(Bible quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise stated)
In Proportion to our Faith
21st January 2012
We're called to be realistic about ourselves - not to think we're holier, wiser or more gifted than we are. The Christian life brings us genuine self-esteem, based on the knowledge that God loves us and has adopted us as His children. But the church is not a place for us to try to boost or sustain our egos by convincing ourselves or others that we're something we're not.
We are members of one church, children of one God, saved through the blood sacrifice of one saviour, and we all have a role to play. To be in the team is more than we deserve - the position we play is God's choice, not ours.
God gives us gifts so we can use them. It's important not to imagine that we have gifts that we don't have. It's also important to think with sober judgment about our gifts, to be honest before God about how gifted we are.
Taking prophesy as his first example, Paul says we should prophesy in proportion to our faith. This means:
In particular, I've found in some churches the idea that we can speak out on social issues, with a generally "Christian" mindset, and say that we're being "prophetic". No we're not! Prophesy and prophetic acts are directly inspired by God. We will be judged for taking His name in vain if we claim to be prophetic when we're merely stating our own opinions, or our church's opinions.
Paul then says:
What is it to serve in proportion to your faith? It at least means don't serve more than you believe Jesus wants you to, and don't serve less than you believe Jesus wants you to. Don't let your church push you into overdoing it, and don't let your laziness and selfishness cause you to underdo it.
Don't teach if you have no gift for teaching (anyone who's listened to a sermon delivered by a man whom God has not gifted to preach will confirm the value of this idea). And if you are gifted to teach, then teach in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Don't teach something if you're not sure it's true. Don't teach it because someone you respect has taught it - teach it because you believe God has revealed it to you, whether through another teacher or through your own Bible reading.
The same principles apply to all areas of ministry. Some of us are amazing at encouraging others. Some are amazingly bad at it. Know which you are. If you have this ability, then don't let it go to waste. It's one of the most neglected gifts in the church. You can save other ministries by encouraging the discouraged, the timid, the hurt and the disappointed to keep going, and to renew the faith they need to do what they're gifted to do.
Some are gifted in contributing to the needs of others, giving well in excess of their tithe. If God has called you to give in this way, and given you the faith to do it, then be generous - don't be like a skinflint handing out pennies from his purse, be liberal with your money - but not beyond the level of your faith.
Leadership is a ministry that requires faith. Leaders must look to God in prayer, for Him to build His church. Leaders must remember that the church is God's, not theirs. God will shape His church according to His own design. When He does this, the leaders must exercise faith, trusting that God knows what He's doing. And we must not lead our churches into areas (spiritual, ministerial, geographical or other) where we're not confident that God is taking us.
And some are gifted to show mercy to others. The key element of this ministry is resisting the temptation to tell the person you're showing mercy to that they're so very fortunate that you're such a great person, that they don't deserve your love, that you're making a real sacrifice for their sake. Instead, show mercy cheerfully. And if you can't be cheerful when showing mercy, you're probably working beyond the limit of your faith.
If you can't serve others with a smile on your face, wait until you can.
There is nothing we can do on earth that is as fulfilling, as purposeful, or as joyful as serving God. May your service to God, to your church, and to others, be a joy to you and may it glorify God. It will, if you serve in proportion to your faith..