Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Very Thankful To Be Serving

Let us have a little pre-Thanksgiving here today. I am a little lengthy on this post, but I hope you will stay with me. I have something to say and it takes all of this for me to say it properly.

In 2012 Kelly Jo and I were in Nigeria preaching for Pastor E. Ade Shobanke in Abeokuta, Ogun State. By that time we had visited Nigeria a few times and preached many days and nights for Bro. Shobanke. 

We were familiar with the little bumps in the road that come with Nigeria. We were sailing over them with ease, skimming the tops of the obstacles and having a great time. We love Nigeria.

Bro. Shobanke always puts us in hotels that have a good backup generator because the electric in Nigeria is notoriously unreliable. The power kicks off at random times during the day and night and may stay off a few minutes or will likely stay off for a few hours.

Hotels that have big diesel generators are a must. The power kicks off, the lights and air conditioning shut down and in about 3-5 seconds you hear the generators fire up and the air conditioning begins to blow blessed cold air again. Oh Hallelujah!

In 2012 we were staying in a different hotel than we had stayed in on other visits. That is fine. We have stayed in several different hotels in different cities and even different ones in Abeokuta. The staff was really nice in this hotel and we had a great time visiting with them and getting to know them.

The hotel was also on a street with lots of vendors lining the sides of the streets. That gave us an opportunity to interact with a lot of people without having to wander completely out of familiar surroundings. We found several opportunities for one on one ministry inside the hotel and out.

There were a few drawbacks to our accommodations that year. The hotel had a major water leak and they were waiting for a repair. The staff would only turn on the water when they needed to use it, so we needed to make our usage times fit their usage times. That proved to be easier said than done.

I was preaching at least twice during each day. As we were walking into the hotel about 2:00 PM after completely soaking down twice in sweat, I would ask for the water to be turned on so that I could shower. I wanted to clean up and rest a few minutes before the night service. They would always say, "Yes, we saw you entering and they have went to turn on the water now."

The only problem was that their words were like a politician promising to lower taxes! We went two complete days without water on more than one occasion and maybe three days one time. 

There was another problem. Do you remember the back up generator I told you about? They did not run the generator during the heat of the day. "It is daylight and you can see just fine without the lights on." The heat and humidity would build up until they turned on the generator as we were walking out the door for church already soaking wet again.

As we were getting ready for bed, the electric and AC would go bye-bye and I would begin roasting again. It does not cool down much at night in Nigeria and there seems to be no such weather condition as "low humidity" there. Ugh!

Do you have the picture?

I was preaching during the day to a large group of preachers and other church workers. One session I was preaching from Matthew 16:24

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

We were having trouble sleeping that night so I was laying in bed trying to study my sermon, hoping to get sleepy at some point. The time change slaps us around some years. 

I had not had a proper shower in over two days and had preached several times. I left the sink faucet on so I would hear water running in the sink if the hotel ever turned on the water.

I was studying the first principle in my notes and was going through them line by line trying to say everything exactly as it needed to be said.

Here is only a small taste of some of my notes that I was preparing to preach the next morning to my precious brothers and sisters on denying ourselves for Christ's sake.
________________

I The Principle of Denying Self
-Let him deny himself

If a man is to be used of God.
He can not live for himself.
He can not be selfish.
He must lay aside his own desires.


We must lay aside self promotion in the ministry.
Galatians 5:26 Let us not be desirous of vain glory...


A ministry that is self promoting
Is not a ministry for God.
A ministry that is self promoting
Is a ministry about that man and nothing more.
There is no room for me or you in ministry!
It must be all about God!

If you are busy promoting your ministry.
Then you have lost your focus.
Preaching is designed to exalt Christ.
Not exalt us.
Preaching is designed to build the kingdom of God.
Not to build our kingdom.

When a man denies himself.
It is impossible for him to promote himself!

Let God do the promotion, brother.
Psalms 75:5 Lift not up your horn on high: speak not with a stiff neck.
6 For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south.
7 But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.


When God gets ready to use you.
He will do it.
You will not need to promote yourself or your ministry.
You will not need to beg for recognition or resources to continue your ministry.

We must lay aside self promotion.
The man that would follow Christ and help others follow Christ, must first deny himself!
________________

I was working through my notes when I heard the water kick on about 3:00 AM. I turned the water off, prepared the things for my shower, stepped in and turned the valve. In the 90 seconds it had taken me to get ready, they had turned off the water! 

"Someone Please turn the water back on!"

Friends, I was not happy at all.

I crawled into bed grumbling and complaining. I had left the bed so quickly that I had left my iPad on. The sermon notes that you read above were staring back at me, mocking me.

Yes, they were mocking me! 

