Jump Start # 3039
Ephesians 4:12 “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.”
As I write this, the war in Ukraine is becoming more intense. There are congregations in Ukraine. Here is a thought that you will not hear on the National News. Many thousands have fled from Ukraine and gone to neighboring countries, that is except for the men. They are told to remain and fight for their country. There is a possibility when all of this is over, that the Ukrainian congregations will have no men among them. If the heavy hand of Russia crushes the resistance, the male Christians could all be killed. We fervently pray that will not happen. We pray that the Lord will turn this around.
It is arrogantly easy for us to say, “that would never happen here.” Really? And, as we study churches in the N.T., like the seven in Revelation 2-3, “those things would never happen here.” Why then spend the time studying them? Maybe we need to realize that “those” things could happen.
If in our congregations today, ever adult male was no longer around, could the women carry on? Could one among them lead in worship? Could one pray publicly? Could one teach? Could one give a lesson? Would our congregations carry on or would they crumble? More than that, could you step up and do what you have never done before? Could you teach an adult class? Could you lead the Lord’s Supper? Could you put some thoughts together and teach and encourage the people of God?
We are so blessed in this land to have so many congregations that are filled with talented men that teach, lead, serve and preach for us. They do wonderful work. Year after year, they are hammering away at the word of God. But what if they were gone? All of them. What if it fell to you? Do you know the Scriptures? Do you know how to encourage others?
In Ezekiel the call was put out to find someone to stand in the gap. Could that person be you?
Our verse today, about equipping the saints, reminds us of many powerful truths.
First, God’s way of equipping saints was through teaching. Each of the groups listed, starting with apostles, then prophets, evangelists, teachers were all mechanisms used to teach. That is God’s way. Teach the word of God. To do that, we must know it.
Second, for decades we have sat and listened in classes and sermons. We’ve taken notes. We’ve had volumes of handouts, outlines, and papers given to us. We have taken all of this in. But to what purpose? We are to be more than sponges that just absorb and take in. Not only should all of this change us and transform us, but it ought to develop us so that we can share with others.
Third, the maturity of the church is wrapped around the spiritual strengthening of the disciples. They were taught and that led them to becoming mature in Christ. They would make mature decisions. They would act mature. They would move by faith and not fear or emotion. The immature church is structured with immature disciples. They are likely to run off chasing the latest religious fad. They are not keen to recognize error and are unable to know what to do with error. The immature disciple lacks godly judgment, patience and steadfastness.
Paul told the Corinthians to “act like men.” The Ephesians were told to “stand firm.” Within our context, we find, “we are to grow up.” With or without an eldership, we will continue in the ways of the Lord. With or without a preacher, we will continue on in the ways of the Lord.
That mature state realizes that every person, every part adds. Together, the church grows. The church grows internally as we become stronger and stronger in faith. It grows numerically as we share the Gospel to the community around us. It grows financially, as we become more and more generous, as the Lord is to us.
There was a time in the O.T., when David and his men were running from King Saul. They returned home only to find that their families were kidnapped. David’s men, so low and discouraged, thought of killing David. In that context we find the expression, “David strengthened himself.” David encouraged himself. There wasn’t anyone else to do that. I feel that there are times when we haven’t developed brethren to that point. One gets discouraged and there is no one to recognize that or to help, so that person falls off the map. They no longer walk with the Lord. Why couldn’t that lonely soul strengthen himself? Why must we always rely upon others? What if there are no others? We will always need a fellowship to support, encourage and work together. But our soul mustn’t survive only if there is a fellowship for us. What about the Christian men in Ukraine who may well be isolated from other disciples at this time? Are they to allow their faith to die? No one to encourage them. No one to remind them. No one to teach them. No one to be an example to them. They must do as David did. Strengthen yourself—keep going.
The pandemic revealed that many could not do that. Their faith, as weak and small as it was, flickered out. May we use teaching moments like this to remind ourselves, I am responsible for my faith and my walk with the Lord. Not my family. Not my congregation.
What would you do if ever male member was gone this coming Sunday? Could you continue on…
There are all kinds of lessons that come from times like these.