The Staying Nature of God

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Roots

Second-class citizen

Perhaps like me, you have never felt a call to international ministry. Living in a family like ours, that emphasizes the ends of the earth like we do, can be tough. I have never lived internationally (does the summer I spent in the San Fransisco Bay area count?), so it is easy to feel like a second-class denominational-citizen.

With us always (& everywhere)

The going-to-the-nations part of the Great Commission is obvious, and typically the part emphasized. But at the end of the Great Commission, Jesus promises his presence wherever we may find ourselves. “I am with you always” (Matthew 18:20) It isn’t necessary to fly off to some far-flung corner of the world to find Jesus at work. 

Staying nature of God

Jesus is present, and at work, right where you are. The place you already live is the most obvious, and maybe overlooked, place to start ministry. Scholars and teachers have convinced Christians of the sending nature of God (the missio Dei). Perhaps more emphasis is needed on the staying nature of God (the incarnation). 

Staying in one place

There are amazing examples of fruitful ministries which have resulted from people staying in one place. Several I know personally are the late Chuck Smith, founder of the Calvary Chapel movement. He didn’t start there until he was 40, but labored for over 50 years at the same church. Wayne Gordon moved to the Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago over 40 years ago. He is still there. My pastor, David Riemenschneider, came to Bloomingdale in 1978. I believe he has the longest tenure of anyone in our network of churches.

Simply sticking it out

Perhaps you are praying that God would bear more fruit where you are. His answer to that prayer could be through simply sticking it out. What if all God needs to produce a harvest is get you to stay put?

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Where Your Disappointments Start

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Meeting Athletisme Geneve 23

A disappointment is when something you have arranged in your mind does not happen that way. Namaan the leper, in 2 Kings 5, is an illustration of how disappointment works.

His Appointment

Namaan was given an appointment with Elisha, much to the relief of the king of Israel (v.8). But when Namaan’s cavalcade finally made it to Elisha’s front step, the powerful prophet didn’t even have the decency to greet Namaan himself. Elisha merely had his assistant pass along instructions for his healing, “Go wash in the Jordan river and be clean.”

His Disappointment

Verse 11 is the revealing statement, “But Namaan was angry and went away, saying, ‘“I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy!’” It’s really Namaan’s first two words that says it all: I thought. He had played it all out in his mind how his miracle would happen.

His Unchecked Ego

Three things stand out that set the stage for disappointment. First, the ego was not in check. Namaan was a “great man and well respected” (v.1). He knew it and everyone else in Syria knew it. He was ticked when Elisha didn’t act like he knew it. You may think something should go a certain way because of who you are. If so, you’re not thinking rightly, because you are nothing. An entitlement mentality sets the stage for disappointment.

His Passivity

Second, there are rarely passive participants in the miraculous. The way Namaan had his miracle play out in his mind was with him standing as a passive observer as the powerful prophet greeted him royally, prayed fervently, waved his hands assertively, and provided complete healing (read verse 11 again). You may think something should go a certain way without your involvement, but God often works with active faith, not presuming cockiness.

His Reluctance to Do Something Simple

Third, what we are asked to do is usually not difficult. Namaan’s attendants shrewdly played to their master’s ego by acknowledging that if he were asked to do something difficult, he would have gladly done so. He was put in a rage because he was asked to do something simple. You may think something should go a certain way because you’re willing to do the difficult, but it is faithfulness in the little things that God is looking for (cf. Luke 19:17).

Can God to It Differently?

It is a wonderful capacity God has given you to arrange possibilities in your mind. The source of your disappointment is when you don’t allow for a God who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think (Eph 3:20). Or maybe a God who is able to just do things differently.

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Scattering Gold Dust

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Bering Sea Gold is a show on the Discovery Channel about dredging for gold. Have you seen any episodes? I had not heard of it until I read about it in a book my wife is reading about motherhood. (Don’t judge me. It’s a good book.) These guys dredge for gold using scoop equipment and big hoses to suck up sand and sediment from the sea floor. Screening through all the sediment they somehow draw out the flecks of gold, melt it down, and collect their fortune.

Hearing about this, one wonders why everyone doesn’t get into this business. However, before each segment a warning is given that reads: “Offshore dredging for gold is not a get-rich-quick opportunity. It is expensive and dangerous. Most people who try, fail. Some have died. You do not want to dredge without extensive knowledge and training.” After watching part of an episode, I believe it.

The author of the motherhood book uses this for an illustration about parenting. But I thought how this connects to ministry too. Living in the midst of a community being formed in Christ is like spreading gold dust on a silty seabed. One hopes after these lives are unearthed and fiery trials assault the mud and dust strewn around that something of real value emerges–the life of Jesus.

As we work in the church we like to try to drop hunks of gold onto people. We attempt to deposit in big lumps. But the life of Christ is not dropped on people like that. The gold of Jesus comes in flecks and dustings. It is the short prayer. It is a personal note. It is an unscripted comment in a sermon. It is a phone call. It is a breakfast meeting. It is an affirming word. It is an acknowledged wrong. It is the conversation after church. It is the challenge. It is a pointed question. It is remembering. It is being confronted. It is consistency. It is knowing people. It is life.

So keep scattering gold dust. Working in the church is not a get-rich-quick opportunity. It is costly and hazardous. A lot of people fail. Some have died. You don’t want to do it without knowledge and training and the power of the Spirit. But if we keep at it we’ll end up with something pretty valuable.

Spurgeon Quote: Labor Is Not Despised

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Charles Spurgeon:

The reaping time will come. Our chief business is to glorify God by teaching the truth whether souls are saved or not; but still I demur to the statement that we may go on preaching the gospel for years and years, and even all our lifetime, and yet no result may follow.

They say, “Paul may plant and Apollos may water, but God giveth the increase.” I should like them to find that passage in the Bible. In my English Bible it runs thus: “I (Paul) have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.”

There is not the slightest intent to teach us that when Paul planted and Apollos watered, God would arbitrarily refuse the increase. All the glory is claimed for the Lord, but honest labour is not despised.

I do not say that there is the same relation between teaching the truth and conversion as there is between cause and effect, so that they are invariably connected; but I will maintain that it is the rule of the kingdom that they should be connected, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

via Spurgeon on Whether God Requires Faithfulness or Fruitfulness : What’s Best Next.