, , , ,

Follow Jesus

Good things are happening. People are choosing to follow Jesus every day. The numbers are exploding. The Apostles are proclaiming the good news of Jesus daily. The Spirit of God is moving in a powerful way. We have all experienced this. It is stunning.

But …

During this time, as the disciples were increasing in numbers by leaps and bounds, hard feelings developed among the Greek-speaking believers —“Hellenists”— toward the Hebrew-speaking believers because their widows were being discriminated against in the daily food lines. So the Twelve called a meeting of the disciples. They said, “It wouldn’t be right for us to abandon our responsibilities for preaching and teaching the Word of God to help with the care of the poor. So, friends, choose seven men from among you whom everyone trusts, men full of the Holy Spirit and good sense, and we’ll assign them this task. Meanwhile, we’ll stick to our assigned tasks of prayer and speaking God’s Word.” | Acts 6:1-4 (The Message Bible)

Hard feelings developed. It happens among believers. We are learning but we are not always mature. We have a lot to learn about love. I know I do.

The followers of The Way were experiencing “growing pains” and this was making it difficult for the Apostles to minister to everybody. The “Grecians” were the Greek-speaking Jews who had come to Palestine from other nations, and therefore may not have spoken Aramaic, while the “Hebrews” were Jewish residents of the land who spoke both Aramaic and Greek. The fact that the “outsiders” were being neglected created a situation that could have divided the disciples. However, the Apostles handled the problem with great wisdom and did not give Satan any foothold in the fellowship.

When group of disciples face a serious problem, this presents the leaders and the members with a number of opportunities. For one thing, problems give us the opportunity to examine our ministry and discover what changes must be made. In times of success, it is easy for us to maintain the status quo, but this is dangerous. Henry Ward Beecher called success “a last-year’s nest from which the birds have flown.” Any ministry or organization that thinks its success will go on automatically is heading for failure. We must regularly examine our lives and our ministries lest we start taking things for granted.

The Apostles studied the situation and concluded that they were to blame: they were so busy serving tables that they were neglecting prayer and the ministry of the Word of God. They had created their own problem because they were trying to do too much. Even today, some pastors are so busy with secondary tasks that they fail to spend adequate time in study and in prayer. This creates a “spiritual deficiency” in the church that makes it easy for problems to develop.

This is not to suggest that serving tables is a menial task, because every ministry is important. But it is a matter of priorities; the Apostles were doing jobs that others could do just as well. D.L. Moody used to say that it was better to put ten men to work than to try to do the work of ten men. Certainly it is better for you, for the workers you enlist, and for the fellowship as a whole.

Problems also give us an opportunity to exercise our faith, not only faith in the Master, but also faith in each other. The leaders suggested a solution, and all the members agreed with it. The assembly selected seven qualified men, and the Apostles set them apart for ministry. The leaders were not afraid to adjust their structure in order to make room for a growing ministry. When structure and ministry conflict, this gives us an opportunity to trust God for the solution. It is tragic when leaders destroy ministry because they refuse to modify their structure. The Apostles were not afraid to share their authority and ministry with others.

Problems also give us the opportunity to express our love. The Hebrew leaders and the predominantly Hebrew members selected six men who were Hellenists and one man who was both a Gentile and a proselyte! When we solve problems, we must think of others and not of ourselves only.