A Manual For Discipleship

 

Disciples – Labor in the Lord

 

In Matthew 20 we find Jesus approaching Jerusalem from Jericho (20:29). As He approaches Jerusalem Jesus is coming to the place where He will fulfill the purpose of all His work, the cross. It is fitting therefore for Jesus to teach his disciples about laboring in the Lord. Labor in the Lord is different from mere secular labor. Secular labor can become labor in the Lord when it is done in the Lord, or unto the Lord. What makes our labor, in the Lord? In chapter 20 of Matthew we will see Seven Laws of Laboring In The Lord.

 

A Word On The Labor To Be Done

 

What is the state of the church in America? That’s an intriguing question, which is addressed in the most recent end of year report from the Barna Research organization. While statistics are not always the best indicators or sources to assess the state of human affairs, they are helpful to get somewhat of a grasp on the nature of things. A look at the findings of Barna gives us an idea about the labor that needs to be done in America. In an article entitled, The Year's Most Intriguing Findings, From Barna Research Studies – December 21st, 2001, (sample sizes from 600-1010 in 48 contiguous states) the following findings were recorded (note especially those which I have hi-lighted):

 

The 7 Most Important or Revealing Results

Poring over hundreds of statistics released during 2001 through The Barna Update, the bi-weekly report on American culture and faith, Barna chose the following seven outcomes as those that have the most significant implications.

1. When people who regularly attend Christian church services were asked to describe the importance of various spiritual endeavors, a minority of regular attenders described evangelism, having meaningful relationships with other people in their church, and giving 10% or more of their income to their church as very important endeavors.

2. After studying more than three dozen different faith practices and biblical beliefs, adults under the age of 35 were the least likely to have a biblical perspective or consistent participation in each of the factors examined.

3. Forty one percent of the adults who attend Christian church services in a typical week are not born again Christians - meaning they have not embraced Jesus Christ as their savior.

4. After exploring the religious life of adults attending a variety of Protestant churches, only three types of churches - Pentecostal, Assembly of God, and non-denominational churches - had a majority of adherents who had shared their faith in Christ with a non-Christian in the past year.

5. Based on people's reactions to a series of moral issues, Americans are comfortable legalizing activities - such as abortion, homosexuality and pornography - that they feel are immoral.

6. Religious teaching or values minimally affect people's moral choices. The major influences on such decisions are the expected personal outcomes of their choices, minimizing conflict over their choices, and the values their parents taught them.

7. Compared to two years ago, just half as many Americans believe that absolute moral truth exists, dropping from 38% in January 2000 to only 22% in November 2001.

Barna noted that this list suggests that "faith is just one component in people's lives that helps them to interpret and cope with reality - and it certainly is not the central shaping influence for most people. The data regarding young adults also pose the possibility that churches are losing ground in terms of influence and may need to consider new approaches to making ancient truths more vivid and comprehensible in a technology-drenched, relativistic global community."

The 7 Most Controversial Statistics

Based upon the letters, phone calls and e-mail messages received in response to the bi-weekly Updates released during the year, Barna identified the statistics that got the greatest number of people exercised.

1. Among adults who have been married, born again Christians and non-Christians have essentially the same probability of divorce.

2. Mormons [a cult] are more likely to read the Bible during the week than are Protestants or Catholics.

3. Adults who attend charismatic or Pentecostal churches were more likely to possess biblical beliefs than were those attending other Protestant and Catholic churches.

4. By the end of the decade, 50 million Americans will seek to have their spiritual experience solely through the Internet, rather than at a church; and upwards of 100 million Americans will rely upon the Internet to deliver some aspects of their religious experience.

5. Roman Catholics represent the second-largest denominational group of born again Christians in the nation - trailing the Southern Baptists, but way ahead of Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and others.[1]

6. Although one-third of all born again adults claim to tithe their income, only 12% actually do so.

7. Just half of all home schooling parents are born again Christians.

"One of the greatest values of research is that it can identify myths that we hold on to - myths that often prevent us from seizing opportunities, or that prevent us from responding appropriately to the world around us," Barna explained. "A lot of the anger that was expressed to us in reaction to these findings reflects the difficulty we sometimes have in changing our predispositions and coming to grips with a world that is rapidly changing and does not conform to the rules we believed were firmly entrenched. Knowing the reality, rather than the myth, can help us address reality and, if need be, redirect it."

The 7 Most Surprising Findings

Barna acknowledged that after more than two decades of conducting research on faith matters, it is unusual for surprises to emerge from the research. However, he listed the following seven unexpected outcomes:

1. The percentage of US Hispanics affiliated with the Catholic church has declined from 68% in 1991 to just 53% today.

2. Since 1993, the number of pastors who say they have the spiritual gifts of preaching/teaching, pastor/shepherd, discernment, and leadership has risen significantly.

3. Despite their evangelistic reputation, just four out of ten adults attending a Baptist church shared their faith in Christ with a non-believer in the past year - less than the proportion of adherents of many other denominations.

4. A higher percentage of adults are against legalized abortion in all or most circumstances (55%) than supports it (42%).

5. A plurality of adults support the legalization of same-gender sexual relations, and even one-third of born again Christians support this aspect of gay rights.

6. Four out of ten Senior Pastors do not have a seminary degree.

7. Despite sales that top 5 million units, The Prayer of Jabez was known to only 13% of adults; and despite sales exceeding 20 million units, the Left Behind books were known to only 24%. In contrast, the Harry Potter books were known to 69% of Americans - and that was before the movie release and related hype.

