HOW TO BE GOD'S FAITHFUL SERVANTS IN THE 21ST CENTURY
By: Dr. Christopher Sun
"To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers - not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away"
(I Peter 5:1-4).
We are living in a generation filled with all kinds of media and obstacles in proclaiming the Gospel. Nevertheless, we must follow the methods of the Lord Jesus Christ to preach the Gospel; that is, through evangelism and actions we are to meet the real needs of the hearts of the people in the world, because every person needs the salvation of God. It does not matter who they are, whether they have religion or not, God has already prepared in their hearts the possibility to receive the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Many people feel empty, lonely, guilty, restless and fearful in their hearts, and only Jesus Christ can truly satisfy them.
This is the world to which we are called to serve: a world filled with wars, confusions and tensions. The age that we are in is no better than the time in which the Apostle Paul served in his generation, yet he said, "When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.
For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power"
(I Corinthians 2:1-5).
The Apostle Paul was a highly educated man, but he purposely did not use his wisdom of this world. He clearly pointed out.- "Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ" (Romans 10:17). If we do not preach the power of salvation which Jesus Christ has accomplished on the cross, how will people be saved and turn to the Lord? If we depart from the message of the cross, how can people be born again? If we divert from the salvation of the cross, then no one can enter the Kingdom of God; because only Jesus Christ said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6).
On the other hand, since God has given us the technology of television, we should use it to glorify Him. Yet we must use it carefully and cautiously, for if we depend only on technology and man-made publicity, we can not accomplish the commission given to us by God. Even the Apostle Paul also told us that the Gospel must be preached with spiritual power. Those who listen to the sermon are not listening to human voices, people need to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, and only the Holy Spirit can "convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment" (John 16:8). Unless the Holy Spirit moves in the meeting place, no one can be truly saved. The preaching of the Gospel must go together with the presence of the Holy Spirit, otherwise no one can deliver a message piercing the hearts of listeners and lead people to repentance.
To those who have decided to be God's faithful servants, the Apostle Peter told us to "be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers". First of all, let us share the meaning of "be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care".
The Bible clearly tells us to use the Word of God and actions to shepherd God's flock.
Therefore, first, you must have faith in the Bible.
You must believe that the Bible is truly the Word of God, and it is the message that God gives to us. Whatever questions you or society is faced with, one can find similar examples in the Bible that will help you. You must truly believe the Word of God.
Second, you must study the Bible clearly and thoroughly.
When faced with any difficulty in the Bible, write your questions down and think about them. Pray and research in reference books, until every difficulty is solved completely. Do not allow any hole or doubt in your faith! Only then can you be God's faithful steward, a mighty warrior of faith.
Third, you must digest the contents of the Bible.
When you study the Bible, it needs to be like "eating in" the Word of God in order to use the Truth freely under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. How do we "digest" the contents of the Bible? The Bible tells us to "meditate" on the Word of God. The Psalmist said, "His delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers" (Psalm 1:2-3).
Fourth, you must act according to the Word of God.
How pitiful a person is if he can only preach the message yet can not practice what he says! Ask yourself what the Lord will say about your works when you stand in front of Him on that glorious day. Are those works "gold, silver and costly stones" or "wood, hay and straw"?
Our Lord Jesus Christ clearly said, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!"' (Matthew 7:21-23).
Now, what did Peter mean when he talked about "serving as overseers"?
First, you must often pray before God.
By doing so, you may know about His will more clearly. Few prayers lead to little power, and more prayers are associated with more power, because prayers can cause you to receive from God the power to serve. You must often pray. I saw many pastors, elders or leaders of the church gaining more responsibilities, so that they did not have time to pray. This is a very dangerous thing, because our enemy, Satan, who is the devil, always "prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (I Peter 5:8).
The higher the position of the ministry, the more you need to spend the time with the Lord through prayer. Because a policy, a plan, or a decision may influence the direction of all the flock, how can you make a right choice if you do not pray sincerely? You must be "serving as overseers" according to God's will, not 11 serving according to statistics, social management, personal desires or self opinion".
Second, you must discern cautiously.
Not all coworkers, Gospel organizations, Gospel movements are good, not all are according to God's will. Some build on the foundation of Jesus Christ using "gold, silver or costly stones", some use "wood, hay or straw" (I Corinthians 3:12). Some even divert from the Lord's way. Therefore, you must discern with careful examination and clear understanding. The Apostle Paul warned us that "Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve"(2 Corinthians 11:14-15).
How do we discern? Our Lord Jesus Christ once said, "A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them" (Matthew 7:18-20). The Apostle Paul also told us that "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control" (Galatians 5:22-23). You can use the fruit of the Spirit to discern. If a person diverts the teaching of Jesus Christ, you will quickly find out. By the grace of our Lord in past experience with many people, I have noticed that the fruit of the Spirit is the best method for discernment. The leaders or persons of responsibility for Gospel organizations or Gospel movements are very important, because they are the executives of policies. You may discern by talking with them and observing carefully.
