“Seeking Not Ease Nor Applause of Men”

April 10, 2013

Gal 1:15-24

I get a little worried some times when I hear that a preacher has left a church because the “Lord led” him especially when it is to a bigger church. I cannot say that I have ever heard of the Lord leading a man to a smaller church. I am sure that He has called men from a larger church to a smaller one but I would imagine more men are obedient to the bigger church calls than the smaller ones.

When I see a guy moving five times in five years to bigger churches, I become more concerned. In the secular world that would be wonderful career progression, but the ministry is a calling not a career. It strikes me odd that God once called men to long term commitments to a place of ministry and now it seems more like hit and runs. I have often said that when a church calls me to pastor I will put my tombstone in the church cemetery. Of course, Christians nowadays only stay an average of two years at a church so why should the pastor stay much longer? I have my doubts that this is a change in Christ. It seems more like a change in Christians. I am glad that Christ does not share the same commitment level as modern Christians and pastors. I believe that God can move a man or His people, but I think He has issued far fewer marching orders than He gets the credit or blame for issuing.

I also get worried when Christians show up at a church all fired up to serve, but only if the service requires very little time and effort, yet has a big title so that they get their name mentioned often in the bulletin or have it called from the pulpit. They want lots of authority with very little responsibility and even less accountability. If they do not get that position quickly, they just pack up and head off to greener pastures or riper pickings.

That makes me think of an old gospel song, “Working Like The Devil For The Lord.” The part that I remember goes, “Every Sunday morning you don’t have to search cause he stands out like a sore thumb on the front row of the church. He’s in charge of collection plates, chairman of the board, but he’s working like the devil for the Lord.” The chorus is “Are you working really working night and day working hard? Are you working like the devil for the Lord? Well, I’d hate to be in your shoes when you get your big reward if you’re working like the devil for the Lord!” My title for this message came out of an old hymnal and if you are truly sincere in serving the Lord then you must be come to the place where you are not “seeking ease nor the applause of men.” Amos was content to be a herdsman and a gatherer of sycomore fruit. He did not expect to ever be a prophet since there was none in the immediate family. He had it good as far as he was concerned. Yet, when God called him to stand before a King and a priest and give a very unpopular message he gave up his comfort and did not care what either of those bigwigs thought of him. (Amos 7: 14-17)

Moses gave up his comfort to lead the children of Israel, but tried to do it in his own power and ended up as a shepherd on the back side of the desert. After God ’umbled him, he was not looking for any service opportunities, but the gifts and callings of God are without repentance. (Rom 11:29) So, do not think failure cancels your call to service or erases your gifts.

The only way you are going to have the success of Amos and Moses without suffering the failures of Moses is that you must submit to the Lord’s leadership. Sometimes that means doing some desert time like Paul. Hmm, two of God’s greatest men spent time in the desert. You have to wonder if that is not the only way to fruitful service. Paul was saved on the Damascus Road, but he learned submission to the Lord’s leadership in the desert!

In your desert experience, you will learn to submit by seeking Him personally. (Vs. 15-19) The best way to get to know Him is by being alone with Him! (Vs. 15-17) When a couple marries, they usually take off for a week or two for a honeymoon. This gives them a chance to adjust and to get to know each other as man and wife. They may have dated for a couple of years and been engaged for a year and think they know each other well.
They only think they know each other. When you live with someone twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week you really start to know him or her. Even the honeymoon provides only a glimpse of what your married life is going to be like. The honeymoon is a fairy tale. Real life is not nearly as much fun and it is much harder to be lighthearted and romantic after a hard day at the office and a lousy commute or a day full of screaming babies and broken appliances. Life has trials and bumps. During the courtship, both parties usually see each other when times are good and they are on their best behavior. In marriage, you get to see the other in their worst behavior under the stress of bad times. It is in those times that people have second thoughts about their marriage. If they truly love and have bonded in the good times, they will survive the bad times. If they based their love upon honeymoons, fairy tales or romance novels they will not survive and grow stronger in the bad times.

When a person becomes a believer, they become part of Christ’s Bride, the Church. We are married to Him and He is in it for the long haul for He knows everything about His spouse from eternity past. Too often, we have fairy tale concepts of what our relationship to Christ will be like and when the honeymoon is over, we have problems dealing with the realities of life. We expect roses and romance every day and that we will no longer have any troubles. That comes from not knowing our spouse.

Saul was a learned theologian and he thought he knew God. Few could give Saul’s testimony or equal his lineage and education. Yet, when he became Paul after his conversion, he realized he needed to know Christ.

Gal 1:15-17
15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace,
16 To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:
17 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them, which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. (KJV)

Now, it would seem to us that it would have been good for Paul to head out to Jerusalem as soon as possible. Why not receive his education from the men who had walked with Christ and had witnessed His resurrection? Who would be better equipped to prepare this future Apostle to the Gentiles? After all, he had sat at the feet of men like Gamaliel to learn the Law and had his zeal fired by such men. (Acts 22:3) Could not the Apostles have set his heart on fire for the Way? Maybe, but when you want to be taught the best way possible you go to the best school and teacher available. There is no better teacher than Jesus and no better school than the closet of prayer. That is where you get the best training possible and that is One on one. Everything else is second best. It may be good and needful, but it is still second best.

