Friday, workers in and for the harvest
Acts 6, Romans 11:33-12:2
Where two are more are gathered, there’s sure to be complaining!
It is true now in the church and it was true in Acts! As the community of believers started to grow, so did the challenges. In Acts 6 people in need were being overlooked. Specifically, there was a group of widows falling through the cracks when food was being distributed each day. This problem gave rise to an office of leadership specially focused on serving others. The first name on the list: Stephen. Luke describes him as a man “full of faith and of the Holy
Spirit,” (6:5). What pastor wouldn’t want Stephen as a deacon?
Having prayerfully and deliberately chosen Stephen and six others to serve so that preaching and teaching could continue (3-4), Luke says that the apostles laid hands on them and prayed for them (6). Then, he adds, “the word of God continued to increase, and the number of disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great man priests became obedient to the faith,” (7). In other words, Spirit-filled leadership brings about Spirit-filled growth in the church. Instead of merely creating programs and flowcharts, these solutions kept the mission of the church in focus. Men like Stephen weren’t so much as experts as they were God-fearing worshippers. This energized the early church!
Those who would desire to serve in the church and among God’s people must first and foremost worship God. As obvious as that may sound, this is a critical point that is often overlooked and undervalued in the church. There are many reasons folks get involved; but those who lead must lead in sacrifice more than expertise or experience. Their lives must be filled with awe and gratitude for who God is and what God has done. Paul makes this clear in his letter to the Roman church.
Paul brings the theological portion of his letter (chapters 1-11) to a close with one poetic word, “Oh!” He is overwhelmed with the goodness and mercy of God revealed in Christ. He is humbled and led to revel in God’s greatness: “Who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” (Romans 11:34-35).
“Therefore,” Paul appeals to the church, “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship,” (12:1). The mercies of God fashions us into servants whose whole life is spent for the glory of God. In other words, the vision that inspires and compels workers in God’s mission must always be the mercies of God. A sense of duty will turn to drudgery. Obligation will become an albatross. But awe and gratitude will keep us humble and ready to serve others for the glory of God.
Consider our brother Stephen. This man loved and served others in his life and in his death. While not all will be called to give their life as he did, all are called to be “living sacrifices.”
Lord, you don’t need us to accomplish a single thing! You are mightier, more creative, and wealthier than any of us. Yet, in your great mercy, you have created us, saved us, and sent us to serve your purposes in all the earth. Fill us with your Spirit, strengthen our faith, and bend our knee with constant reminders of your mercy given to us in Christ Jesus. Amen.