“When at the incarnation God visited His people, but a handful of them looked for the redemption of Israel. They believed God was going to act, and through them and because of them He acted. Then in Jesus’ own lifetime multitudes followed Him, but again it was a much smaller group who protested: “To whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” And once more, before His ascension, He instructed His own to await the promise of the Father.
In practice, it seems to work out that God has always to move through a faithful remnant who, within the larger number and for the sake of God’s purpose in the whole, will be utter in their obedience to Him today.”
– Watchman Nee
“Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, His reward is with Him…”
To the wise and faithful the promise of His coming is one of joy and expectation. Those laboring ones, faithfully sowing, praying, weeping, and burdened with a heavenly care and concern for others, can look expectantly unto Him who is their reward and salvation.
“Who then is the faithful and wise servant whom his Lord has set over His household, to give to them the food in season? Blessed is that servant whom his Lord shall find so doing when He comes. Truly I say to you, He will set him over all His substance”
The faithful and wise servants pour out themselves on the behalf of others that the Lord may receive the Glory due His Name. Blessed are those whom He finds “so doing”. The pure in heart have an intensity of spirit to proclaim His Name to all and to exhort all to obedience and submission. There is a fire that burns within for the truth, substance, and reality of His Call. Those with faithless works and dead confessions, with hearts unmoved and unchanged, talk all too freely about God but lack the burning love of God Himself. God has a word for such: Ichabod*! The Glory which once burned within is now a dead and lifeless thing; it has lost its first and foremost love and is content with the words of Him rather than the Life of Him.
“I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead”!
Works are the criteria that God uses to assess the faith of His people in each and every Church in the Book of Revelation**! Works are the expression of a living vibrant faith, free from dead prayers, empty words, ingrown cliques, and stagnant lives. Faith which costs nothing is worth nothing. Those who make a difference in the lives of others, who feel within their hearts the ONE Spirit of God and the ONE-NESS to which we have been called; speak out against the lethargy of our day.
Let us lift our voices and cry out to those whose hearts have grown cold and withered, and are lost within the futility of mere religion. Do we not hear the words of Christ unto us? This is the Day of sowing and of harvest, it is not a Day to slumber nor a time for faithless inactivity! It is a Day to “Lift up our eyes” to see with the eyes of faith the opportunities before us.
“Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I TELL YOU, LIFT UP YOUR EYES, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together”
So many Christians in these times are debating with one another about masks, vaccinations, and government restrictions. Let us keep our eyes in the right place. Jesus’ words to us are, “I TELL YOU, LIFT UP YOUR EYES, for the fields are white unto harvest”. How far have we fallen from the simplicity of the Call of Christ? The unfruitful discussions of procedures and politics, and the scepter of fear which has fallen upon the Church, are appalling and are an exposure of our true condition.
Let us consider our ways that we may bring the message of Christ to a world consumed with the same fear which seeks to rob us of the power of His faith and love in us. Let HIS CHURCH ARISE from fear and begin to believe afresh that all these things are for the furtherance of the Gospel.
How sovereign is our God! The truth of His Sovereign power in you is revealed by your faith in Him and the works it produces. Let His Faith be the measure by which you walk.
“He who gathers in summer is a wise son, but he who sleeps during the harvest is a son who causes shame.”
“What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light…”
There are deep truths and graces which can only be known and understood in the night seasons. God has purposed specific lessons, along with dispensations of mercy, for each of us which are discovered as we walk through dark places. It is in those trying and desperate times that we are weaned from the distraction of other things. Our sight is limited, and the silence is disconcerting. God seems distant and we are left with little but our own thoughts and perplexities. It is then that God draws near to unveil Himself and reveal His greatness and purposes to us.
David had learned of this when he declared in Psalm 139 this magnificent truth:
“If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee”
Scriptures are full of the visitations of God in the night seasons. They testify of the wrestling within whereby Jacobs become Israels. They speak of strength and hope being ministered to His own in their pilgrimages and wanderings in lonely and desolate places. Foundations are established, callings confirmed, and hearts renewed in the faithfulness of our God. Who cannot but praise the One who visits us in such places!
