Feb 8 2014
James and John asked for the best positions. Jesus said they were reserved for those with the right heart and right call – Mark 10:35-45
James and John asked Jesus if they could sit on his right and left in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus responded by asking them if they could drink the cup he had to drink. This was the cup of a suffering servant. John and James said they could. But Jesus went on to explain that being willing to drink this cup was not the only criteria required. These positions were reserved for those the Father had called. So Jesus outlines two requirements for disciple promotion: character and calling.
Now the other ten disciples were upset when they heard about James and John’s request. They evidentially wanted the top positions for themselves. So with anger and disunity in the air, Jesus called the group together and told them that whoever wanted to be the greatest needed to be the servant of all.
♦ Pastors who have struggled with church members fighting over positions can take comfort in knowing that Jesus had the same problem with his band of ‘merry’ men. Wouldn’t it be nice if the church was a place where members never fought and always served with joy? But is that really possible? I think it is. In fact I would say that Jesus has given us the two ingredients necessary in this very portion of Scripture. The first is to have a right heart, and the second is to operate in the right call. Let’s speak about having the right heart first.
Jesus asked James and John if they could drink the cup of suffering and later he said the greatest among them would need to be the servant of all. Here Jesus was telling his disciples to simply forget themselves and live for God. We cannot serve both God and self, we have to choose. The person who serves God alone has great joy. When we are in ministry for ourselves we will fight to keep what is ours. If we are just serving God, we don’t see anything as ours and don’t feel there is anything to lose. This is the most blessed place to minister in. Selfless disciples are always joyful disciples.
Now we can all agree with this in theory. But one day a test will come. Perhaps you are a pastor and someone arrives at your church who can preach better than you. Will you give that person space? Or perhaps you are a musician and a more gifted one walks in the door. Would you be prepared to hand over to that person? This is the cup of a suffering servant. Jesus laid down his life for others. And if we are in ministry for what we can gain personally, we won’t be able to do it.
Now you may notice that after Jesus laid down his life he was raised from the dead and exalted to the highest place. Paul said “He made himself nothing by taking the very natureof a servant … he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name” (Phil 2:7-9) God promotes people who have a servant’s heart – people who are not in it for themselves.
But secondly, we must operate in the right call. Jesus told James and John that even if they drank the cup of a suffering servant, the positions they wanted were still reserved for specific people. This means that we must not just serve with a right heart, we must also serve where God wants us to serve. We don’t find joy in the highest position; we will find it in the correct position – the position God has equipped us for. Doing something without God’s grace and strength is frustrating. Numerous times people have told me that they are called to go to Bible Collage but don’t have the money to go. If God has called you the money will be there. And if it’s not there then he has not called you – or you have got the timing wrong.
We tried to start a men’s group in our church a number of times and it kept collapsing. Eventually we had to agree that God wasn’t doing it. When God is doing something he provides not just the idea, but the people and the energy for it too.
Israel had no prophet for 400 years. But at the right time John the Baptist arrived, and no one had to push people to go to the Jordan. No one had to say, ‘Hey guys let get committed and support John at the river.’ You could not stop people going. They flocked there in their thousands. When God is doing it there is natural energy.
So what are you called to do? What is God enabling you to do? Are you operating in his strength?
Sometimes we think only the upfront ‘goose-bump’ ministries like worship leading, prophecy or healing are Spirit driven. But this is wrong. The Spirit inspires and empowers God’s servants to put out chairs, serve tea and set up sound equipment as much as he inspires people to lead worship.
When a pastor preaches he isn’t just guided there and then in what to say, he operates out of what God put in him during the week. And it’s the same for people who serve tea or put out chairs. They may not feel the Spirit on them as they do it, but they operate out of what the Spirit put in them prior to that. God gave them a desire to serve. He put that desire in them by his Spirit – and now they operate out of it. This is Holy Spirit empowered ministry.
Many times people in our church have approached me and have said can I do this or that just because they found a desire in them to do it. We need to take these desires seriously; often they have been put there by God. I will give you one example.
We have church Bibles that we reserve for visitors who may not have brought one. Over time they have got tatty and some pages started coming out. One man in our congregation noticed this and said he would like to take two Bibles a week and rebind them at his expense. Today he has almost completed the task of restoring every Bible. Now we may not think that restoring those Bibles is a highly anointed ministry, but I think we can all agree that this man has ministered to our church, and that he was motivated by the Holy Spirit to do so.
All ministry needs to be Spirit led; even the menial ones. When we are doing what God has called us to do – whatever that is – we have the peace, the energy, the vision and the joy for what we are doing. So it’s not about being in the highest position, it’s about being in the right position. And as we prove faithful by serving in the right position with the right hearts, God will promote us in his time and his way.
So let me challenge you with two questions. Firstly, who are you serving – yourself or the Lord? As mentioned, you will know when you are tested. And secondly, are you doing what you are called to do – or are you operating in your own strength? Again, you will know by whether there is grace to do it. God promotes those who serve with a right heart and he empowers those who serve in the right call.
Other Illustrations used: Bus skit video| Spirit inspired dancing | Examples of corporate hearing in our church| Gumble and Football Boundaries.
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