|Messages By Ovid Need|
Exalted Without Faithfulness - I Cor. 4:2
I will not give much of the background of this chapter, only to say that Paul is dealing with some false teachers here, teachers who had formed groups of followers and who were also teaching a gospel of prosperity and self-acceptance.
He is explaining the qualifications which identify a godly minister. These qualifications are not restricted to ministers, but they are given in such a way as to include all Christians as ministers of God. Therefore, these points are good points for all believers.
Here in 1 Cor 4:2, Paul is continuing his instruction from the previous chapter, as he says: Moreover.. In addition.
Paul gives the major qualification of a servant of God, particularly a minister, but including any one who desires to serve God. That qualification is faithfulness to his Master, primarily speaking of faithfully delivering the message contained in the whole counsel of God.
I think we can safely say that this is THE GREATEST requirement in the word of God. Any other requirement would fall under this faithfulness to the word of God. God establishes the qualifications (personal gifts, disciplines and characteristics) and responsibilities (work and actions) of His ministers. Faithfulness to Him will follow the word of God in these areas. Therefore, the saying, "Be true to thyself," is a lie. Faithfulness is to the Word of God.
Also, this faithfulness to the word of God will go far enough and not too far. (This faithfulness will not attempt to be more holy than God, as the Pharisees attempted to do.)
Now, let's look a little at what Paul is saying. He gives us several points here to consider.
I. This is as contrary to the world's ideas as any one thing can be. Paul has spent three chapters showing the evil of worldly wisdom. Here he counters the false ideas of the world's qualifications for 'leadership' (for a lack of a better term), with the major qualification of the Lord, faithfulness.
The world's ideas of qualifications for any thing is education, knowledge, wisdom, learning (even about evil, drug and sex education). Our society is in serious trouble because knowledge and learning has replaced faithfulness as the qualification for service. And service is not on anyone's mind. Every one wants to be a leader.
The idea inside and outside the church seems to be, "If I cannot be a leader, I won't do anything. I want something that will fit my qualifications, and I have so much self-esteem that being a boss is all that I am qualified for."
The business world has removed faithfulness at an assigned task as the major qualification for promotion. Faithfulness has been replaced with college education, learning and knowledge. The result is that there are now people in places of leadership who never had to prove themselves faithful in the small things. The result is a business world that is coming apart. The ones who worked their way up are being pushed out and are passing off the scene.
I know of a Christian business man who only has a sixth grade education. He has made an extremely good living by just being faithful in applying what he could do. Now his son is taking over, but he cannot compare with his dad, even with his education. The boy's qualification is seen as his degree from Bob Jone's University.
Our people who work at Donnllee's many times feel like they are going around in circles because the white collar employees are in the position of authority due to their college degrees, not do to their faithfulness in their job (worked their way up).
This is especially devastating in the church. The qualifications for "leadership" are no longer faithfulness over an extended period of time, but knowledge and worldly wisdom. The results are obvious.
I could still today name several young men from churches where I have worked, that are still fresh in my mind, who saw as their qualification for a staff position, learning to some degree or another. In fact, I ended up working for one in MD, named Chuck Stancle.
Chuck was retired from the AF, after 20 years of service. He wanted to be on a Church staff, so he went to a bus directors school at Tom Wallice's Church in Louisville KY. Then he came to MD and took over the position of Bus Director which I had been given after Bro. Riker left to pastor here in Indiana. Chuck had not proved himself faithful over an extended period of time in a church, rather he proved that he could master some written questions.
When he came to MD, my responsibilities as bus director did not change, as he took over the position. In fact, they increased. But he was now the official head of the ministry, even though he had never worked in that position, and knew nothing about what was going on. And he didn't really want to learn. He enjoyed the public acclaim and recognition which he had as he sit around and did little more than fellowship with the staff. He ended up marrying one of the school teachers, and doing a good bit of damage to the ministry there.
Now, all of that to say this. I know whereof I speak. I have been through it.
These people desire to be active in Christian work some day, so they perused a higher education. The problem is that as the opportunity to be faithful and active in Christian work in simple things arise, they do not do it unless their 'education' required it. If the school requires them to work a bus route, they will, but would not do it otherwise.
In fact, these people like this that I have known have found it difficult to be faithful in the church services. Yet when they completed their higher education with good marks, like Chuck Stancle, "Christian ministries" were standing in line to put them on "full-time." Is it any wonder that Christianity is in such a state today? Not until this evil is corrected, and these 'ministries' make their primary requirement for their staff, that a man be found faithful, can we expect any kind of movement in the hearts of those influenced by these 'leaders.'
And the above is not unique. These people, both the students and the ministries are missing this most important qualification of all, that a man be found faithful in the small, insignificant things, especially if no one is watching.
If this faithfulness is only present when it is expected of us by men, then we are serving men and not God. We are not depending upon the Lord to lift us up, but men.
II. Which gives us another key point here, found faithful.. This implies discovery.
A. This faithful person was may be hidden from view and someone stumbled upon him and discovered him faithful. (I have heard more than one story about someone stumbling upon a professed Christian, and finding that person telling a dirty story, or trying to cheat someone, or lying. How refreshing it is to hear of someone 'stumbling' upon a professed Christian to find him being faithful to his profession even though the pressure was being placed upon him.)
B. Could even speak of surprise on the part of the one who found him faithful.
C. It would speak of those who watch him in all situations and circumstances, find that he is faithful in the big and small things, good and bad times, in public and private.
D. This speaks of prolonged faithfulness on the part of the person, maybe many years of self-discipline, obeying the law-word of God.
