During this last week we have been deluged with people who expressed concern for our son and our future daughter in law after their car accident last Sunday. Over and over again we heard the same words, “If there is anything I can do . . . “ People realize there is probably nothing they can do, but they need to express their willingness to help if the need arises. The support of our friends is valuable.
Many people are the same way in the body of Christ. . . they want to help, they want to play a significant role, but they don’t know what to do. Paul has told us not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think, instead we are to think with sober (or accurate) judgment. He continues this same thought by reminding us of our role within the body of Christ. Paul wants us to see that we are interdependent with others in the body of Christ.
In our text there are several key truths.
Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
This morning we are going to look at these words to discover how we can help in the body of Christ.
WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER
Paul uses the analogy of a human body. He reminds us that even though we have many different parts of our body (the heart, liver, arms, legs, eyes, etc.) it is still one body. Each of the parts of the body works together to make the entire body healthy.
Paul says the body of Christ is the same way; there are many parts and functions but only one body. Notice a couple of things. First, we are part of Christ’s body. This is important. Others are not a part of our body; we are all a part of His body. We are not the central figure, He is. It is not about our preferences, but His truth. It is not about our “needs”, but His will.
Second, the parts of the body need to work in harmony with each other. In our human bodies if the arms decide to work independent of the brain there is a problem. If the heart decides to just beat whenever it wants to, the body is dysfunctional. If the colon decides to do something different from it’s normal function, there is trouble. When the body doesn’t work in harmony we are said to have a disease. To be effective, the body has to work in harmony.
In the same way, Christians are called to work together to accomplish the work of the Master. Do you understand how important this is? To be effective we have to work the way we have been designed to work. There are at least two things hindering this effective working of the body.
First, we are hindered by the growing “professionalism” of ministry. More and more service, teaching, leading, and decision making is being relegated to “professionals”. In other words, ministry is what Pastors do. Lay people are becoming more like spectators at a baseball game. They cheer, they grumble, and then they go home. This has resulted from the insecurity and ego of the Pastors and the dis-connectedness of the layperson.
In truth, the Pastor is supposed to equip or facilitate the ministry of the other people in the church. The Protestant concept of the priesthood of all believers underscored the fact that ministry is something everyone does.
Second, we have become handicapped because we spend more time dividing than in working together. We refuse to associate or cooperate with other believers because,
- They come from a different denomination
- They have a different style of worship
- They use a different amount of water in baptism
- They have communion with a different frequency
- They have a different view on leadership or church government
- They have a different approach to evangelism
- They have a different theological emphasis.
In his study of this passage in his volumes on Romans, Donald Grey Barnhouse tells how he once made slighting remarks about a denomination he considered to be on the fringe of genuine Christianity. A minister from this denomination was present and afterwards told Barnhouse how grieved he was at what he considered an unjust judgment. Barnhouse apologized, and it was agreed that he would meet for lunch with four or five ministers from this particular church.
When they got together, Barnhouse, who had suggested the luncheon, made the additional suggestion that during lunch they should discuss only the points on which they agreed. Afterwards, when they had finished, they could talk about their differences. They began to talk about Jesus Christ and what he meant to each of them. The tension abated, and there was a measure of joy as each confessed that Jesus was born of a virgin, that he came to die for our sins and then rose again bodily. Each acknowledged Jesus Christ as Lord. Each agreed that Jesus was now in heaven at the right hand of God the Father praying for his church. They confessed that he had sent his Holy Spirit at Pentecost and that the Lord was living in each of his children by means of the Holy Spirit. They acknowledged the reality of the new birth and that they were looking forward to the return of Jesus Christ, after which they would be spending eternity together.
By this time the meal was drawing to a close. And when they turned to the matters that divided them, they found that they were indeed secondary—not unimportant, but secondary—and they recognized that they were areas in which they could agree to disagree without denying that each was nevertheless a member of Christ’s body.
Barnhouse confessed, “Though separated by a continent, I have often prayed for these men and am confident that they have prayed for me. We know that we are one in Christ. They made a distinct contribution to my spiritual life, and I contributed to theirs. I am the richer since I became acquainted with them.”8 Something like that would be a very good experience for most of us. (Boice ROMANS Vol. 4 p. 1579)
Though we will never all agree about everything, we should realize that we often agree about the important things. That agreement should make us allies rather than opponents. The Devil and his army are united. We will not be able to stand against him unless we are united as well.
WE ALL HAVE A ROLE TO PLAY
Paul tells us that we have different gifts according to the grace given us. In 1 Corinthians Paul seems to amplify on what he is saying,
4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. (1 Cor. 12:4-7)
Notice what Paul tells us. First, not everyone is called or equipped to do the same thing. There are different gifts, service, and working, but the same Spirit who gives the gifts. Every spiritual gift comes from the same source.
You may not be able to do what another Christian is able to do and that is BY DESIGN! Too many people feel inferior because they can’t teach, sing, or speak in public. God never intended for everyone to be good at the same things. He has given us different gifts. Different does not mean better than or worse than . . . it simply means different. In 1 Corinthians 12:11 Paul says, “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines”. The different gifts are distributed as God determines. My calling to preach does not make me a better Christian than you; it doesn’t make me “more spiritual”. My calling to preach is simply the role God has called me to play. This gift is given not because of my merit but because of His Sovereign will. Our gifts are a “manifestation of the Spirit” not a manifestation of our goodness or spirituality!
