Friday, November 28, 2008

“Shouldn’t We Bear One Another's Burdens?”

How many ministries have you been asked to join or help with this week? There is so much going on! Someone recently complained: “Why wouldn’t he help with my ministry? Doesn’t the Bible tell us to “bear one another’s burdens?"
How do you recruit help for your ministry?" While it might be nice to come to the rescue of one another, these “burdens” that the Bible are talking about are not activities. We read in Galatians:

“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry is own load.”
Galatians 6:1-5

These “burdens” are not helping one another with ministry projects, or taking up the slack for someone who has overextended their schedule. These “burdens” are temptations, or perhaps moral failures that folks in Christ have suffered. We are to carry our own “loads,” while helping (through gentle restoration, encouragement, accountability, etc.) others who are struggling.

God calls us to walk with Him by faith, while serving Him in freedom. Paul was writing to Galatian believers, that had come under the influence of extremely legalistic men who insisted that non-Jewish followers of Christ be circumcised as Jewish. Paul’s letter emphasizes the importance of serving God in the freedom that Christ obtained for us on the cross.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
Galatians 5:1

It’s about serving God in freedom! Just before these burden-carrying verses, Paul describes living according to the “flesh” or “sinful nature” versus living according to the Spirit. After describing the results from living each way, He says,

“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

Galatians 5:25, 26

Allowing people to minister in the freedom Christ intends is essential. How we consider one another is very important to God. God requires each of us to walk in freedom and to live by faith. God wants His children free!

I’m excited about a new ministry. I really want to see it happen! Immediately I can think of several people who I’d love to partner with me on it. It involves rescuing children. And I can rest, knowing that God cares more about them than I do.

What do I see in potential ministry partners? Do I see talented people who can serve my vision? Or do I see people whom God has created, called, gifted, and chosen to minister to Him in freedom and faith? For me it is usually a mixture of the two. God help me!

I must protect the freedom of those I approach, and to respect God’s calling for them to walk by faith. If I try and sell my vision; try to convince them of their need to help out, or maybe coerce with guilt, reminding them of that week when I selflessly and tirelessly fed their cat, I am operating “according to the flesh.” I’m avoiding the Holy Spirit’s involvement. No matter how important I feel this ministry idea is, I have to respect their calling too.

It makes sense. Sure, we hope people will come aboard and help. But ultimately don’t we want to be working with people whom God has called, rather than those who we have merely “recruited?” To achieve this, we should sow the ministry vision that God has given.

You sow the vision by letting folk know what you believe God is leading you into. Then water this sown seed with prayer and thanksgiving. In sowing the seed, you have to let it drop. If that’s difficult, remind yourself how God loves those you hope to reach through this ministry, even more than you do. Ask Him to make this vision reality. Then expect a time when the vision seems to die.

Seeds have to die before the life they're meant to birth can grow. This can be painful. But ask anyone who has ever started a ministry. At some point it seemed their vision would never materialize. Their vision had to die. Then God gives the vision, life! I think this keeps people from taking credit when the life springs forth. We then freely give Glory to God, as it should be.

Be honoring when inviting people into your ministry. No trying to sell it! We must honor one another’s freedom! We should give people room to hear from God. Then they'll be serving God, and not ourselves, or out of some vague sense of obligation. By walking according to the Spirit, there won’t be “jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambitions” etc., but the “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness” and etc. that comes from people freed to walk according to the Spirit, rather than recruited by our ambitious flesh.

If you must ask for help, check your questions. Honoring how God creates people, extend them complete freedom to follow Christ. Jesus said:

“Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’:
Matthew 5:37

Jesus let’s people say “no.” So we must allow for “no.” Being visibly or audibly upset when someone says “no” to our request is manipulation. The question was not really even a question. We must let one another experience faith. Yet faith isn’t even involved unless God speaks first!

“Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”
Romans 10:17

The “word” here, is “Rhema” in the Greek. It means that word which is God breathed. The other word for “word” in scripture is “Logos.” Logos includes the written word of God. Therefore quoting Bible verses to convince people doesn’t help them exercise faith because faith comes from the "Rhema" of God, and humans don't speak Rhema. Give God room! If God gives us a vision for ministry, and if we sow generously, telling others about what God is leading us to do, then along the way, we can trust Him to call others by His Rhema. Then they can exercise faith freely and serve God with great joy.

We do the sowing. God does the growing:

“A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain_”
Mark 4:26-28

If God gives you vision, your job is to sow and maybe to water. Let Him grow it! So much stress, fatigue and strained relationships come from trying to make it happen! Don’t do more than God has appointed for you.

Walking by faith doesn’t guarantee you'll see the ministry finished in this lifetime. The above verse assures us that we will “not know how” this growth occurs. Don’t be fooled by your eagerness to see it to completion! It’s not your baby. Paul was content in ministry, understanding this:

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who makes things grow.”
1 Corinthians 3:6,7

Don’t be dismayed. God calls all His children. Others may reap for the Kingdom, what you have sown for the Kingdom. Likewise we often reap what others have sown. Jesus describes this as:

“…the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying, “One sows and another reaps,” is true.”
John 4:36,37

In Hebrews 11, there are listed many people of great and notable faith, and starting in verse 37 we read:

“They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.”

Hebrews 11:37-39

We may be reaping what other people of faith have sown. Scripture goes on to say that these people mentioned will yet receive the goal of their faith. The point is we mustn’t push it. Paul writes in chapter 4 of Abraham’s faith. Abraham exemplifies to us both faith and the blunder of pushing the promise. His faith in God’s promise led to Isaac and so Israel, from whom comes Christ our Savior. But before Isaac was given, He and Sarah rushed the vision. Perhaps tired of waiting for God, Ishmael was born when they pressed Hagar to bear Abraham a son. This Ishmael would become the great Arab nation; and just as God then announced, the two nations have never been at peace.

Has God spoken to you? Awesome! Then sow the vision and trust Him. If folk aren’t coming aboard yet, maybe the seed needs to die. Just sow the vision, pray and live for God each day. There will be a harvest. You won’t know how it happens, but God will be praised.