Monthly Archives: June 2010

No Confidence in the Flesh

Dependence Upon the Lord

Dependence Upon the Lord - KP Yohannan Books

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Back in the 80s I had the opportunity to visit with Keith Green and the staff of Last Days Ministries. For a long time, I had received their newsletters and was quite impressed, thinking they must have some of the finest graphic designers working with them. However, during my visit I came to discover that the artists designing the Last Days newsletter weren’t trained professionals at all! They were just kids from the streets whose lives had been changed by Christ. Having given up the right to run their own life, these men and women simply served at Last Days Ministries the best they could. And because of their surrender and dependence upon what Christ could do through them, they were used to do great things.

Even though I’ve seen God use untrained men and women countless times, my eyes still search for the professionals. Just yesterday, I was looking at an application of someone who desired to serve with the Gospel for Asia staff. The first thing my eyes went to was the section about the applicant’s education and experience, scanning what kind of training and expertise the person had.

I am not saying there is something wrong with utilizing the gifts that God has given people or recognizing certain abilities—not at all. The leadership at GFA prays for God to bring people with specific skills and talents to work within the ministry. That is legitimate and appropriate. For it is God who gives us different skills, all so that we can use them to glorify His name. To one He gives five talents, to another two, and to another one, expecting us to invest them wisely (see Matthew 25). But I have seen time and again that a lack of education never hinders God from using an individual.

Please understand; I am not making light of education, skills or talents. But I do believe that it is only as we surrender our abilities to Him—give up our rights to own and rely on our strengths—that He can use us to accomplish great things for Him. There are biblical examples of this. Just think of Moses. Having been raised in Pharaoh’s house, Moses received some of the best leadership training of his day. Certainly God ordained this training for Moses, knowing that he could use this later in his life when leading the children of Israel, right? But such is not the case.

While Moses was in the desert as a criminal and serving as a shepherd (one of the lowliest of jobs in that day), God began to prepare Moses for fruitful service. How did God do this? By unraveling Moses’ confidence in himself, bringing him to the place where he even said, “God, I can’t do the job.” It was then that God was able to use Moses in a mighty way because he had nothing of his own to rely upon anymore—no previous training, no experiences to fall back on—nothing. Just simple dependence upon the Lord.

The same is true with the apostle Paul. He was an incredibly brilliant, well-trained individual. He studied under Gamaliel, a well-known philosopher and theologian, and was perfect in the Law. He was a Pharisee of Pharisees. History tells us that Paul was trained to perfectly debate and defend his faith. In Philippians 3:4 (NIV), Paul says of himself, “If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more and he goes on to list his professional credentials—the things that, under the law, qualified him for service.

Yet after Paul’s Damascus Road experience, God did not send him to the Jews where all these credentials would have seemed to be of great value. If I were God, I would have said, “Finally, I have found someone that I can use to impact the whole Jewish nation! Through his abilities, his knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures and his power of debate, the Jews will finally come to believe in my Son, Jesus.” If I were God, I would have said, “Look at his credentials, his education and his experience! He is definitely the one to do the work among the Jews.”

But God didn’t do that. Instead, He sent Paul to the Gentiles. That doesn’t seem to sound right. Paul could have spoken eloquently with the Jews, confounding them with his wisdom and his ability to decisively argue the facts. He knew all the laws, all the Scriptures, all the history and culture. In order for Paul to reach the Gentiles, he had to lay aside everything he knew so well, leaving him with nothing to fall back on. In his own words, Paul said,

“And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1, 4–5).

It is not that God only uses amateurs, the poor, the uneducated and those who lack ability. It is that God will only use those who will depend on Him—those who will give Him the glory for is done. The real issue is not how much education we have or do not have. The real issue is whether we are dependent upon God. God wants to use us all—professionals and amateurs alike. But He is not going to bless a work that leads anyone to depend more upon his or her own strength rather than on the strength of God.

Throughout his ministry, Paul learned how the “power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7, NIV) and how “our adequacy is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5, NASB), not from our experience or training. Even after years of preaching and service to God, numerous churches planted and incredible fruitfulness of his ministry, Paul still said, “ I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells” (Romans 7:18). In Philippians 3:3 (NIV), he said, “[We] put no confidence in the flesh.” May the Lord give us the attitude and understanding that Paul had in this—that we, in our flesh, are incapable of bearing good fruit that remains. But through Him, our lives can bear good fruit and bring glory to God.

© 2003 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

How the Job Was Done

Dependence Upon the Lord

Dependence Upon the Lord - KP Yohannan Books

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In 2 Chronicles, we find the story of King Asa, ruler of Judah. Having inherited the throne from his father, King Asa tore down all the idols of foreign gods early in his reign and commanded the people to seek the Lord (see 2 Chronicles 14:2–5). Soon thereafter, an army of 3 million men and 300 chariots attacked Judah. With only a mere 580,000 men comprising his army, King Asa quickly called everyone before the Lord and prayed, “LORD, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. O LORD, you are our God; do not let man prevail against you” (2 Chronicles 4:11, NIV).

The Lord was faithful to deliver that great army into King Asa’s hands—because he looked to and depended upon Him. The Lord also granted his nation 20 years of peace after that battle.

But oftentimes, the way we start out is not always the way we finish. And this is the reason why I seek to remind us that dependence upon the Lord is an absolute necessity if our lives are to bear any good fruit. We will never come to a place at which we will no longer need to look to God, depending fully on Him to provide strength, life and power. No matter what comes or goes, this spiritual truth remains central to the work of God in us and through us.

