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Maturity in ministry means recognizing some of the common pitfalls in evaluating what Christ is calling us to do. The Spirit that knits us together into the body of Christ knows what He is doing, and we can rest in Him. His way of remaking the world is the best way.
“For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?”
If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.” (1 Cor. 12:13-21)
START WITH THE OBVIOUS
While God does occasionally do the extraordinary, He usually works through ordinary means of the Spirit. And this means beginning with what’s right in front of you: worship God faithfully, honor your parents, be faithful to your spouse and children, and do no harm to others (Ten Commandments). Your ministry in the body of Christ does not include lying, stealing, cheating, committing sexual immorality, or failing to worship Him. You cannot call your bad attitude “just having a different gift.” When the Spirit united you to Christ, He united you with all of your current responsibilities and obligations (1 Cor. 12:13). Whether Jew or Gentile, slave or free, it is the same Spirit and the same body of Christ. But while we’re making this point, we really do need to note that many people are drawn to missions, evangelism, hospitality, and mercy ministries as a means of avoiding these central duties. “I’m sensing a call to missions” is not a pious path away from your parents. Jesus had harsh words for those who used traditions to try to justify their disobedience to God’s clear word (Mk. 7:9-13). It is true that Jesus demands absolute allegiance which sometimes means leaving father, mother, sister, or brother, but if that is required, it will ordinarily come as a clear obligation to following Jesus (Mk. 10:37-38).
NO NEW ORPHANS OR WIDOWS
The Bible famously says that pure religion is caring for orphans and widows in their distress (Js. 1:27), but it also says that the family should be first line of defense (1 Tim. 5:4). If any Christian does not provide for the needs of his family, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel (1 Tim. 5:8). And remember that providing for our families is not a bare subsistence. A husband is required to love His wife like Christ loved the Church, which is generous and lavish, washing her with the water of the word, providing her with warmth and sustenance both physically and spiritually (Eph. 5:25-29). And fathers are required to bring up their children in the sustenance and culture of the Lord Jesus (Eph. 6:4). In other words, a mature understanding of the duty to Christian missions, evangelism, hospitality, and mercy must be held together with the duty of being faithful to the ministry right in front of you. Christians are called to learn to maintain good works that are fruitful for meeting needs (Tit. 3:14). Maturity here means making a distinction between occasional emergency “Good Samaritan” good deeds and the ordinary, ongoing good works of running a household, providing for a family, and using your skills and abilities for the good of the world. Whatever ministry you are called to, it does not include creating any new orphans or widows.
GIVING OUT YOUR ABUNDANCE
In a human body, when the organs do what they were made to do, they pour themselves out and can and do get tired. But their use is actually what causes them to thrive. If you don’t use muscles or organs, they tend to atrophy and grow weak. It really is the same thing in the body of Christ. One of the ways you know what you’re called to is based on what God has given to you and keeps giving to you. The Corinthians gave out of the abundance of their joy, and that combined with their poverty abounded to real generosity (2 Cor. 8:2). This means that they didn’t have a lot to give, but it was such a delight to give that they gave beyond what would seem reasonable, but not beyond what they actually had. God does not call us to give what He has not given to us. (2 Cor. 8:12).
Sometimes we find out that God has given us something because of the need/duty right in front of us (Mk. 6:37, Lk. 10:30ff). God does not intend for us ordinarily to give in such a way as to become a burden to others (2 Cor. 8:13). You should not be so generous one month that you have to apply to the deacons’ fund the next month. That isn’t really generosity. At the same time, occasionally it may be your duty to give what you have, not knowing how God will provide. Accordingly, you should not ordinarily have so many people in your house that your own kids ultimately don’t want to be there. Unfortunately, the “PK” and “MK” stereotypes exist for a reason. But those train wrecks are great blots on the body of Christ. So whatever Christ calls you to in the body, you should be looking for it to be the sort of ministry that your family thrives in. There should be abundance of joy in the sacrifice. Following Jesus always includes a cross, but if you are following Jesus, there is always joy set before you.
CONCLUSION: RADICAL OBEDIENCE
None of this should be taken as somehow soft-peddling the call of discipleship. No, Bonhoeffer was right: “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” But we must not be so naïve as to think there are not disobedient ways to die. The sinful heart loves to get off the point. It is not enough to look pious and obedient. You must actually be pious and obedient.
Doing what God has assigned you to do, whatever that may be, both pleases Him and is good for us and the whole body of Christ. Do not underestimate the impact of faithfulness in the little things, and then having been faithful in little things, do not be surprised when you are promoted to bigger things. But remember that the Spirit that is knitting us together in the body is the Spirit of comfort (Jn. 14:16-17).