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Wimps Can’t be Servants for Jesus

2 Timothy 2:3 Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

Those who serve Jesus well and bear much fruit often have a hard life; it is part of the price that God asks those who follow and serve Him to pay.

2 Corinthians 11:24-26 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren;

Several years ago a young man I knew joined the Navy and said that he had his sights set on becoming a Navy Seal. I had been on a hunting/camping trip with him and I thought, “I don’t think he has what it will take to become a Seal,” he is a wimp.

In order to be given the opportunities, the power, and the authority that God gives to those who are His soldiers we must be completely committed to following Jesus. Many get right up to the “fully devoted” part and back off because they are afraid of the cost.

Wimps have a lot of fears; soldiers for Jesus have none. Wimps complain about problems, strong followers of Jesus grumble about nothing. Wimps bad mouth and criticize champions for Jesus because they live life on the edge.

Servants of Jesus have all the fun! They get thrown into fiery furnaces, they get thrown into lion’s dens, they kill giants and bears and lions, and sometimes they die, but Jesus welcomes them to sit at His right hand. When Jesus comes and sets up His kingdom on earth wimps will live in Fargo, North Dakota.

A Worthy Servant of Jesus

The first requirement to be on Jesus’s team is to have a “want to,” you have to want to do something with your life that matters, to make a difference. Those who bear much fruit for God have a longing in their heart to do more. They are not lukewarm, lazy, apathetic, indifferent, or easily satisfied.

The second requirement is that of all the things we do in life, serving Jesus is number one. We work at keeping our life simple and unintangled from the world. The number one reason so many Christians do so little for God is that they have no time, they have used it all up on other things.

The third requirement to be a person that Jesus appoints or chooses to serve Him is that you love people, you are kind to them, you have learned the skill of getting along with most anyone, and people like you. You are constantly working at being a relational genius.

The fourth requirement is that you are a seeker of wisdom, you are a learner, you are constantly acquiring new skills to be more productive. You don’t get locked into doing things the easy, natural way, the way you have always done it. You look around and see who is bearing much fruit and you don’t let pride keep you from learning new skills from them, you ask good questions, you ask for counsel, for coaching, you are not a “know it all.”

The fifth requirement to be a champion is to have the character trait of diligence.

Proverbs 10:4 Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.

Proverbs 12:27 A lazy man does not roast his prey,
but the precious possession of a man is diligence.

Romans 12:11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;

Proverbs 14:23 In all labor there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.

Proverbs 21:5The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, but everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.

2 Timothy 2:5-7 Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

As you observe those, who are very productive in any area of life, nothing is more evident than that they are all very hard workers.

The Lord’s Bond Servants Should Bear Much Fruit

I shared yesterday how I went from being a cold, stoic introvert to a warm, outgoing, cuddly teddy bear. OK that is a bit of a hyperbole, but I changed a lot because I knew I had to if I was going to succeed as a servant of Jesus. I had to relate to people if I was going to influence them, teach them, and lead them as their pastor. I strengthened my strengths, compensated for my non-strengths, and learned new skills. I didn’t have to be locked into a particular way of acting even though I was most comfortable in that role.

My strengths are that I am very goal-oriented, highly motivated to accomplish my goals, very focused, obsessed, and driven to achieve my goals. I manage my time well and achieve a lot in a short amount of time compared to many. I lead well and motivate and inspire people to work together to achieve important goals. This is who I am by God’s design, it is my temperament and giftedness.

What I do easily and naturally I have tried to teach to many people so that they can acquire it as a skill. My strengths, abilities, and gifts are very beneficial in ministry and those who learn the skills that I have enhance their ministry effectiveness a lot.

But I have experienced a lot of resistance and pushback from people-oriented extroverts, who are intuitive, free-flowing, gracious, and relaxed in temperament and personality. Their argument is that is who God made them so they are just going to be and act the way they are, and not learn to act more like me, even if it does improve significantly what they are able to accomplish with their life.

