Years ago, I was the store manager for a major company. Not long after I took over the store, I needed to hire an assistant manager. My district manager came in and gave me a suggestion of who he thought would be a great fit for the store. I didn’t think they would be a good fit and wanted to hire someone else. He agreed to let me hire the person I wanted. When I approached them about applying for the job, they said they didn’t think I knew them. I replied, “I’ve been seeing your work ethic for years. I’ve watched how you interact with customers and how you’ve respected authority when it’s been in your store.” He replied, “I never thought anyone saw me. I was just being myself.” I agreed and stated that’s why I wanted him to apply.
The day after Jesus was baptized, He began calling disciples to follow Him. Philip was one of the first ones. He went and told his brother Nathaneal that he had found the Messiah. When Nathaneal approached Jesus in John 1:47, Jesus said to him, “Now here comes a true son of Israel—an honest man with no hidden motive!” (TPT) Nathaniel was stunned and said he didn’t think Jesus had ever met him and didn’t know how He knew him. Jesus replied, “Nathanael, right before Philip came to you I saw you sitting under the shade of a fig tree.” That was all it took for him to believe in Jesus and to follow Him.
A lot of ministry and work that people do for God’s Kingdom goes unnoticed. You have to give a lot of yourself, and more times than not you’re criticized more than thanked when it is noticed. I want you to know that God not only knows who you are, He knows you and sees what you’re doing. Don’t quit serving because people don’t see or people criticize. In Matthew 6:3-4, Jesus encourages us, “But when you demonstrate generosity, do it with pure motives and without drawing attention to yourself. Give secretly and your Father, who sees all you do, will reward you openly.” Remember, you’re not doing what you’re doing for man’s approval. God sees your unnoticed work and will reward you openly here or in Heaven. You are known and seen by God. Keep up the good work.
Recently I was talking with my friend outside while the kids were playing. They decided they wanted to play basketball. They were taking turns shooting, but every time the youngest tried to shoot, she could barely get the ball over her heard. I lowered the goal to see if that would help, but it didn’t. She just wasn’t able to get the ball high enough to go through the hoop. The next time it was her turn, I picked her up and held her over the goal so she could easily make it. After realizing she couldn’t do it on her own, and that she could with help, she began to ask us to lift her up each time it was her shot. I couldn’t help but think that it was great picture of how God helps us accomplish the things He’s called us to.
When the disciples came to Jesus to tell Him the 5,000 people were hungry, He told them to give the people something to eat. Just like that little girl looking up at that basketball goal, they realized it was impossible for them. Jesus blessed the fish and loaves, but had the disciples distribute it and pick up the leftovers. They were still able to participate in the miracle with His help. He was always working to give them confidence to do the work of the ministry with His help and not on their own strength. When He sent out the 70 in Luke 10, He told them, “You won’t need to take anything with you—trust in God alone. And don’t get distracted from my purpose by anyone you might meet along the way” (TPT). He was reminding them that they get to participate in the miraculous with God and they wouldn’t need anything of their own to make it happen.
Before He sent them off, He also said, “The harvest is huge and ripe. But there are not enough harvesters to bring it all in. As you go, plead with the Owner of the Harvest to drive out into his harvest fields many more workers.” God is still looking for people who will participate in the work that needs to be done, but to do it in His strength and with His help. He calls us to things that are greater than ourselves so that we can rely on His strength and know that it’s not in our own abilities. We can keep trying to do things on our own, over and over again, but they will fall short. When we learn to ask Him for help, and present ourselves as available to participate, He comes in with His strength, lifts us up and allows us to complete the goal. Remember it’s in our weaknesses and inabilities that His strength is made perfect. When we do our part, He does His.
Have you heard these phrases? Teamwork makes the dream work? There’s no “I” in team. Team – Together Each Achieves More. If you ever played sports or worked in a corporate environment, you’ve probably heard these and more. They’re trite sayings to remind you that just about everything you do is for a team of people around you. Each one of us are individual contributors to the whole. Some teams have a lot of dysfunction. Some have superstars who do the bulk of the work. Others function very well together like a well oiled machine. Groups of people working towards the same goal with the same vision and core values can accomplish exponentially more than any individual ever could. Yet, somehow, we think the ministry of the Church should be done by a few while the rest of us sit back and watch.
