Withdrawal of Service

“He threw down the thirty pieces of silver in the temple and departed and went and hanged himself” Matthew 27:5

Many years ago the union of which I was a member demanded that all members withdraw their labour in order to obtain higher pay. This action is a form of blackmail and contrary to God’s word, “Be content with such things as you have” (Hebrews 13:5). I refused to go on strike and withdrew my membership from the union.

What do we do when Jesus does not come through as we think He should? Judas went to the extreme of taking his own life. That is the ultimate and supreme act of rebellion against God by a total and permanent withdrawal of labour.

What many Christians do when they sense they have failed, they didn’t get their way or Jesus did not intervene or act as they thought He should, is that they withdraw labour. When some withdraw their service to Jesus Christ they become either spiritual policeman or spiritual advisors. The former considers it his service to Jesus to criticize those who actually do as Jesus taught (Matthew 28:20) and the latter believes he is serving Jesus by telling others how and what they should be doing. In both cases they have withdrawn their labour from Jesus Christ and replaced it with the appearance of service. It may look spiritual, and may feel spiritual; but it is an act of rebellion against Jesus Christ. This is similar to the kind of response that we observe in Judas. He withdrew his labour in one final act of rebellion from which there was no opportunity of repentance.

Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me” (Matthew 12:30). When we fail to openly identify with Jesus we are identifying with the spirit of anti-christ and Satan. When we read of Peter’s failure to identify with Jesus we observe a much different response to that of Judas. Peter grieved in his heart that he had betrayed and hurt Jesus by not identifying with Him. In spite of this failure he pressed on proving a great depth of repentance and love. In spite of his past failure Peter pressed on and Jesus restored the relationship (John 21:15-19).

At times we will fail through ignorance, disobedience, or not identifying with Jesus – but what we do afterward will demonstrate whether we really were serving Jesus or merely serving our own ambitions and goals. Anyone who does not persevere, evidenced by a withdrawal of service to Jesus, gives evidence that they have been serving their own ambitions and goals, not Christ’s. They have been living in the realm of the flesh, serving the spirit of anti-christ, and not the Spirit, serving Jesus Christ.

That is failure but there is still the opportunity to confess that sin and have a change of heart. That is what Jesus desires. Persevering after failure reveals true faith in, and love for, Jesus and is evidence of His working grace. This will lead to reconciliation and success in glorifying Jesus by bearing spiritual fruit.

Greener Grass

“He has hedged me in so that I can’t get out” Lamentations 3:7

There will be times in our lives when we are in situations that we want to escape as quickly as possible. This may be one of the reasons some people suffer depression which may lead to taking their own life. They feel trapped and see no hope of being delivered from their painful situation.

Jeremiah’s situation included spiritual pain with the physical and emotional pain. His cry reveals that he was suffering because he had done all that the Lord had asked of him. His present affliction and pain was the response to his speaking, writing and doing as the Lord had asked.

He had proclaimed God’s word but the people had chosen to reject it and in rejecting it they took to persecuting God’s messenger. This is still the way of those who refuse to accept God’s word. That was bad enough but he also lived to see Jerusalem’s destruction. None of this needed to have happened had the people received the warning and returned to the Lord.

As we walk with the Lord Jesus Christ and seek to proclaim His gospel there will inevitably be times when we find ourselves in situations where we are being persecuted in some way and feel trapped. We want to escape. As far as we know we have been faithful in our walk with Jesus and sharing the Gospel. Yet, like Jeremiah, the response has been hostile.

The same can be said in regard to being a leader in the church. We long to see Christians respond to the Lord and grow, but they seem seduced and trapped by worldly values and ways. This is akin to Jeremiah weeping over Jerusalem. Jesus also wept over Jerusalem.

Many years ago, a man I knew well took his own life as a result of just such a situation. He had led many to Christ, but he became overwhelmed with grief over the worldly ways of some leaders of his church. It appears that he lost hope that it could be recovered. His response to the situation was not the right one – but it does show the depth of grief he suffered. Jeremiah grieved and Jesus’ grieved over Jerusalem’s failure to return to the Lord.

Jeremiah did not lose faith in the Lord, because he knew that it would pass. “For the Lord will not cast off forever. Though He cause grief, yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies” (3:31-32).

There will be times when we feel trapped with no way out, even though we have been faithful to the Lord. The grass may look greener somewhere else; the hunt for that greener grass may simply be a desire to escape a situation where we feel trapped. All the doors ahead may appear closed for now, but at the right time the Lord will open the way for us.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths” Proverbs 3:5-6.

Fulfilling the Ministry

“Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it” (Colossians 4:17)

People who genuinely desire to serve the Lord have this encouragement that Paul gave to Archippus. Since Paul had cause to write this we can safely assume that Archippus was frustrated or having difficulty in persevering. Anyone in leadership will soon discover that there are many things that will discourage them from fulfilling the ministry that they have received in Christ. The book of Nehemiah is helpful to us in this regard.

This ministry is not from our own design or desire and it is not from the Lord but in the Lord. It comes with the Lord Jesus, not apart from Him. We need to be careful that we are sure that it is the ministry for which we are set apart in the Lord that we are seeking to fulfill. When we have that assurance, and it will be tested many times, we will persevere.

There will be many tests. Some will come in the form of criticisms or corrections and others in the form of obstacles. The Lord may send messengers to correct us and we should heed them but also the enemy of God will send messengers to “correct” us so that we either speak a lie or do not speak at all.

How may we discern the difference? It might be an easy response to say, “By knowing and applying the Bible” but if that was such a reliable way of itself why do so many come up with error? People read and even study the Bible but come up with what others would consider horrendous heresy. The Jews of Jesus earthly days knew the Scriptures yet they condemned their Messiah as blasphemous. Jesus tells us that many who read the Scriptures are blinded by Him. The same is said of Israel by the prophets.

Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit to teach us and lead us into all truth. There are some today who claim to rely on the Holy Spirit for this but they still arrive at what others might consider to be horrendous heresies.

Error comes when we neglect one or the other. The Bible and the Holy Spirit are perfectly harmonious. It isn’t a matter of balance either. It is all Scripture and being filled with the Holy Spirit that will lead us to a correct knowledge, understanding and application of God’s word and will. The regular testing along the way helps us to ensure we are making correct assessments and determinations.

When messengers come claiming to correct us it is imperative that we are able to discern the origin of the correction. Satan is not above using the Bible to confuse the servants of Jesus Christ since he did that to Jesus Himself.

Paul’s desire was that Archippus fulfill the ministry that he had received in Jesus Christ and no doubt he would pray the same for us. Therefore it is good that we “take heed” or give attention to fulfilling and completing that which we have received in Jesus Christ. Do not allow discouragement, frustration, laziness, doubts or fear keep us from fulfilling all that the Lord has given us the privilege of doing in His name.