Twenty years after experiencing God’s faithfulness, King Asa is faced with another battle. Baasha, the king of Israel, begins to attack Judah by walling in the city, letting no person or supplies in or out. King Asa panics and quickly sends word to the King of Aram, asking him to break treaty by attacking Israel, forcing King Baasha to abandon his attack on Judah to defend his own country. The king of Aram does so, King Baasha flees back home to fight off his new enemy and Judah is kept safe (see 2 Chronicles 16:1–6).

We can just sense King Asa’s sigh of relief as his nation is saved from Israel’s attack. On the surface, his plan seemed to work; not only was he able to get rid of his enemy, but even gained a new ally in the process. But of this victory the Lord said,

“Because you relied on the king of Aram and not on the LORD your God, the army of the king of Aram has escaped from your hand. Were not the Cushites and Libyans a mighty army with great numbers of chariots and horsemen? Yet when you relied on the LORD, he delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war” (2 Chronicles 16:7–9, NIV).

From this Scripture portion, we see that God is not so much concerned with the end result as He is with how something is accomplished. If God were only concerned with the end result, He would have applauded King Asa for being so clever as to call on some distant king and devise such a cunning plan. But God clearly called King Asa’s plan foolishness because all of it depended on what man could do.

In essence, for the end to honor God, the means must honor God. If we are seeking to establish a work that will remain for all eternity, if our lives and what we do are to last the test of time, then the motive and the means must be centered and dependent upon the Lord. What matters most is that God is the leading factor rather than our own strength and ability.

This is because anything that is built on the ability, skill and expertise of men will never bear lasting fruit. We, like King Asa, can be deceived by quick results. True, everything may look wonderful in outward appearance—the elegance of buildings, the great number of people, the repertoire and esteem—but God looks past all these things into the heart. He knows whether or not a heart is fully committed to Him, leaning and depending upon Him above all else. He knows who has built the house and has said, “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Psalm 127:1).

Romans 14:23 (NIV) reminds us, “Everything that does not come from faith is sin.” When we depend upon ourselves, we cancel out any reason to have faith and depend on God. So then, whatever is done in our own strength, rather than in dependence upon God, is sin. And Scripture testifies that we can bear good fruit only when we, as the branch, remain dependent upon the life from the Vine. In John 15:4–5 (NIV), Jesus said, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

When we stop depending upon the Lord, our lives stop producing good fruit. This is exactly what happened to King Uzziah. Becoming king when he was only 16 years old, King Uzziah ruled in humility and depended on God to guide him and give him wisdom to rule. Second Chronicles 26:4–5 (NIV) says, “[Uzziah] did what was right in the eyes of the LORD. . . As long as he sought the LORD, God gave him success.” King Uzziah was successful because he depended upon the Lord. But sadly, as he became a more “competent” king, growing older and having some experience to fall back on, he no longer trusted or obeyed God. Instead, he did things his own way. Scripture says of him, “But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the LORD his God. . .” (2 Chronicles 26:16, NIV). His life ended in terrible tragedy; he became a leper.

The same downfall also happened to King Saul. He started out little in his own eyes, trusting the Lord in the beginning of his reign. But soon things changed. He became prideful, self-willed and strong in his own strength, seeing himself as important and competent. He stopped depending upon the Lord, and it cost him his throne and his life.

In the end, we must remember that the most important thing is not what was accomplished, but how it was accomplished. Were things done relying upon you—your strength and your provision—or were things accomplished by relying upon God? Jeremiah 17:5–6 says, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited.”

The Lord sets the choice before us to depend upon ourselves or to depend upon Him. The rest of Jeremiah 17 tells us the outcome of the man who, indeed, does rely upon the Lord: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7–8). Let us be those people who choose the way of blessing by honoring the Lord with hearts dependent upon Him.

© 2003 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

Are You Qualified?

Dependence Upon the Lord

Dependence Upon the Lord - KP Yohannan Books

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Remember David and Goliath, that familiar Bible story we were taught in Sunday school? We smile as we remember the flannel board display of this childhood story. Maybe you can even recite how the story unfolds: The young David, with sling and stone in hand, walks up to Goliath, trusting God, and lets loose the shot that caused the huge giant to fall.

But the story of David and Goliath is so much more than flannel board and familiarity. It truly happened. It was a real war, with real men defending their own country. David was just a boy, never skilled or trained in war, and Goliath really was a fearful giant. Step out of the familiarity and put yourself in David’s shoes for a moment. Can you imagine how he must have felt when he spoke to his king about victory, only to have the king laugh in his face at his “youthful courage”? Picture yourself in a battle for the first time, your countrymen watching you as you’re armed with a childhood toy. Hear the opposing troops chuckle as you pull out your slingshot and grab a stone from your pocket. Watch as some of your countrymen bow their heads in embarrassment as they see you ready your sling. The moment of truth is at hand. How sweaty your palms must be as they steady the shot. There’s no turning back now—this is all or nothing.

The story of David and Goliath is truly amazing! It’s a remarkable display not only of God’s faithfulness, but also of David’s incredible dependence upon the Lord. David had absolutely nothing to rely on—not a weapon, not experience, nothing. The only thing he depended on was the ability, faithfulness and power of God. And that was enough! He killed the giant that day—not because of his strength or his plan, but because he was depending upon God to give him the victory.