“And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night… Saying fear not…”
It was during the night that God called Samuel to be a light in the desolation of Israel because of a backslidden and adulterous priesthood. It was in the night that Jesus came walking upon the stormy seas to call His disciples unto Himself.
“And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea… And he said (to Peter), Come”
As David’s history with God developed over the years he began to speak of his own personal “night watches” where he meditated upon God. He remembered his God and listened for Him to speak and comfort him within the depths of his soul.
“When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches”
Do not fear the night seasons for hidden within are the personal and private disclosures of His purposes for you. Out of these times men and women of faith emerge with renewed strength to meet the New Day and declare in the light the truths received in their own night season.
“And it came to pass that night, that the word of the Lord came unto Nathan… ” Go and tell my servant David, Thus saith the Lord…”
2 Samuel 7:4
“I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it…”
Faithfulness to the present truth we know will always culminate in greater things in God. The Church at Philadelphia, even in their weakness and poverty, were faithful to do the works of God and were given an open door. Doing the will of God inevitably leads us into greater avenues of service unto Him. Those who are faithful in the little things will always receive more.
The stagnation of a faith without works perpetuates its own lethargy and barrenness. Within the true disciple lies an eagerness to do that which is before them without hesitation or delay. We must always bear in our hearts the verdict of God upon a “faith” which is void of works.
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man says he has faith, but has no works? Can faith save him? And if a brother or sister is naked and in lack of daily food, and one of you tells them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled;” and yet you didn’t give them the things the body needs, what good is it? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead in itself. Yes, a man will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one. You do well. The demons also believe, and shudder. But do you want to know, vain man, that faith apart from works is dead?”
The “Open Door” is set before those who are faithful to yield themselves to the promptings of God within and respond accordingly. There are those who feel hemmed in by circumstances when in fact they may have not been faithful to the things at hand. Joseph, bound within Pharaoh’s prison, remained faithful to the gifts which God had given him, and, in the end, he was given great authority!
“For whoever has, to him will be given, and he will have abundance, but whoever doesn’t have, from him will be taken away even that which he has”
The path to enlarged places in God is found within our faithfulness to Him in the little things; hidden things, often only known to God. In the end they will bring us to the open door of His grace.
Just a couple of examples are David who, while tending the sheep of his father, overcame the lion and the bear. Rebekah at the well, in her willingness and faithfulness to serve, was brought into the lineage of Christ!! (read Genesis 24:12-27) May we see the importance God places on those who reveal their heart by the work of their hands. He sees and measures out greater faith in proportion to their faithfulness in everyday life.
Let us seek His “open door” through faithfulness in our commonplace lives. Let our determination to honour Him “in all things” be an entrance into the greater things of Him. May we find joy each day in ever looking for ways to glorify Him, even in the secret thoughts of our hearts.
“I thank him who enabled me, Christ Jesus our Lord, because He counted me faithful, appointing me to service…”
1 Timothy 1:12
Obedience will open doors that no amount of praying alone can.
“The Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise steward, whom his lord will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the right times? Blessed is that servant whom his lord will find doing so when he comes. Truly I tell you, that he will set him over all that he has.”
May His exhortations permeate our hearts, and may we seek to be faithful to Him in all things.
“Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord”
The one who was unfaithful lost what he had been given and the eternal consequences were even greater.
“But his lord answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant. You knew that I reap where I didn’t sow and gather where I didn’t scatter. You ought therefore to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received back my own with interest. Take away therefore the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will be given, and he will have abundance, but from him who doesn’t have, even that which he has will be taken away. Throw out the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”
Faithfulness determines eternal destinies.
“…they that are with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful”
“Look at John; see how the great men crowd around him; hear what temptation they suggest to him. It had never occurred to John himself, in all probability; that was Elias, that he was “that prophet”, that he was some great one. So the suggestion comes to him with all the force of a subtle temptation. What does he answer? He says, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord.” That was his answer: “What did he say of himself? “I am a voice.” What did he say of his ministry? “I am sent to prepare the way of the Lord in the attention and the affections of the world.” Thus, he who had offered to him by a very subtle temptation a brilliant crown and a high throne said, “No; I am but a voice; I am not the expected One, clearly understand my ministry and function in life; I am the herald, not the King: I blow the blast of the trumpet and he himself will be here presently.” That is just what every Christian has to do; to go before, to proclaim the Lord, to call men to preparedness, to awaken their attention, to tell them to be ready: for the Bridegroom cometh, and then to stand out of the way, as those who have indeed done a humble, yet a most useful work, in the world. But I repeat, he who knows his strength as John knew it will be strong, as no man can be who imagines himself to have a power with which God never invested him. A stern, solemn, grand man was John.”
