Paul was one of those rare Christians who did it all. Almost everyone else does only what fits their gifts and opportunities. That is, each Christian seldom does it all: preaches, prophesies, teaches, leads, forms churches, takes care of widows and orphans, visits the sick and those in prison, prays constantly, evangelizes, gives generously, goes to the mission field, disciples numerous new believers, write books and songs, build hospitals, and so on. While the spiritually ambitious might want to be that prolific, there are not enough hours in a day!
Chambers warns about being snared by this kind of “spiritual success” for it is a snare, just as much as being caught up in worldliness is a snare. He points out that the disciples were warned about it by Jesus:
“Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20)
They were glowing in their power and Jesus told them it was better to glory in the reality of their salvation. Chambers calls this “the commercial view” where Christians look for evidence like ‘bigger, better, more’ to affirm or evaluate their work. He says our labor begins where God’s grace has laid the foundation; He saves souls; we must disciple them. I agree that one life devoted to the Lord is of more value to God than one hundred lives who have simply prayed the sinner’s prayer. This is because of Jesus’ command:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19–20)
Yet teaching others what the Lord has taught me can take many forms: a mentoring relationship, formal Bible study classes, informal time spent with other Christians, and so on. I can disciple other Christians, but sometimes God asks me to do a few of the other things on that list of Christian ministry. For me, no one thing has become a full-time occupation.
Rather than get caught up in the idea that I must do it all, I’m convinced that I am responsible to whatever God directs me to do, regardless of how insignificant it might seem. Those who claim His directions come from Scripture are correct, but again, it is physically impossible to do all of it. Instead, as I abide in Him and He lives in me, He makes known to me what to do and when to do it, some simple tasks and some more challenging.
Yesterday, He directed us to drop everything and spend a couple hours with our granddaughter. Later, it was clear that we needed rest. This morning, I’m to write these thoughts and later publish them to the Internet. I’m listening to Him because the next thing will likely be worship, but today He could also add prayer, counseling someone on the phone, preparing a gift for someone who is needy, or visiting an elderly friend.
The point is not making my own agenda based on a motivation of ‘spiritual success’ but being moved by the Spirit of God to do whatever He wants me to do, and those chores are often unexpected.
Being His disciple means that He is the One who determines the course of my Christian life, not some lofty standard set by my own ambition. Besides, I love His surprises!