Barna stated that these findings tended to remind us that American culture as well as people's faith is constantly changing, and assumptions need to be continually re-examined to assess their validity.

The 7 Most Significant-But-Not-Surprising Insights

There are some conditions that have been assumed or anticipated, yet having factual evidence of their existence does not diminish the significance of such knowledge. Among the figures Barna cited that meet this description were these seven:

1. After the 9-11 attacks, religious activity surged, but within two months, virtually every spiritual indicator available suggested that things were back to pre-attack levels.

2. Just 12% of Senior Pastors say they have the spiritual gift of leadership; only 8% say they have the gift of evangelism; in contrast, two-thirds say they have the gift of teaching or preaching.

3. There is a fairly strong correlation between regularly reading the Bible and having conservative theological, moral, social and political views.

4. Less than 5% of the nation's churches have youth groups that attract 100 or more teenagers.

5. The gap between Protestants and Catholics in terms of religious practices and beliefs remains quite substantial.

6. From 2000 to 2001, there were no significant changes in 12 out of the 13 core religious practices tracked; only 2 factors have changed significantly in the past five years.

7. Less than 1% of Hispanics attend a mainline Protestant church, and less than 1% attend a Baptist church.

"Sometimes, it is the things that we have suspected but failed to act upon due to lack of factual support that have the greatest potential for impact in ministry," the researcher noted. "Some of these findings are perhaps obvious but are nevertheless critical elements in facilitating strategic responses."

 

The 7 Most Challenging Outcomes

Barna closed out his lists with one describing the greatest challenges churches face based on the year's research findings.

1. There has been a substantial deterioration regarding people's understanding of spiritual gifts, with a five-fold increase in born again adults who are aware of gifts saying God did not give them one, and half of all born again adults listing gifts they possess which are not among the spiritual gifts listed in the Bible. Even one-quarter of all Protestant pastors listed one or more gifts that they possess which are not identified in the Bible.

2. Financial support of churches dropped substantially between 1998 and 2000 - and will likely decline again this year, as a result of changed giving patterns related to the 9-11 attacks.

3. At least three out of ten born again adults say that co-habitation, gay sex, sexual fantasies, breaking the speed limit or watching sexually-explicit movies are morally acceptable behaviors.

4. Half of all adults maintain a non-biblical perspective on the moral acceptability of four or more of the eight core moral behaviors evaluated.

5. Although attending church as a child increases the likelihood of a person attending as an adult, that affect is declining substantially.

6. The religious beliefs of people who have attended church since childhood are no different than those of people who did not attend when young but attend as adults.

7. Compared to teens throughout the past 20 years, today's teenagers have the lowest likelihood of attending church when they are living independent of their parents.

Barna commented that such data underscore the magnitude of the challenges facing American ministries. "This is an exciting time to be alive for religious leaders who understand the spiritual search that millions of Americans have embarked upon and are willing to engage with people who do not necessarily accept pat answers or traditional solutions to spiritual problems. Our society offers people a plethora of choices. Helping people to comprehend that spectrum of options and the consequences of their choices is one of the exciting challenges facing the religious leaders of our nation." [2]

As you can see, there is a lot of labor set before us. Thank God that He does not expect you or I to labor alone, but He seeks to labor through us while empowering us for the task at hand. The Lord has directed us in His word on how to labor in the mission field we are in. What are some of the Lord’s Labor Laws? Let’s see.

 

The Lord’s Labor Law #1 – The Lord’s Laborers Are Sent By the Lord

 

Matthew 20:1-2 - “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.2 “Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard.”  [3]

Here we see Jesus describing the kingdom of heaven in terms of the hiring practices of a landowner. We can’t press this description to the point where the laborer causes the landowner to be obligated to give him pay. Quite to the contrary, the landowner offers work to the laborer on the landowner’s terms.  In other words, God calls us and when we accept Him, we accept His terms of labor, He is in control, not us. God owes humans nothing, humans owe God everything. Laboring in the Lord is different from mere secular labor in that God selects and sends those who labor in the Lord. In these verses we are given a picture of God as a landowner who goes out looking for laborers for His vineyard (20:1) In the same way we are told in the Bible:

  • 2 Chronicles 16:9a – “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.” [4]

God is looking for those whose hearts are singularly devoted to Him. When He sees the one whose heart is surrendered to Him, He calls them into service.

The calling of God gives great confidence to the Lord’s laborer. The calling of God is an assurance of God’s plan and direction for you. When God calls you to a task, He puts a love and willingness to be used by Him in that area to which He calls you. That sense of calling steadies and assures the laborer when hard times hit. Read what the apostle Paul was able to share about his ministry because of the calling God put on his life:

  • 1 Corinthians 15:10 – “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”      [5]
  • 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 – “And we have such trust through Christ toward God.5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God,6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”  [6]
  • 2 Corinthians 6:1-10 – “We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain.2 For He says: 1 “In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.3 We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed.4 But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses,5 in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings;6 by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love,7 by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left,8 by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true;9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed;10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.”  [7]
  • 2 Timothy 1:8-12 – “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God,9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began,10 but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,11 to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.12 For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.”  [8]

Because God had called him, Paul was able to pass confidently through any trial he encountered in this world. Paul was stabilized in his labor because he knew that God was in control and whatever he encountered, God had permitted him to encounter and would therefore give him grace sufficient for the task. It was Paul who also wrote:

  • 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 – “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” [9]

God’s calling is God’s enabling. When God calls you to a task, He will enable you to do it. The fact of God’s calling indicates He is taking responsibility to equip you to do what He is calling you to do. This is a foundational principle of those who labor in the Lord.