– Joseph Parker
We live in a very strange time when individuals can study the scriptures, memorize them, and readily discuss them with others; yet live their lives contrary to the very words they speak. The only way to honor His Word is by obeying it. Obedience is the evidence of a life who truly honors and treats His Word for what it is: Holy. If we do not reverence His Word through obedience we will reap the consequences. How foolish it is to speak His Word and yet not honor it not with our lives.
“For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense; how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation”
They who esteem His Word lightly, lightly esteem the One who speaks it.
“And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed”
2 Thessalonians 3:14
“Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered. And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away” Matthew 21:18-19
The lesson of the fig tree is one of great value to those who seek truth. Its message is for our growth and development.
Jesus came to the fig tree looking for figs. He came looking for fruit consistent with its capability. So it is with us. The righteousness of God prevents Him from an expectation that is beyond the ability of the tree to produce. The God who measures the talents to every child of His according to their ability, is the same God who holds each of us accountable to Him for that gift. This truth brings our accountability into perspective. It is also meant to be instructive to us as parents and ministers of God that we walk in His wisdom regarding the lives of our own children and of every believer. We are not to expect Paul to minister as Peter, nor Jude to speak as Apollos. Such expectations are the result of religious doctrines and confines. The Life of Christ within regards the individual gifts and capacities of others and looks for the corresponding fruit. When the fruit of an individual is consistent with the call and the gifts of God given, there should be a collective rejoicing unto the Giver of all good things. When the fruit of a life is missing or lacking the vitality of its call and capability, there is great need for the ministration of exhortation and admonition. Ministers who fail in this vital aspect of ministry will find themselves accountable to the Chief Shepherd of our souls.
Stewards and Shepherds
We are stewards of the grace of God and as such we are to shepherd His flock with a desire to see Him glorified in each and every child of His. It requires a pure heart to walk in such things knowing full well our own accountability unto Him. The fear of the Lord is the ground upon which His true ministers walk and function. John the Apostle declared that he had no greater joy than to “see his children walking in truth”; the truth of what has been given to them. The one who has been given prophetic insight, that is the thing to which God will hold them accountable (1-see below). The one who teaches must teach the truth of God to the end that every life will grow in the holiness and wisdom of God. (2-see below). Those who exhort must do so with purity and simplicity (3-see below) As to the Apostolic, there is to be a faithfulness to call God’s people to the obedience of faith (4-see below). The list is as endless as the diversity of God’s creation.
(1) “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith” (Romans 12:6) (2) “Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Colossians 1:28) (3) “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3) (4) “By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name” (Romans 1:5)
In the book of Romans, Paul exhorts God’s people to receive all of these diversities as the gifts and the wisdom of God. Those who refuse these expressions deny God’s wisdom and subject themselves to His judgment. Division is the result of man’s wisdom and pride.
“Only by pride cometh contention…”
The Lesson of the fig tree is that He comes to each of us looking for corresponding fruit. His expectation is consistent with His grace given. In the Parable of the Talents, the man with one talent was judged severely for his faithlessness to the gift given (Matthew 15:30). In the Parable of the Vine, the branch which bore no fruit was “cut off” (John 15:2,6). The lesson of the Fig Tree was meant for our admonition and learning to that same end.
The response of Jesus to the two individuals who were faithful to their respective talents was the same! Different talents yet the same reward for their faithfulness to God’s measure.
“His lord said unto him, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord”
The purpose of these diverse ministrations is:
“That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work…” Colossians 1:10
“For who knoweth what is good for man in this life”
Can we see Him in the dreary paths of life; in the mundane and the seemingly insignificant matters of every day? Or do we, like the potter’s vessel, feel the hand of God molding and shaping the inner man into a vessel which honours and serves Him? The circular rote of daily life with its unspectacular events seems to come and go endlessly, yet within our walk with God there are unseen opportunities to please Him.
