The Path to Greatness

A great tit feeding its young.

What is the whole work of a servant? It is to serve. Even though Jesus is God and King, He gave up all claims to honor and glory in order to be a servant to man. Since He was willing to yield Himself to the lowest position of a servant in order to serve the very ones He created, where do we get the idea that serving others is beneath us? “…the servant is not greater than his lord…” (John 13:16).

Jesus urged His disciples to desire earnestly to be a servant to not only some, but to all. “…whosoever will be chief among you…,” the one in the first or highest position—in order to have the first place in the kingdom of the Messiah—should first be a servant. The Apostle Paul confirmed this by becoming a servant to all men himself, despite the fact that he was a free man. He was willing to do this so that men might come to Christ. This attitude made him the “chief among the apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:9) even though he considered himself the least of the apostles, and even the least of all the saints. But far more important than seeking to be chief over men is seeking the salvation of men’s souls.

Much of the time Jesus spent ministering here on Earth was in healing the sick and helping the suffering. During that era, the task of dealing with the sick and suffering was assigned to servants. Jesus gave up His personal freedom in order to bear the burdens of the sick, the suffering, the friendless, and the nobodies. His example demonstrated that true ministry really means serving, or assisting those in need. “Minister” and “servant are the true distinguishing marks of greatness. The message here is that anyone seeking greatness will do so by becoming the greatest servant.

Therefore, what should be the spirit of God’s ministers? A minister called of God should devote his time, his talents, his abilities, and his powers to the well-being of the flock Jesus has put in his care. He should not lord himself over Jesus’ flock. He should not take care of the affairs of the portion of the Church in his care by imposing his own will on others as if he ‘ruled’ the Church.

True greatness involves serving the body of Christ like the first apostles did. It also applies to a man who can humble himself and stoop to the lowest offices—if that is what it takes to move the true happiness and salvation of his fellow men forward.

He should be willing to spend himself in serving that flock. He should even be willing in his heart to give up his life unto death if necessary, if it will move the salvation of others forward. Paul said, “…I will very gladly spend and be spent for you…” (2 Corinthians 12:15).

Jesus promoted this idea, which He also lived Himself. His greatest apostle also lived it. Yet there are some, if not many, who still hold to the idea that greatness does not come from serving the lowly, but from being honored and served and elevated to a position of great dignity by others instead. The very attitude and exercise of serving, no matter how low it must go—when done willingly out of sincere sympathy and concern for the good of others—leads to being exalted. “…whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant…the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26-28). This is where that we find the path to true greatness.

Advertisements

Have You Reached Your Dead End?

A pale rust covered block wall indicating a dead end

Once you were in bondage to sin, but a way was made for you to get free. You acknowledged the price paid, and were then granted your release from captivity. The enemy was forced to let you go. Now the world you are in is a beautiful place. The burdens that weighed you down are gone. You triumphantly travel down the road of victory, eager to tell others what has transpired in your life. It’s a happy journey! You feel like nothing can stop you anymore.

But what is this obstacle ahead? It looks something like a great channel of water. You cannot safely cross it, nor go around it. To make matters worse, the one who released you from captivity is now in hot pursuit and threatening to capture and destroy you. You can’t go forward, left, or right. You certainly can’t go backward either. Even standing still can only be for a limited time. You have hit a dead end.

You thought that, by following the One who led you out of the depths of sin, you were now free from all kinds of problems and difficulties. Yet it seems like everything is going against you. So what do you do?

The first inclination is to doubt, complain, and murmur about your circumstances and leadership, just like most of those around you.

But this never solves the problem and only worsens your relationship with God (although it hasn’t stopped anyone to this day from trying!). Or you could just continue to trust in the One who led you out. He is in direct communication with God and surely will know what to do next.