God desires to do the same in our lives as well, if we would only trust, lean and rely fully upon Him. Like David, we do not need to have a long list of credentials to qualify us to be used by God—simple dependence upon Him will do. Second Corinthians 4:7 says, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” The treasure spoken of in this verse is God within us. All the treasures of heaven are ours as a gift, to partake of and share with others but held in simple “earthen vessels”—you and I. The NIV translation calls us “jars of clay.” God wants us and the world to know that the treasure, the power and everything good that flows out of our lives come from Him, not from us. The jar of clay cannot produce water in and of itself; it can only be used to pour out what it has been filled with. God’s treasures flow out of us as we depend upon Him, the source of all good things.

Even though we live in a world today in which people are professionals and specialists, with doctors trained to do only certain types of surgery and Ph.D.s with a lot of knowledge in one specific area, God still looks past credentials, searching above all else for a heart that will depend upon what He can do.

In fact, all throughout Scripture it seems God uses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise. That’s exactly what 1 Corinthians 1:27 (KJV) says, “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” Numerous times, God finds an ordinary man or woman whose heart is fully dependent upon Him and works through that person in extraordinary ways, showing His power and might and bringing Him alone the glory and honor.

For example, a couple of years ago at our Bible school in Bangladesh, one man who served as a cook at the school desired to enroll in classes so that he could become a missionary. His heart for the Lord was great, but unfortunately, he did not meet the minimum education needed to be admitted into our Bible school. When the head principal heard about the cook’s desire to serve the Lord but that he was unable to attend the school, he told the cook that if he wanted, he may sit in on the Bible classes after he finished his cooking duties.

The cook was thrilled with this idea. So every morning and afternoon, as soon as he finished all his responsibilities in the kitchen, he attended bits and pieces of as many classes as he could to learn as much as possible. Soon the school year was coming to a close, with 18 smart, strong, young men ready to graduate from the Bible school and start their mission work. But the first new church in the area was not planted by one of the graduates. The first church was planted by the cook! And after he planted his first church, he turned it over to one of the graduates and went off to start another!

A classic biblical example of God using an ordinary person is found in the life of Noah. Never having built a boat before, Noah had absolutely zero qualifications to do so. But in Genesis 7:5, we find out why Noah was successful in the ark’s construction: “And Noah did according to all that the LORD commanded him.” Because Noah completely depended upon the Lord to show him what to do, the ark withstood 40 days of the greatest storm the world has ever known. The boat held up against all the beatings of the storm and finally came to rest, with all its animals safe and sound. The Titanic was built by men who knew what they were doing. It was specially designed by experts to be unsinkable. Men bragged about the wonderful ship they had built. Yet on its first voyage ever, it ran into an iceberg and went down in the Atlantic Ocean. Hundreds of men, women and children drowned in the ice-cold sea.

From David to Noah, we see that the only qualification to be used by God is absolute dependence on Him. These men were simple, yielded vessels looking to God alone, never relying upon mere human strength, experience or skill. Because of that, God was able to display His greatness through their lives.

© 2003 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

Dependence Upon the Lord

“That which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.” Luke 16:15, NASB

Introduction

Dependence Upon the Lord - KP Yohannan Books

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“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:1, 4–5, 8).

In our walk with the Lord and our service to Him, we must continue in the reality of this timeless truth every day—that “as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine,” neither can we unless we abide in Him. My prayer is that you would grow in your dependence upon the Lord alone and experience the joy of a life lived in full reliance upon Him.

Our next post will be Chapter 1 of this encouraging booklet.

© 2003 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

 

Seven Marks of Service – The Lord’s Work Done in the Lord’s Way by K.P. Yohannan

The Lord’s Work Done in the Lord’s Way

Seven Marks of Service

The Lord's Work Done in the Lord's Way - KP Yohannan Books

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I want to point out seven things we can be sure of when we do the Lord’s work in His way.

What God initiates, He will stand by. Whatever the Lord gave you to do, when you do it His way you can be sure that He will be faithful to you in it until the end. Whether your ministry is administration, giving, serving or showing kindness—if He initiated it, He will stand by it.

Consider Moses as one illustration. He didn’t initiate the liberation of the children of Israel. And until the end, God was faithful and took them into the Promised Land. Even though they messed up, God stood by them because He is the One who started it.

But be warned—if someone else initiated it or if you started it, I can assure you, it will be nothing but a burden. If you grab for something, it will become a real problem. But if it begins in Him, He will complete it.

A life that is committed to wait on Him will always be effective, because the ministry originated with Him is fulfilled by Him.

When we do the Lord’s work the Lord’s way, the fruit remains. Regardless of opposition, enemy attacks or delay, the fruit remains. With Madison Avenue methods, manipulation, tricks, intelligence and money, we can build a lot of things; but they will fade away in time. They will not endure for eternity. Psalm 127:1 says, “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. Unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.”

Our role in ministry is one of a love-slave relationship to our Lord. We will not seek for what makes us happy, more comfortable or better equipped. Our only desire is to glorify Him. Our attitude in ministry will be one of belonging to Him and doing His will. We will say, “Please, Master, I want to be yours and serve You because I love You. I will only listen to You, and I will only seek for Your glory.”

In this kind of a relationship, we will have God’s authority on us. We will have God’s power, provision and protection. When Jesus sent out His disciples in Matthew 28, He shared His authority with them. When He sends us out, He stands by us.

In Acts 27, Paul says to those who were on the ship in the storm with him, “I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve” (Acts 27:22–23).

Paul was not frightened or scared. There was boldness and authority in him. Heaven knew Paul; heaven recognized him because of the authority that was on his life that came from his relationship with Christ.