Do the seemingly small things pass our eyes without us seeing the hidden wisdom and purposes of God?
“And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had”
That poor widow had no idea that her small act of giving would be used for centuries to explain a great truth of the Kingdom of God!
In view of such things we are to be instructed to be diligent and faithful in every aspect of our life. Who knows what God may see and use for His Glory? It is crucial in the unguarded and trivial things of life that we remain true to our God.
“And Asa did that which was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God”
2 Chronicles 14:2
“As touching nature I am a worm of this earth, and yet a subject of this commonwealth; but as touching the office wherein it has pleased God to place me, I am a watchman… For that reason I am bound in conscience to blow the trumpet publicly.”
– John Knox
“But as for me, I am full of power by Yahweh’s Spirit, and of judgment, and of might, to declare to Jacob his disobedience, and to Israel his sin”
True prophetic expressions have their origin in God Himself. The fountain from which they spring is God’s heart, not their own. It is a call, not a career. It is a heart that has touched the sacred atmosphere of His dwelling place and sees and feels the waywardness of the human condition. The Holiness of God is the matrix by which all things are uncovered and made bare. Those who have, in some measure, the “knowledge of the Holy…” (Proverbs 9:10) have nothing to boast of. There is no high-mindedness, for in touching God they have seen themselves in that same piercing, Holy Light (Isaiah 6:5). It is a Light which obliterates any sense of worthiness or merit. It cries out against apathy, disobedience and sin, because God does. Those who bear such things know the dichotomy of the treasure in the earthen vessel. The press from within is of greater value than the animosity from without. The over-riding need to express the Holiness of God becomes the purpose of life itself. Whatever may be the reaction of all the powers of the world, or the indignation of our brothers and sisters, faithfulness to Him is paramount.
“For if I proclaim the gospel, no glory is to me; for necessity is laid on me, and it is woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel. For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if unwillingly, I am entrusted with a stewardship”
1 Corinthians 9:16-17
How few in our Day know of the necessity to declare The Gospel of God; this unutterable, inherent need to speak of His Holiness and His hatred of sin. The horror of the religious ways and methods of men obscure His very person. The presentation of a Gospel entangled with the ambitions of men for personal gain and recognition, dims the radiance of the risen Christ. Where are those who recognize the entrustment of a stewardship? This call is like a ship at sea driven by the winds of heaven, no longer free to navigate its own way. The ebb and flow of God determines the when and the where of such lives. These are the expressions of those who know the fulness (see note below) of His Spirit and from this fulness that the Words of God flow. It is a fulness which makes the vessel aware of its own emptiness. The great mystery of God at work through fragile earthen vessels is the true revelation of the Grace of God.
“the Lord God hath spoken, who can but prophesy?”
It is in the hearing, the touching and the seeing of Him that the press of His Spirit rises within. He is the origin of all things pertaining to His Glory. He alone is worthy of lives yielded to Him. May God make known to the next generation the Call to Himself that they may be no longer their own.
“For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if unwillingly, I am entrusted with a stewardship”
To know the life of stewardship is as costly as it is precious. A steward is entrusted with the goods of the master. He owns nothing. He is conscious that God’s things are Holy, and he dare not handle them carelessly. Stewards do not have their own doctrine, nor do they subscribe to the popular teachings of the day. They carry within themselves the true doctrine of the Lord:
“My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work”
The stewards do not have their own agenda. They do not live to build up a following, or what men call a “ministry” or “church”. They are His alone and by the grace of God they remain such. Their ministry is simple:
“That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you”
1 John 1:3
A Steward of the Lord
“And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there”
* The fullness of God's Spirit is relative to the capacity of the vessel. In the parable of the Talents the measure given to each individual was determined by their capability.The individual to whom two talents were given filled them to the measure of their capacity. In their obedience and faithfulness the two talents became four and so it is with each of us. God pours out His Spirit without measure and as He has His way with us our capacity grows to walk in Him.