The preacher in the above graphic is emblematic of so many of us who possess dreams of revival and greater fruitfulness. Because of those dreams, we’ve made honest attempts to bear fruit, yet those attempts have often failed.
The one good thing about failure, however, is that it can be a catalyst for success. Over my 40 years of vocational ministry, I’ve learned from my own failures at least one secret to spiritual success. That is this: Do not ask God to bless your work. Rather, figure out where God is already working, and join Him in His work. The blessing will already be there.
The title of this article is, of course, a play on the title of the late Leonard Ravenhill’s classic book, Why Revival Tarries, in which the famous evangelist points out what needs to change in pulpits, pews and prayer closets if the church is to ever regain its God-ordained purpose in the world.
In this article, however, I’d like to speak to the Little Leonard Ravenhills out there—whether they be faithful-yet-frustrated pastors, meeting-less evangelists, friendless Facebook preachers, or lonely out-of-church Christians—who all long to see a move of God like those that have occurred many times throughout history. They are fighting discouragement and are wondering if they will ever see such a revival before they die.
In Part 1 of this teaching, I made the claim that the early church focused on two avenues of giving, namely giving that (1) helped make disciples and (2) relieved suffering, and I elaborated on the wise application of the first of those two. In Part 2, I’d like to look more closely at some of the best ways we can use our financial resources to relieve suffering. But first, a little philosophic pondering:
When it comes to suffering, there is no shortage of those who need help. No one can debate that God allows a lot of suffering, and His reasons for doing so are sometimes a mystery to us. Yet Scripture makes it clear that God’s allowance does not alleviate us from relieving suffering when we can. On the contrary, it seems that God may allow some suffering to test our love for those who suffer—and for Him. God certainly does test free moral agents (see Ex. 16:4, 20:20; Deut. 8:16; Judg. 2:21-22, 3:1; 2 Chron. 32:31; Ps. 11:4-5; Prov. 17:3; Jer. 17:10, 20:12; Rev. 3:10).
Genuine followers of Jesus know that the wisest thing they can do with their money is use it to lay up treasure in heaven. In fact, it was to wisdom that Jesus appealed when He instructed His followers regarding their two investment options:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matt. 6:19-21).
The obvious wisdom in laying up treasures in heaven is that there they are enduring, whereas treasures on earth are subject to decay and loss. So it just makes sense to invest in heaven.
I never imagined that I would be writing, for the third consecutive month, about biblical nonresistance. But I have stirred up some discussion among sincere people with my previous two e-teachings on the subject.
I love my Christian pacifist friends, but a few have recently “un-friended” me on Facebook. When I see how some of them struggle with “turning the other cheek” in regard to a minor doctrinal disagreement, I have to wonder how well they would do if they faced much more challenging situations in which they claim they would not resist. In their case, the popular proverb of Jesus’ day has application: “Physician, heal yourself!” (Luke 4:23).
Image courtesy of Journeys with the Messiah Collection, https://journeyswiththemessiah.org.
I knew last month’s e-teaching would be controversial, because many good folks who love Jesus hold different views on the subject of nonresistance, war, and Christian participation in the military. Not everyone agreed with my teaching. (Surprise!) I received comments on both sides of the issue, and some that were in the middle. In light of those comments, I decided to write a follow-up, but first wanted to get some additional feedback. So I posed the following questions on my Facebook page, requesting response from pacifist friends:
Three questions for my pacifist friends: The original apostles are all at a church gathering along with their wives and children. A lone gunman enters and begins shooting everyone, starting with the children. What is (1) the application of Jesus’ commandment to “not resist an evil person,” (2) the application of His commandment to give the offender an opportunity to do twice the harm intended (as that IS what Jesus commanded….”turn the other cheek, go the second mile, give him your coat”), and (3) the application of His commandment to love one’s neighbor as oneself?
I’ve hesitated for some time to write about a Christian viewpoint of military service, war and pacifism, due to the fact that the subject is so controversial. God-seeking Christians don’t all agree on the issue. I decided, however, that this might be a good time to broach the subject since, after my previous two e-teachings, I succeeded in persuading some readers to see the contextual errors of the Anabaptist interpretation of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
Christian pacifists are apt to cite Jesus’ words about loving our neighbors and enemies—both found in His most famous sermon—to support their convictions against military service and war. “How can one claim to love his neighbor or enemy and shoot bullets at him on a battlefield?” they ask. That straightforward reasoning has convinced many Christians that the military is no place for followers of Christ. Some groups and denominations even go so far as to teach that no one in military service can possibly be an authentic Christian because he so blatantly disregards Jesus’ most fundamental teaching.
So let’s begin by considering, within the context of all Scripture, the two commandments upon which Christian pacifism rests.
In last month’s e-teaching, I challenged a premise—held by Anabaptist and other holiness groups—that Jesus established new moral standards during His Sermon on the Mount that were higher than those found in the Law of Moses. The basis of that Anabaptist premise is the assumption that Jesus’ six “You have heard…but I say to you” statements are each examples of Him quoting a standard found in the Law of Moses followed by “a new, higher standard” that was, from that moment on, binding on His followers.
No doubt you’ve heard of Mennonites. Perhaps also of the Amish. Maybe even the Brethren and Hutterites. All fall under the heading of “Anabaptists,” who trace their roots to 16th century Germany and Switzerland. Their predecessors were part of what is known as the Radical Reformation, a response to perceived corruption in both Roman Catholicism and the expanding Magisterial (state-wedded) Protestant movement led by Martin Luther, John Calvin, and others.
The artist who painted this picture certainly didn’t “Get the Sermon on the Mount Right,” as Jesus and His Jewish followers would have had a little darker skin!
The early Anabaptists, like the early Christians, were pejoratively named by their persecutors, but in their case because of their distinct doctrine of re-baptizing adults who had already been baptized as babies. The word anabaptist means “one who baptizes again.” Anabaptists noticed that infant baptism, practiced by both Roman Catholics and the Protestants of their day, wasn’t found in the New Testament, and that the apostles seemed to baptize only those who were old enough to understand the gospel, repent of their sins and follow Christ.
I was going to write this month about someone else’s sins, but then, before I could throw the first stone, my conscience got the better of me. So I’m going to tell you about one of my own recent sins, and for two reasons.
First, anyone who serves in public ministry eventually becomes aware of the fact that there are people who think more highly of him (or her) than they should. This is especially true in these days of media ministry when folks don’t personally know those whom they are following, and an “image” can easily hide all the warts. When confronted with one’s admiring fans, one has a choice: Do I allow these folks to remain deceived, or do I shatter their false perceptions by letting them see what those who are close to me know only too well?