1 Peter 2:9-12
I love the
attitude expressed by Helen Keller, “I long to accomplish a great and noble
task, but it is my chief duty and joy to accomplish humble tasks as though they
were great and noble . . . For the world
is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the
aggregate of tiny pushes of each honest worker.”
Isn’t that really the picture of the
church? It’s not the great effort of an individual, but the combined efforts of
all of us together. We are the body of Christ and every one of us contributes to
the growth and health of the church.
There is an unfortunate thing that has happened to a very good
word – “Minister.” We have allowed it to become specialized and
professionalized so that when you identify yourself as a minister, you are
categorized as a professional religious person who has to be handled with kid
gloves. But the word “minister” is a wonderful New Testament word that means “servant”
– no more, no less.
We are all ministers – not professional, just surrendered. You may never have thought of yourself as a
minister before – it can be kind of intimidating.
In its simplest definition, ministry is using whatever gifts and
talents God has given us to serve him and tell the good news of Jesus.
We all have a stake in that – it is built in to every Christian’s
job description – no Christian is exempt.
Centuries ago, the monastic movement began – and it sounded like a
good idea – separate yourself from the world so you can’t be tempted and can
focus solely on God. But after several
months, one hermit came back to society and rejoined the church – in spite of
the distractions, in spite of the frustrations.
Why? He found that while he might
be able to focus on God, what he could not do was fulfill Jesus’ commands to
love and serve his neighbor – he could not wash a brother’s feet – he could not
tell others of Jesus.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus prayed “My
prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them
from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify
them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have
sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be
truly sanctified.” (John 17:15-19)
God did not take us out of the world when we became Christians,
but instead sent us back into the world – and he sent us back with a
That purpose is as ancient as the purpose
God gave Abraham – “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless
you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless
those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on
earth will be blessed through you.” (Gen
That purpose is as focused as Christ’s own purpose – “The Son
of Man came to seek and save the lost” (Lk. 19:10).
We are not isolated, protected away from the world – we are sent
back into the world – we are made for ministry.
Landon Saunders tells about his aunt Mildred’s pet parakeet – a
remarkable bird named Ricky. Ricky has a
vocabulary of 60-70 words and is quite articulate. Whenever somebody stops by to visit, Ricky
introduces himself – “My name is Ricky Saunders and I live at 503 W. 30th
St., Bradenton, FL.” He is hospitable –
“Want to have some breakfast?” He is
very religious – “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” “My name is Ricky Saunders, I am a parakeet,
praise the Lord.” But for all the
religious words that Ricky can speak he can never connect with my life, because
there’s nothing behind the words.
We can say all the words we want to say about proclaiming Christ
to the unbelieving world around us, but they will have little effect unless
there is something behind the words. We
can never win back with our words what we lose with our lives. Credibility is destroyed when our words are
betrayed by our actions. When our lives
are ineffective and powerless, we can’t talk a good enough game to reclaim
it. It is simply unthinkable that Christ
lives in our lives and nothing be different or distinctive about them.
But when we live genuine, authentic lives – lives that are themselves
a testimony to the power of God to transform – lives that are consumed in
imitating the servant life of Christ – then not so many words are needed. But if there is no life behind those words,
then all the words in the world will have little effect, and may do irreparable
harm to the cause of Christ.
Peter addressed this relationship between
life and words in his first epistle – 1 Peter 2:9-12 “But you are a
chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God,
that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his
wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God;
once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Dear friends,
I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful
desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans
that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and
glorify God on the day he visits us.”
What he reminds them of over and over
again, is that when you are in the world, lead with your life – let your life
be the testimony to the truth of your words.
St. Francis of Assisi said this about our
role in the world – “Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.”
It is that theme that permeates the words
of the NT. We are never called to be
mere spectators. Our baptism is not a
retirement, but a call to put our beliefs into practice – to live the life, not
just talk about it.
Paul writes: “Do everything without complaining or
arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without
fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in
the universe as you hold out the word of life.” Phil. 2:14-16
yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody.
You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written
not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but
on tablets of human hearts.” 2 Cor. 3:2-3
In 1 Thess. 4:11-12 Paul tells Christians to live their
life in such a way “…that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders.”
You may remember the OT story of Esther,
the young Jewish woman who became a queen to the Persian king Xerxes. One of
Xerxes high officials had plotted to exterminate the Jewish people and only
Esther was in a position to save them. But she faced a momentous decision that
could save her people or cost her her life.
Her uncle Mordecai had these powerful words for her: “And who knows
whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
Ministry begins with the realization that
our lives belong to God to use to accomplish his purposes in the world around
us. He puts us within a circle of people
– a group unique to us – only we can impact.
These people are your ministry – your
family, your friends, your co-workers, your casual acquaintances. How is your life touching their lives? How is your faith impacting their eternity?
If God were to give you a specific
assignment: “John, you have five
years to make a significant – an eternal difference in the lives of these ten
people” – how would you go about it?
Where would you start? That
folks, is the essence of ministry. That
is exactly what God is calling you to do.
God takes you where you are, who you are, with what you have and calls
you to ministry.
We must view differently our place and our
purpose in this world. We are not here
for personal satisfaction and self-gratification. We are called to be ministers to others – to
be invested in the priorities which Jesus counted most important.
Do you believe that your life has real
power and purpose? If everything else
were stripped away except your life, what would your Christianity look
like? Are you an open letter, known and
read by all men? And what is the message
they are reading?
Jesus spoke 13 parables of judgment –
interestingly, he never condemned people for sins like adultery or stealing or
murder. He didn’t condone those sins –
but the ones he condemned were those who did absolutely nothing – he condemned
the sin of uselessness.
God doesn’t need more church members –
marking time, warming pews – he needs ministers – he needs men and women who
have committed themselves to being available servants of God.
If you’re guilty of being lukewarm and
indifferent – felt satisfied because you never do anything bad – but when
you’re honest with yourself – you really never do anything for God.
You’re like a bucket of gasoline – you
have the potential for a spectacular explosion, but you’ve never been on fire
so instead of doing anything risky, you’re just slowly evaporating away.
There is an incredible story in Exodus
3. You remember the story of Moses – a
Hebrew baby, raised by royalty, son to Pharaoh – and then things go bad and he
flees into the wilderness, a fugitive from justice. And he takes up the life of a shepherd – he
resigns himself to finishing his life in anonymity. 40 years pass. And then we find him on one of those dull,
ordinary days in a life filled with routine – and suddenly, Moses’ life is
turned upside down by a burning bush and the voice of God. Moses tries to wiggle out of it with excuses
and refusals – but then God speaks: “I have seen my people’s misery… I have
heard their cry… I am concerned with their suffering… I have come down to
rescue them… I have seen the Egyptians oppressing them… So now go, I am sending
YOU to bring my people out of Egypt… but I will be with you, I will tell you
what to say, I will empower you.
Most of us look at this as an inspiring
story, one to tell our children in Bible class or before bedtime, but not one
we could imagine would have anything to do with us. But let me tell you that God has a bush lit
and a job for you to do – and his promise is the same -- I will be with you, I
will tell you what to say, I will empower you.
Posted on Sun, November 1, 2015
by John Roberts