The Israelites encountered this kind of situation when they left Egypt several thousand years ago. For years, they endured the bondage of the Egyptians, which continually grew more harsh and demanding. God heard their eventual cry for freedom and raised up Moses—one of their own—to be their deliverer. In due time, the Egyptian leaders finally let them go, and God led them out into the wilderness through the obedience of Moses. During this time of exodus they rejoiced greatly. The weight of Egypt and their taskmasters was gone at last. They also had the glorious visible presence of God with them as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.

But all of this joy ceased when their journey abruptly ended at the Red Sea. They immediately descended into murmuring and complaining also—first against Moses, and ultimately against God Himself. In fact, what they really wanted was to kill Moses for leading them out into this wilderness to die. To make matters worse, the Pharaoh of Egypt changed his mind, and now the whole Egyptian army was rapidly gaining on them, intending to permanently end this migration! Even if they were capable of building a bridge or some type of watercraft to cross the water, there was absolutely no time. They (like you are at this very moment) couldn’t safely travel in any direction. They were truly at a dead end.

A yellow street sign displaying the words 'dead end.'

Did God abandon them and leave them to their own devices for survival? Did He tell them: “I delivered you from the bondage of the Egyptians. Now, go figure out the rest of the way for yourself”? No! He made a way that was completely unexpected by everyone. But first, Moses had to be obedient to God and not give in to the unbelieving crowd around him. Then “…the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward: But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea” (Exodus 14:15,16).

Moses did as God commanded and the millions of Israelites went across the Rea Sea just as dry as they were on the shore. The Egyptian army believed in God less than the Israelites did, which they demonstrated when they hotly pursued the people right through the parted waters! They could have stopped on the shoreline, or even have just sent a small company—but no, the entire army went forward! As a result, after Moses led the people across the waters, “…the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen. And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them” (Exodus 14:25-27).

God led the people across a great sea without so much as a sandal getting wet! He even took care of their oppressors (who might have survived if they had only feared God). Therefore, if God can open a dead end for millions of people, and bring them through safely, He can certainly bring you through your impossible situation right now. God has allowed you to reach this point to show His faithfulness. God wants you to believe in Him for the impossible, to expect the unexpected. If you trusted Him for what you or someone else could accomplish for you, then there is really no need for Him in the first place. But He already planned a way out for you long before you reached your present dilemma.

When you try to solve your problems on your own, you will always reach a dead end.

In Proverbs 3:5 God said, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” He sent His Son to sacrifice His life on the cross, not just to save you from being eternally lost when you die, but also to make your life right now victorious in Him. Jesus has already fought and won the war; all you are expected to do, as a believer in Him, is to put your complete trust in Him to bring you through the battle you are facing right now.

Throughout the Old Testament, when the Israelites went before God in unbelief, they encountered impossible situations. Yet when they cried out to God, repented, and put their trust in Him, He changed their impossible situations. Take your eyes off of the impossible, and place your faith in the victorious and finished work of Jesus at the cross. Make His victory your victory, and watch the dead end you are facing turn into an open pathway.

Same Direction, Wrong Destination

A red electric train on curved tracks.

Many major cities around the world have specific areas where multiple railroad tracks cluster together. A great number of trains pass through these hubs to pick up and unload passengers or freight. For some, this is their destination, for others, just a stopover. Looking down on these rail yards from above, you would see many tracks running parallel to each other. Some will cross paths with another, while many never meet at all. Even in some towns, two or more tracks may run near each other yet never come together.

An overhead view of three red cabooses sitting on one of several train tracks including one that curves away from the others.

Now suppose two people decided to each take one of these parallel tracks and travel on it, expecting to get out and meet the other at the end of the line. After only a short period of traveling, they might discover that the tracks they chose depart from their parallel course instead, and end up reaching separate destinations. For the one who ended up at the wrong destination, everything seemed right in the beginning. His companion riding on the other track started off shortly before he did and moved along in the same direction as he was about to travel. Therefore he assumed that the end of the trip would work out just as well.

Two trains sitting side by side at a station.