The Lord’s Labor Law #2 – The Lord’s Laborers Are Not Idle

Matthew 20:3-7 - “And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,4 “and said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went.5 “Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise.6 “And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day?7 “They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.’” [10]

Here we see the Lord asking a very important and pertinent question, “Why have you been standing here idle all day?” (20:7). The point being made by Jesus is no disciple should stand idle; there is work to be done. Jesus expressed this earlier when in Matthew it states:

  • Matthew 9:36-38 – “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.38 “Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”   [11]

This burden for the lost and the call to labor for lost souls is not limited to the synoptic gospels, John’s gospel also indicates Jesus burden when it states:

  • John 4:35-36 - “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!36 “And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.”   [12]

What will it take to shake us out of our lethargy? Millions are passing into a Christ-less eternity, doomed for an eternity in hell separate from God in a fiery torment. Read what Proverbs says about idleness or slothfulness:

 

  • Proverbs 18:9 – “He who is slothful in his work Is a brother to him who is a great destroyer.”  [13]

Interestingly, one of the names given to the devil is APPOLLYON, or “the destroyer” (Revelation 9:11).  When we sit by idly, we actually aid the devil. We aid the devil when we are idle because people go unwarned into a Christ-less eternity.

 

Years ago at a  Moody Bible Institute Missionary conference a large traffic signal was hooked up with lights that flashed to correspond to aspects of world missions. An amber light flashed every 35 hours to signify a missionary being sent out. A green light flashed every 24 hours to signify  $.02 cents spent on missions in this country. A red light flashed three times every two seconds to signify a person dying without Christ. That is the state of the harvest to which we are called by God to labor. O disciple, God is calling you to labor in the Lord in His harvest fields, won’t you answer that call? You don’t have to go to foreign lands to labor, labor amongst your lost neighbors and family members. Don’t stand by idly saying, “No one has hired us.” Wherever a soul needs saving, introduce them to the Savior, the Son of God, Jesus.

 

The goal of labor in the Lord is to see that people are saved from their sin through faith alone in Christ alone and to see that they are discipled, that they grow and mature in their faith. This is what Paul says when he is inspired to write:

 

  • Colossians 1:28-29 – “Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.29 To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.”  [14]

That is the task before us, to which God calls us, don’t be idle, and get to laboring in Him.

 

The Lord’s Labor Law #3 – The Lord’s Laborers Accept the Lord’s Terms of Labor

Matthew 20:8-16 - “So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’9 “And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius.10 “But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius.11 “And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner,12 “saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’13 “But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius?14 ‘Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you.15 ‘Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’16 “So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.”  [15]

It was the custom of Jesus’ day for laborers to be paid by the employers at the end of the day (Leviticus 19:13; Deuteronomy 24:15). The Lord’s methods of payment are different than that of the world’s. In the world we do a job and then our employer owes us our pay. When we labor in the Lord, we owe God. Those who labor in the Lord are merely unworthy servants. Labor is our reward. It’s wrong to “suppose” or presume on what reward God will give us. Some labor thinking that as they labor, they are making God obligated to bless them. God’s blessings are not contingent upon our labor, but upon His love and His love never fails.

When people presume on God’s blessings in regards to their labor, it leads to complaining or grumbling. Grumbling and complaining is sure evidence that labor is NOT being done in the Lord. Read what Paul was inspired to write concerning grumbling:

 

  • Philippians 2:14-16 – “Do all things without complaining and disputing,15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,16 holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.”  [16]

The context of these verses is that they are given on the heels of Paul’s great statement on how Jesus poured Himself out to save us (Philippians 2:5-11). In light of Jesus’ humility, what right has anyone to complain?

No, we accept God’s terms of labor and satisfy ourselves with whatever blessing or task He brings our way. Read what Jesus said about our attitude toward labor:

  • Luke 17:7-10 - “And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’?8 “But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’?9 “Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not.10 “So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’ ”  [17]

The Lord’s laborers don’t labor for profit, they labor for the Lord.

“So when evening had come”

We should pause here to reflect a bit on the reality that a time is coming when we, disciples, will stand before Jesus and be judged. Paul speaks of this when he is inspired to write to the Corinthians:

  • 2 Corinthians 5:9-10 – “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”  [18]

We will not be judged as to our salvation, but we will be judged as to our rewards. These verses teach us a number of things to guard against so that we will not be ashamed when we stand before Jesus. Again, Paul describes this assessment when he writes:

  • 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 – “According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”  [19]

What does Paul mean here? The, “gold, silver, precious stones,” are those things that require digging, effort, they require time and effort, holy swet. These are the things that are Christ-oriented and sought in Christ-like ways and these things will get a great reward. The “wood, hay, straw,” are those things that are on the surface, superficial, and self-seeking, self-serving things; those who devote themselves and invest in superficial things will have little if any reward from Jesus. The “fire” is possibly the fiery glare of righteousness and holiness of Jesus that is penetrating to the point of revealing the underlying motives behind people’s works. Some people’s works will be burned up and exposed for their self-service by Christ’s glare. Others will be shown for the purity of heart with which they were done. Jesus will reward us accordingly.

There are three things we can glean from Jesus’ words about the landowner and his mode of payment. Let’s see what they are.

