Hidden Greed

The prophet Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, was the bearer of news the Syrian officer, Naaman, did not want to hear. As a result, the soldier threw a fit. But do you know what later happened to Naaman?

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He finally did precisely what he was told to do, and he received the miraculous result he had been promised (2 Kings 5:14).

Unlike many people whom you and I may help in the ministry, Naaman returned to thank Elisha and Gehazi. He was so overwhelmed, he offered a sizable gift of gratitude.

Elisha refused any tangible thank you (5:15–19). But that’s not the end of the account. Naaman offered Gehazi a gift as well. Deep within the heart of Elisha’s servant crouched a silent beast of the soul.

Dealing with Rejection

If you enjoy watching and playing the game of football (I certainly do), you have observed a curious activity called a “spike.” It’s rather unusual. A team fights its way toward the goal line yard by yard.

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Minutes seem like hours as the offensive team plods along and presses on. Suddenly, it happens.

A play works beautifully, and streaking to the long-awaited touchdown is a muscular running back or some fleet-footed wide receiver.

Six points! But as soon as he crosses the line, this athlete takes the ball and slams the little thing to the ground. With all his might! The guy doesn’t so much as say, “Thanks, ball.”

The Gospel to the Lost . . . Grace to the Saved

Want a wonderful paradigm for ministry? Paul’s message emphasizes the gospel to the lost and grace to the saved. As I’ve studied the life of Paul, particularly in his later years, I find two prominent themes woven like threads through the tapestry of his ministry.

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First, his message offers the gospel to the lost:

Let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses” (Acts 13:38–39).

Imagine the impact our churches would have on our communities if each Christian committed to sharing the gospel once a week with someone who expresses a need.

Suffering for Doing What Is Right

As you serve people in ministry, you will give, forgive, forget, release your own will, obey God to the maximum, and wash dirty feet with an attitude of gentleness and humility.

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And yet, after all those beautiful things, you will occasionally get ripped off. Knowing all this ahead of time will help “improve your serve,” believe me.

The Bible doesn’t hide this painful reality from us. In 1 Peter 2:20 (addressed to servants, by the way—see verse 18), we read:

For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.

Part of this “makes sense,” according to our logical-and-fair standard.

Part of it doesn’t. If a person does wrong and then suffers the consequences, even though he or she patiently endures the punishment, nobody applauds.

But—now get this clearly fixed in your mind—when you do what is right and suffer for it with grace and patience, God applauds!

Illustration: Jesus Christ’s suffering and death on the cross.

He, the perfect God-man, was mistreated, hated, maligned, beaten, and finally nailed cruelly to a cross.

He suffered awful consequences, even though He spent His life giving and serving (1 Peter 3:17–18).

One thing is certain: if people treated a perfect individual that way, then imperfect people cannot expect to escape mistreatment.

If mistreatment hasn’t happened to you yet . . . it will.


The Strength of Serving Others

Jesus said a strong thing to Peter when He spoke these words: “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me” (John 13:8). Our Lord’s rebuke introduces a convicting observation: being a servant is not a sign of inner weakness, but of incredible strength.

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There is no way to remove the jab and the twist from Christ’s words to Peter. He said, in effect,

“If you do not allow Me to do this, that is it. You’re off the team!”

Anybody who lives under the delusion that Christ was rather weak and spineless has overlooked such statements as this one.

Being a servant in no way implies there will never be a confrontation or strong words shared with others . . . or tough love expressed.

The Lord may choose to use the reproof of a servant who has earned the right to be heard even more often than that of a type-A aggressive leader.

Graciously Receiving and Giving

Being a super high-achiever, I must confess I find it difficult to receive from others. Really difficult. Like you, I’m usually on the giving end, not the receiving. My pride fights hard to stay intact.

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This was brought home to me rather forcefully one Christmas season several years ago. A man in our church congregation drove over to our home with his Christmas gift for our family.

Not something wrapped up in bright paper with a big ribbon, but a thoughtful gift of love demonstrated by washing all the windows of our home.

Know Your Audience

Two mistakes are commonly made in our pulpits. The first is giving Christians too much of the gospel . . . the second is giving lost people too much theology.

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Christians don’t grow if they only hear about the cross and the resurrection in our preaching.

Expositional teaching in sound theology will help the saints grow strong—especially when they are struggling with life.

Our Words and Our Walk

No selfless act is so small, no good deed so insignificant, that God cannot see and does not approve. After all, what we do as God’s servants is not for human eyes. Matthew 10:16. 

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It is not for our own glory that faithful service is so clearly prescribed throughout Scripture.

It is for the glory of God and God alone. Our God has given us the incredible honor of being His stewards to carry out the work of Jesus Christ through faithful service—in our neighborhoods, across the nation we live in, and around the world.

It is, in fact, the very substance of the Great Commission which tells us that we are to transmit the gospel to others, not only in our confession of Christ but by displaying in our lives a daily example of Christ’s love.

Think about it. When Jesus sent out that first group of wide-eyed and uncertain rustics on their first missionary adventure, don’t you know they were terrified?

You Need Help

You’ve probably preached Exodus 18:17–27 at some point. I have too. But today, it’s time we apply it. It’s the account of a visit Jethro made to his son-in-law Moses.

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Old Jethro frowned as he watched Moses flash from one need to another, from one person to another. From early morning until late at night, Moses was neck-deep in conversations, decisions, and activities. (Sound like your week?)

Moses must have looked very impressive—eating on the run, moving fast, planning other appointments, meeting deadlines.

It’s About Character

Our culture is overly impressed with the externals. You must look good on TV to win the political race. It’s the image you need to polish. Spin it just right. But we all know—and all have seen—that a leader without character is a tragedy getting ready to happen.

Looking Good
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As pastors, we know about the importance of character, of course. But knowing it isn’t our assignment. Your congregation requires your character.

Your role is filled because character is present, or it decreases if it is absent. It’s the same with me. The church where I serve as senior pastor has a respect for me and appreciates my efforts (all my weaknesses not withstanding).