Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Faithfulness

Key to Increase

teamwork

by Dennis Pollock

What do Michael Jordan, Jim Brown, Babe Ruth, Jim Thorpe, and Deion Sanders have in common? Certainly they were some of America's greatest athletes, but there is another common factor. They all improved radically and dramatically in their chosen sports between their teen years and adulthood. The miracle of the law of increase transformed them from being great neighborhood ball players to world class athletes. Had their skills remained at their high school levels, we would not know the names of any of these men today.

As it is in the physical, so it is in the spiritual. As the Spirit of God abides and works in the hearts of men and women, a desire for increase is both healthy and inevitable. We find ourselves wanting more – more of God's love, more of the anointing of His Spirit, more fruitfulness, and a greater knowledge of His Word. Indeed this desire for spiritual advancement, both in our character and our service, is such part and parcel of what it means to belong to Christ, that if absent it would call in serious question the genuineness of one's experience with Jesus. In the academic world the saying goes, "Publish or perish," but in the Kingdom of God it is more like, "Grow, or reveal that you have no life in you." The apostle Paul expresses his own passion for increase eloquently as he writes, "Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me" (Philippians 3:12).

Our Lord Jesus tells us plainly that the kingdom of God will be associated with growth:

(The kingdom of God) is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches." (Luke 13:19)

Jesus chose the smallest seed the Jews were familiar with in order to make the point that God's kingdom at work in our lives will always produce much increase. Small though it may start out in our beginnings, give God time and radical change and dramatic increase will surely come. Life always brings growth. Different plants grow at different rates and in different ways, but all grow. Every seed contains a built-in power to grow, and when it is brought to life through contact with water, that energy becomes activated and irresistible.

Chosen for Fruitfulness

Grapevine

Every  believer must grow not only in character and in the knowledge of Christ, but also in their effectiveness in serving Christ – their particular calling and ministry. Whether you preach from behind a pulpit every Sunday, visit the local jail weekly, participate in a service at the senior citizen's center, or lead a home Bible study, if you are in Christ, you are a minister and you have a ministry. There is no such thing as a follower of Christ who touches no one, serves no one, and helps nobody. Jesus declares, "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit…" (John 15:16). We are chosen to be fruitful, and the specific nature and form of our fruitfulness is our ministry. The grace that works powerfully in us will always move us to eagerly desire to grow and increase in that ministry – to be more effective and fruitful in our service to Christ today than we were yesterday. Unlike the athletes who peak in their early thirties and then go downhill from there, those who abide in Jesus can see increasing fruitfulness and effectiveness all of their days. In Psalms we read, "Those who are planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing" (Psalm 92:13,14).

There is a particular factor that is of enormous importance in this area of increase. It is the key of faithfulness. As Paul writes to the Colossian church, he mentions a brother named Epaphras, and calls him, "a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf…" (Colossians 1:7). In truth this is one of the highest compliments that may be paid to any man or woman. This man is not just a minister of Christ, but a "faithful minister of Christ."

Faithfulness is a concept every Christian would recognize as important but it doesn't get nearly the press that other Biblical concepts receive. If you put together a Christian conference and have a workshop on success and in the next room a workshop on faithfulness, you can easily guess which workshop will attract the most people. And when is the last time you saw someone with a twelve-CD series on faithfulness? And yet without faithfulness there can be no true increase.

A Steward of God

To understand the importance of faithfulness we must see that ministry is in essence a "stewardship." Paul writes, "For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God…" (Titus 1:7). A steward is someone who was been called to take care of that which belongs to another. The bank clerk at your local bank may handle thousands of dollars throughout the day. Many large bills will be passing through his hands all day long. If you didn't know better you might think he was a very rich man indeed. To have access to all that money! But of course the money is not his at all. He is handling it for the bank, which has been entrusted by a great many people to keep their money. The bank teller cannot help himself to even a dime of the money that lies before him. He must wait until payday when he will receive a modest salary. He is a steward. He handles other people's money for them.

So it is in every form of genuine ministry. Paul writes, "But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak… (1 Thessalonians 2:4). Peter charges the church elders, "nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock" (1 Peter 5:3). We are entrusted with the gospel, entrusted with the Holy Spirit's anointing, entrusted with ministry opportunities, and entrusted with people's lives who have been committed unto us, and we shall one day give an account of our stewardship.