Men had traveled from several states to hear me preach. Very few of them (Maybe one or two) had driven a car. Most had walked, taken taxis, hitched a ride on the back of a truck or motorcycle or some combination of all of the above to attend the meeting.

They were sleeping on church pews or concrete floors with no air conditioning, no fan, no shower, no running water at all, eating rice three times a day to hear me tell them that effective ministry required them to deny themselves.

I live in a motor home that is nicer than most houses in Abeokuta. I drive my own car. I flew to Africa in an air conditioned plane. I was escorted and pampered by my brothers and sisters in Nigeria from the moment I arrived.

I was offered a bottle of water or something cold to drink several times a day. I rarely saw any of them drink anything they offered me. They saved it for me.

I was honored way above my measure by every person I met. I had to insist on carrying my own Bible because they desperately want to serve me any way they can.

Now I am grumbling because my safe, locked hotel room with a good bed, sheets, pillows and covers is tainted by intermittent water and unreliable electricity. Yet, I am trying to preach to them about denying themselves?

Give me a break, Davy. You are an A-1, certified idiot some days!

Can we see ourselves in my folly? Is it really only me?

You have given much. You have worked hard.

You volunteer to mow the church grass, clean the bathrooms, vacuum the carpet, work in the nursery, teach a Sunday School class, keep the books, build the website, print bulletins, run the sound or one of a hundred other thankless jobs in the church.

Maybe you have a more upfront role. You sing in the choir, lead congregational songs, sing a special, play an instrument or preach the sermon.

Maybe you are bi-vocational and Pastor a church or work in evangelism or help in the school, all while holding down a secular job to pay the bills and support the church and other ministries.

Maybe you work full time in the ministry in some capacity giving your best years, your strength, your passion and your talent. You are shepherding the flock, winning the lost and pouring yourself into others.

May God bless you for your service. 

Now, a question: Why do we serve?

It is easy to forget the reason for the service. It is not about us. It is about Christ and winning others to Him. When we focus on our "sacrifice" and wonder quietly or aloud why our faithfulness is not rewarded, we have lost sight of our proper motivation.

Are we afraid that no one will recognize the effort we put forth to serve Christ and others?

Are we shocked when no one applauds our sacrifice for ministry?

Are we amazed when it seems that others are promoted and rewarded monetarily, while we are passed by, even though we have labored through difficult seasons and long periods of demanding struggles?

Where is the water? Where is the electricity? Where is the air conditioning? Where is my reward?

The answer? Not here! Our reward is not here! 

We are not laboring for water! We are not laboring for electricity! We are not laboring for air conditioning! 

We are not laboring for applause.

We are not laboring for money.

We are not laboring for human recognition.

We are not laboring for praise.

We are not laboring for approval of men.

We are not laboring for a paycheck.

We are not laboring for what we can receive from the hands or mouths of men.

If we are, then we are laboring for the wrong reason.

We should not be promoting ourselves.

We should not be blowing our own horn.

We should not be commending our own commitment.

We should not be applauding our own sacrifices.

We should be exalting Christ and denying ourselves.

Anything less than both of those things is not ministry at all. It is self-serving, self-absorbed, self, important, self-centered, self seeking phoniness. 

As a matter of fact, most people see right through the charade!

Matthew 16:24 slapped me upside the head that night as I crawled back in the bed without a shower and without air conditioning. I literally laugh out loud at how ridiculous and pretentious I was that night. Then I cried.

I purposed at that moment to do better. I have done better and I still have a long ways to go.

I know this for sure. It is an honor to serve Christ and serve in the ministry. I am thankful to serve. God owes me nothing and God's people owe me nothing. It is a privilege to serve. Anything else that comes my way is a bonus!

Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

Even if we present our bodies a living sacrifice for God, it is only reasonable service that we do so. God owes us nothing for that, friend. He already paid us with forgiveness from sin and eternal life!


Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.


How are you doing with that verse friend?

Davy

6 comments:

  1. This is a wonderfully convicting post, one that I need to read time and time again. I had a very similar experience during my first missions trip to Belize during a power outage, and I still remember vividly the gentle chiding of the Master early that Sunday morning after a long, sleepless night without power or A/C. Thank you for your post. Have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving!

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    Replies
    1. God is faithful! Thank you the encouragement.

      Davy

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  2. Thank you for this message. We certainly have a long going way to Go! Thank God for His Chiding! We have so much for which to be thankful!

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    Replies
    1. Yes, we do, Sis. Esther have much to be thankful to God. You are one of the things we are very, very thankful for!

      Davy and Kelly Jo

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  3. Bro Davy I sure needed this and the church world needs it to..Thanks so much..Love y'all

    ReplyDelete

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