This kind of ministry will change us into the likeness of Christ. It will lead us into holiness and cause us to love Christ more. It is not the work that will bring about these changes; it is waiting upon the Lord that changes us. When we stand before God, we are transformed.

Second Corinthians 3:18 says, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” We become like Him as we behold Him. Are you becoming more like Him—the humble One, the broken One, the One who came to serve?

When we do the Lord’s work the Lord’s way, we remain faithful and committed to what He has called us to. Second Corinthians 4:1–2 says, “Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.” We don’t give up. Not everything is going to go well. There will be hardships, trials and temptations. But the Lord is the One who called us. It is His work, and as we stand before Him, we receive His grace, grace that is sufficient for every season and trial of life.

When our life is over and the work the Lord has given us is completed, our reward will be given to us by the Lord Himself. He is coming back with the reward in His hand. Paul says in 2 Timothy 4:7–8 (NIV), “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

He is coming to you with the reward for you because you waited before Him, you loved Him, you followed Him—you did the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way.

© 2004 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

Notes

Chapter 1 1 Zac Poonen, God-Centered Praying (Bangalore, India: Christian Fellowship Centre, 1971), p. 35. Copyright by Zac Poonen, 6 DaCosta Square, Bangalore– 560084. Chapter 3 1 A.W. Tozer, The Tozer Pulpit—Vol. 1 (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1994), pp. 134–136. Chapter 4 1 Madame Guyon, Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ—Vol. 2 (Sargent, GA: Seedsowers, 1975), pp. 53–54. Chapter 5 1 Roy Hession, “When I Saw Him . . .”: Where Revival Begins (Fort Washington, PA: CLC, 1975), pp. 17, 21–22. 2 J.C. Metcalfe, Molded by the Cross, ed. Robert Delancy (Fort Washington, PA: CLC, 1997), p. 38. Chapter 6 1 Zac Poonen, Living As Jesus Lived (Bangalore, India: Christian Fellowship Centre, 1977), p. 30. Copyright by Zac Poonen, 6 DaCosta Square, Bangalore– 560084. 2 Ibid. 3 Ibid.

Jesus

The Lord’s Work Done in the Lord’s Way

Jesus Our Model

The Lord's Work Done in the Lord's Way - KP Yohannan Books

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Jesus is our perfect example of how to do the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way. In his book Living As Jesus Lived, Zac Poonen spoke of this, saying,

Jesus has not only redeemed us through His death, but also shown us through His life on earth, how God intended man to live. He is not only our Saviour but also our Forerunner (Heb. 6:20). He has given us an example of how to live at all times and in all situations, in perfect obedience to God. Jesus did not come to earth as an angel, but like us. The Bible says, “He was made like His brothers in all things” (Heb. 2:17) (His brothers are His disciples— Matt. 12:50.) If He had not been made like us (His brothers) “in all things,” He could not have become our Example.1

Consider the example He gave us in the Gospel of John. All throughout, we see Jesus saying, “The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner” (John 5:19). “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me” (John 5:30). “I speak what I have seen with My Father” (John 8:38). “For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak” (John 12:49). “The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works” (John 14:10).

In all these verses, there is a common element—Jesus did nothing and said nothing apart from the Father. Everything Christ did flowed out from His relationship with the Father. Nothing else and no one else, not even Himself, motivated Jesus to do what He did.

Remember when Jesus called His disciples? Nowhere in the Gospels do we read that the Father called the disciples. Jesus went and called the disciples. But when He talked to the Father about them, He said, “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me” (John 17:6, emphasis mine).

Do you see it? The selection of the 12 disciples was not Christ’s choice; it was His Father’s. Jesus was only doing the Father’s will.

The night before Jesus called them He didn’t sleep. He “continued all night in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12). All night He stood before His Father waiting for His direction and plan, and “when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself” (Luke 6:13).

He didn’t say, “John, Matthew, My Father is calling you.” No. He said, “Come, follow me” (Mark 1:17, NIV). And they followed Him.

Another thing we can learn from our Lord as we serve Him, is how He made Himself a servant to the Father. Therefore, it was never external things that motivated Him, but His love for the Father and desire to serve Him and do what He desires.

Jesus never acted merely because He saw a need. He saw the need, was concerned about it, but acted only when His Father told Him to. He waited at least four thousand years in Heaven, while the world lay desperately in need of a Saviour, and then came to earth when His Father sent Him (Jn. 8:42). “When the right time came, the time God decided on, He sent His Son” (Gal. 4:4-Living). . . . And when Jesus came to earth, He did not just go around doing whatever He felt was good. Even though His mind was perfectly pure, yet He never acted on any bright idea that came to mind. No. He made His mind a servant of the Holy Spirit.2

Today there are those who seemingly serve the Lord. They do great things and have such apparently great ministries, but the Lord has nothing to do with it.

Jesus spoke of these people in Matthew 7:22–23 (NLT)—“On judgment day many will tell me, ‘Lord, Lord, we prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Go away; the things you did were unauthorized.’ ”

What can we learn from this?

I know for our movement, there are so many opportunities and challenges we face. There are students to train, leaders to raise up, missionaries to send out. We need to get the job done. There is tremendous opportunity. The list of things to do is so long, the need urgent and the door wide open.

