Place Your Life Before God
1-2 So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
3 I'm speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it's important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.
4-6 In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we're talking about is Christ's body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn't amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ's body, let's just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren't.
The idea of volunteering kind of meshes with God’s heart, don't you think? He allows us the freedom to willingly – cheerfully – even reluctantly …. choose. He allows us the freedom...
To choose God or satan – Life or Death
To choose our life’s work or His
To choose to serve or be waited on
To choose to be a living sacrifice or a deadbeat
To choose to give or hoard our life away
The choice is ours.... and ours alone.
Volunteering within the church is a hot topic these days. Actually, I suppose it always has been :) My dad was a country pastor of not one but two churches at the same time - in all but two of his pastorates. He not only had double duty in his gifting, he was forced to work outside of the paid church position – to provide for his family. He was a pastor for 40+ years. Even in retirement - he still volunteered his time, his gifts – always cheerfully and without any expectations of being paid.
Yes, we, his family, were oftentimes – on the short end of His ‘call’. Yes, it was a growing-up process. Yes, The Holy Spirit had to guide me through that process. Over and over :) Yes, Dad was a workaholic - without boundaries. But on a side note, it was a common thread in all of his pastorates – to expect the pastor to be 'involved' in everything - including every meeting that was held. So my experience is probably on the extreme side. But still, I wouldn't trade my spiritual heritage. I am who I am largely because of my mom and dad's sacrifice unto the Lord.
As Shanda posted at ‘A Pause on the Path’ …there is a fine line between pastors and other paid church staff - serving beyond their given work week. Some are highly overworked. Others refuse to put in anymore time - past their paid position. There definitely needs to be a balance between work and service - even if one's work is outside the church. But whose responsibility is it to define that line? Shanda stated that she had a problem with those staff - particularly pastors - who refuse to volunteer any time past their position. I understand this desire for unity within the church. If others are expected to volunteer, why are paid staff exempt so to speak. She was asking for input. I decided to do this follow-up post to express my point.
VOLUNTEERING MUST SPRING FORTH FROM AN OVERFLOW OF THE HEART
Whether a pastor, a worship director, a secretary, a children's director, etc., none can be forced into 'extra' service or volunteering. Romans 12 - states it pretty plainly that we, as born again Christians, are a part of this one body of Christ – the Church. We are all called to work together to build His church. Individual gifts are given by Him to each one of us. We are encouraged to operate in our giftings to support the whole body and the community at large, and ultimately to glorify the Lord Jesus - to bring honor to His name while sharing in His testimony.
Although we are called and by faith equipped ...we can't be forced to serve. None of us can - whether paid staff or not. We can't be forced to use our gifts within the church. We can't be forced to even seek to understand our giftings. By Christianity's very roots - we are free to choose - to serve or not to serve.
If we choose to serve, I believe our gifts should decide where we are most suited to serve. That is the reason for the gift - to serve God and others. But we can't be forced to serve or volunteer. It springs forth on its own - from a willing heart. It is about stepping out in faith - that's where the willing heart comes in. We just have to be willing. Faith will carry us the rest of the way. And we are all given a measure of faith.
If we choose not to serve, we miss out on the true JOY of living a transformed life through Christ.
Concerning pastors: Pastors in particular need balance. Most, who have a willing heart for God are over worked and some even under paid - as was the case with my dad and now my son-in-law, who is in his first pastorate. They do need to balance their position with spending time with their own family - the family that God has entrusted them with. But the unwillingness of a pastor to adamantly not be involved in the health and well-being of his flock - because it is his day off or past his paid work day - is a serious heart matter. Larger congregations that have multiple pastors with different gifting positions - are able to work around this issue.
Pastors are watchman and are held to a higher responsibility. Like it or not. My dad took this responsibility seriously. It weighed on his mind. It was not to be taken lightly.
"At the end of seven days the word of the Lord came to me: 17 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. 18 When I say to a wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. 19 But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself." Ezekiel 3:17-19 NIV
Pastors are Shepherds: The faithful shepherd was with his flock both day and night. He took his position seriously. He defended it, caused it to lie down in green pastures, and led it beside the still waters. ( Psalm 23:2) Without his care, the sheep would stray away. They would face real danger.
"When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." Matt 9:36 NLT
It does not bring honor to Him when a pastor or any of us who call ourselves followers of Christ, sit back and refuse to go the extra step or mile. Many of us are guilty of letting the same people do all the work. We've become lazy Christians. Our hearts aren't full to the brim with all of Him.
By definition, volunteering, whether within or outside the church, can’t be driven by expectations. ‘Expected’ and ‘Volunteer’ are not one in the same. It’s an oxymoron to put them together. And yet, Christ said that you will know them - by their fruit...
"Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions." Matt 7:20 NLT
"By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?" Matt 7:16 NIV
VOLUNTEERING MUST SPRING FORTH FROM AN OVERFLOW OF THE HEART
Those who volunteer do so from an overflow of the heart. One can't be forced to volunteer from the heart. One may be forced to 'volunteer' as a requirement of some program or such that they have agreed to join. But for the most part, volunteering must be a personal thing. It must come from the heart - or it becomes a thorn in one's flesh so to speak.
Psalm 51:12 NIV “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:17 KJV “For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.”
Christ instructs us and encourages us to live a sacrificial life in community with others ….as Romans 12 expounds upon. But He desires for us to live authentic lives in tandem with others – using the skills and gifts that He has given us to further the Gospel and to give back to Him in ways of service. Volunteering within these areas would be a useful way to honor God and lead by healthy example.
Scripture continues by saying that “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” 2 Timothy 3:16 NLT
And again in Proverbs 4; 20-22 “My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body."
So if we are in the Word and the Word gives Life, then our lives will willingly and cheerfully seek to serve Him in ways that we are gifted in. It is the fruit of a transformed life. Is it not?
Matthew Henry puts it this way… “Good work is likely to go on, when all concerned are hearty in furthering it. Let us hope in God's mercy; if we seek him, he will be found of us.”May our lives be a shining example of living a life for Christ – an audience of ONE.
May He indeed be found in us !
CHOOSE this day whom you will serve .
"But if you refuse to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD." Joshua 24:15 NLT
"LIFE IS A COLLECTION OF DECISIONS THAT DECIDE THE JOY YOU EXPERIENCE" ~ Dr Mike Murdock
His Warrior Bride
Other examples in scripture of a willing heart that cheerfully volunteers - to serve…
2 Chr 17:16 KJV "And next to him was Amasiah the son of Zichri, who willingly offered himself unto the LORD; and with him two hundred thousand mighty men of valor."
Judges 5:2 NIV "When the princes in Israel take the lead, when the people willingly offer themselves--praise the LORD!"
Judges 5:9 NIV "My heart is with Israel's princes, with the willing volunteers among the people. Praise the LORD!"
Psalms 110:3 NLT “When you go to war, your people will serve you willingly. You are arrayed in holy garments, and your strength will be renewed each day like the morning dew.”
1 Chronicles 29:9 NIV "The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the LORD. David the king also rejoiced greatly."
I Chronicles 28:21 NLT “The various divisions of priests and Levites will serve in the Temple of God. Others with skills of every kind will volunteer, and the officials and the entire nation are at your command."
Exodus 36:2 NIV “Then Moses summoned Bezalel and Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the LORD had given ability and who was willing to come and do the work.”
1 Samuel 26:6 NLT "Who will volunteer to go in there with me?" David asked Ahimelech the Hittite and Abishai son of Zeruiah, Joab's brother. "I'll go with you," Abishai replied."
Proverbs 31:13 KJV “She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands”