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If the real work of God is people work—the prayerful speaking of his word by one person to another—then the jobs are never all taken. The opportunities for Christians to minister personally to others are limitless.
-Colin Marshall and Tony Payne, The Trellis and the Vine, p. 27
Ministry is not just setting up a program in or through a local church. One is not a minister because he or she went to school and has an official title. Ministry is speaking God’s truth to another person so to turn their minds and affections to Christ. Ministry is every time you service another person in humility and love out of a heart that seeks to please Christ.
Ministry is not just the big time speaker imparting wise biblical truth at a conference. It is just as much in the unknown book study happening with a newly converted believer at a local coffee shop across town. It is in the person who cleans up after a 1 year old when their is no immediate reward for such an action. It is in the simple quick conversation when one reminds the other about their position in Christ. The list could go on…
These are not spectacular acts of ministry. But our God is in the habit of growing His kingdom through unspectacular ways.
Life in this world for a believer can sometimes seem to be anything but victory. Looking around we can see governmental systems continuing to become more and more debased. The treasures of our faith are becoming viewed as scum by the world around us. Justice never seems to be done for innocent people murdered for the selfish pleasures of others. And that is only the outside world. One can look into themselves and sees sins that are persistent in their lives. The constant failings and struggles. If this was not enough the pain that flows into their lives adds even more weight. Unborn babies of relatives (and even their own) loosing their lives out of health conditions. Teenagers having their lives taken from them. Constant health issues racking the body with pain. Heartaches and broken hearts. How can this be victory? The life we live around us seems to communicate the clear message that life is meaningless and defeat is sure.
But God has given the believers a gift, a ray of light to pierce through the dark clouds.
Every Sunday the believers are called to gather. They are called to meet on a specific day, the Lord’s day. The day that their Lord made that ultimate pronouncement about this world: He has won! Sin and death lay dead before His feet as He arose on that Sunday.
And now believers meet to remind themselves about the truth: we have won in Him! “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25). Every time that the local church gathers it is a reminder about the fact that we are victorious, no matter what our sight may suggest. We get to meet together to encourage each other that Christ did win and a day is coming when His victory will be finalized. But even now the fact stands true, the war is over; the victory has been won. Each Sunday is the believer’s Victory Day.
We believers do need to be challenged to a life of committed discipleship, but that challenge needs to be based on the gospel, not on duty or guilt. Duty or guilt may motivate us for awhile, but only a sense of Christ’s love for us will motivate us for alifetime.
— Jerry Bridges, The Disciple of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness, 24-25
HT: Of First Importance.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Rom 12:2) Because God’s mercy is as vast as the first 12 chapters of Romans reveals we can sacrifice our lives to worship the God of such mercies. Though our sacrifices will be imperfect, frail, non-spectacular, and sometimes we will fail to even give them, there is no place for fear. What calls us to this sacrifice is not duty or guilt, but One who revealed Himself as merciful. we can sacrifice ourselves for such a One.
From Ray Ortlund,
“As you are likely to be engaged in controversy, and your love of truth is joined with a natural warmth of temper, my friendship makes me solicitous on your behalf. . . . I would have you more than a conqueror and to triumph not only over your adversary but over yourself. If you cannot be vanquished, you may be wounded. To preserve you from such wounds as might give you cause of weeping over your conquests, I would present you with some considerations . . . .
As to your opponent, I wish that before you set pen to paper against him, and during the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord’s teaching and blessing. This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him, and such a disposition will have a good influence on every page you write.
If you account him a believer, though greatly mistaken in the subject of debate between you, the words of David to Joab concerning Absalom are very applicable: ‘Deal gently with him for my sake.’ The Lord loves him and bears with him; therefore you must not despise him or treat him harshly. The Lord bears with you likewise, and expects that you should show tenderness to others from a sense of the much forgiveness you need yourself. In a little while you will meet in heaven. He will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now. Anticipate that period in your thoughts. And though you may find it necessary to oppose his errors, view him personally as a kindred soul, with whom you are to be happy in Christ forever.
But if you look upon him as an unconverted person, in a state of enmity against God and his grace (a supposition which, without good evidence, you should be very unwilling to admit), he is a more proper object of your compassion than of your anger. Alas! ‘He knows not what he does.’ But if God, in his sovereign pleasure, had so appointed, you might have been as he is now, and he, instead of you, might have been set for the defense of the gospel. If you attend to this, you will not reproach or hate him, because the Lord has been pleased to open your eyes, not his.
Of all people who engage in controversy, we who are called Calvinists are most expressly bound by our own principles to the exercise of gentleness and moderation.”
-John Newton, writing to a young minister, The Works of John Newton(Edinburgh, 1988), I:268-270.
“In his daily life and work, biblical study had a priority for Edwards that is difficult for a biographer to convey. It was an activity, like prayer and family interactions, that was so habitual that it gets obscured in accounts of more unique events and works that frame that narrative from day to day and year to year.”
-George M. Marsden, Jonathan Edwards: A Life, p. 473
When it comes to the “larger than life” endeavors of such godly people like Edwards it is easy to miss the very substance of their endeavors. With Edwards, we can read about his brilliant mind and read the works which came from such a mind. Yet, laying beneath all the spectacular things God used him for was the “unspectacular” work of being immersed in the bible. We can get caught up with the spectacular things so much that it draws our eyes away from the substance of a life of godliness.
God used Edwards in glorious ways. Yet, those ways were not separated, from but derived from, a life of studying the bible. We will never produce the brilliant works such as those coming from the pen of Edwards. But we all can draw from and immerse ourselves in the same substance that he drew from, the very Word of God. And if we do this are we not as useful to God as people like Edwards?
The title is built on two foundational blocks. One, that there is a a right endeavor one should take to attain a marital relationship. Two, that there is a greater goal to attain than marriage.
By right endeavor I mean the proper fulfillment of responsibilities to be capable for a marital relationship. A part of this would be the action of loving one’s brothers and sisters in Christ by building relationships with them while resting and trusting in the Lord is part of proper fulfillment. Being self absorbed and telling yourself that God will provide your dream spouse is not an aspect of a right endeavor. Now, this is just scratching the surface of understanding and living out a ‘right endeavor.’ There is much much more explanations and thoughts one can write. For a sum-up let me say that it is living out the over flow of gospel community as commanded in passages like Rom 12:9-21; 13:8-14, Phil 2:1-12, Col 3:12-17, 1 Thess 4:2-8, 1 Peter 3:8-9 in and around one’s proper role in finding a spouse. There is the actions one takes to put them in a position that a relationship can grow to be a healthy marriage.
By greater goal I mean the the aim of our predestination, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:29). The greater goal is God’s work in the believer’s life to make him or her treasure Christ more by growing him or her in holiness.
So how does one not waste their endeavor to be married?
The endeavor to be married can be wasted if one does not see it as a time for God to work the gospel into their life during this specific time. So on the reverse, one does not waste the time, the work and wait for marriage if they let God grow them in love, patience, service, and humility through the time.
Now, this is way more than taking a 3 month long mission trip during the single years. This is about letting the gospel change yourself as you run into the sins of yourself.
I know for myself that as I had followed, and still follow, the aim to be married my own sins have be demonstrated again and again. I have seen my own distrust in the goodness of God. I have seen my own pride and self-dependency. I have had my eyes opened up to the extent of my own selfishness and discontentment. All of this has come to light as I have pursued relationships and been involved in relationships. On the flip side, there has been trust, contentment, service, humility, and dependency worked into my life by the Spirit through each and every trial.
It is a very hard and trying time. There is the hardness of not having a good thing and having the desire for that good thing stalled again and again. Though, there is, also, the hardness of my sins working their destruction in me. There is the hardness of not being more satisfied in Christ as I could be. There is the hardness of being depressed night after night. There is the hardness of my frustrated selfish control of others. There is the hardness of not enjoying the glory of the day because I am discontent. This is hardness that God is gracious enough to mold out of me through the hardness of the right endeavor.
Through my years of walking on this road of endeavor I am learning that my Savior has plans for this time that span to greater places than just giving me the good thing of marriage. There is the place of receiving the best good of being more like the Savior. And attaining the best only makes all the other goods better.
So keep your eyes on being faithful to what Christ calls you to through His word. Don’t waste your endeavor to me married.
And yet the love of the Son of God for us is of such magnitude that the greater the filth and stench of our sins, the more He befriends us. For how amazing it is that the Son of God becomes my servant, that He humbles Himself so, that He cumbers Himself with my misery and sin. . . . He says to me: “You are no longer a sinner, but I am. I am your substitute. You have not sinned, but I have. The entire world is in sin. However, you are not in sin; but I am. All your sins are to rest on Me and not on you.”
No one can comprehend this. In yonder life our eyes will feast forever on this love of God.
–Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, 22:166-67
HT: Dane Ortlund
Thus we see that the Lord’s supper is intended to be to us a full store house—an overflowing fountain of spiritual blessing. It is designed to furnish us with an abundant supply for our manifold wants…
It gives new ardour to our hopes. It looks back to the first, and forward to the second coming of the Lord. It points to future glory. It carries us forward to the inheritance—the kingdom, the crown, the restitution of all things, the rest that remianeth for the people of God, the bridal day, the marriage supper of the Lamb.
We sit here as at our eastern window to watch the first rays of coming day; to see star after star fading from the heavens as the dawn approaches, and the sun prepares to rise, “the sun of a morning without clouds,” bringing in the splendour of the everlasting day. We seem to hear the voice which sounded over the lonely rocks of Patmos in the ears of John, “He that testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly.” And with him we eagerly echo back the joyful words, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”
Horatius Bonar, Christ is All, p. 177, 180
Every time I take the Lord’s Supper it is a tangible reminder that I have a greater supper awaiting me. It is a physical promise that through this world of pain and trials there is a coming feast at which I will sit down at. Though the food is simply now, it will be glorious then!
Not to long ago my church, Immanuel, changed our practice or having the Lord’s Supper. We went from having it once a month to having it every Sunday. And it has been a wonderful change. Now, every week, I get a tangible reminder that the greatest feast of all is in my future. Every Sunday I am reminded that I will sit down at the marriage supper of the Lamb.