But we must make sure to follow our Example. “There were many good things that Jesus could have done, that He never did, because they were outside the scope of His Father’s will for Him. He was always busy doing the very best things. And those were enough. He had not come to earth to do good things, but to do the will of His Father.”3

It is wonderful that we move forward as best we can to accomplish whatever job the Lord has called us to do. It is good to be driven and focused and moving full speed ahead. We cannot be slothful. Christ was never lazy or slothful. Neither were His disciples.

But the key question is this: When it is all said and done, can we say like Christ did to His Father, “Father, thank You for the students You gave us. Father, thank You for the staff You recruited. Thank You for the missionaries You sent out and the leaders You raised up. It is You who gave all these to us, and this work is the work You gave us to do.”

When we enter into this kind of striveless serving, doing simply what He has given us to do, our lives and ministry change. All the murmuring and complaining that come with trying to make things happen cease. There is no scratching your head, pulling out your hair and going nights without sleep, wondering what is going to happen and how the need will be met.

Why?

Because the work is not dependent on your plans, your meetings or your efforts. You simply allow the Lord to live through you. You enter His rest.

When we serve Him like this, we are able to endure the hardest days and the most painful seasons of life, because it is Christ living in us and He is the One doing the work through us. Our attitude remains one of trust and love, and we are able to say, “Lord, thank You for the privilege You gave me to serve You. I am grateful.”

© 2004 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

No Sweat

The Lord’s Work Done in the Lord’s Way

No Sweat

 

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When our ministry to the people around us is done as a ministry unto the Lord—doing His work in His way— there will be no striving. There will be no human sweat.

Why?

Because sweat signifies man’s effort. The first time sweat is mentioned in the Bible is in Genesis 3:19. Because Adam had eaten from the forbidden tree, God told him, “Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread” (Genesis 3:17–19).

Sweat is a result of the curse that sin brought. Because of it, the ground would not yield its fruit without man’s effort and sweat.

Scripture also tells us that those who ministered before the Lord in the inner court were not to wear anything made of wool, anything that would cause them to sweat. “And it shall be, whenever they enter the gates of the inner court, that they shall put on linen garments; no wool shall come upon them while they minister within the gates of the inner court . . . They shall not clothe themselves with anything that causes sweat” (Ezekiel 44:17–18).

This is a picture of the kind of service that honors the Lord. Work done out of man’s ability, smartness or money can be a horrible sweat. But when you come to the place in your life at which you begin to live and serve in His strength, you understand what it means to bear His yoke, which is easy and light (see Matthew 11:28).

In this way, the assignment He gives you will never destroy you emotionally or physically. It will not tear you apart. Why? Because you are not working in the realm of human talents, resources and strength. You are not producing it out of your own labor and sweat. There is no longer any flesh involved. It is Him—ministry unto Him and empowered by Him.

This brings tremendous freedom and liberty to laugh and be content and joyful in whatever comes. It makes no difference whether you are asked to turn the world upside-down or just to be a doorkeeper at the house of God. You simply do the work that He has given you in the strength that He supplies as a ministry unto Him.

Forsaking Our Own Ways

Is your life full of suspense, frustration and discouragement? Are you worried about the future? Are you anxious and frustrated, discouraged in the ministry and ready to quit? Are you one saying, “This ministry stuff is hard. It’s not fair. I just want to do some ordinary job and have a normal life again”? Maybe you need to learn from the life of the prophet Isaiah.

Roy Hession, in his book “When I Saw Him . . .”: Where Revival Begins1 relates Isaiah’s encounter with the Lord. He starts out by describing him, from the first five chapters of Isaiah, as being a man full of anger. As a prophet, he is speaking the words of God, but you can hear his anger and frustration in it all. Isaiah is really sweating. He is trying to do what God called him to do, but in his own strength, ability and sweat.

Then in Isaiah 6 something happens.

I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” (Isaiah 6:1–3).

Isaiah “saw the Lord.” This changed everything. In God’s holy presence, he becomes absolutely undone. And not only did he see the Holy One, but listen as he describes in detail the heavenly creatures who cried out, “Holy is the LORD!”

Each seraphim had six wings. Notice how only two of the wings were for the work of flying; the other four were used to veil themselves.

These were incredibly glorious and beautiful creatures, but the One who sat on the throne was far greater and infinitely more beautiful and awesome. The seraphim didn’t want their presence in any way to divert attention from the One who sat on the throne, so they covered themselves with their wings.

Please understand. Isaiah’s ministry was preaching! He was a powerful orator—a prophet! But suddenly, as he stood in God’s presence with the veiled seraphim, he saw how his work, all his service was just filthy rags because it was done in his own strength. He was striving and sweating doing the ministry.

The same thing can happen to us when we come into His presence. Our strength, abilities and success become of no importance. In His presence, all else becomes shadows. The strength and effort of ourselves are exposed for the frailty they are compared to His.

My brothers and sisters, we must have this type of experience in our ministry. We must continually see the Lord. By this our ministry remains focused on the Holy One, and we live in His presence and minister in His strength. Like the seraphim, the majority of our ministry must be not the work, but be ministering to the Lord—in everything seeking to exalt Him, to magnify Him and to bring all the attention and praise to the One on the throne. Like John the Baptist, we must live with the ministry mindset that “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30, NIV).

When God took away Isaiah’s uncleanness, his ministry was transformed and without sweat. The same thing happens to us as we continually come before Him. We are taken up with Him and lost in the wonder of His presence. Then our ministry and what we can do no longer matter; it is only Him and seeking to bring Him glory.

My brothers and sisters, this is the way to live! Let us lay down our striving and our sweat and do His work His way. Then there is nothing to get frustrated and worked up about, and our lives bear good fruit that endures for all eternity.

