Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Success in God’s Kingdom

“Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.”  And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”

They said to Him, “We are able.” So Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.”

And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John.  But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:35-46

Being in a position of power is something many of us long for.  We go to college, get our degrees, work our way up through the ranks, and are finally promoted to a position of authority and power, and then – only then – do we feel we have somehow ‘arrived’.  Why?  Most often, it is because we desire respect and honor among men. 

Think about it.  No one in their right minds would say “Boss, I’d love more responsibility, please”, yet power has great responsibility.  With responsibility comes worry and even harder work.  But we cannot be satisfied being in the ranks because we feel we aren’t successful until others look up to us.  This is the pride of man, and in God’s kingdom, it doesn’t have a place.

I love the way James and John approached Jesus and said “Teacher, we want You to do for us WHATEVER WE ASK.”  Now that’s being upfront about the matter!  Before even stating what they wanted, they showed they wanted power, even over Christ.  Their request, to sit at the right and left hand of Jesus, was to be put into authority over the other ten disciples, to be His “Assistant Managers”. 

But Jesus rejected their request, telling them that  they would go through much of what He would go through, but that the positions they requested were not His to give, but were already appointed.  But what happens next creates division in the disciples, as it says the ten remaining disciples were “greatly displeased with James and John”.  Just put yourself in their shoes.  Your co-worker has now asked to be appointed your boss!  Oh yes, there’s going to be friction.  Is this not how many churches end up with “clicks” and power struggles and divisions?  Does any of that sound like what the Body of Christ should look like? 

James and John aren’t so different from us today, and the disciples are not much different from our churches today in this respect.  There are those that seek positions of power within the flock.  They want to be appointed deacons or committee members or leaders.  But their motives are not pure.  Anyone can take on the work of the church, and I promise you – no one will complain!  Jesus Himself said that the harvest is great and the workers are few!  But some want it so they can say “I am _______________”, blank being a position of honor and respect within the church.  The problem with church positions and titles is that it leads to pridefulness, and the “I am _____________” statement.

Let’s be very clear about this.  There can only be one “I am” in the church, and He has been “I am” from the beginning.  Anyone attempting to reign over people for the purpose of honor and respect is taking away honor and respect from God.  A good servant of God should be nearly invisible for having hidden himself to allow God to receive all glory.  If you work for Him, all glory for what you do should be cast at His feet, willfully!  If you do any work for God, even cleaning a toilet at your church, the glory for that work should be God’s, who gives you the opportunity to serve Him. 

Jesus clarifies positions of power within the body of Christ by saying “whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Service is greatness in the Kingdom of God, and not service for man, but service to God.  If you perform your churchly duties out of a desire to please people, you’ve missed the mark.  People don’t count, and neither do their opinions.  People will not stand and judge you on judgment day. 

But if you do your work for the body of Christ out of a sincere love for God, then you are truly a Christian, for Christ served out of love for His Father.  When you give over your life and your desires to follow Him fully, to become His slave, then you find success in God’s kingdom, for Christ Himself was obedient even unto death.  He was made lower than the angels who served Him in Heaven so that He could fulfill His purpose on earth for us.    

Who among us would choose to be made of lower status within the body of Christ, to even become an invisible slave to the service of God?  That is the one God finds successful.

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