If marriages worked like we handle our relationship to Christ, we would immediately send the couple off to school to learn about marriage. Of course, they would go to separate schools. There they would take classes that would show videos of the spouse as they grew up and have extensive interviews with the parents of the spouse. We would be given lists of their likes, their dislikes, and their expectations about the marriage. We would go on field trips to speak to friends of the spouse and even folks that disliked the spouse so that we could form a balanced opinion of the spouse. We would do everything but spend time with the spouse and interact with them. We might receive tapes, letters or even videos from the spouse telling us how glad they are to be married to us and looking forward to being with us some day.

God forbid that we ever come to a day like that. If that sounds insane when it comes to marriage why do we settle for that in our marriage to Christ? Many of us spend hours in church, read numerous books, watch videos, listen to other people’s testimonies but never spend time with Christ ourselves. We will never truly know Him until we do. We will not do well in the storms of life because we do not know His promises or know when we are experiencing the fulfillment of His promises. We will be married to a stranger. Spend time with Him and learn to submit to His leadership. He loves His wife enough to die for Her and He did.

Gal 1:18-19
18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.
19 But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother. (KJV)

As you send time alone with Him, you will also learn to submit to Him by being dependent on Him! (Vs. 18-19) Paul took three years to be alone with the Lord before he traveled to Jerusalem. James must have been passing through when Paul saw him, but he did not seek out any of the apostles. We would do well to follow Paul’s example.

Too often, a person is saved and they look for someone to latch onto as a mentor. A mentor is good, but your primary source of wisdom should be the Lord. I would recommend that a new Christian read no commentary or any other book except the Bible for the first year. God promised that His word would not return void or that He would deny anyone wisdom that asked of Him in faith. (Isa. 55:11, James 1:5) Between your pastor’s sermons and Sunday School you will normally receive plenty of commentary and historical background.

Avoid controversial subjects. You primary concern in that first year is to get to know your spouse Jesus. A Hebrew who took a wife in the Old Testament was free from business and could not be sent to war for a year. His purpose in the year was to cheer up his wife. (Deut 24:5) He was to cause her to rejoice. Jesus is our Husband and we should allow Him to be able to do that for His spouse for at least a year. We are called to spiritual warfare but you cannot fight with weapons you have not proved or tested. (1 Sam 17:38, 39) As with any plant, if you do not allow yourself sufficient time to be rooted and grounded in love you will not survive floods, winds, or winter. (Eph 3:14-19) You need this time of dependence upon Him to be perfected in love and then you shall not fear the enemy or judgment. (I John 4:15-18) The battle will be there when you are ready. You will not miss a thing. Be perfected and rooted in dependent love. Submit to His leadership.

A note here to my fellow pastors. Be careful to allow your new converts to have this year, my Brothers. Too often, we are so thrilled to have a person filled with the joy of their salvation and zealous for the Lord that we do not allow them time to grow. Many of us have not enough workers and too many tired leaders and we enjoy and are refreshed by our newborn brothers and sisters. Instead of taking them under our wing and exhorting them to spend the first year with Jesus, we put them on the firing line. We are warned against ordaining novices. (1 Tim 3:6) Some of our new babes fall to pride and some fall due to their zeal without knowledge. We need to lead them into a mature and stable relationship with the Lord. The battle will not be lost if we do this. Indeed, a well-trained swordsman will survive and be victorious. A zealot may go down in battle courageously, but it will be vain. Allow them their boot camp, my Brothers and God will use them mightily. Let us also resist the temptation to mold them in our image. Let Christ mold them. Your pet peeves and hobbyhorses are not what we are to teach them. We are to teach them pure religion. (James 1:27) The rest God will teach them in His time.

Gal 1:20 Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not. (KJV)

The next way we submit to His leadership is by serving Him honestly! (Vs. 20) Declare what you know! (Vs. 20a) Paul was not the silent type. He was a prolific writer and he spoke whenever and wherever he had the chance. Whatever He heard from God he shared with the saved and lost alike. The redeemed of the Lord should say so. (Psalm 107:2) We are to always be ready to give an answer of the hope that lies within with us. (1 Peter 3:15)

However, in doing that we must be careful that we do not stretch the truth! (Vs. 20b) We live in a world of thrill seekers and sign seekers. Sometimes we are tempted to find a way to make our testimony more thrilling or jazz God up a little bit to appeal to the world. Trust me, God does not need your help to make Him presentable to our not so polite society. We are to be town criers or those who just read the royal proclamation to the crowds. If they do not like the proclamation because it seems too vanilla, or not vanilla enough, that is a problem they have to take up with the King.

