“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.” – 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (NIV)
It may be presumptuous of me to think anyone cares, but I’m going to share with you – or at least attempt to share – my heart for ministry. Well… some small part of it. If I really got into the subject and wrote as deeply as I’d like, you’d be reading a book, not a blog. And since I find brevity too often to be my enemy, this will be a bit of a struggle. (As you can see, I’m wrestling with the fine art of getting to the point at this very moment.) So… here we go.
I believe, quite strongly, that I have a job to do. A God-given task. And the same goes for you. Each of us is wired differently – unique gifts, talents, abilities, desires, dreams… I feel my job is, in part, to encourage believers to dare to live out the plan God has placed within them and before them.
Living the life God plans for us requires four elements (which Paul spells out in the verse at the top of this post):
Be on your guard
In the original text, this phrase is expressed as one Greek word: γρηγορέω (grēgoreō). It is a warning sign, an exhortation to be diligent in vigilance. Remember, as Peter so aptly warns us, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8, NIV).
If you are my age, you probably remember watching Wild Kingdom. While Marlin Perkins was sitting in his wood paneled den, poor Jim Fowler was somewhere in the African jungle. Marlin would describe the action taking place, explaining what Jim was doing out there in the bush and why. And then, all of a sudden, you’d hear Marlin say (in an overly calm voice), “Uh-oh, looks like Jim unknowingly stepped on that lion’s tale. Look at the vice-like jaws on that Panthera leo. Those teeth can tear a gazelle into lunchmeat in a matter of minutes. Good thing Jim has life insurance with Mutual of Omaha.” (Cut to commercial.)
For what it’s worth, Jim never got torn limb from limb on national television. Why? He was diligent in vigilance. He was careful, watchful, mindful of what was going on around. (Plus, I’ll bet his senses perked and the hair on the back of his neck reflexively stood straight up every time he heard Marlin say, “Uh-oh…”) Understand this: we have an enemy. And when we’re doing nothing with our lives, we’re no threat. But, as soon as we begin doing something good or noble or living out the plan of God for our lives, we become a threat to our enemy, and, thus, a target.
Know the warning signs. Understand the danger ahead. Maybe the problem is pride, or fear, or some temptation that weakens us. Be very careful not to let your work be undermined. Don’t give the enemy a toe-hold. Be alert, be ready, be wise, be on your guard.
How do we do this? First – and you will find I always prescribe this first – pray and stay. Spend time with God every day, praying and staying in His Word. Have a reading plan, have a notebook. Don’t just toss out a quick “’Mornin’ Lord, gee thanks, gotta go!” Take the time – invest the time – to prayerfully seek Him.
Second, have an accountability partner. Find someone you trust, someone you can talk to, and make a point of having regular, weekly (at the very least) contact. Honest contact. Let them know where your weak points are, and help them with theirs. Let them be your Marlin Perkins.
Third, be determined. Set your mind on doing God’s work God’s way. Let God’s Word be the standard for your life. See sin for what it is and avoid it like the plague. Let God rule your life, as opposed to letting circumstances call the shots. Be wise. Be mindful. Be prayerful. And when you hear that voice say, “Uh-oh,” be prepared.
Next time: Maintaining a Firm Stance in Our Faith