My Personal Experience

How Isaiah was in the first five chapters of the book of Isaiah reminds me of myself in the beginning days of our movement.

The preaching I did in many churches during those days was very judgmental and critical. I used kind words, but inside I was angry all the time. I was frustrated. God had told me to do what I was doing, and I was doing it. I expected people to jump up and down in excitement and join with us to see God’s work done, but it wasn’t happening that way at all!

Instead, right after I shared about the great need of the lost world, the leaders of these churches would take me out for ice cream, all while having a good time laughing and joking.

It was while driving in North Carolina one day, from one meeting to the next, that I simply could not take it anymore. I was so frustrated and angry, trying in every way I knew how to do the ministry He had called me to and still not seeing the results I expected.

In the midst of this frustration, driving along in a little Chevette, the Lord spoke: “My son, you are so torn up and hurt inside. You are complaining and murmuring like you are against the whole world and the whole world is against you. Just give it up. It’s Me. Do only what I ask you to do. That’s all that matters. Don’t seek for praise. Don’t seek for results.”

I was on the road for an hour and a half as the Lord spoke to me. When it was over, I was so thrilled and excited to get to the next meeting place because of the incredible freedom that had just entered my life.

I arrived at my meeting and shared, and the Lord touched the hearts of people that night. I couldn’t even remember all that I had said. It was nothing I made happen. Many came forward with tears and repentance. I ministered with the awareness that I was there only because He asked me to come. I represented Christ—that was all I knew. I was free, and what I was doing was only for Him. Nothing else mattered. I wasn’t looking for results. I wasn’t striving any longer. That was one of the significant turning points in my life and in our ministry.

Consecrated Flesh

What are some sure signs that we are ministering in our own strength? When we seek to do the ministry dependent upon our own strength rather than ministering out of the abundance of a life lived in His presence, three things happen.

First, our service becomes self-willed. I see the needs. I make the plans. I have the agendas. I know better. It is ME!

Second, our service is by self-effort. It is my effort. It is my work. It is laborious and produces sweat. It is a pain in the neck.

Third, it is for self-glory. I get disappointed when people don’t recognize what I have done. It bothers me when people don’t appreciate me or when somebody else gets the appreciation for what I have done. Because my flesh did it, I want something out of it. We are full of our own ways.

Jessie Penn-Lewis was a godly woman greatly used in the Welsh revival. In the book, Molded by the Cross, she tells how God dealt with her on this issue.

Then came the climax, when one morning I awoke and saw before me a hand holding up in terrible light a handful of filthy rags, whilst a gentle voice said: “This is the outcome of all your past service for God.” “But Lord, I have been surrendered and consecrated to Thee all these years; it was consecrated work!” “Yes, My child, but all your service has been CONSECRATED FLESH; the outcome of your OWN ENERGY; your OWN PLANS for winning souls; your OWN DEVOTION. All for Me I grant you, but yourself, all the same.”2

Our service can be just flesh that is consecrated to God. But God does not want flesh consecrated to Him. It is full of wrong motives, stress, worry and sweat.

For Isaiah, the answer to the problem was cleansing. He admitted his sin. He said, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5).

The answer is the same for us. No matter where we are in our journey, when we fail in our ministry, beginning to carry things out in our own flesh, we need to come before Him and repent. He is faithful to cleanse our ministry and purify us for service. For Isaiah there was the burning coal that the angel brought to touch his lips. The great ministry Isaiah had happened after that incident.

We must have a similar experience, to be cleansed of our own ways so that we may know Him and serve Him in a way that brings Him true honor and praise.

Know Him

Today, as of old, God is searching for those who will do His work in His way— those who will simply seek to know Him and minister out of their love for Him and as unto Him.

In Ezekiel 22:30 God said, “So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one.”

Notice the statement, “to stand . . . before Me.” God was looking for just one person to simply “stand” before Him, to come into His presence and know Him.

The sad thing is, if you read earlier in that chapter of the book of Ezekiel, you find many people—prophets, priests and princes—involved in active, visible service. But God said (paraphrase), “In all of these I can’t find even one who knows My ways. All they want is to know My acts. Just like the children of Israel, they want miracles. They want results. They want things they can see and talk about. But they do not want to know My ways.”

How I pray that the Lord would find in us a people who seek the greater thing—sitting at His feet in love and adoration, wanting simply to draw close to our Lord and know Him more. Only when we become people who live in His presence, continually listening for Him, will we be people fully equipped for every good work, able to carry out the ministry He gave us to do.

 

© 2004 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

Purified in His Presence

The Lord’s Work Done in the Lord’s Way

Purified in His Presence

The Lord's Work Done in the Lord's Way - KP Yohannan Books

Click the image to download your free copy.

Why is doing the Lord’s work the Lord’s way so important? If the job is getting done, doesn’t that justify the means?

The answer is no.

Why is it so critical for us to continually take the time to wait upon Him and hear from Him, drawing close and living in His presence? Because when we do not, we are walking in sin.

You see, there are two types of sin that we need to be mindful of. One is the sin of rebellion—we refuse to wait to know what the Master’s will is and do what we want to do with an independent, rebellious spirit, void of brokenness and humility.

The second is the sin of presumption. This is where we run ahead with our own plans and in our own understanding, never taking the time to hear what He desires or to find out His ways.

The prevention to each of these sins is found in waiting upon the Lord.