Have you heard these phrases around church? That’s the pastor’s job. I’m not comfortable witnessing. I’m not a minister. I don’t work here. If you’ve ever asked people to do things around a church, you’ve probably heard these. Somewhere along the way, we lost sight that we are one body working together to achieve the Great Commission. We let pastors do the work of the ministry and the church by themselves “because it’s their job.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. Yes, pastors work for the church, and many even have staff who work there too, but they are not the only ones who are supposed to be doing the work of the Church. If you belong to the Body of Christ and are involved with a local church body, you are part of a team and have responsibilities in the work of the ministry.
Ephesians 4 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. It’s so rich and full of things that jump off the page to me. If you’ve been in church long, you’ve heard of the five fold ministries listed in verse 12. God gave us apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, and that’s where we usually stop reading. However, verse 13 tell us why He gave them to us. It says, “And their calling is to nurture and prepare all the holy believers to do their own works of ministry, and as they do this they will enlarge and build up the body of Christ” (TPT). Their calling is to equip you, yes you, to do the works of ministry. You are a minister if you are a Christian. Read that again. We are all part of the ministry team and we each have a role to play in the enlargement of the Church. Sitting on a pew doing nothing and just attending church are not an option because you are part of the teamwork that makes the church work.
Today is my 2,000th post to Devotions By Chris. In a few weeks, I will have been writing devotions for eight years. It’s taught me a lot about being faithful to what God has asked me to do. It has also taught me to redefine what success looks like when you’re doing what God has asked you to do. Success in God’s eyes isn’t measured by subscribers or by clicks. It’s measured by our faithfulness to the ministry we receive from Him. Success is found in being faithful in the little things and doing what He’s asked with all your strength whether you understand the reason or not. Can you obey and be faithful even when it’s difficult and you don’t understand?
My pastor said something that is along these lines. He said, “If you ask God for an Oak tree, He’ll give you an acorn.” God plants seeds of the things He’s calling us to in our hearts. We have to water them and tend to them even when we can’t see anything. Even when it shouts through the ground, you have to stick with it even though it may be years before it’s what you’ve envisioned. In Luke16:10 Jesus tells us that if we’re faithful with the little things, He can trust us with greater things. Managing the growth of an acorn can be tedious at times and unremarkable. No one may notice your efforts or the small steps of growth, but you’re not doing it for others or for those reasons. You’re doing it because it’s what God planted in your heart.
As Paul was wrapping up his letter to the church at Colossae, he tucked in a little note to a minister who may have been thinking of giving up because he wasn’t seeing the growth or success he thought he should. In Colossians 4:17 he told the believers, “Be sure you give Archippus this message: ‘Be faithful to complete the ministry you received from our Lord Jesus!’” (TPT) That’s today’s message to you. Be faithful to what you have received from the Lord even if it doesn’t look like you pictured it. Keep going even if you’re not being successful in the world’s eyes. Your faithfulness is noticed by God, and He counts your obedience as success. You may not change the world, get noticed by anyone or even feel like you’re making a difference at times, but if you will keep doing your part, God will keep doing His.
I spend a lot of time thinking about the future. Not just the future, my future and the plans God has for me. I wonder when the dreams and plans He has for me will happen. I try to make plans and prepare myself for the things He wants to do through me. Then there are times when I think about my past. I think about the ugly details and can’t help but wonder if my past is the thing keeping me from the future God has for me. It’s easy to look behind me and then mentally disqualify myself. It’s usually in those moments I hear the still small voice say, “You can’t undo my calling on your life. Just keep being faithful in the little things.”
Peter is a disciple we like to pick on, but his faith enabled him to do things that were written about. There were moments when he had great revelation and times when Jesus rebuked him openly. Jesus once told Him that He would use him as the foundation to build His Church on. Yet Peter is also the person who denied even knowing Jesus. I’m sure he wrestled with the same thoughts I do. Had he messed up so badly that God changed His plan him? That’s why I love that Jesus imparted the blessing to him by asking Peter if he loved Him. When Peter said yes, Jesus comforted him and told him that the deal was still on by telling him to feed His sheep. His past didn’t matter. His heart did.
