“Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases. And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick” (Lk. 9:1, 2). We begin with this text, not because these Notes are suddenly espousing charismatic gifts (the circumstances addressed in our text apply to a different dispensation from ours), but because the passage illustrates a consistent pattern regarding service for the Lord. Specifically, the three main verbs here describe the Lord’s methodology for Christian service.
First, He calls. Christian service begins with a call from the Lord. Some have suggested that “Ability plus opportunity equal a call.” The fallacy in that equation is that its underlying premise is entirely humanistic. While it is possible for us to assess with some accuracy the natural abilities that God has bestowed upon us, who among us is able to assess how or even whether those abilities will be applied in any given opportunity to serve? Only God can fit the need with the right ability. It is presumptuous, if not dangerous, to assume that we can determine that we have the ability to do a given work for the Lord. On the other hand, the Lord frequently calls people who seem to the casual observer (and sometimes even to the called individual himself) to be ill-equipped for the required task: witness Moses. And which one of us when assessing the unscholarly, even coarse, fishermen, Peter, James, and John, would have chosen them to be of the Twelve? No, genuine service begins at the behest of the Lord and not from the analysis of the servant. How that “call” comes and is received may vary and would require more space than is allotted for this time; nevertheless, the fact remains: no call, no service.
Second, He gives. The universal truth is that what the Lord requires of us He provides—from beginning to end. He requires holiness: He imparts it by the indwelling Presence of His Spirit. He requires righteousness: He provides it by the empowerment of His Spirit. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” is how Paul expresses this truth (Phil. 2:12b, 13). Similarly, what God requires for service He provides. For example, if some unique talent is needed, He supplies the person with the talent needed; or if strength is needed, He provides the energy. This is not to deny the real necessity of submitting our human wills to His, of expending our human energy for Him, or utilizing our time for His service. But the fact remains: whether respecting ability, time, energy or whatever else is required, no gift, no service.
Third, He sends. Self-directed service may appear impressive; it may be dramatic; it may seem to accomplish much. But service is God’s work. Who goes where and does what is not left up to our reasoning, desire, or imagination. God alone knows what hole He needs us to plug or what gap He needs us to fill. When we choose our own service, not only do we not accomplish for the Lord what we had set out to do but we leave undone that which the Lord would have sent us to do. Self-directed service manifests presumption, ignorance, rebellion, or some combination of those. Christ is the head; we are His body. It is both His right and His responsibility to send us where He would have us to serve. The hand cannot do the thinking for the brain, and yet many believers seem to operate in such a fashion regarding service, often with sad or disastrous results. There is a place to serve; there is a way to serve; there is a time to serve. The obedient saint will wait on His Lord to direct His service. The fact remains: no sending, no service. The Lord has a place for each of us; may we look to Him, wait on Him, and then serve according to His will and in His power.
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