that is necessary for us to prosper and be in health even as our souls prosper (III John 2), all we need to accomplish whatever He calls us to do (Phil 4:13), all we require to become everything He wants us to be.
Oh…here’s an interesting thought. Paul says that God will supply all our needs; he does not say God will force them on us. God will give and keep on giving, but it is up to us to reach out and take all that is supplied.
…according to His riches in glory…
Meditate on this one for a while and you realize we really have no comprehension of everything God’s “all” does contain, of the measure that is used. Our comprehension is limited by the finite nature of the world that surrounds us, but God is not limited to this world and does not have to supply according to our riches here. No, His supply is according to His riches in glory; His supply is infinite! The most gold I’ve ever touched at one time was in a large necklace, but God has so much gold that He uses it as paving material. The largest pearl I’ve ever held rolled around in the palm of my hand, but the New Jerusalem’s twelve gates are pearls. Truly, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” (I Cor 2:9) Yes, He is able to do exceedingly beyond anything we can ask or even think (Eph 3:20).
…by Christ Jesus.
I look at these words and hardly know what to write. “Christ Jesus” has got to be the two most beautiful words ever. “Christ” means “Anointed One” and when I remember this I remember also the passage Jesus read from Isaiah, the verses that spoke of Himself.
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me…”
This is only the first part of Isaiah 61:1. Read on and you will be reminded of all the wonderful things Jesus was anointed to do. Truly, in Him and through Him…by Him…we have access to everything that matters.
From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Christ’s body, like our bodies, consists of many parts, and God created each part to serve a purpose; I Corinthians discusses this at length. A friend once told me that she had discovered what part she was – Christ’s nose hair. She said it laughingly, but a brief anatomy study reveals that, in a way, she was right. Nose hair acts as a filter, preventing that which is unacceptable from entering the body. This woman has tremendous discernment and walks in spiritual authority at a level beyond that to which most Christians would aspire. When demons have been known to tremble in your presence, you do help to protect the body from unwanted entry.
Each of us is called by God to serve a unique purpose, to fill a position in His body – in the local church. I Corinthians 12:18-20 says, “But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” There are many parts – many of us, the individuals who make up the body of Christ – and each part is both uniquely necessary and necessarily unique. Just as God did not create the human body with nothing but eyes, tongues and hands, He did not create the body of Christ with only pastors, choir members and ushers. No, the body of Christ (and each local church body) is made up of many parts, many people. Us.
But it is not enough to acknowledge that we are each a part of the body. No, we must also discover which part of the body we are. Note, I do not say we must decide which part we are. No indeed, for I Cor 12:18 states clearly that, “But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” (emphasis mine) God has a unique plan for each one of us and it is our responsibility to seek Him and find out what that plan is. If we presume to decide for ourselves what function we will fill in the body of Christ, we make a gross mistake. Just as an elbow does not have the option of deciding it would rather be a hand, we do not have the option of changing our God-given assignments.
Over the years, I have repeatedly witnessed the results of this very thing, people attempting to choose their own assignments rather than seeking God’s direction. The music ministry is typical; many people join the choir not because God has called them to that position, but because it is where they want to be. Fortunately, most of these misplaced members eventually realize they have put themselves into the wrong position and, hopefully, move on to the place of God’s calling. How much easier would church life have been on them if they had gone straight to God for their assignments instead of telling Him where they had chosen to place themselves? Indeed, how much better would it have been on the choir and music ministry if they had not put themselves where they were not called to be…and how much easier on the ministry that had anxiously awaited their arrival? An elbow that tried to be a hand would create a multitude of problems; one who is called to be an usher, yet tries to be a nursery worker, can do the same.
Yes, it is imperative that each of us, as members of the body of Christ in general and our local church bodies in particular, find out where God has called us to fit in and GET THERE. My place, for 28 years, was in the music ministry. I served wherever the head of my ministry asked me to serve, from choir loft to church office, and I will dare say that I filled my spot well. I have, in the past, likened myself to a ball bearing, the part that makes everything run smoothly while remaining, itself, unseen. Looking at my reference verse, I suppose I would say that I fell into the, “held together by every supporting ligament” category because ligaments are absolutely necessary for the proper running of the body, supporting everything from their unseen position. Interestingly enough, it occurs to me that they are also nurtured and sheltered there, protected by all the visible things that cover them.
Had I ever wanted to be one of those visible parts? Of course! I have an ego and fight pride like everyone else. Like many who love to sing and end up joining a church choir, I had my moments of wanting to be a front line member (one of those few who are on the main stage), but the main platform was not my called position. Understanding this, I chose to put down the flesh whenever it would raise this topic. Interestingly enough, long after I conquered my flesh in this area, God arranged for me to fill in as a front line member for one service. Had I cherished any lingering thoughts of the main platform they would have been squashed flat that night. Everyone said I did well enough, but like an elbow trying to be a hand I felt grossly out of place. Dear God, never again…please.
Today I am on staff at the church, so my position has changed dramatically. No longer in the music ministry, I run our coffee shop and Info Table instead, but I am still a supporting ligament, still just doing my best to keep things moving smoothly and with excellence. I love being where God has called me to be!
…grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Ephesians 4:14 begins, “Then we will no longer be infants…” and verse 15 says, “…we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” This whole passage, Eph 4:14-16, talks about us maturing, growing up and refusing to remain babies. Any pastor will tell you sadly that there are too many spiritual babies in the body of Christ, too many spiritual babies in his church. Verse 16 reveals one of the great evidences, an obvious indicator of whether one is a mature or immature (baby) Christian.
…grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
The emphasis, of course, is mine.
According to this Scripture, the growth, the maturity, the building up in love comes as each part does its work. Not only must each part of the body of Christ and, obviously, the local church body, work (which is a rare enough thing in most churches), but each must do its work – not that of another part (someone else’s work). Each of us is a part of the whole body and every one of us has God-given work assignments. Only when we walk in submission to Him and do the works that He assigns do we really grow and build ourselves up in love. Furthermore, only when we each do our own work does the body grow and build itself up in love. When we fail, the body fails; if I, as a supporting ligament, choose not to do my assigned work, all that I support is hindered, handicapped and slowed in its growth.