Psalm 139:5 says, “You’ve gone into my future to prepare the way, and in kindness you follow behind me to spare me from the harm of my past. With your hand of love upon my life, you impart a blessing to me” (TPT). Man looks on the outward appearance of things looking to disqualify ourselves or someone else from their calling, but God looks at our heart and the plans He has for us. He prepares the way and opens the doors for us. He uses the mistakes of our past, no matter how bad they were, to help us reach broken people with authenticity. He speaks His blessings of approval over us like He did for Peter. Do you love Him? Then go do what He’s called you to do. Quit worrying about all these other things and focus on your love for Him. He’s already prepared your way, so get moving on it toward your destiny.
One of the traps that I fall into is thinking that if I’m doing what God asked me to, I won’t find resistance from others. I mean if I’m doing God’s will, others, especially Christians should be on board, right? Not necessarily. The things that God calls us to do are often for us alone to do. Other people won’t necessarily see or run with the vision God has given you, and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean you didn’t hear God, or that they’re not. The enemy doesn’t want you to be productive for the Kingdom, nor does he want you to complete the work God has given you to do. He will use whoever and whatever he can to slow you down, discourage you and wear you down so that you lose your zeal, doubt your calling and give up.
Even though God had burdened Nehemiah with rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, and other people had caught on to that vision, it didn’t mean it was going to be easy. The people were joyful and started off strong, but then resistance came. People began to hurl insults at them to keep them from their work. Day in and day out they were verbally attacked. The verbal attacks turned into threats and plots against them to stop the work. They took their eyes off the goal and began to look at the enormity of the project, the size of the mess and lost their joy realizing it wasn’t in their strength to complete it. Nehemiah 4:10 says, “The people of Judah had a song they sang: ‘We grow weak carrying burdens; There’s so much rubble to take away. How can we build the wall today?’” (GNT) They became weary and discouraged like we do.
Galatians 6:9 says, “So let us not become tired of doing good; for if we do not give up, the time will come when we will reap the harvest.” If you’re getting discouraged because of the grind or the attacks from others in doing what God has called you to, pick your head up and look to the One who called you to it. Keep your focus on the end goal and not on the size of today’s problems. God will strengthen you and give you wisdom in how to handle today’s issues of you ask Him to. Pray for people who will run along side of you, who will catch the vision and who will share the load. Remember how big your God is. He is able to make a way where there seems to be no way. Keep pressing forward with the end in mind and you will reap a harvest for the work you’re doing.
At a young age I felt like I was called into ministry. I began preparing and practicing, but honestly I was afraid of it. It was a dream that was in front of me, but the older I got, the further into the future this dream seemed to go. Then in a single day, the dream died. I went through a divorce that couldn’t be avoided. The denomination I was a part of at the time had a rule back then that you couldn’t be a minister if you were divorced. I was devastated by both the divorce and the fact that I could never be in ministry. All my life had been pointing to the dream of ministry and it was gone. Not only was I having to start life over, I was lost without a dream to guide me. That is until a friend told me,”Do you really think that man can negate God’s calling?”
In Ezekiel 37, God showed Ezekiel a valley of very dry bones. I imagine it was quite a sight to see. Dead people’s bones were scattered everywhere and there were none connected together I’m sure. As God showed him all these bones, He asked him a question in verse 3. “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?” (NLT) You and i both know that humanly it impossible for them to be brought back to life, but that’s not how Ezekiel answered. Instead of stating the obvious, he replied, “O Sovereign Lord, you alone know the answer to that.” At that answer, God told him to speak to those bones and prophesy to them to come alive and live again. Just like that the bones all came together and were covered with flesh. Then he was told to speak and prophesy the breath of life back into them and they became a living army.
You may be where I was once in feeling like your calling or the dream God gave you is dead and in the past. It doesn’t matter whether it’s anything you’ve done, someone has done to you or if it’s from not going after it in time. Man, including yourself, cannot take away God’s promises, nor His plan for your life. You may be looking at a valley of the dead bones of your dreams today, but God can make them live again. Speak to your dream. Speak life into it. If God has placed it in you, it will happen no matter what things look like today. Be like Ezekiel when you’re looking at what seems dead. Don’t pronounce that it can’t live again. Let God answer that question and watch Him begin to bring the pieces back together again.
