Many people desire spirituality but not a biblical spirituality. To minister in this age, our 21st century churches need to model themselves after 1st century congregations. Let’s look at Acts 20:18-19, and we will see the manner in which the Apostle Paul went about the work of the Lord. His manner was marked by consistency.
“I have been with you in all seasons”, Paul said. Paul demonstrated “stickability” and constancy. When you examine his ministry in Ephesus you’ll find that things weren’t very easy there. And I’m sure there were times when Paul may have felt like quitting and moving on to greener pastures, but he stayed on, he had endured with them through “all seasons.” Faithfulness is one of the ingredients that the Lord uses to bless a church and her ministry. Effective churches are filled with faithful people.
Of course the opposite of faithfulness is unfaithfulness, and it is a terrible sin. Proverbs 25:19 says, “Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint.” A broken tooth and a broken foot are painful, and so is someone who is unfaithful. Unfaithfulness will wreck a home, ruin a business, and kill a church. We must be people who faithfully and consistently serve God – “I have been with you in all seasons.” Christ told the church in Smyrna, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
Paul’s manner is characterized by consistency and by consecration.
“Serving the Lord with all humility of mind,” Paul said in v. 19. All that we do as Christians and all that we do in the church is to be done as unto the Lord. That word serving (douleuō) means “to be a slave, to be in bondage to” and a Christian is to be a slave of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
We have the example of Christ to follow; Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Likewise, when we are here at church we are not here to be served but we are here to serve, and our faithful service must be extended beyond these four walls. As a church we are to be serving the Lord. He is the focal point of our service, and as we serve the Lord we will serve each other and our community as well.
How are you serving? We all ought to be doing something, serving in some capacity. If you don’t have something to do are you looking? Are you serving? Every place of service is vitally important, and there is a place of service for everybody.
“With all humility of mind”
You’ll notice that Paul said serving the Lord with all humility of mind. We need to have a proper estimate of ourselves and of God. Look at Romans 12:3, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”
Serving with all humility of mind means that you will not be high-minded. Did you know that some people are too big for God to use? Now, obviously that is not true, but that’s how they behave because they don’t want to be used unless it’s in a prominent place. But Jesus won’t use you in a prominent place unless you’re willing to be used in an obscure place. Faithfulness to serve Jesus in little things will qualify you for service in the big things.
Having a proper estimate of yourself means not being high-minded and it also means not be low-minded or having “false” humility. Just like some people are too big for God to use, there are others who are too little for God to use; at least that’s how they feel and behave. Quit telling yourself and the Lord that He can’t use you! Christian, you have every resource necessary for victorious living and faithful service, and that resource is the Holy Spirit, and if you’re saved He indwells you and empowers you for service to the Lord through the church (Ephesians 1:19-23; 2 Peter 1:3-4).
We are called to a humble-minded service to Christ through the church. That is what is needed; not a high-minded attitude, not a low-minded attitude, but a humble-minded posture that says, “I can’t do everything, but I can do something. I don’t have all the gifts, but I have some of the gifts. I don’t have all the opportunities that some have, but I’ll take advantage of the ones I do have. I will, in all seasons, serve the Lord with all humility of mind.”
Paul’s manner was characterized by consistency, consecration, and compassion.
In v. 19 we read, “Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears.” With many tears…(Romans 9:2-3; Matthew 9:36-39; Luke 19:41-42). Sadly, we’re a little too dry-eyed and cold-hearted in our service to the Lord. Now I’m not encouraging shallow and unstable emotional outbursts. I am talking about a deep-seated, Biblical compassion for lost souls. I’m talking about a genuine concern for where people will spend eternity. The Psalmist said in Psalm 126:5-6, “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”
We need a broken-heart attitude. If you can look at this condemned world and not be moved with deep concern then something is wrong. If we can think, talk, and sing about the cross without having our hearts and souls stirred, then we need to ask God to break our hearts, we need to ask God to move us to tears again. Not shallow, sentimental, phony tears, but a genuine, broken compassion and concern for those who need the Lord; Psalm 126 tears. And we need to have a similar passion for our fellow church members, and for the moral and doctrinal purity of the church. These concerns moved Paul to tears; they drove him, and we desperately need some of that.
21st century churches need to minister like the 1st century churches; we need to follow Paul’s example. Paul’s manner was characterized by consistent, consecrated, compassionate service that is humble minded, and it was also characterized by courage.
We read, “Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the laying in wait of the Jews.” Serving the Lord requires courage, but, this courage comes not from within us but from the Lord. Just as the Holy Spirit has gifted us to serve He will strengthen us to serve. Remember this stanza of Amazing Grace? “Thru many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come; ‘tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”
21st century churches need the same courage that we read about in the 1st century churches. The 21st century needs churches with the courage to proclaim the gospel message without apology and without an attitude. This century, just like the 1st century, needs churches that fear God and not man.
We need to follow the example of Paul’s manner; the manner of consistency, consecration, compassion, and courage. We also need to follow Paul’s method, and you will find this method spelled out in verse 20, and , hopefully, our next post.