Obedience

'Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.'

Thomas said to him, 'Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?'

Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.' (Joh 14:1–6)

Jesus is the Way

Jesus said: 'You know the way to the place where I am going.' And Thomas replied: 'Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?'

Jesus told his disciples that he would soon be going to his Father's house (which was heaven, Heb 1:3). Then he said: 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father (to heaven) except through me.'

Jesus is the way to heaven, and people get to heaven not only by faith in Jesus Christ—who is the way, the truth and the life—but also by obedience to Jesus Christ (1Pe 1:1–2).

Jesus said:

'If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.' (Joh 8:31)

The Greek word translated 'really' in that verse means truly, the truth, surely, actually, with certainty. And the Greek word translated 'to hold to' means to continue on in something.

If we continue to follow our Lord's teaching, then we are truly, surely, certainly his disciples. But the converse must also be true: that if we stop following our Lord's teaching, we are no longer his disciples. And that, sadly, is what some Christians do.

In Joh 6, having listened to his teaching for a while, some of his disciples turned away and no longer followed him. Jesus asked the Twelve: 'Do you want to leave too?' Peter answered, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life (Joh 6:68).' Obedience to our Lord's teaching leads to eternal life.

Christians who have walked with the Lord but do so no longer, should remember that they cannot get to heaven except through Jesus Christ; and that being a disciple of Jesus involves holding to his teaching and obeying his teaching (Mat 28:19–20).

Trust

In Joh 14:1 Jesus said: 'Trust in God; trust also in me.' He didn't say: 'Have faith in God; have faith also in me.' Jesus wasn't talking about faith, he was talking about trust; and trust is different to faith.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Heb 11:1)

Faith is a firm belief in what is unseen. None of us have seen God (Joh 1:18a), and yet we believe in him and have put our faith in him.

Trust, however, is a firm belief in the reliability of a person, or of a statement they have made. We say: 'I trust you to do what you have said.' Jesus said: 'Trust me. I am going to heaven to prepare a place for you, and then I will come back and take you to that place. Trust me to do that.'

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths. (Pro 3:5–6)

Those verses of Scripture are particular favourites of mine because they teach the Spirit-led life. 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart… in all your ways acknowledge him.' In other words, give your life totally and unreservedly to God.

Surrender yourself to him—every part of your life; everything you have; everything you are. Give it all to God; make him Lord of everything. 'Not my will be done in my life any longer, Lord, but your will be done. I consecrate myself completely to you.'

If you do that, then God will direct your paths because he's promised to. Follow the leading of his Spirit rather than the reasoning of your mind. He may lead you down paths you would never have imagined for yourself, but you will be walking with Jesus and he will be walking with you.

Service

Please take time to read the Parable of the Talents in Mat 25:14–30. If you read it in the NIV, you will notice that the word 'entrust' is used.

'Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them.' (Mat 25:14)

The man entrusted his property to his servants and the first two acknowledged that trust. The first servant said:

'Master…, you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.' (Mat 25:20)

The second servant said:

'Master…, you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.' (Matthew 25:22)

But the third servant said:

'Master…, I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.' (Mat 25:24–25)

The third servant didn't mention the word 'entrust' at all. He knew he'd been entrusted with something, but he didn't want to admit it. The fact is that Jesus has entrusted each of us with gifts or abilities that he expects us to use in his kingdom.

Tasks and rewards

Paul said he'd been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles (Gal 2:7). Jesus was trusting him to do that, which is why he considered his life worth nothing to him as long as he could complete the task the Lord had given him; it became the prime concern of his life (Act 20:24).

In the same way, every member of the Body of Christ has been assigned at least one task in the Church and we'll be rewarded according to how we perform that task (or tasks). That is taught in the Parable of the Talents and in 1Co 3:5–9.

Paul wrote:

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. (1Co 3:5–6)

Paul said that his task was to sow the seed of the Word of God into the hearts of the people of Corinth, Apollos' task was to water it (with his prayers), and God's task was to make the seed grow. And each of the human instruments in that project would be rewarded for their labour (1Co 3:8).

Christianity is not only about going to church to meet with the Lord and other believers, it also involves us labouring in his vineyard (Mat 20:1–16)—using what he's entrusted to us to serve him and to serve others, and being rewarded for our service.

In the Parable of the Talents, the master rewarded the servants who'd used what they'd been entrusted with, but not the one who hadn't used what he'd been entrusted with. He condemned that servant for his wickedness and laziness and threw him outside into the darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Weeping and gnashing of teeth in darkness is not a picture of heaven. Heaven is not a place of tears (Rev 21:3–4), neither is it a place of darkness. Heaven is a place of glorious light spent in God's presence (Rev 21:23). Gnashing of teeth speaks of remorse: 'Why didn't I use what God had given me while I had the opportunity?' But it will be too late.