You see, by choosing to come into His presence, we leave aside our agenda and prepare ourselves to submit to His yoke. In His presence we are changed; the independent spirit is substituted for His will and His ways. Our hearts change as a deep transformation takes place within.

Yet it never happens overnight. This process of continually changing and becoming like the Lord only takes place as we take the time to be with Him, to sit at His feet and to gaze upon Him (see 2 Corinthians 3:18).

It is in these times that we are emptied of ourselves and become one with Christ. We experience the joy and victory of knowing that the ministry we have received is from the Lord and for Him (see 1 Corinthians 4:1). It is through this that the Lord can manifest His life and His glory and carry out His purposes through our earthen vessels, just as Jesus allowed His Father to fulfill His plan through His life on earth.

Freed for Pure Ministry

Waiting before the Lord and ministering to Him is so crucial because it deals with the worst enemy that keeps us from experiencing the fullness of God’s life, out of which all ministry must flow. That enemy is our “self.”

As we pull away from the busyness and all that can seem to clutter our lives and wait before Him, God removes us from ourselves and into His pure presence. By this our life and ministry are made pure, bringing Him true glory and honor.

As a goldsmith purifies the metal in the furnace, so our waiting in His presence is the means by which the Lord purifies our soul.

Hebrews 12:29 tells us that, “Our God is a consuming fire.” As we throw ourselves into His hands and abandon all that we are—all of our plans, ambitions, ministry, desires, everything—the knowledge of the Holy One, the Consuming Fire, invades every area of our being, purifying us. The knowledge of the Lord and the understanding of His ways gradually consume all that is earthly and of self.

Even Job, the man acknowledged by God as the most godly and righteous person on earth, still had to go through this fire of purification. While his friends and wife did not understand the ways of God, he waited before the Lord, crying out, “When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10, NASB).

In her book Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ, Madame Guyon writes about this change that takes place as we wait upon the Lord, using nature as an example.

Observe the ocean. The water in the ocean begins to evaporate. Then the vapor begins moving toward the sun. As the vapor leaves the earth, it is full of impurities; however, as it ascends, it becomes more refined and more purified. What did the vapor do? The vapor did nothing. It simply remained passive. The purifying took place as the vapor was drawn up into the heavens! There is one difference between your soul and those vapors. Although the vapor can only be passive, you have the privilege of cooperating voluntarily with the Lord as He draws you inwardly toward Himself. . . . Of course, the closer you are drawn to God, the farther you are removed from the activities of your natural man. The natural man, to be sure, is very opposed to your inward drawing toward God. Nonetheless, there will come a point when you will finally be established in [waiting before Him]. From that point on, it will be natural for you to live before the Lord!1

If our outward actions are the result of a change that has taken place deep within our hearts—which comes from our intimate fellowship with Him—then what we do has spiritual value and lasts for eternity.

We don’t want to be like the prophets in Jeremiah’s time. They were servants of God, yet they did not remain in that attitude of waiting before Him, to hear from Him and follow His ways rather than their own. Because of this, their rebellious hearts led them and many astray. Of them God said,

“They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. . . . But which of them has stood in the council of the LORD to see or to hear his word? Who has listened and heard his word? . . . I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied. But if they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds” (Jeremiah 23:16, 18, 21–22, NIV, emphasis mine).

Notice how all this happened because they would not stand before the Lord. They were full of activity—prophesying, preaching, and so on—but it was not done out of standing before Him, ministering to Him or waiting in His presence. Their hearts and ministry were never purified, and the work they did did not flow out of love for Him. Their work was not done in the Lord’s way.

The only way we can live a life and ministry pleasing to God is if we come His way—the way of listening, humbling ourselves and continually following. We who began well must be careful to continue on the right path.

We must take the time to wait before Him, looking to Him alone until the whole divine presence comes and fills our soul. This is the only way we are prepared to serve others on behalf of our Lord.

© 2004 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

Foundations of Ministry – The Lord’s Work Done in the Lord’s Way by K.P. Yohannan

The Lord’s Work Done in the Lord’s Way

Foundations of Ministry

The Lord's Work Done in the Lord's Way - KP Yohannan Books

Click the image to download your free copy.

It’s not always easy to wait. If we are honest, we will admit that we are usually restless when we have nothing to do. We need noises and things happening all the time. We want to be kept busy and have something to do at any given moment of the day. Most of us have difficulty just being quiet and still, waiting before the Lord.

Why is it so hard to wait? Oftentimes it can be because our motive in the ministry is wrong.

Why Restless?

In the past, we have had a couple of families on staff with us who left the ministry because they were dissatisfied, feeling as though they were not doing what they considered “real” ministry.

In one particular situation I remember a wife who said, “I came here to serve the Lord, and I have no ministry.” This family had two children to take care of, but for her, raising those children in the fear of the Lord, serving her family and being an intercessor for the lost world was not real ministry. She wanted to do something that appeared more significant.

Please understand. It is good to long to serve God in the best way we can. But discontentment, discouragement, frustration and grumbling just because we don’t like what the Lord gave us to do is not good. We must be able to discern between truly desiring to please the Lord and our own restlessness and self-seeking.

We must be able to discern what is motivating us in the work of the Lord. A lot of times we can be pulled in many different directions by the needs around us. And we can like it too.

The work of the Lord certainly has its satisfaction for the flesh. There is the crowd of people, the results, the praise, the attention and the “thank-yous”—all of these can really make the flesh feel good. We definitely enjoy the attention, the limelight and the sense of accomplishment and self-worth that come in ministry.