The foremost requirement for stewardship is faithfulness. To Timothy, Paul writes, "Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful" (1 Corinthians 4:2). If I were a wealthy man in need of someone to watch over and invest my money, and I were going over a list of applicants for the position, I would not be looking for the most intelligent person. Intelligence is useful, but it would not be my number one priority. I certainly wouldn't be looking for the most beautiful applicant, or the most athletic, or the most socially skilled. I would be looking for a man or a woman who could convince me that they would be faithful with my money. And from the Scriptures we find that God feels the same way about His spiritual riches that He entrusts to men and women. "It is required in stewards that one be found faithful."

Tested with the Small

Faithfulness is always proven in small matters. Jesus declares, "He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much" (Luke 16:10). Before God ever entrusts big things to His servants, He always first proves them with small things. D. L. Moody, one of the greatest American evangelists of the nineteenth century, is a great example of this. When Moody was a young man he went to his pastor and volunteered to teach a Sunday school class. The pastor told him they had all the teachers they needed, but if he could manage to bring a few children to church, he could be their teacher. That was all young Moody needed. He went around the neighborhood using all of his considerable "sales" skills to attract children to come to church and be a part of his new class. He rented a pony and gave pony rides to the children. He offered them candy, told them stories, and made them feel like his class was going to be the greatest thing they had ever experienced in their lives.

Sure enough he ended up with a large group of students for his new class. In fact he did so well that he was eventually offered the opportunity to speak to the adults upon occasion. He wasn't very polished at first, but he continually improved himself and eventually became a highly effective speaker. In time he would go on to become a hugely successful evangelist. D. L. Moody made a comment that both summed up his own life and the concept of faithfulness: "The reward for service is… more service." Taking advantage of the tiny open doors in our lives leads to larger open doors. But refusing the smaller opportunities will ensure that we never see anything larger.

Too often we tend to be sloppy with the smaller opportunities for service. "No need to study too hard this time – I'm just going to be ministering to a few older folks at our church's senior class."  "No need for me to pray about tomorrow's ministry – I'll just be talking to a handful of ten year olds." I'll never forget my earliest days in ministry. How I loved my little group of eight people that I preached to every Sunday! We met in one another's homes and if our attendance rose into double digits I felt like I had really made it to big time ministry. In one home we had stationed my little portable pulpit by the front door. I was preaching away with all my heart one Sunday morning when we all heard a knock on the door. Since I was closest, I stopped my sermon and opened the door. There stood a stranger who had seen the homeowner's truck parked in his yard with a "for sale" sign on it. He asked how much I wanted for the truck.

I became the mediator between the prospective buyer and the truck owner. I had been transformed from preacher to used car salesman! Finally the man had his questions answered and left, and I resumed my sermon. It wasn't exactly a glamorous ministry in those days, but it was ministry and I was thrilled to have it. On Saturday nights I used to spend hours praying and working on my sermons. On Sundays, if the Lord anointed me and the sermon went well I was elated. If I didn't feel much anointing I was miserable for the rest of the day. I didn't have much, but I took the little I had very seriously. Somehow I knew that the door to bigger opportunities was faithfulness in the small opportunities.

Diligent in all things

Consistent diligence is one of the primary ingredients of faithfulness. Half-hearted service is never acceptable, either in the corporate world or in the kingdom of God. Colossians tells us: "And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men…" (Colossians 3:23). Proverbs tells us: "The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty…" (Proverbs 21:5). Romans tells us that believers should be "not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord" (Romans 12:11). The evangelist Kathryn Kuhlman once took some materials to a printer to have copies made, but when she went to pick them up she noticed several errors. When she questioned the printer about the errors, he told her, "I knew you were with a religious organization, and figured it wasn't so important to have everything perfect." Kathryn exploded, telling the man that the work she was doing was the most important work in the world, and had to be done correctly. She went on to give him the names of the directors on her board who demanded and deserved excellence: The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The job was done again.

We are to be faithful, for the One we serve is faithful. Jesus Christ is the faithful One. John writes: "Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True… (Revelation 19:11). God gave us His best – His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus. And Jesus is faithful to us. He is our good and faithful Shepherd, and the Keeper and Preserver of our souls. Because the Faithful One lives in us, we can be faithful – faithful to Christ in our good days and in our bad days, faithful in our health and in our sickness, in our season of popularity and in those dark days when it seems everyone is arrayed against us, faithful in our times of plenty and faithful in our days of scarcity.

In the end our greatest reward will be to hear those words: "Well done, good and faithful servant." Not good and clever servant, not good and talented servant or good and pretty servant – but good and faithful servant.

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