We need to come before the Lord and say: 'Lord, by your grace you've made me a member of your Church, your Body, and you have a work of service for me to do—a task of some kind. Please show me what that task is.' And then, when the Lord shows us, we should be faithful in doing it (Mat 25:21). That is how the Church of Christ is built up (Eph 4:11–12).

Natural abilities

I knew a brother in Christ, a joiner by trade, who said: 'If any in the church has joinery that needs to be done, if they provide the materials, I'll do the work.'

At that time we had an airing cupboard in our house that needed converting into a wardrobe, and he came after work for several nights until he'd completed the task. And he refused to accept payment. 'This is my service to you,' he said. 'This is my ministry to you.'

That brother had given his life to the Lord and, having a skill, he wanted to use it in God's service. He made a beautiful job of the wardrobe; he did it unto the Lord. Is there a biblical example of that kind of service in the Church? Yes there is.

In Act 9 we are told that in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha. She was always doing good and helping the poor. But she died, so the disciples sent for Peter who was staying nearby. When he arrived they showed him all the robes and clothing she had made while she was alive.

It doesn't say that this woman prophesied in the church or gave messages in tongues, but that she was always doing good and helping the poor.

Obviously she could sew, and she used the ability she had to serve others. And do you know what God thought of her work? He raised her from the dead so she could continue to do it (Act 9:40–42)! That is how God views such ministries in his Church.

The Body of Christ

The human body is made up of many parts, but together they form one body. So it is with the Body of Christ (1Co 12:12).

The Body of Christ (the Church) has many parts and, as God has arranged the parts of the human body as he wants them to be, so he has arranged the parts of his spiritual Body as he wants them to be (1Co 12:18).

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (1Co 12:27)

Every born-again child of God is a part of the Body of Christ; we have been placed by God into that Body. And, as the parts of our human bodies have different functions, so the parts of the Body of Christ have different functions (Rom 12:4–5).

There are many ministries in the Church and, because we are all individuals and uniquely made, no two ministries can be the same; they may have similar functions, but they will never be identical. There will never be another Apostle Paul; there will never be another John Wesley. They were unique, as each one of us is unique.

We each have the opportunity to make a contribution to the Body of Christ that no one else can make. If we don't make that contribution in our lifetime, it will never be made. Each one of us is important to God and to the functioning of his Body.

We all know what it's like if we bruise a finger and can't use it for a while. We're still alive, but our body is not functioning as it should do. So it is with the Body of Christ: unless each part does its work the Body will not function properly.

The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I don't need you!' And the head cannot say to the feet, 'I don't need you!' On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour. (1Co 12:21–23a)

No one in the Body of Christ should be looked down on, for the parts that would seem to be insignificant are essential to its functioning. On the contrary, those parts should be given special honour because of the valuable work they do.

God empowers

The Bible says that Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth (Num 12:3). Do you know why he was so humble? He was humble because, in his natural self, he wasn't equipped to do what God had called him to do.

When God appeared to him at the burning bush and told him to go and set his people free, he confessed that he was slow in speech and wouldn't be able to do it (Exo 4:10–13).

However, the whole of Israel had been crying out to God for years to set them free from their slavery, and Moses was God's chosen instrument to do that work (Exo 3:7–10). Moses' ministry was the result of the prayers of the people—and he knew it.

We may not be a preacher or have a prominent ministry, but we can pray that God will fill the mouths of his chosen servants with words from heaven so that the gospel will advance—and he will. Such praying ministries are vital in the Church.

Paul wrote:

Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. (Eph 6:19–20)

Paul knew that his ministry was largely the product of the prayers of the people, as did Moses before him. When the Church prays, God moves.

Spiritual gifts

Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. (1Co 14:1)

Spiritual gifts come with the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which empowers God's people to serve him. We are told to eagerly desire such gifts because they strengthen the Church (1Co 14:26). If we eagerly desire them, the Holy Spirit will distribute the gifts according to his will (1Co 12:11).

The secret of service is consecration—giving ourselves completely to God and asking him to use us. I began by cleaning the church and assembling church magazines and delivering them: just simple physical tasks, but I wanted to serve God.

If we are faithful in small things, God may use us in greater things (Mat 25:21). Jesus gave his all for us; let us give our all to him, for he is worthy.

A full list of gifts and ministries, together with the qualities required for leadership, are found in Rom 12:6–8, 1Co 12:7–10; 27–31, Eph 4:11–13 and 1Ti 3:1–13.

May the Lord empower his Church. Grace be with us all.

Michael Graham
February 2006
Revised January 2010

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®. NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.

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