But what we are called to in serving Him must be rooted in pleasing Him and done out of our love for Him—not our own gratification and glory. It must be for His.

Two Kinds of Servants

In Ezekiel 44, we find two groups of servants of God. One group were the Levites who spent their days busy, busy, busy in the outer court of the temple serving the people who came to worship the Lord.

These men were responsible for preparing the sacrifices and getting them ready for offering. Twenty-four hours a day, they were busy in the outer court, where it was full of people and noises. Many people saw the work the Levites were doing; it was a very visible thing. They were dragging the animals in, sacrificing them and putting them on the altar. These men were in great demand by the multitudes, pulled in all different directions, motivated by the screaming needs around them and all that needed to be done.

But there was also another group—the sons of Zadoc. These were men of the inner court. Where they stood, there was stillness. Unlike the outer court, the inner court was silent. Deadly quiet. The only individual there was God. There was no busyness, no service in front of people, no demand but to come into the holy of holies and minister unto the Lord.

Let me ask you—which group are you in? Are you like one of the sons of Zadoc, more concerned with coming into the holy of holies and ministering to the Lord than being busy serving the people? Or do you just keep going, going, going, moved in every direction with the busyness of the ministry? These are serious questions we must ask ourselves.

This reminds me of the story of Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38–42 (NIV).

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

It is clear in this passage, although our flesh would much rather be in the center of attention, that the better thing is to be more concerned with sitting “at the Lord’s feet listening,” rather than busy with all the ways we are trying to serve God. It wasn’t that Martha’s service was wrong. Not at all. What was wrong was that “Martha was distracted” from her first love by all of it. Jesus said Mary “has chosen what is better”—to leave the busy place of the outer courts and come into the inner court and minister to Him.

Purify Our Hearts

But the truth is, we all have the same problem—wicked hearts. We’d rather be one of the priests who are busy standing before the people, active in what is immediately needed. We want our ministry to look dramatic and effective. Our flesh wants to glory in the praise of men.

Just think about it. If asked to do a job that is below our educational qualifications or beneath our dignity, how glad are we? How eager are we to continue if the results are not what we would like?

As humans, we often measure godliness and spirituality by external activities or a certain type of behavior that we see in people. The Pharisees were considered extremely spiritual people by the way they fasted and prayed and put on a humble demeanor.

Yet we know how Jesus spoke of them, identifying them for what they truly were and pronouncing the worst judgment upon them (see Matthew 23:13). Despite how spiritual they looked, they did not know the Father. And without that, all their religious activity meant nothing. The motivation behind all their action was full of self, not love for God. The motive is what makes the work spiritual or unspiritual.

We shouldn’t worry about how things look, what people might be saying, or whether or not there are the results we thought there would be. Our number-one concern must be to know Him and His ways and to follow His lead.

When we live like this, what happens, whether good or bad in man’s sight, whether productive or useless in man’s opinion has no bearing. We are not working for human beings. We are doing it because of our love for Him. It is ministry unto Him, and this pleases Him.

May we be reminded of the words of Paul, who facing incredible responsibilities, great need and overwhelming difficulties still said, “None of these things move me” (Acts 20:24). The difficulties and problems, all the blessings and praise, the good and the bad that happened, none of these things changed his course. Issues of personal life or loss did not sway him. All he wanted to do was the ministry the Lord gave him to do. Nothing else and nobody else motivated him.

Please, we need to evaluate what our motive has been in serving the Lord. Are we seeking to meet the need around us, or are we seeking to know and please Him? Are we controlled, motivated and energized by our talents and by opportunities that present themselves? Do needs and others’ voices guide our course? Or do we really know, in our innermost being, that we are serving our King? Ask yourself these questions.

Whatever we are doing, whoever we are serving, we must be able to do it all with the heart attitude that we are doing this for no one but our God.

Fruitful Stillness

Please understand. I am not saying that it is better to forsake the work of the ministry to pursue the “deeper life” of just drawing close to God in solitude. There are some who give such great emphasis on this “deeper life,” yet so much of the actual work that God has for them goes neglected under the license of “waiting” upon Him. This can often just be a glorified laziness—and there are plenty of verses throughout Scripture that speak of the downfall of the sluggard (see Proverbs 21:25).

If we look at the life of Jesus, we see He was extremely busy—traveling here, walking there, healing her, touching him, speaking from a boat, teaching on a hill. He used His time and opportunities to the maximum.

Yet we also read, over and over again, how He would break away from the crowd and all the activity to be with the Father. His entire ministry, all of the seeming “busyness,” flowed out of His intimate relationship with the Father.

A.W. Tozer spoke of the need for this today, saying,

There is no question but that part of our failure today is religious activity that is not preceded by an aloneness—an inactivity. I mean the art of getting alone with God and waiting in silence and in quietness until we are charged, and then, when we act, our activity really amounts to something, because we have been prepared for it. . . . We can go to God with an activity that is “inactive.” We go to God with a heart that isn’t acting in the flesh or in the natural—trying to do something— but going to God and waiting. It just means that within, our inner spirit is seeing and hearing and mounting up on wings, while the outer, physical person is inactive, and even the mind is to some degree suspended. . . . There is an inactivity which, paradoxically, is the highest possible activity. There can be a suspension of the activity of the body as when our Lord told His disciples to tarry until they were filled with the Holy Spirit—and they did! They waited on God.1

My brothers and sisters, first thing must be first. It all comes back to this one priority: our love for Jesus. No matter how hard we try, no matter what methods we try, the service that pleases Him most is the service done out of love.

© 2004 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

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