First, we will be surprised when we see Jesus distribute rewards. We think Billy Graham-types of ministers will be the ones with all the crowns and rewards, but there will also be those who served in ways that only god was aware of, they will receive rewards too. Those who serve trusting alone in God’s rewards, not the accolades of men, will receive a bounty of blessing from Jesus.

Second, we need to watch out for jealousy. We need to rejoice when others are blessed in ministry, not envy and begrudge God’s blessing to them. We need to rise above our petty jealousies and seek God’s glory purely no matter whom He uses to bring it about.

Third, it’s never too late to start serving the Lord. Those who started early in the day got the same pay as those who started late. Keep that in mind when you are tempted to think, “I’m forty . . . fifty . . . sixty . . .  seventy . . . and over the hill, I’m too old to be used by God.” Nonsense, God uses anyone of any age who surrenders to Him. You may have walked with Jesus for years and been idle rather than laboring, don’t pout or mope, get into the fray, labor in the Lord! Start today!

Paul’s last words to young pastor Timothy are important to note here, as he was inspired to write:

  • 2 Timothy 4:1-5 – “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.5 But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”   [20]

Do this, and you will have a great reward.

The Lord’s Labor Law #4 – Labor in the Light of the Love of the Cross

Matthew 20:17-19 – “Now Jesus, going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples aside on the road and said to them,18 “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death,19 “and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again.”  [21]

It’s no accident that on the heels of Jesus’ teaching on laboring in the Lord that He reemphasizes His mission to go to the cross. The key to laboring in the Lord is to labor in light of the love of the cross. Paul put it this way:

  • 2 Corinthians 5:14-16 – “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died;15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.16 Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.”  [22]

When we labor in the Lord we labor in light of the cross, and when we labor in the light of the cross God’s love is the compelling motivation for our labor. Not only that, but when we labor in light of the cross of Christ, it moves us away from a fleshly oriented labor, or laboring to satisfy self or serve self. We no longer look at our labor in a fleshly way.  To labor in light of the cross leads to crucify our flesh (Galatians 5:16, 24).

When we labor in the light of Christ’s cross our labor becomes a labor of love. This is exactly what says when he writes to the Thessalonians and gives thanks for them. Read what he said:

  • 1 Thessalonians 1:2-4 – “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers,3 remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father,4 knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God.”  [23]

No grumbling mentioned here concerning the Thessalonians. No, because they had the cross of Christ in view, their labor was a labor of love.

The Lord’s Labor Law #5 – The Lord’s Laborers Don’t Seek Accolades

Matthew 20:20-23 – “Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him.21 And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She said to Him, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.”22 But Jesus answered and said, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They said to Him, “We are able.”23 So He said to them, “You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father.”    [24]

In Mark’s parallel account we are given the added insight that James and John were behind their mother going to Jesus to seek accolades and position for her two sons (Mark 10:25). Not only was such a move immature, (they didn’t have the gumption to go to Jesus themselves), but it also revealed that they knew their request was out of line and improper, they were too shy and embarrassed to ask Jesus themselves about their position. But what makes this conniving clandestine move all the more reprehensible and tasteless is that Jesus had just explained that He was going to be betrayed and go to the cross to die, they totally disregarded what Jesus was saying (20:17-19).

This scenario reveals the blindness and presumption of the flesh. The “flesh” is that attitude and state of being in a person that caters to and focuses upon self, self-serving, self-centeredness, and self-seeking. This state of being is very well described in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. The Corinthians were a very gifted church, but they were carnal to the core. They fought and split into proud factions that boasted against one another. Paul described such behavior as “carnal” when he was inspired to write:

  • 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 – “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able;3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?”  [25]

The word “carnal” is translated from the Greek term SARKIKOS (Strong’s #4559 – from SARX #4561) which means, “under the control of the animal appetites; governed by mere human appetites and not the Spirit of God.” [26] The carnal are like predator animals that growl and snap at those trying to eat some of their kill. Paul describes such people as “babes in Christ” and unspiritual, not relying on the Spirit of God. That is exactly how James and John and their mother was acting; they did not trust Jesus with their future, they wanted guarantees, they wanted to get their foot in the door with Jesus to make their pitch. They wanted to beat out their fellow disciples. That is carnal, fleshly in its most ugly form.  

Later in this passage the apostle Paul explains the position and attitude of the Lord’s laborer when he is inspired to write:

  • 1 Corinthians 3:5-11 – “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one?6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”   [27]

If you are going to labor in the Lord, you need to accept that the spotlight must shine on Jesus, not yourself. We were as good as “dead” in our trespasses and sins and are only worth something because God saved us in His Son Jesus. God has a plan to make us into something beautiful (Ephesians 2:1-10). But whenever a laborer seeks the spotlight, it’s like pouring gasoline on the work and lighting a match, it burns up in the fire and no one gets glory. Our glory is to be used by God and demonstrate the reality of our loving appreciation for what God has done, for His love toward us in His Son (Romans 5:8).

The Lord’s Labor Law #6 – Don’t Lord It Over Others, They Serve Like Jesus

Matthew 20:24-28 – “And when the ten heard it, they were greatly displeased with the two brothers.25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them.26 “Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.27 “And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—28 “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”  [28]

Laboring in the Lord is a lot different than laboring in the world. In the world labor is self-centered and self-serving. You work to get more money and a higher position. Labor in the Lord is going in the opposite direction. You don’t serve for accolades; you serve for the sake of pleasing your Master. How does this play out in the church? How do we labor or serve in the church?