Second, the gifts of the Spirit are given by God for the purpose of enriching the body of Christ. In other words, the abilities God gives us are given not primarily for our personal enrichment but for the enrichment of the body of Christ.
Practically there are some implications of these truths.
- If you have a gift that puts you in the public spotlight you should realize that God wants you to use that gift to enrich others rather than yourself. We should serve humbly.
- If your gifts and abilities don’t seem to be significant remember that we are not called to rank the gifts, we are called to exercise the gifts. The tear duct in your eye seems of little importance unless it isn’t working and your eyes have no moisture. There are no insignificant gifts!
- In whatever area of giftedness God has placed you, we are to remember that we are serving the Lord and each other. A husband who is tending to his wife who is in labor is eager to do what the wife wants. If she wants him to hold her hand, he does. If she wants ice chips, he gets them. If she wants him to rub her back, he will do that. If she tells him to “Get Out!” he will leave. A husband (who has any smarts at all) wouldn’t say, “Why don’t you ask me to do something more important?” He is happy to do whatever is necessary because he loves his wife and is eager to help her through this time.
This is the way we should approach the body of Christ. Out of love and gratitude we should be willing to do whatever God has given us to do. We do everything to the honor and glory of God. Every job is a privilege whether it is singing in worship or cleaning up after an event. It is a privilege to participate in the advancing of the Kingdom. There is no pursuit more satisfying, energizing and fulfilling than to joyfully do what we can to serve the Lord.
THE CHURCH WILL BE EFFECTIVE WHEN WE DO WHAT WE CAN DO
The key to effective ministry is when the church of Jesus Christ functions as a healthy body. Paul’s counsel is pretty simple, “If you are able to teach, teach; if you can serve, serve; if you are a preacher, preach. If you are an encourager, encourage.” In other words, our job is to do what we can do.
I know what many people are thinking: “I don’t know what I can do.” I suspect many of you do know what you can do . . . you just don’t realize that it is a ministry given by God.
We often use gift inventory tests to help people identify their place of service. I wonder if we aren’t often guilty of making things harder than they need to be. Here are some ideas on how to find out what God wants you to do.
First, ask yourself, “What am I good at?” Much of the time we take for granted what we are good at and assume that everyone can do what comes easy to us. That’s not true. If you aren’t sure what you are good at doing, talk to your friends. Sometimes our friends see our gifts more clearly than we do.
Perhaps you have an ability to relate to teenagers. They like to be around you, they open up to you, and seem to not be embarrassed when you are around. You have been given a gift.
Maybe you love to cook for others, maybe you like to clean, perhaps you enjoy organizing events, maybe you have a real heart of compassion for the elderly or the hurting. You may like building things or love to talk on the phone. Maybe you enjoy spending time in prayer or perhaps you have the resources to give generously. These things may very well be gifts from God.
Second, prayerfully ask, “How could I use my abilities for the Kingdom of God?” Let’s take some of the things we’ve mentioned and show how they can be used in the ministry of the body.
- The person who relates well to youth could fill a gap as a youth sponsor or Sunday School teacher. They could offer to transport kids to special events or volunteer to lead a youth Bible study. Maybe they could serve as a mentor or Big Brother.
- The person who likes to clean might donate time to helping keep the church clean or might volunteer to go into the homes of people who are sick, homebound, or those who have just had a death in the family and minister by cleaning that person’s home. It may seem like a little thing to you . . . it’s a big thing to the person who is being helped.
- The cook could volunteer to help with funeral dinners and dinners for new mothers. Perhaps they might bring a meal to a new family in the church as a way of welcoming them to our church. These people might want to organize a church meal to encourage fellowship.
- The person who enjoys working with their hands can help out with the many projects in and around the church. They could donate their labor to help an older person who can no longer care for their home as they’d like. Maybe they could donate their services to a single parent or someone with health problems.
- The person who talks on the phone might work to get the phone numbers of new people in the area and extend an invitation to worship. Perhaps they organize a phone-calling tree to keep people informed of ministry needs.
- The person who has a heart of compassion can visit people in hospitals, visit in the Nursing home, stop by to encourage shut-ins, and even help as a Hospice volunteer.
- A person who loves kids could volunteer to help babysit special events and be available to help families in crisis situations.
There are lots of things a person can do if they are willing to do what they can to serve the Lord.
Third, take a step of faith. Dare to use what you have been given. Dare to try something new. Exercise your faith muscle. Stop being embarrassed about saying, “Hey, I think I can do this!” It’s not bragging, it is being willing to do what God has equipped you to do. Paul’s counsel is simple, “Whatever it is that God has equipped you to do . . . do it!” Dare to step out of your comfort zone
Every one of us is busy. We all have dozens of things that clamor for our time and attention. It is up to us to choose how we will spend our time and our resources. It is my hope that you consider that God has given you gifts and abilities so that you can make an eternal difference.
Please consider how you can support the ministry of the body of Christ. There may be hundreds of years before Jesus Christ returns . . .or it could be very soon. Even if the Lord delayed, people we care for are lost and in need of a Savior. The work is great. There is much to do.
There is another consideration. It is only in doing when we do what God has called us to do that we will find the satisfaction, fulfillment, and joy we seek. There is something energizing about the work of the Lord. As we serve Him He gives us strength and we find that we are able to do so much more than ever imagined.
It’s important to remember that God is not asking us to do this by ourselves. He promises to give us the tools, the resources, and the guidance we need. He is not asking us to do it all. He is simply asking us to do what we can do.