E. This does not speak of sinlessness, but faithfulness even to the principle of humility, confession, restitution and repentance.
I think that this is especially true of the unsaved or unchurched who watch us. As they find us faithful to what we say we believe, they are convicted of their unfaithfulness to God.
Luke 16:10-13, contains one of the most common of the Lord's teaching. Faithfulness in the small areas results in larger areas of responsibility.
But look at what is said here. If a person is exalted or given a place of authority without this faithfulness in the small things, it was not God that exalted him.
Will God operate contrary to His principles?
Are there exceptions?
Paul is quite clear here. The primary qualification of a Christian (minister especially) is faithfulness to God and His word; faithfulness in the small things. This applies to young people and to old, to rich and poor, to the highly intelligent and to the simple. There are no exceptions and it even works for the unsaved. This is an established principle of God which cannot be avoided by anyone.
III. Now, 5 points about this faithful steward of God.
1. Will not be arrogant. He will be willing to do the least of things. He will not be setting around waiting for the Lord to send something his way which he feels fits his qualifications. Rather he will take advantage of any opportunity presented to him for service to the Lord. And all service is for the Lord.
Matthew 10:42. Here the Lord tells us that our love for Him is shown in our faithfulness in the small things; seeing something simple that we can do for someone else, then doing it.
There are a few of things here about this story.
A. The ones who received the good deed may not have even been Christians. In a parallel passage in Mat. 25:31-46, the good deed was for some one in prison, evidently a law-beaker, yet it was done in the name of Christ and had the promise of a reward from God attached to it.
B. The illustration which the Lord used here is of something which no one else knew about. This would fit within the giving of Alms where we are not to let our right hand know what the left is doing, Mt. 6.
C. This good deed was so insignificant that the person doing it thought nothing about it until the time of reward came.
D. There was no reward until the day of judgment before the Lord.
This means that anyone can be a faithful steward of God because the most lowly of tasks in man's eyes are very important to the Lord. Just an encouraging word on our part to another who might be having a difficult time is like having a cool drink on a hot day. It will have its reward.
Fixing a window at the church or for someone in need, helping put up a building, painting, mowing the grass, even sweeping a floor, if it is done because we love the Lord and want to be a blessing to others, it will not be overlooked by the Lord, nor will it fail to be rewarded. That reward may not be here, but it will be remembered.
(Illustration. Some one told me of a young person who saw a well dressed elderly man sitting all alone in a restaurant. This young person wanted to do something. First, they thought about talking to the man, then they decided to pay for his lunch from there own money. The reason they gave is that actions speak louder than words. They talked to the waitress, who slipped the check away from the man, then quietly paid the bill for him even though he knew nothing about it. This person was found faithful by others watching.)
Remember Acts 6? Stephen was a layman. The implication is that Stephen and these men (who we identify as the first deacons) counted it a privilege to do the most menial of tasks in this new church, even waiting on tables. The result was that the Lord provided Stephen with the opportunity to preach one of the greatest sermons in the history of the Church, as well as have his name go down as the first martyr for the cause of Christ.
Point 2 about a faithful steward:
2. He will realize that whatever strength or ability to help he might have, is from the Lord, 1 Cor. 4:7. This should be a humbling thought, and prevent any pride from entering in.
3. Will continue in the most difficult of tasks which come his way whether he has human encouragement or not, Luke 17:1-10. Notice that increased faith is identified as increased faithfulness in doing our Master's revealed will in the most demanding of circumstances, especially when no one is watching or encouraging us.
How many of us have prayed, "Lord, Increase our faith." Here we see that this is a dangerous prayer, because it means that the Lord will provide difficult things for us to do which no one will notice.
But, let us hasten to add, Romans 13:7 commands us to give honor where honor is due. The one who owes the honor would be sinning for not giving that honor, but the faithful steward will be faithful regardless of whether or not that other person is faithful in giving him honor.
4. Will be well-versed in the word of God, knowing that all of his instruction and encouragement is there. He knows that he is not speaking for himself when he talks to others, he is not acting for himself when he does something. Rather he is speaking and acting for the Lord. Therefore, he either knows or is seeking to know what the Lord says about everything, 2 Cor. 5:20, Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.
Notice that Paul is representing Christ! Do we in our actions and words toward others? Paul's actions were restricted because he was speaking and acting under the direction of Another, the Lord according to His word. Also, Paul was bold, knowing that he is acting in place of the his Master.
5. Faithfulness will be primarily in the things hidden from the eyes of men, because the faithful one will realize that it is the Lord Christ that he is serving. The faithful will be faithful, not because they are being graded by others, but because they are being graded by God.
that a man be found faithful... He was discovered to be faithful. He was just quietly going about his duty as a Christian, working behind the scenes as he was given the opportunity. As others saw him, he was found faithful..
6. Luke 16:12. Bible faithfulness is faithful when there is nothing in it for us. The natural man will come to us and say, "What is in this for you? Since you will not get anything out of this, why be faithful?" The Lord plainly tells us here that if we expect to ever have anything of our own to be faithful over, we must first be faithful over what belongs to someone else, especially if there is nothing in it for us.
This brings us back to this point. If a person is given areas of responsibility without showing themselves responsible over what belongs to some one else, where did that 'promotion' come from? If something is accomplished apart from God's way, how was it accomplished?
There is something for everyone to be faithful in. God has given talents and abilities to each of His children. Some are open for all to see, some are hidden from view.
Are we faithfully using those things for the cause of the King and His Kingdom?
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