 

Laboring in the church with a servant’s heart

 

The Bible describes the church as a body with Jesus Christ as it’s Head (Ephesians 1:22-23). For a body to be healthy and function properly its parts must be in agreement with the head and work in sync with each other. There are many different parts or aspects of a church body. There are many different types of people who God uses in the outworking of His church body. For the church body to fulfill its intended purpose God has given an underlying attitude and spirit that serves as the lubricant to make the labor in the church run smoothly. The attitude and spirit ordained by God for His people is one of service. God wants us to have a servant’s heart.  Why is this so important to God and the church? Because it is the servant’s heart that keeps us humble. It is the servant’s heart that keeps us from stealing God’s glory by seeking to be the center of attention. A person with a servant’s heart is flexible, does not resist change and will serve in any capacity. The person with a servant’s heart will not take offense or resent it when others are put in positions of ministry that perhaps they had their eye on. A person with a servant’s heart will do anything God directs them to do because they love God that much.  The servant-hearted person wants to decrease while Jesus Christ increases (John 3:30). The servant-hearted person desires God to be glorified in His church even if it comes at the expense of personal recognition and sacrifice.  If those who serve the Lord have servant’s hearts there will be far less opportunity for the enemy to distract, divide or destroy in His church body. That is why a servant’s heart is so important to God and His church.

The people God assembles to build His church must have servant’s hearts. Everyone and anyone who is involved in the church body need to have a servant’s heart. This includes the pastor-teacher, church leaders, worship ministers, teachers, ushers, sound and tape persons, fellowship persons, bookstore persons, those who clean the church, all ministry related persons both present and future, everyone and anyone who God uses in His church must have servant’s hearts. Having a servant’s heart is a criterion for being involved in the ministry of the church. 

 

Below are some scriptural guidelines, which define the servant’s heart. These should be ingrained in us and meditated upon regularly.  May God teach us and empower us to be His servant’s that He may be glorified in and through us.

 

A Servant-Laborer Submits

 

  • Ephesians 5:21 – “submitting to one another in the fear of God.”  [29]

Christians in general and servant’s in particular are to have an attitude of mutual submission toward each other. Christians may be radical in terms of their devotion to God, but they aren’t rebels. Servants are willing to help and serve at every opportunity.

A Servant-laborer competes against Him or Herself, Not Others

  • Galatians 6:2-5 – “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.3 For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.5 For each one shall bear his own load.”  [30]

A servant doesn’t compare themselves to others or compete with others. A servant strives to improve themselves by measuring progress according to their own work. The goal of the servant is to “be crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20). The servant wants to serve like Jesus served (Mark 10:45).  (See Romans 12 for further guidance on relationships in the church.)

A Servant-Laborer is Mindful of Christ

  • Philippians 2:1-8 – “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy,2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”  [31]

A servant fills their mind with Christ. The servant doesn’t serve with ulterior motives of “selfish ambition” but rather seeks the benefit and blessing of others by allowing God to work out the mind of Christ in and through them. A servant gives they’re all like Jesus gave His all.  (See John 13.)

A Servant-Laborer Serves God Not Men

  • Colossians 3:17,22-24 – “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. 22 Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God.23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.”   [32]

A servant is not motivated to serve because of anything they might receive from other people. A servant serves because they are thankful for what God ahs done for them in Christ. A servant doesn’t serve insincerely to get the approval of people. A servant gives their best effort “knowing” that they serve the Lord and He will reward them appropriately.

A Servant-Laborer Serves Willingly

  • 2 Corinthians 4:5 – “For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.”  [33]

Servants do not promote themselves. A servant does not need to be coaxed into service but simply sees a need and meets the need. A servant acts this way because they see each need they observe as a divine appointment and call from God to meet that need. If they see a need they simply assume that God has put it in their path to meet it.

A Servant-Laborer Serves for the Sake of the Gospel

  • 1 Corinthians 9:19,22-23 – “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; . . . . I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.”  [34]

A servant serves because they have the eternal destiny of the lost in mind. A servant serves in anyway so that “by all means . . . some” might be saved.

Those who labor in the Lord must have a servant’s heart. You can’t labor in the Lord without a servant’s heart.

The Lord’s Labor Law #7 – The Lord’s Laborers Look To Jesus To Lead

Matthew 20:29-34 – “Now as they went out of Jericho, a great multitude followed Him.30 And behold, two blind men sitting by the road, when they heard that Jesus was passing by, cried out, saying, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!”31 Then the multitude warned them that they should be quiet; but they cried out all the more, saying, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!”32 So Jesus stood still and called them, and said, “What do you want Me to do for you?”33 They said to Him, “Lord, that our eyes may be opened.”34 So Jesus had compassion and touched their eyes. And immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him.”  [35]

 

Here we see two blind men sitting by the road who perhaps had heard of Jesus’ ability to heal and were waiting patiently for Him to work in their lives to heal them. As soon as they heard Jesus approach they cried out persistently and loudly. There was no way they were going to let this opportunity get away from them. Jesus stopped and said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” Jesus then healed them immediately.

 

In the same way, we need to be like those two blind men. As we wait by life’s road we need to call out for Jesus to work in us and lead us to the labor He has for us. Some will need to be healed to follow Him. But the point here is that the Lord’s laborers look to Jesus to lead them. We saw in the first labor law that God is looking for those whose hearts are loyal to Him. We are comparatively blind, but we need to call out to Him in prayer to touch us and lead us and open our eyes so that we know where to follow Him. We look to Jesus to heal and lead us as we labor in the Lord.

 

The Laborer’s question - With Many or Few?

Physical ailments and other obstacles may seem insurmountable, but with God nothing is impossible to overcome. That may not necessarily translate into healing, but it does translate into God accomplishing His will in spite of obstacles.

An old saying is worth mentioning here, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” There is a temptation amongst the Lord’s laborers to get their eyes off of God and onto the daunting task set before them. In our world today we see the rise of Islam as a formidable threat to Christianity on the basis of shear numbers. Liberal and tradition based segments of the church threaten to portray a false and misleading picture of what true Biblical Christianity is. If one focuses upon the obstacles from a human perspective, the obstacles will rise up like impassable mountains. When people look at obstacles or missions in their own strength, or in their flesh, the barriers will always seem impassable and lead to defeatism. The laborer’s question is can this be done? The options are, “Can this be done in my strength?” or “Can this be done in God’s strength?”

Laboring in Human strength - Giants and grasshoppers

God allows for seemingly hopeless situations so that the deliverance and victory can be seen as coming from Him not people. If people overcome an obstacle they get puffed up and fail to give God the glory. This is the human tendency and therefore God specializes in victories snatched from the mouth of seeming defeat.

The Bible is filled with examples of this truth. For instance, when God brought His people to the threshold of the Promised Land after having freed them from the Egyptians, some chose to see the obstacles from a human perspective and so said, “There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” (Numbers 13:33). You see they were looking at their situation according to “our own sight,” and “their sight.” They didn’t factor God into the equation of their situation and were ultimately prohibited by God to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 14). Joshua and Caleb on the other hand had a much different perspective. They approached the obstacles with the following faith insight saying:

  • Numbers 14:8-9 - “If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’9 “Only do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them.”   [36]

Their perspective was the right one, which was, God is in control and he will accomplish what He calls us to do. When we labor in our own strength there are nothing but limitations; when we labor in the Lord there are no limitations.

When won’t God deliver?

Now we need to note here that the truth that there are no limits on what God can accomplish through those who depend upon Him only holds true when you are seeking to accomplish His will, not your own. When through Moses the people were told they would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land because of their spiritual shortsightedness and lack of faith in God, they impulsively went out on their own to try to make up for their sin and were soundly defeated (Numbers 14:39-45). God gives power and victory to accomplish His plans and purposes, not our selfish, self-serving, self-centered, carnal, fleshly ways. If we presume on God’s backing in our own fleshly endeavors, we will be soundly defeated. God doesn’t deliver or work when we seek to use Him to accomplish our will as though He were a cosmic bellhop.

God’s purpose in using only a few

When God called Gideon to lead an army against the Midianites he was able to muster 32,000 men to start with (Judges 7:1-3), but that was too many for God to use even though the Midianites were “as numerous as locusts . . . without number” (Judges 6:5). What was God’s reasoning here? Why does God ten to work through only a few? Read what the Bible states:

  • Judges 7:2-7 – “And the Lord said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’3 “Now therefore, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and afraid, let him turn and depart at once from Mount Gilead.’ ” And twenty-two thousand of the people returned, and ten thousand remained.4 But the Lord said to Gideon, “The people are still too many; bring them down to the water, and I will test them for you there. Then it will be, that of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ the same shall go with you; and of whomever I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ the same shall not go.”5 So he brought the people down to the water. And the Lord said to Gideon, “Everyone who laps from the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set apart by himself; likewise everyone who gets down on his knees to drink.”6 And the number of those who lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, was three hundred men; but all the rest of the people got down on their knees to drink water.7 Then the Lord said to Gideon, “By the three hundred men who lapped I will save you, and deliver the Midianites into your hand. Let all the other people go, every man to his place.”   [37]

God plans to bring victory against seeming hopeless human odds and He does so on purpose. The Bible is filled with examples of those who were greatly outnumbered but who defied the odds by faith in God.

Laboring in the Lord creates limitless possibilities

Jonathan, son of king Saul and best friend of David said these words when confronting an entire Philistine garrison (about twenty men – 1 Samuel 14:14) with only his armor bearer did so on the basis of the following statement of faith:

  • 1 Samuel 14:6 – “Then Jonathan said to the young man who bore his armor, “Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord will work for us. For nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few.”   [38]

When you look at your situation from God’s perspective, like Jonathan, there are no restraints on what God is able to do when He purposes to do it. To labor in the Lord creates a situation where anything is possible because God has no limits.

Losing the laborers reliance upon God and not laboring in the Lord

When King Asa was confronted with an Ethiopian army of a million men and three hundred chariots (2 Chronicles 14:9), Asa cried out before the Lord saying:

  • 2 Chronicles 14:11 – “And Asa cried out to the Lord his God, and said, “Lord, it is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us, O Lord our God, for we rest on You, and in Your name we go against this multitude. O Lord, You are our God; do not let man prevail against You!”  [39]

In this instance Asa had the right perspective and God did deliver him and his people from the enemy. It was to Asa through the prophet Hanani that God said, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9a). But the sad thing is that Asa became proud of his political prowess and began to think that his victories were due to his diplomacy rather than God’s intervention and so he died an angry sick king. Asa got away from laboring in the Lord, in the strength and dependence upon the Lord. And so the account of him was written:

  • 2 Chronicles 16:7-14 – “And at that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said to him: “Because you have relied on the king of Syria, and have not relied on the Lord your God, therefore the army of the king of Syria has escaped from your hand.8 “Were the Ethiopians and the Lubim not a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet, because you relied on the Lord, He delivered them into your hand.9 “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars.”10 Then Asa was angry with the seer, and put him in prison, for he was enraged at him because of this. And Asa oppressed some of the people at that time. 11 Note that the acts of Asa, first and last, are indeed written in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel.12 And in the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa became diseased in his feet, and his malady was severe; yet in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but the physicians. 13 So Asa rested with his fathers; he died in the forty-first year of his reign.14 They buried him in his own tomb, which he had made for himself in the City of David; and they laid him in the bed which was filled with spices and various ingredients prepared in a mixture of ointments. They made a very great burning for him.”  [40]

God did great things through Asa, but the sad thing is, He could have done so much more had Asa not lost his right perspective. Don’t loose sight of Who is working in and through you, if you do, you could end up like Asa.

The power of the Spirit in laboring in the Lord

When God’s people returned to the Land after their 70-year captivity (Jeremiah 25:11), the city of Jerusalem lay in shambles, all they found upon their return was a huge mound of rubble. Zechariah (contemporary of Haggai) was the chosen prophet of God to give spiritual encouragement and insight to those called to the task of rebuilding (the priest Joshua and the governor Zerubbabel). At one point because of opposition and the seeming insurmountable task of rebuilding Jerusalem, the people gave up and for fourteen years the work lay dormant.

Why did they get discouraged and why did the task seem so insurmountable? When Solomon built the Temple he employed 150,000 men and 3,000 superintendents for the task. Now there were only 50,000 total people, (men, women and children, young and old) When Israel returned from their captivity, how could they hope to rebuild the City and the Temple to its former glory with such meager resources? In addition to the huge construction obstacles, the returnees were met with opposition from enemies. When opposition arose, they pretty much gave up likely thinking, “Why fight, this job is too big to do anyway.” So the people had stopped and turned their attention to their own homes (see Haggai).  Even Zerubbabel the governor was discouraged. The general consensus was that the task was too big. Even though they had started up again after a 14-year work stoppage, the task was discouragingly huge. The mound of rubble reached to the sky! That’s the way any obstacle looks when you view it in your flesh and not the Spirit.  

 

At this point the LORD gives Zechariah a fifth vision of the book of Zechariah. It is in this vision where we see the power of the Spirit in laboring in the Lord. Zechariah writes:

 

  • Zechariah 4:6-10 – “So he answered and said to me: 1 “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the Lord of hosts.7 ‘Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone With shouts of “Grace, grace to it!” ’ ”8 Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying:9 “The hands of Zerubbabel Have laid the foundation of this temple; His hands shall also finish it. Then you will know That the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you.10 For who has despised the day of small things? For these seven rejoice to see The plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. They are the eyes of the Lord, Which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth.”   [41]

When we dissect the verse we see that the phrase, “’Not by might,” literally means not by an arrayed army or your own personal resources. The phrase, “nor by power,” literally means not by self-resolve or self-determination.  So we cannot go about the work of God by mustering our own forces whether they are from without or within us. But the way the work of God is done is, “by My Spirit’ says the LORD of hosts.” (4:6b). It is impossible to do God’s work, God’s way, apart from God’s Spirit.

 

When the vision states, “Grace, grace to it!” (4:7), we understand that the Spirit merely needs to be received and trusted in order to work; we need not do any spiritual gymnastics to secure His favor. The Spirit works in and through those who labor in the Lord. When the Lord’s laborer relies on the Spirit, then there is no need to despise the day of small things (4:10).

 

Receiving the Spirit’s power to Labor in the Lord

 

How can we get this power? Jesus words to His disciples prior to His ascension to heaven gave them instructions about how to receive the Spirit’s empowerment for labor. Jesus said:

 

  • Acts 1:4-5,8 – “And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me;5 “for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” . . . . 8 “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  [42]

Notice, in Jesus final words to His disciples He gives them some critically important information for their future ministry. He tells them that while they have received the Holy Spirit in them (John 20:22) that there is something more that they still needed to experience. He used a third preposition to describe this third position of the Spirit to people (the first position is when the Spirit is “with” a person prior to but leading up to salvation; the second position is when the Spirit comes “in” a person at conversion – John 14:15-18; Romans 8:8-11; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20). The preposition Jesus uses is “upon” (Greek EPI). The EPI experience of the Holy Spirit is an empowerment for labor, service and ministry and is received subsequent to, in addition to the work of the Spirit in the believer. This is the experience referred to in seed form in Zechariah and which is fully elaborated upon by Jesus in the New Testament. It was also referred to in Joel in the 7th to 8th century B.C. (Joel 2:28-29), described by Jesus (John 7:37-39) and confirmed as happening by Peter at Pentecost (Acts 2:16-18).

 

In the book of Acts when Peter was describing what had happened to those (e.g. Gentiles) who had received the empowerment of the Spirit, he they received Him, the Spirit, by faith. Read what he said:

 

  • Acts 15:8-9 - “So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us,9 “and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.”  [43]

How do we receive this empowerment of the Spirit? The disciples prayed in faith before Pentecost as did those who subsequently received this empowerment (Acts 1-2). They laid their hands on some while praying with them, which was an act and symbol of the unity they had in Christ. By laying on hands they were saying you’re one of us in Christ.  Therefore, we need only pray in faith and ask God to empower us to do His work and we can be confident that the power will be there when we need it.

Don’t make the mistake of focusing on the manifestation of gifts at the outpouring of the Spirit. Sometimes people do speak in tongues as the empowerment comes (Acts 2). Sometimes they do not. The real confirmation of the empowerment is a love from the Spirit that enables a person to serve the LORD (2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Galatians 5:22-24). Therefore, we should neither deny the possibility of the manifestation of spiritual gifts at the outpouring and empowering of the Spirit, nor seek the gifts in and of themselves, what we need to do is prayerfully submit and seek God and all He has for us.

The contagious nature of laboring in the Lord

What happens after Pentecost (Acts 2) when the Spirit comes “upon” the disciples is an incredibly powerful work of God in the world. Thousands are saved. People are healed. Demons exorcised. And most importantly God is glorified. Indeed, all the world could say about these Spirit empowered people was:

 

  • Acts 17:6 – “But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too.”  [44]

Since our world is so sinfully against God and upside down, these Spirit-empowered people were actually turning the world right side up. That’s what God wants to do through His people; He wants to make a glorious impact on this sinful world by way of Spirit-empowered people sharing the powerful gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16-17).

Martin Luther, (when going up against the established church that had become corrupted with manmade traditions) once said, “One with God is a majority.” In other words, if you are on God’s side, in the center of His will, in the right according to God’s word, then it doesn’t matter what obstacle or opposition you face, victory is at hand. The loyal hearted disciple who understands this will be used by God to win the souls of men. Oscar Hammerstein II once wrote:

Give me some men who are stouthearted men
Who will fight for the right they adore.
Start me with 10 who are stouthearted men
And I'll soon give you 10,000 more. [45]

This secular stanza depicts this Biblical truth. The critical factor is not the quantity of people involved in the task, but the quality of the faith of those whose hearts are loyal to God.

Conclusion

 

To labor in the Lord is the most rewarding thing a disciple can do. To verify that as truth, just read a few verses about what the Bible says about our labor inn the Lord:

 

  • 1 Corinthians 15:58 – “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”  [46]
  • Hebrews 6:10 – “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.”  [47]
  • Revelation 2:2a - “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil.”   [48]

Disciple, labor in the Lord. God knows your labor in Him, and it is not in vain. Labor in the Lord! The importance of our labor in the Lord is illustrated in the following story.

 

Jesus paid a visit to a certain young man to see if he completed some tasks that Jesus asked him to do. Here are the man's replies to the master:
Well Lord, I meant to go to Bible Study, but what had happened was that I was tired and worn out from the day.

Lord, I know I promised to read from the Bible last night, but you see what had happen was that I had the Bible out but I started watching TV and then I had fell asleep.

Well you know Lord, I didn't mean to hurt her feelings, but you know what had happened with that was that she wasn't what I thought she would be.

Well Lord, about the conversation with the non-believer, I'm sorry for not defending you but what had happen was that I really didn't know what to say.

Lord, I meant to go to church today but what had happen was that by the time I woke up it was already too late to go. Lord, my life is a mess.

So then the Lord, finally heard enough! The Lord simply asked him to stop. Silence entered the room.

And as this man wonders why his life is in the shape it is in, the Lord replied to the man with the following: Remember the time when you had to face a force greater than you and you were not sure how to handle the situation? Well son, I made provisions at the bible study the night before, but see, what had happened was that you were too tired to receive the plan I had for you. I even tried to reveal it to you in my word, but what had
happened was that you fell asleep watching TV.

Do you remember the time that you were so lonely and just wanted someone who would love you? I gave you your desire but what had happened was that she wasn't good
enough for you because she didn't give you what you wanted. So now I ask, was it love you were after or lust?

And finally, I gave you a chance to redeem yourself but you failed me again. This non-believer only needed to hear a strong witness but what had happened was that this non-believer was placed on hold because you were too weak in me. The message I sent to church on the Sunday you missed would have won over the non-believer but see what had happened was that you slept over so you couldn't make it to church.

Let us learn from this young man. You never know the form or fashion that your blessing may be delivered to you. When opportunity presents itself, you should always position yourself to receive Him. Many of us have too many excuses for our idleness and lack of labor in the Lord. Be aware that the Lord is watching and hears all excuses. Just remember that He won't be accepting any excuses at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

 

 



[1] "Born again Christians" were defined in these surveys as people who said they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and who also indicated they believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as "born again" or if they considered themselves to be "born again." - Barna

 

[2] All of the data mentioned in this report are drawn from previous Barna Updates released throughout 2001 and can be referenced on the Barna Research website at www.barna.org. The specific statistics listed are from nationwide surveys of random samples of adults, teenagers or Protestant pastors conducted during 2000. The sample sizes of those studies range from 600 to 1010 respondents. All of the interviews were conducted from the Barna Research Group telephone interviewing facility in Ventura, CA among adults in the 48 continental states, distributed geographically in accordance with the dispersion of the U.S. adult population.

 

[3]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[4]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[5]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[6]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[7]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[8]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[9]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[10]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[11]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[12]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[13]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[14]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[15]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[16]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[17]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[18]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[19]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[20]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[21]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[22]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[23]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[24]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[25]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[26]Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1995.

[27]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[28]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[29]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[30]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[31]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[32]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[33]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[34]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[35]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[36]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[37]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[38]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[39]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[40]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[41]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[42]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[43]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[44]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[45] The New Moon © 1927

 

[46]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[47]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[48]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.