I made a concerted effort to change, grow and learn the skill of being a relational genius; well at least I moved up from being an idiot, if not a genius. I did that though I was not comfortable in that role because I knew it was necessary to be a successful servant of Jesus.

It bugs the heck out of me that there are so many who refuse to make an effort to improve their skill set in order to be more effective as a leader and servant of Jesus, and they remain mediocre in the results of their life. And then they excuse and justify their lack of fruit-bearing by saying “I yam who I yam, and that’s all I yam.”

I Yam who I Yam, and that’s all I Yam

Those of you my age know that was one of Popeye the Sailor Man’s main sayings. “I yam who I yam, and that’s all I yam!” We all are born with temperaments, bents, personality types, gifts, and abilities. Patty and I had eight children, and they were all very different from day one. Six and seven were twins, so their differences were even more apparent. There are a lot of different tests available today to tell us what kind of person we are. They are very helpful in understanding ourselves, but I often hear people using their temperament or personality type or even their spiritual gift to excuse irresponsible or lazy living. “I yam who I yam,” implying that I can’t change, or grow or learn skills, because that is just the way “I yam.”

One of the reasons that I was so reluctant to leave the dairy to become a pastor is because I knew what I was like, and it didn’t seem compatible with pastoring people. I was painfully uncomfortable around people I didn’t know, and being in a situation where I had to enter into conversations and make small talk would literally cause me to break out in a sweat. For year’s I justified being a relational idiot as a pastor because “I yam who I yam.” Then I started meeting with Dr. Joe. At one of our lunch encounters, he said, “You are standing before Jesus at the end of your life at the ‘Judgment seat of Christ’ and He asks you how many people you influenced to follow Him, and you say none because You made me shy.” “How do you think that will go over with Jesus?” And then he gave me one of his classic sayings, “Strengthen your strengths, compensate for your non-strengths, and learn and practice skills.” You can learn to play the piano even if you aren’t gifted in music, you can learn how to sell cars for a living even if you are an introvert, and you can learn how to carry on a meaningful conversation with anybody, anywhere though you would rather be fishing by yourself. He suggested that I read the books, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie and “Relational Intelligence” by Steve Saccone. I read both and have read dozens of similar books in the 30 years since that impactful meeting.

Popular

When I was Freshman in College the school that I attended had a popularity contest. It wasn’t really a contest; it was just a class survey that everyone filled out. There were several categories that each student was supposed to put a name behind, “Most likely to succeed, ” Smartest, ” “Most liked, ” and several other categories. I remember two things about the survey, I wasn’t in the top ten in any of the categories, and Patty Burtner, now Patty Duke, was voted “Most liked or Most Popular.” How we got together and ended up marrying is a mystery to everyone who knew us both.

So if you wanted to win the “Most Popular” category and had six months to impress, influence, and win people over to voting for you, what would you do, how would you act?

2 Timothy 2:24-25 has a description of what to do. “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition,”

There are two reasons to work hard at being liked; one is because of your ego, the second is because you want to increase your ability to influence people toward faith in Christ. The fact is the more people genuinely like you, the more influence you have in their life.

When I started Pastoring, I had several mentors that I met regularly with, experienced Pastors and leaders who taught me how to succeed in ministry. One of them was Dr. Joe Aldrich who was President of Multnomah Bible College. I learned a lot from him, and I remember a lot of what he taught me because he had these “sayings” that he would repeat regularly. One of them was, “We are supposed to love everybody but some are easier to love than others, if you are going to Pastor people you have to be loveable, people won’t learn from or follow someone who is not.”

The first time he said that I thought, “I am in trouble; I probably ought to go back to dairy farming.” Over the years I have made being a person that people like a major pursuit of my life. It really helps being married to Patty and learning from her because she really is very lovable. I have read many books on the subject and observe those who I enjoy being with and try to learn from them.