All of my life I felt called into ministry, but I kept putting it off until later. I figured I’d do my own thing first and then follow my calling. That was working until I got a divorce. I was devastated because I grew up in a denomination that at the time would not allow divorced people to be in ministry. I was discussing my plight with a friend one day about how I had waited too long to fulfill my calling. He almost chuckled and then said, “Do you really think that man can revoke God’s calling on your life?” It was the slap I needed to bring me back into reality.
God has numbered each of our days before we were born. He knows our future and the choices we will make. So when He makes a promise to us, He does so with full knowledge of the mistakes we’re going to make. He created each of us with a purpose to fulfill that only we can fulfill. He knows the bumps in the road we’re going to face, the sins we’re going to commit and the set backs we’re going to have when he gives purpose to our lives. Those things don’t revoke your purpose. They actually validate it and give your life the depth needed to reach people you otherwise couldn’t.
Psalm 138:8 says, “You keep every promise you’ve ever made to me! Since your love for me is constant and endless, I ask you, Lord, to finish every good thing that you’ve begun in me!” (TPT) God has not revoked your calling, nor will He walk away from the promises He made to you based on what you’ve done or been through. He will be faithful to complete it. He has not stopped loving you, and He still has a plan. Any mistake you’ve made has not nullified your calling or revoked any promises. Seek forgiveness if you haven’t already, and ask God to finish what He started in you.
Recently we were going to sand some floors down to refinish them. The cost to pay someone to do them was astronomical. We decided to do them ourselves. The cheapest way to do them was by hand. That would take forever so we went to rent a machine. I saw the machine I wanted and asked about it. He said it would do the job well, but they were out of sandpaper for it. He grabbed a “less aggressive” machine and then the sandpaper for it. As he rang it up, the sandpaper alone was over $100. I couldn’t believe the price. I had to remind myself that having the right tool was worth the money.
Proverbs 14:4 says, “Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest” (NLT). Having oxen would require feeding them, watering them, housing them and ultimately cleaning up after them. Many people would look at the down side of owning them and choose not to get them. On the other hand, without them it would be difficult to plow the land or to bring in the harvest. There’s give and take in everything. It’s up to us to count the cost and to understand you get what you pay for, even if the cost is ongoing. In an agricultural society, if you wanted an abundant crop, you needed to invest in oxen.
Each one of us has a purpose to fulfill. You can do it with the natural tools you’ve been given (like sanding the floor by hand) or you can invest in yourself to increase the effectiveness of those tools. Going to school, taking a class, buying books and other ways to increase your effectiveness will cost you. It’s up to you to make sure you use the right tools for what you’re called to do and to invest in your future. There are pro’s and con’s to everything. That’s why we’re encouraged to count the cost physically and spiritually. Investing in the right tools for whatever God is calling you to will translate to your effectiveness.
Did you know that there are four seasons to farming? In the Spring, it’s the time of planting. The soil is tilled and seeds are placed at the right depth and spacing. In the Summer, it’s critical to make sure the crops are getting the right amount of water, fertilizer and sunlight. With the Fall comes the harvest. It’s about gathering in the produce at the peak of ripeness and then ripping out the old stalks so the ground can be infused with organic matter. Then, when the winter comes, the land has an opportunity to rest. You also spend this time repairing your tools and getting ready for the next Spring.
As I read that, I can’t help but think of the seasons of our life. Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us there is a time and a season for everything. That includes our lives. Some of us are in a season of planting and preparing for what’s coming. Some of us are in a season of working on growing what we’ve planted. Some of us are in a season of harvest where we are reaping the benefits of what we’ve done. Others are in a season of rest where things in your life have been ripped up and it’s time to make repairs so you can plant again. Have you ever considered what season you’re in and the responsibilities God has given you for that season?
Proverbs 10:4 says, “Know the importance of the season you’re in and a wise son you will be. But what a waste when an incompetent son sleeps through his day of opportunity!” (TPT) God has you in this season for a purpose. In every season you find yourself in, there are things you should be doing for that season as well as things to prepare for the next season. Ask God to give you wisdom to know the things you should be doing in your season. Every season comes and goes. You will not be in this season forever, so make the most of it. Don’t let the opportunity of what God is trying to do in your life during this season pass by.