And how about your testimony? We unfortunately glamorize sin because we put the greatest sinners up on stage once they are saved. We listen to their biography of sin and then applaud their salvation. That is fine to a point. Most of the time we could be spared the gory details. We do not need to live their old life vicariously. We are not to dwell on the things people do in darkness. (Eph 5:11,12)

It also then makes folks think that since they have were fairly good people before they were saved or saved as a child they have no real story to tell. They have a glorious story to tell. I once told my testimony to the pastor that led me to the Lord and he pined that he wished that he had my testimony because he was saved as a young child and had nothing spectacular to tell people. I almost smacked him. Would to God that I could tell of the wonderful grace that kept me out of the cesspools of sin instead of having to pull me out. He had no scars that the devil could point out to him. He had no wounds easily opened by the devil’s taunts. He did not have the taste of the sins that the devil could use to tempt him back into that life. I would have given anything to have his testimony. He thanked me for giving him a new perspective and value to his testimony. If you are like that pastor, have you thanked God lately that your testimony is somewhat boring compared to someone else’s? You better do it!!! It is the most glorious testimony of all!

Brethren do not try to make God appeal to this world. Just submit to His leadership and tell what you know every chance you get and do not lie about anything to make yourself or your ministry exciting. God does so much of His work in the background and among the mundane things of this life. He loves to use the people the world considers weak and ignorant. (1 Cor 1:28) Do not minimize that ministry. Indeed, it is the last way that you submit to His leadership by serving Him humbly! (Vs. 21-24)

Gal 1:21-24
21 Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia;
22 And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ:
23 But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed.
24And they glorified God in me. (KJV)

If you are going to submit to His leadership and serve him humbly there will be no place too small or remote! (Vs. 21) When Jed Clampett struck it rich in oil, the kinfolk said, “Californy is the place you oughta be.” Why? Because a wealthy man was out of place in such a small and backwoods place as his mountain home. Paul was a highly educated man and he should have stayed in Jerusalem and hung out with the Apostles. He could have reached more people and maybe had a nice place to stay. Instead, he literally headed for the hills. Syria and Cilicia were north of Jerusalem in a mountain region. Tarsus was between the two areas, so he went home to tell the Gospel and that is always the hardest place. A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country. (Matt 13:57)

I have sent resumes to towns that I know few people have heard of in America and maybe even in that state. I have candidated at some very small churches. The people loved me in many of those places, but I have had a time with deacon boards and pulpit committees, fer sure. There are times when they have other interests than what the people need or want and at times, even what God wants. Thank God for good ones, but I have met some humdingers and been through some grills that might even rival the Inquisition. The point is that I never let the size of the church or its being out in the boonies be an issue. In fact, the older that I get the more I’d like a church in Podunk. Where’s that? It is somewhere between Boon and Dock. I t’ain’t a big city boy.

Brother preachers, if only big churches in the right area appeal to you then you need to be ’umbled a bit. You need to follow His leadership and serve humbly by not caring if the “right” people do not know you! (Vs. 22-24)

Gal 1:22-24
22 And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ:
23 But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed.
24 And they glorified God in me. (KJV)

I do not do head games well and I am by no means a politician. I do not go out of my way to tick people off, but I am not much of a boot kisser, either. I have been to many pastoral meetings where everybody is spouting off how many they have in Sunday School or give the “weekly” attendance to try to impress some people. What I have seen happen is that if the same 40 people show up for two Sunday services and a Wednesday night service the pastor reports at these meetings that he had a 120 in attendance that week. Please, give me a break. No wonder God was angry with David for numbering the people.

The worse one that I was invited to attend gave me an opportunity to pay $10 to pose with a well-known TV preacher. Am I supposed to hang that in my office and let people think he and I are best friends or that he calls me for advice? Sometimes when I speak to a church, they ask me whose camp am I in, or who is my favorite preacher. This is to get an idea of my style or convictions. Sadly, for them, I do not fit into anyone’s camp perfectly. There are men that I admire, but I make none of them my Pope. I would rather quote Scripture than the writings of some other preacher. I tell my bible study group to go home and study the Word rather than just quote Chairman Ron. The last that I heard all Christians are human and the ground is level at the Cross. We are here to exalt Christ not a peer or ourselves.

If Paul were to do it like Americans, he would have made sure that he made a whirlwind tour of the Jerusalem and Judean churches so that all wheels would know him and the common people would know his face in a crowd. Instead, they only heard about the guy that was persecuting them was now saved and preaching the Gospel. Who did they glorify, Paul? No, they glorified God who was in Paul. That is what it is all about my Brothers and Sisters!! We are to glorify God in our lives so that other will glorify Him.

Are you seeking ease or the applause of men? Are you willing to submit to His leadership? Seek Him personally. Spend time alone and be dependent upon Him. Serve Him honestly! Serve Him humbly no matter how small or remote the place. As long as He knows you as His faithful servant, the right person knows you.




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