I often hear people say, “I don’t care if people like me or not, ” or, “that is just the way I am, take me or leave me.” I used to say that because I am an introvert, not very outgoing or personable but as Dr. Joe often said, “we have the ability to grow and change, especially if our motive is pure. We are not changing who and what we are, we are changing how we act.”

Back to 2 Timothy 2:24, “ The Lord’s bond-servant must. . .” That means it is required and that we can.

Pursuing Righteousness

A third requirement to be called a servant of Jesus is “God uses clean vessels to do His work.”

2 Timothy 2:19-22. . . Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness. . . if anyone cleanses himself he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness,

“Useful to the Master” is the phrase that I want to describe me more than anything else. How does a person become “useful” to Jesus? Well, the passage tells us, “Abstain from wickedness, ” “cleanse himself, ” “flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness.”

To put it another way, “The Lord’s bond-servant must be growing in character and righteousness.” I don’t have to, in order to get into heaven, but if I want to be one of the “appointed ones” who Jesus has chosen to do His work, it is mandatory.

A problem we have in this area is that we let the world define for us what is righteous living. “Slightly better than the world“ is most believers definition of acceptable holiness before God. The problem is that the world is going backwards very fast in the area of righteousness. Servants of Jesus are pressing on to become like Him in character and behavior, Jesus is our standard and model.

Growth requires honest, very humble, diligent self-examination in order to find our character weaknesses, blind spots, and sin habits. Once discovered we confess or admit that indeed that is who we are and that is how we act, we repent, and we strategize a plan for growth and we pursue it.

On this present archery hunting trip to the Steens Mts I slept in twice instead of getting up and going hunting. I used the phrase, “well, I am here to enjoy myself, not kill myself.” The truth is that more and more I have been taking the easy way and using my age and my Parkinson’s as an excuse, when the real reason is that I have let myself get wimpy in self-control. I have honestly examined myself and truly believe that I can do much better than I am presently doing and I have a plan to make it happen. I have given my plan to Jesus and I have asked Him to help me make it reality so that I can serve and glorify Him more.

Priorities

Mark 3:14 Jesus appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach,

Luke 10:1 Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come.

Today Jesus appoints or chooses believers to do His work. There are qualifications that the Lord has set to be one of those He gives assignments and opportunities to. We need to know what they are and actively work at making them reality in our lives.

Yesterday I described what I call the first requirement, and today I will write about the second.

If we are going to be a servant of Jesus we must make serving Him the highest priority of our lives, it is first place in all that we do and value in this life. That doesn’t mean we don’t have a job, own a house, go fishing, and play computer games, but it does mean that we have those other activities under control and that we would never pass on an opportunity the Lord would give us because of a life out of balance.

2 Timothy 2:4 No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.

Matthew 6:33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

What is required is a continuous evaluation of our lifestyle and use of time, and that we are constantly working at simplifying our life. We pick up new stuff that needs to be taken care of, and of course used, routine activities that become part of our life, and addictions like a magnet draws iron filings. Every year I rent a 10 yard dumpster and we fill it. Where does that stuff come from? It just drops out of the sky!

If the first requirement is genuine in your life, that is you have a super strong desire to serve the Lord and do something with your life that matters, then you must often ask the question, “how am I doing exercising self-control over the lust of the world, keeping my life simple, managing my time well, and keeping serving Jesus first place in my life.

Regular, honest, serious self-examination of priorities is required of those who are servants of Jesus.

The Lord’s Bond-Servant

The Apostle Paul called himself the Lord’s bond-servant at the beginning and in most of his letters that he wrote. Jesus invited us to be and Paul encouraged all those who read his letters to be the servants of Jesus doing His work on this planet. When Jesus was here on the earth as a man, He was His method of accomplishing His work on this world. But now He is in heaven and His bond-servants are His method in accomplishing His work. The servants of Jesus are the ones He works through to accomplish His will and plan on earth, that is His method and strategy. Being a servant of Jesus is where the action is.