Many think that they can just get on a track that seems right when it comes to really finding God and entering Heaven and they will surely arrive at the feet of God Himself, along with everyone else on other parallel tracks. The Bible spoke of this and its outcome thousands of years ago: “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12). Just because we think the way we want to travel is the best way does not always mean that it is. God made only one way available to get to Him, and that is through His Son, Jesus. “Jesus saith…I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). But many vehemently disagree with this statement, because they want control over the whole process. They do not want God’s way, because it involves giving up of the right to their self. They want everything on their own terms. They feel God must come down to them, not the other way around. They would prefer to accept a verse out of the ‘anti-Bible’ –“…I am a way, a truth and a life; all persons can come to the Father whether by me or anything else.”

Because of our sins, we are not allowed to come before God, since He is holy and righteous. No other being can rival or equal God. He is supreme and almighty. On the other hand, we—the human race—are sinful, finite beings. Our sinful nature cannot mix with God’s holiness; if we could do so, it could not make us more holy and free of sin. Instead, it would corrupt God Himself, nullifying His very existence, and cause complete chaos in the delicate balance of all of His creation (including us). In fact, with our limited knowledge of this world and the universes beyond, we cannot possibly comprehend the fullness of the consequences of God’s annihilation (if such was possible).

Prior to Jesus coming to Earth as a man, God made a temporary way for man to come before Him. But man still could not actually be in His presence, similar to children being in the house of their parents but still not in the actual room where their parents reside. The whole process found in the Old Testament exceeds the scope of this article, but the essence of it involves a sacrifice. God required the blood of an innocent, spotless, defect-free lamb to be shed as a temporary covering for the sins of the people. The lamb took the death penalty man deserved. Note the word ‘temporary,’ as these sacrifices could never permanently remove anyone’s sins. Therefore, they had to be repeated over and over. By obeying God’s commandments outlined in the Old Testament, and the offering up of the sacrifice by a high priest, God’s judgment could be avoided. But God never intended for this sacrificial system to go on forever. It necessitated a final sacrifice, one that would, once and for all, pay the price for the sins of every man, woman and child—not just the ones alive now, but even for those who already died and those yet to be born. The problem was that no one on Earth, or anywhere in the universe, could qualify as a man who was a perfect, sinless substitute.

A silhouette of a cross and brush with fog, sky and mountains in the distance.

That is where Jesus comes in. He willingly came down from His place in Heaven and became a physical human being just like us—only without any sin, ever. He, in turn, became the ultimate, final, living sacrifice needed to pay the penalty for our sins. During His time here on Earth, He fulfilled every requirement God had laid out in the Old Testament. This was something impossible for any other person on Earth to completely accomplish. When He was crucified on the cross, He took upon Himself every sin—past, present and future—of every person who was, is, and will be on Earth. His shed blood covered our sins. They are completely removed from God’s sight. “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission [elimination]” (Hebrews 9:22). But, unlike the lamb mentioned earlier, Jesus’ sacrifice was final and permanent. Not only that, after He was taken down from the cross and buried, He rose three days later from the grave and soon ascended back to His place with God. This further seals the finality of His sacrifice.

This is how Jesus alone became “the way, the truth, and the life.”No man or animal ever sacrificed his life for us and rose from the dead afterward. Furthermore, no one every loved us to the point that he gave his only son to die for us.

But “…God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Remember also, that Jesus loved us as much as the Father, in that He willfully came down and gave His life in our place.

Which track are you riding on right now? Is it the one that you think (or have been taught) is going to God? Or is it one that everyone else is riding because they also believe that it is going to the right place? Just because the train’s cars are full does not make that track the right one. There may be two tracks at that station, or there may be many tracks in the rail yard, but only one is the right one that will take you to eternal life with God. Are you on that track? Or are you on a parallel one that will ultimately take you away from God? Don’t let today’s smug rejection be tomorrow’s surprise for eternity. There is still time to get on the train that is riding on the correct track. Why don’t you take a moment now and ask God to lead you to it?

For more information on finding God, please check out our main website here.

