In today’s Bible reading, Paul says that those who are unwilling to work shouldn’t eat. In other words, Believers aren’t to be freeloaders. Now, is that a cut-and-dried statement? Or is it a principle?
I think Paul intended this to be a principle. It comes down to a person’s heart, his/her motivations. If a person is able to work, but chooses not to, that’s a problem. If a person goes around constantly mooching off others, that’s a problem.
But what about someone who is “called to do God’s work”? It’s no different! If someone is called to do God’s work he/she shouldn’t wait until a paycheck comes along before doing the work. If God has called someone to do ministry, they should do ministry! If someone is genuinely called to do God’s work of sharing the gospel, Paul says they should be paid for doing the work if they so choose. If they want to work voluntarily, that’s fine. But no one should be shamed for accepting money for doing ministry. In fact, elsewhere, Paul says that laborers are worthy of their hire. (1 Timothy 5:18)
Taking on a second job in order to put food on the table is commendable; it can open up ministry opportunities as well. And a missionary or pastor shouldn’t be shamed if he does take on a second job. Neither should he be shamed for asking for financial support as his income source. Depending on the ministry, sometimes taking on a second job is impractical or impossible. And oftentimes, the people receiving ministry are unable to cover the expenses of a pastor or missionary.
Airline tickets cost money. Visas cost money. Passport processing costs money. Insurance costs money. Gas costs money. Food costs money. Ministry costs money! Fortunately, many ministries are very lean and are very good stewards. Unfortunately, not all are. And not all of the “big name” ministries are the most efficient. Beware of wolves that fleece their flocks and siphon large salaries away from those in need.
In the past, I have mentioned uniting our church with a neighboring church. This is a good thing. This is a God thing. Combining our efforts under one roof and one fellowship body will bring down the operating costs of the two churches and will free up monies to do more of God’s work. This is good stewardship! And quite frankly, I wish more churches would prayerfully consider doing the same! With the changing face of society and the declining nickels and noses in local churches, it might be the best thing to close the doors on a few dead/plateaued churches and unite the members under a new body with a new vision and new energy.
Important note: I say this having closed the doors of the first church I pastored. God was in that and He brought new life to an old building. Now, a newer, younger church is absolutely flourishing where we once floundered. God is good!
Unfortunately, churches have turf wars and partnering with other churches is often difficult. It takes a lot of humility and repentance to set aside your own church and ministry preferences. We don’t like change. But oftentimes, God calls us to “suck it up” and follow Him, taking on His preferences in order to accomplish His work.
Doing God’s work requires God’s people to give. And those who work are worthy of the support of God’s people to accomplish the work.
Several months ago, we read through Paul’s letters to the Church at Corinth. We saw that one of the Corinthians’ biggest problems was their focus on themselves. They were consummate narcissists. As a result, the Corinthian church was extremely dysfunctional in the way it ministered to itself. In today’s Bible reading, Peter echos Paul’s concerns about the proper use of spiritual gifts.
A spiritual gift isn’t for the individual who has the gift. Instead, the individual who has the gift should use the gift in the strength that God provides so that God alone is glorified. (1 Peter 4:10–11) That’s it. And it applies to all individuals and all of the gifts.
And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. Ephesians 4:11–13 (CSB)
God has blessed me with a primary spiritual gift of teaching. Clustered around that central gift, He has also given me gifts of shepherd, exhortation, wisdom, and intercession. My task is to use these gifts — in the power of the Holy Spirit — to work together along with my personality mix to build up the church I pastor so that our people can do the work of ministry.
Did you catch that? I’m not supposed to do all the work. Neither is anyone else! But unfortunately, I have seen many pastors and their families abused by churches who think the pastor is responsible for everything. And when things don’t get done, guess who is blamed? It’s shameful.
I have been very blessed to serve in churches whose members have rolled up their shirtsleeves to do God’s work. Right now, the church where I have served for over three years (Fellowship Baptist Church in Weatherford, Texas) is in the process of merging with a sister church (Heritage Baptist Church) right across the road from our church. Both churches prayed about how God is moving among us and “it seemed good to us and the Holy Spirit” (Acts 15:28a) to combine our church bodies. We sensed that we can do more together as one than we can do separately. And now, God is bringing out the gifts and personality I haven’t needed to draw from in the past. In some ways, I’m intimidated. But I’m also encouraged that God is entrusting to me as pastor, the task of uniting these two bodies into one.
I’m sure that as we move forward, there will be challenges. But like Peter says, everyone should use their gift for the good of the church body. We should all, use our gifts “to serve others, as good stewards of the varied grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10 CSB) with the primary goal of bringing glory to the Giver of those gifts. (1 Peter 4:11)
Every believer has at least one spiritual gift. What’s yours? If you are a Believer and don’t know, just ask God. He’ll show you that you may not know what it is, but you use it every day. That is, if you are actively involved in your local church, and actively pursuing God, you probably use your gift(s) all the time. Ask your church friends what they think your gift(s) is/are.
There are also resources available that can help you and your church to evaluate your spiritual gift(s). But when it comes down to it, all those resources do is reveal how you have functioned in the past and recently. Don’t obsess over discovering your gift(s). Instead, obsess over loving God! And obsess over actively using your gift(s) and yourself to glorify Him.
Next, John talks about the importance of hospitality toward other Believers. (3 John 1:5-8) People don’t talk much about hospitality these days. But it’s a very important character trait. Back in the First Century, especially as Roman religious persecution grew, it was crucial that Believers support each other as John says above. He concludes his thoughts, urging that Believers should financially support itenerant missionaries. By supporting these people, they actually become a coworker with them in God’s work.