Today there are many who are believers in Jesus, Christians, but they are’t His servants. I compare it to a basketball team of 15 players, but only five are on the floor playing, striving to win, the rest are on the bench. The critical question is, “do you like being on the bench?” I played basketball in High School and college and spent most of my time on the bench, and I hated every minute of it. I can find a dozen requirements in Scripture that need to be in our life if we are going to be worthy to be the hands, feet, and voice of Jesus in this world.

The first requirement to be a servant of Jesus is that you must have a strong desire to be used by Him, to do something with your life that matters for all eternity, you must want it, really want it. This is what it means to be hot instead of lukewarm. Every morning I declare to Jesus that I want to be His servant, and I plead with Him to give me more to do for Him. A casual desire that says, “I will serve Him if it works out, if it is convenient, if I have time, if I am not to tired, doesn’t cut it with Jesus.

A great place to start this journey is to ask yourself how hot you really are.

I Am

I am in the Steens Mts archery hunting for deer and elk. So one of my many titles in life is “hunter,” I am a hunter. I don’t usually kill anything when I go hunting, but I am still a hunter. I own several guns, a number of bows, camping gear, and I buy a hunting license every year. I am a hunter! I also am a fisherman, and I actually catch fish! I am a husband. I am a father. I am a grandfather. I am a pastor, and I am many other positive, and good things.

Paul who wrote most of the New Testament said, “I am an Apostle of Jesus Christ.” He also said, “I am a bond-servant of Jesus Christ.” The requirements to be a hunter are pretty simple and few. It entails mostly spending money on stuff hunters own and then going hunting, simple, you are in the club.

Being a bond-servant of Jesus is much more demanding. Very few Christians are servants of Jesus, most Christians don’t even care if they are or aren’t. But even if they did aspire to being a servant of Jesus they probably wouldn’t meet the requirments. Jesus is the one who set the requirements, and He is the one who decides if you are worthy of being called His servant.

Our salvation is free, not earned; no one is worthy of going to heaven apart from Christ’s worthiness. But just because we are not worthy of heaven doesn’t mean we are not worthy of other things. We can’t be good enough to earn heaven, but that doesn’t make us worthless or good for nothing. If you are going to be a servant of Jesus you must first be worthy of the title.

Ephesians 4:1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,

Philippians 1:27 Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;

Colossians 1:10 so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;

2 Thessalonians 1:5 This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering.

What are the qualifications for being considered a worthy disciple of Jesus? Good question! Tomorrow.

Hurricanes

One of the indicators that we are getting close to the end of the story, God’s story, is that there will be an increase in Natural disasters. When Jesus used the word earthquakes describing the end times it is very probable that He was talking about all natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornados, and earthquakes.

I was reading a news commentator’s blog and he said that this year will probably go down as the worst year in human history. I don’t know if that was based on some factual information or his emotional response to current events. He went on to say that he doubted if we would ever see another year like this one ever again. I thought to myself, “you are in for a rude awakening, ” because it is going to continue to get worse at an accelerated pace.

As things do get worse I remind myself that God gives His strength to those who are living for Him, to those who are serving Him. The worse it gets the more strength He gives. Also the worse things get the more people will turn to faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. They will turn to Jesus not only because of the hard times but because of the joy, peace, and strength that those who are fully devoted followers of Jesus have.

Most Christians are lukewarm, they are not fully devoted followers of Jesus. They are so entangled in the affairs of everyday life that they have no time to serve Jesus or energy. I was talking to a pastor of a church and he said that the worse things get the harder it is to get people to volunteer and serve in the church. Nothing amplifies lukewarmness like personal crisis, people become all about taking care of themselves.

A major principle to remember is when we serve the Lord by serving and helping others, and by being a functioning part of His church He serves us, but when we make taking care of ourselves our main focus He lets us do it. It isn’t hard for me to figure out who will do the better job of taking care of my family and me.