“And I Sent the Hornet before You”

 

A graphical image of a hornet.

Many times in our walk with God He will use something small, or even unseen, to bring about a great victory for His glory. One example of this occurred thousands of years ago, after the Israelites had crossed the Jordan River and were entering the land that God had promised for many years to give them. One thing remained though—the occupants of the land did not simply leave after their arrival. God ordered the Israelites to destroy the people of the land because they were idolaters who worshipped everything but God Himself. They loved the creation more than the Creator.

Some may think that God is an evil tyrant who kills on a whim and has no compassion for anyone, yet He is quite the opposite. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 emphasis added). He never wants any of us to die eternally lost. The depth of His love no one can fathom. What is overlooked here is, that God’s love and longsuffering had given these people the opportunity to forsake their disobedience and rebellion for hundreds of years—but they never did. Noah and his family did not build the ark in a few hours, and then God immediately destroyed everyone else with a flood. God continued to give the people time to change their evil, rebellious ways and turn to Him. There could have been many more than just the members of Noah’s family in the safety of the ark, but the people continued to refuse the offer from a loving and merciful God—only to die in the rising waters.

When the Israelites arrived, they did not just set up camp until God gave them the land as their inheritance and then wait for the enemy’s arrival to see if they were as evil as described. No, they went forward in battle in the name (or unfailing nature) of God, with Joshua as the captain of the host leading the way.

But while they may have fought and defeated their enemies, they were not the ones who actually drove the occupants out. The real victor was God. And He did it in ways not known to the Israelites.

“And I sent the hornet before you, which [drove] them out from before you, even the two kings of the Amorites; but not with thy sword, nor with thy bow” (Joshua 24:12). One insect sent a whole army to flight! Although some scholars believe this may not have been a literal hornet, it still shows that God uses a simple means that is not conventional to us to accomplish His task. Now look at verse thirteen: “…I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and oliveyards which ye planted not do ye eat” (emphasis added). Notice that the land was given to them, cities were already built, and crops were already growing—and were ready to eat. Even the very enemy they came against was brought out before them to be eliminated. And all of this was carried out without any work of their own. God, in His faithfulness, did it all Himself. Why? Because they trusted in Him, obeyed His commandments, and because of His immense love for them.

“Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve Him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord” (Joshua 24:14).

This was the key for their victory. As we read throughout much of the Old Testament, whenever the Israelites forsook God and His Word, they were defeated in battle against their enemies. Yet when they cried out to God and repented of their rebellious ways, He would come in and deliver them. If they did not overcome and destroy their enemies, then their enemies would overcome them, due to the Israelites’ compromise and worship of their enemies’ gods. As long as the Israelites turned away from God and followed idolatry, they would walk in defeat, and ultimately in bondage to their enemies.

These verses apply in our own life spiritually as the children of God. We must remember that our success comes from trusting in God and obeying His Word, the Bible. Then God will drive out our enemies by means not seen, and He will provide for our needs through no part of our own doing. All He wants is for us to love and serve Him, and Him alone. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil” (Proverbs 3:5-7). We may never know how many ‘hornets’ have gone before us and driven out our enemies, but we do know that when we truly and wholeheartedly follow Him in trust and obedience, He will always go before us and bring victory.

“What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

“Surely I Come Quickly”

sun streaming through brownish clouds

Jesus’ last words spoken from Heaven were, “Surely I come quickly” (Rev 22:20). And it won’t be long before He speaks once again—when He comes down from Heaven with a shout! In the meantime, the hearts of those waiting and watching for Him need to remain glowing hot, focused, and faithful concerning this blessed hope set before us. Nothing less will satisfy the cravings of our hearts for Him! But if we deny this hope, then we are not correctly understanding prophecy.

