Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Whose Approval Are You Seeking?

In my twenty years of pastoring I have met a lot of people who had given up their faith because of the words and actions of other people. I realize that this meant their faith was not very strong to begin with but still it is sad to give up Jesus just because of what another Christian said or did. Our faith should never be affected by the words and actions of others because our faith is based solely on the words and actions of Jesus. Yet, I have encountered an even sadder thing than this.

I have met a few former pastors who had walked away from their calling because of the way the church had treated them. It is horrible to pastor a church that gives you nothing but heartaches and that works against you and always seems to want to destroy you. Even if you are a pastor who trusts the Lord, loves him with all your heart, and operates by the Spirit and not the flesh, it is a tough go. But tough does not mean impossible and it is those type of immature churches that need strong men and women of faith who will take it on the chin in order to help equip them to come into maturity. A pastor can end up beat up, but when we operate in the Spirit, when we minister through Jesus, he sustains our joy and peace.

Anyone in ministry, whatever that ministry is, must learn a very important lesson. I have met people who have been overly critical of their pastor, taking this verse as their theme:

Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. (1 Corinthians 4:2)

What they fail to understand is that Paul was not talking about proving himself faithful to the Church or to Christians. These people fail to continue to read:

I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. (1 Corinthians 4:3-4)

If you have been given a trust in any spiritual matter you do have to prove yourself faithful, but not to people. Prove to the Lord your faithfulness in the task you have been given. Jesus made this clear with various parables he told, such as the one with the talents and the one about the master of the house going away. In these Jesus speaks about servants having been given a task and the expectation that they will be found having completed this task on the Master's return. Those servant's are you and me so this is the warning Paul gives about judging fellow servants:

Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God. (1 Corinthians 4:5)

My friend, it doesn't matter how old or young you are, there will always be people who are going to judge you. They will judge your appearance, your actions, and your words. Some will make fun of you, others will reject you but some will choose to be your friend. As a follower of Jesus Christ none of that matters. We do not live for the approval of man but of God, and God knows the things that are hidden from everyone's sight. He knows our thoughts and our motives. He knows our heart. Live to be approved by God and that approval comes when we are clothed in the garments Jesus has given us and as we walk in his example, proving ourselves faith to our task.

Christianity is far more than attending church, going to small group, posting nice sounding Scripture, being good. Following Jesus is about living the life he lived as an example to us. We have received the same Spirit he operated with. We have been given his love to share with everyone we encounter.We has given us our mission to make disciples. He told us to go. He will judge how faithful we have been to this on his return. It doesn't matter if we have the approval of our parents, teachers, friends, even our pastor. These people are important, we must respect them and listen to their council, but at the end of the day it is the approval of Jesus that matters. So live your life to be approved by Jesus not by man.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)

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