But, you must be careful and cautious, especially toward those ministries which you do not understand. Do not criticize based on jealousy or personal bias, because judgment based on no evidence is truly dangerous. Jesus Christ said, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you" (Matthew 7:1-2). He also said, "Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come" (Matthew 12:32). If you see things which you do not understand, you need to retreat and pray, asking God to help you discern. Do not hinder the works of the Holy Spirit carelessly based on your own opinion, old self or prejudice.
Time often is the best proof. The Chinese have an old saying: "Real gold is not afraid to be tested by fire." Whatever is real will be able to pass the test of time. If you are misunderstood, attacked, or persecuted at the beginning of your ministry, do not feel depressed, the Lord has seen all. Was not King David persecuted by Saul in the wilderness, yet he wrote psalms that touched millions of hearts? Did God fulfill all the promises concerning him later? Everything must have the Lord's good intentions, and He will vindicate us. Has He not said "It is mine to avenge; I will repay" (Deuteronomy 32:35)? Always remember that "in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).
Third, you must have knowledge, common sense and a broad mind.
You must have spiritual knowledge in order to discern cults and heresies. Spend much time deeply studying what are cults and heresies, so that you will not follow whatever others say and be tossed by the winds. I pray that before you step into the spiritual battlefields, you must know yourself and your enemies, then you can always win the battles through the power of God.
You must have common sense at the same time, because your common sense may help you to solve some of the problems encountered in the flock's daily living.
You must also have a broad mind, then you may work in the fields of the Lord and keep on running. Why do I say this? Because the Lord Jesus Christ said to Peter to forgive his brother seventy times seven (Matthew 18:22). A broad mind is not merely talking about the capacities to bear, it also indicates spiritual vision. Commit yourself to the Lord, present your requests to God, and you will become an extraordinary person for God to use.
Also, there are three "not"s and three "but"s mentioned by the Apostle Peter. He said, "not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock."
Let us start with the three "not"s.
First, "not because you must."
In serving God or ministering to people, you can not come out of "you must". If you are not sure whether God Has called you, do not become a fulltime minister. You may minister as a "tent maker", waiting for the calling to become clearer, then you can enter into the full-time ministry. Because a minister without a sure calling of God could easily fall and cause others to stumble, when he meets frustrations or trials on the road of ministry. This will certainly not glorify the name of God.
Second, "not greedy for money."
Some positions of ministry may have good compensation, yet you should never quench the original calling from the Holy Spirit because of this. When a Baptist pastor got cancer and asked me to replace his position in 1983, I voluntarily served in that church for nine months without any compensation. I could not accept any salary, because every time I asked the Lord concerning the direction of my ministry, the Lord always reminded me that He wanted me to do the work of evangelism. Finally, I submitted myself to the guidance of the Lord. For sixteen years, although the work of evangelism is hard, yet His grace is sufficient for me. The same reasoning may apply to you. If the Lord originally moved you to minister as a pastor, you should not leave your post. Every servant should act according to the moving of the Holy Spirit in each person.
Third, "not lording it over those entrusted to you."
The servants of God are given authority, but you can not misuse the authority which you may have. Even the Apostle Paul told us: "For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a whip, or in love and with a gentle spirit?" (I Corinthians 4:20-21). The Lord Jesus Christ even washed the feet of His disciples the night before the crucifixion, and He said, "Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them" (John 13:14-17). Our Lord Jesus Christ has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18), yet He shows gentleness and humbleness for His servants to follow.
Then, we come to study what the Apostle Peter said about the three "but"s: "But because you are willing, as God wants you to be; but eager to serve; but being examples to the flock."
We know what "willing" is and the meaning of "eager to serve", because all these attitudes come from the bottom of one's heart. This is the right attitude with which to serve others. Therefore, we want to share the meaning of "being examples to the flock":
"Being examples to the flock", passively speaking, means "do not cause others to stumble". If something is not constructive, try your best to avoid suspicion, do not do it. Similar examples can be found in the epistles of the Apostle Paul (Romans 14 and I Corinthians 10). Be careful with your tongue and behaviour, because "no man can tame the tongue" (James 3:8). The Apostle Paul also warned us that "among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person - such a man is an idolater - has any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God" (Ephesians 5:3-5).
On the other hand, actively speaking, "being examples of the flock" indicates good behaviour and testimonies. The Bible says, "Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody" (Romans 12:17). We should proclaim the Gospel through love; without love in action, we have no other methods to prove our love for God. Jesus Christ said, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another' (John 13:34-35). If we compete with each other, attack and criticize one another, we shall all stand before the throne of God and render accounts.
Finally, I pray the Lord to lead every brother and every sister who decides to be God's faithful servant in the 21st century. May the Lord grant you strength upon strength, grace upon grace, make you humble in service, and submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. The Apostle Peter told us, if we do so, "When the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away." Amen.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God our Heavenly Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, from now on and forever. Amen.