Here we are coming closer than ever to the very end of the age, and we find, as predicted, that many have given up hope in Jesus coming back to Earth at any moment. But it doesn’t matter whether many today believe this or few—it still is true. When will Jesus come? It could be at any time now. No, we don’t know just what day or hour our Bridegroom will come for His bride. Therefore, it could just as well be today! No prophecy concerning Christ coming for His bride remains to be fulfilled before we will hear His shout from Heaven to come up and be with Him.

Certainly the true Church, the bride of Christ, will go through tribulation while she remains on Earth. But the horrible ‘Great Tribulation’ to come of the last days is not promised to the Church. The True Church is not in the Great Tribulation at this time, and it won’t be here when it does occur. The wrath of God is not for His children. This is the other aspect of our blessed hope as we wait for Jesus’ appearing at any moment.

Many verses of God’s Word teach that Jesus is coming soon, so the bride is to be ready and waiting for her Savior to come:

  • “The Lord is at hand” (Phil 4:5).
  • “For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry” (Heb 10:37).
  • “…nearer than when we believed” (Rom 13:11).
  • “…the coming of the Lord draweth nigh [near]” (James 5:8, emphasis mine in each passage).

All of these leave us with the distinct impression that Jesus is coming soon!

This is just the impetus we need to dedicate our lives to active service for our Lord in a pure and unselfish way, not of this world. Many have preached that we should strive to work diligently for God and live a holy life, because death will come soon enough and then we can do these things no more. But the Bible argument is always that Jesus is coming soon, and we need to be sure we are ready for Him! In the meantime, we need to be constantly waiting, watching, and praying. We should be active in service to and for Him—so we will be found as faithful stewards carrying out what He has called us to do while we await His return.

Jesus is the only one in scripture who ever said to us, “I come quickly.” And our proper response should always be, “Come.” We need to be patient while maintaining our hope as we watch and wait. We want Him to come quickly—but we know the timing is up to Him. We know He loves us and that we can always trust Him. If He delays, it is not because He is “slack concerning His promise” (2 Pet 3:9). He waits because His longsuffering will allow an opportunity for many more to be saved. We could never deny others the privilege of joining our ranks. Therefore we are not dismayed that He lingers to bring more in.

“And the Spirit and the bride say [to Him], Come” (Rev 22:17). There is no one else they can properly say this to! God’s Spirit strengthens the desire of the bride as she repeats this word, while others are also being wooed by it. They are also being urged to cry out for His reappearing. All who share Jesus’ favor and grace while here will be filled with joy when He appears and takes us home to be with Him there. By His grace, we are being made fit for it and are preserved unto it. Therefore, keep joyfully expecting His glorious return.

Meanwhile our responsibility is clear. We need to—

Be ready for service.
Be like the others who wait for their Lord.
Be sure our lights are burning bright.
Teach this message passionately while our lives glow with the truth.
Not give in to false teaching that we have no right to expect Jesus’ return at any moment.
Continue to watch for and believe in His return at any time.

“Surely I come quickly”—this is the pleasing note prophecy ends on, and Jesus’ last message to the hearts of believers. What an encouragement, after waiting for Him so long, through so many difficulties, trials, dangers, and woes. We are blessed to know that the holy and true One speaks these words to us. He has given our hearts a faithful pledge, and He won’t fail to fulfill it. He is surely about to return. Soon He is coming! Coming for you! Coming for me!

Can love ever be satisfied before the One most desired makes His long-awaited appearance? Our hearts will freely respond to Him in love and truth. And who wouldn’t respond right away to a free invitation that is so divine? If only we could in some way properly relay just how loving and tender our beloved Lord is!

Jesus said He is coming to bring an end to the hard work and suffering of those who serve Him. He is coming to receive to Himself the ones who have been faithful and continuing the course in spite of opposition, discouragement, or any other influences to the contrary. He is coming with the reward of His grace with Him. Every faithful work, every labor of love, He will repay. And He will take His beloved bride to live with Him forever in Heaven—the state and place of complete happiness. To this we heartily reply, “So be it—come quickly, Lord Jesus!”

“Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent, that ye may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless” (2 Pet 3:14).