I haven’t read it yet, but Rosaria Butterfield wrote an award-winning book, The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World. In it, she talks about how she became a Christian in a large part because some Christian neighbors extended “radically ordinary” hospitality to her.
Think about that. By simply being hospitable, you can have an eternal impact on the lives of lost people. Maybe it’s gladly giving a neighbor a cup of sugar. Maybe it’s loaning a fan to a new neighbor who’s painting some rooms before they move. Definitely, it’s praying for your neighbors. Definitely, it’s being ready to share a “fresh word” of encouragement with them. Definitely, it’s giving a Bible to the coworker who doesn’t have one and is beginning their spiritual walk.
The saying, “Always share your faith and use words when necessary” forgets the fact that unless you use words, people will not know the Gospel. Sure, they may think, “Wow, what a nice gesture.” but they won’t know why you did what you did when you were hospitable. Peter urged his readers to always be ready to gently and respectfully explain your hope. (1 Peter 3:15)
And that requires that we use words.
Did you know that the antichrist is already here? John says he’s already in the world. And he wrote that during the last half of the First Century.
John begins 1 John 4 in today’s Bible reading with a warning to test the Spirits. (1 John 4:1) So how do you know which spirits to believe? John answers that question for us.
This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming; even now it is already in the world. (1 John 4:2-3 (CSB)
One scholar says, “To test the spirits is ‘Put them to the acid test of truth as the metallurgist does his metals. If it stands the test like a coin, it is acceptable , 2 Cor. 10:18), otherwise it is rejected.'”
It’s so easy to turn on the TV to a “Christian” program, or tune into a “Christian” radio station and hear all kinds of teachings from all kinds of Bible teachers. And not all of the Bible teachers are teaching Biblically-sound teachings. Oh, they may quote the Bible. They may throw around some Greek or Hebrew words. But how do you know if what you’re hearing is right?
The early church struggled with this question. The Apostles’ warnings are laid out in their letters to the young churches and their leaders. And back then, there was a higher level of accountability than there is today. Back then, all you’d have to do is call out the false teachers in a letter and the local pastors confronted them. But today with 24/7 “Christian” TV and radio — not to mention the Internet — there is little to no accountability of the false teachers and their false teachings. Don’t believe me? Call the teacher/preacher/writer and ask the receptionist to let you speak with him/her. Trust me, you won’t be able to talk with him/her. They have more important things to do.
Regardless of the times and the technology, each of us is responsible to make sure that the preachers/teachers/writers we learn from are teaching consistently with the Bible. And that means Believers must test the spirits for themselves. Your pastor can help to point you in the right direction. And that’s one very good reason to be plugged into a good, Bible-believing church. But even your pastor may not know if a particular preacher/teacher/writer is teaching God’s Word legitimately.
Applying John’s counsel, look at what the Bible teacher/preacher/writer says about Jesus. Is the Jesus he/she teaches the Jesus revealed in the Bible? Just talking about “Jesus” doesn’t mean it’s the Jesus of the Bible. What does the teacher/preacher/writer have to say about the Lordship of Jesus Christ? Does what he/she say line up with all of Scripture? Does he/she say that God’s Word is our ultimate authority on Who Jesus is? Does listening to him/her make you feel uncomfortable about sin? Does listening to him/her make you want to live more of a God-centered life?
Yes, it’s very important to put Bible teachers/preachers/writers to the acid test. And just because they passed the test ten years ago doesn’t necessarily mean they would pass the test today. Don’t let down your guard. Your walk with Jesus is impacted by who you watch, listen to, and read. Be careful. Test the spirits.
 Robertson, A.T. Word Pictures in the New Testament. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1933. Print.
Paul gives Timothy some very practical advise in today’s Bible reading. All Believers can relate to the occasional waning of passion for God and for practicing the spiritual disciplines. He tells Timothy to, “rekindle the gift of God that is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” (2 Timothy 1:6–7)
I spent about ten years as a Scout, beginning as a Cub Scout and progressing through the Ranks of Boy Scouts until I earned the rank of Eagle. I spent another ten years as a Scout leader, mentoring my son and other growing young men. One of the important skills Boy Scouts is how to safely work with fire for warmth, cooking, for sterilizing dishes after meals. Again, working safely with fire, we had to let our campfire die down before hitting the sack at night. In the morning, we often wouldn’t have to start a new fire. Instead, we would use a shovel to turn over the ashes to reveal the glowing embers. We’d kneel down and slowly and gently blow into the embers until a flame erupted. From there we would begin adding small sticks and graduate to larger sticks to logs through the day and early evening.
Paul tells Timothy to turn over the apparent dead ashes, reveal the hidden embers, and fan into flame the gift that God gave him years ago. Spiritual growth doesn’t just happen. The verb tense that Paul uses is not to fan into flame one time, but to keep on fanning into flame his spiritual gift. We don’t know what Timothy’s spiritual gift was; it doesn’t matter anyway because Paul’s point is that he intends that we do the same when our passions wane.
In Ephesians 5:18, Paul tells the Ephesians — the people in Timothy’s church — to not be controlled with wine, but to keep on being filled with the Spirit. Why? Because we leak! One day — or one moment — we may be walking in a spiritual high and the next we may be fighting those indwelling sins that our enemy uses to condemn us and rob us of our joy. Why? Because we leak!
I don’t know a single Believer who constantly walks in a spiritual high. Seasons come and seasons go. Each of us needs to be reminded that we need to keep on fanning the flame of what God has given to us in Jesus.
Practicing the spiritual disciplines can help us to keep on rekindling the embers of passion for God and the things of God. If you’re interested in learning more about the spiritual disciplines, check out these resources by clicking the affiliate links.
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney