Have you ever noticed that the Lord tested volunteers? If we turn to Luke 9:57-62, we find that the volunteer is challenged and the problems are pointed out. The volunteer promised to go wherever the Jesus went. The answer was “,,, but the Son of man has not where to lay his head”. Yet when the Lord calls one to follow him in verse 59, the person immediately cites an obstacle. Then in verse 61 another offers to follow the Lord, but he felt his saying goodbye to his family had a prior claim. The Lord had a testing word for him. In any measure that we are followers of the Lord, it seems that we should have the sense that we are called, and that he has first claim on us. We are not our own, for we have been bought with a price, as we are told in 1 Corinthians 5:19-20.
Again in Luke 14, great crowds followed him. He turned to them and challenged them as to preparedness to put every thing, and every relationship second in importance to him. He challenges the volunteers or followers in no uncertain terms.
Now let us look at service. Again each individual is regarded as under the direction of Christ. He has given gifts, so he has the right to direct and dispose of them. The apostle Paul had the sense that it the preaching of the good news was laid on him. In 1 Corinthians 9:16 he explains this. He goes on to state that if he does it “not of my own will, I am entrusted with an administration”. He was not a volunteer, in that sense. Following Paul’s conversion, the Lord said to Ananias that he would show Paul – not how successful he would be – but how much he must suffer for my name. See Acts 9:16.
Let us go to the Old Testament for an example of a volunteer, of a man who wanted to serve, without being sent. The account is found in 2 Samuel 18:19-32. Joab, the commander of David’s troops, needed to convey to the king the message that Absalom was dead. Joab deemed that an Ethiopan, a witness of the death, was the best person suited for this service, and sent him on his way. Ahimaaz was so keen to be the runner, he again implored Joab to let him go – “Come what may, let me, I pray thee, also run after the Cushite [Ethiopian]”. So Ahimaaz ran and arrived first, but to had to stand aside, to his shame! What lessons are here. I think anyone who puts themselves forward without the Lord’s call, will have a similar result - shame. Ability or gift is not the determining factor, but obedience. A loud voice, clever oratory or a certificate from a college does not authorise a man as an evangelist.
Timing is another lesson taught in the above example. Joab told Ahimaaz that he could carry the news another day. Paul and his company were heading for Asia [Minor] when they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit, Acts 16: 6-9. They were then guided to Philippi, but spent a lot of time in Asia Minor later. In fact, the seven churches addressed by the Lord in Revelation 2 and 3 were all in that area.
A person for whom the Lord has a special service will certainly have it laid upon him. Our commission is, “Let each abide in that calling [job] in which he has been called” and “therein abide with God”; 1 Corinthians 7:20-24. This instruction is re-iterated in 1 Thess. 4:11-12, “... and work with your own hands, even as we charged you, that ye may walk reputably towards those without, and may have need of no one”.
People say: What about the Great Commission at the end of the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke? Are you an apostle? I accept that the principle of going out to all is to be the attitude and outlook of all of us. But it was the apostolic commission. Paul discusses this question in 1 Corinthians 12:29-30; Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all in possession of miraculous powers? have all gifts of healings? etc. The answer is obviously “no”. We all have our own service. Does the Lord expect a Sydney mother with little children to go to Central Africa to work among the Pygmies? Doesn’t she have her own immense task to do right here? We can all serve the Lord and our fellow man as we go about our “God-given” daily work. Let us do that first and the Lord will certainly direct us if He has something special for us.
MM Sept. 2007