In 1 Samuel 2:12-21, we meet the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Pinehas, who were described as worthless. Yes, they were priests, but they were worthless. The actual wording for this text reads as follows, “And the sons of Eli were sons of worthlessness.” The word for “worthlessness” in Hebrew is belial, which derives from beliy (without) and yaal (value). In other words, they were wicked and without any value; they were good for nothing.
Why would the Bible describe Eli’s sons this way?
First, the Bible describes Eli’s sons this way because “they did not know the LORD” (v.12). They were aware of Jehovah of course, but did not truly know Him. In Genesis 4:1 we read, “Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain.” The word “knew” in Genesis 4 and the word “know” in 1 Samuel 2 both refer to a personal, intimate relationship. If you do not know God personally, you are like Eli’s sons—worthless before God.
Because Eli’s sons did not know the Lord, they were children of Belial despite being covenant children. “Belial” is used in 2 Corinthians 6:15 as another name for Satan. In that passage we are instructed not to be yoked together with unbelievers. We are also reminded in that same passage that righteousness and lawlessness, darkness and light, are incompatible with one another (2 Cor. 6:14-15). You cannot be both a child of the Devil and a child of God at the same time. You are either a child of God (believer), or a child of Satan (unbeliever). There is no third category.
These observations lead us to ask some personal questions. Do you know the LORD? Eli’s sons even grew up in the tabernacle, but their heritage had no bearing on whether or not they were saved, because they did not know God. The same goes for you and me, growing up in a church cannot save us. “I am religious,” you might say. Eli’s sons were religious too, but religion cannot save you. “I am a spiritual person,” you argue. You can be “spiritual,” and still be spiritually dead. “I am a pastor, or an elder, or a deacon. I am involved in many church activities.” Eli’s sons were in a holy position, involved in many activities of the congregation of Israel, including regular sacrifices and offerings but it meant nothing without a personal relationship with God. As we read in Matthew 7: 21-23, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name… and do mighty works in your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” Jesus never knew them, because they never knew Jesus. So, again, my dear friend, ask yourself, “Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ?”
Secondly, Eli’s sons were called wicked because they did not follow God’s law. Belial in Hebrew also means “lawlessness.” 1 Samuel 2:13-16 describes the customs of the priests and what they ought to do. The fat was supposed to be burned and offered to God first (Lev. 7:31). But, in verse 17 of 1 Samuel 2, we learn that the sons of Eli willfully disobeyed this law by demanding their portion of the offering before it was burned on the altar. They chose to disregard God’s law. They were lawless in their blatant and deliberate choice to disregard God’s command. And they never repented of their sin.
Third, Hophni and Phinehas were called wicked because they abused and profaned their office as priests. In their selfish greed, they used their position to their own advantage and for their own profit. They treated the people of Israel with disrespect in the process by taking meat for the offering out of the cooking pot while it was cooking. Hophni and Phinehas even forced the Israelites to give up the meat before they began to offer it (while it was still raw). Furthermore, they committed sexual immorality at the very entrance of the tabernacle. Using their privileged positions for their own gain made them both worthless and lawless in God’s eyes.
What other lessons can we take away from this text?
First lesson: You can be a righteous parent but still have a wicked child. Eli was a believer of God and a righteous man. His name means “my God.” When you read the first verse of our text, it might sound as though Eli was a wicked father: “The sons of Eli were sons of Belial” (KJV). Does this mean that Eli was wicked? No, it does not! He had many shortcomings but he was a believer in the Lord. It is possible for godly parents to have ungodly children. This reminds us that we cannot transform our children, but God can. Do not blame yourself by placing unnecessary guilt on yourself for your children’s evil choices, if, by God’s grace, you have done all you could to raise them in the fear of the Lord.
Second lesson: You can be a believer in Christ and an irresponsible parent at the same time. Eli was both a high priest and a civil judge in Israel for forty years (1 Sam. 4:18). Yet, he failed to discipline and correct his sons as he should have (1 Sam. 3:12.). This failure resulted in God’s judgement on Eli’s entire household. As a parent, do not be afraid to discipline your children. It does hurt, but sometimes the most loving thing you can do is to rebuke your children and let them know they are wrong (Pro. 23:13-14, 29:17). “If someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” (1 Tim. 3:4).
Third lesson: Our spiritual leaders also have weaknesses. They fail at times. If we only look to our church leaders we will stumble, too. Do not only look to Eli, the high priest. Look to our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ. He is “the founder and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2).” Christ is the only one to whom we can look to for a perfect example. Therefore, let’s keep our eyes on Jesus, not on our pastors, elders, or deacons.
In his book How to Really Love Your Teenager, Ross Campbell says that “one of the most important areas in which a teenager needs training is in how to handle anger….Anger is normal and occurs in every human being. The problem is not the anger itself but in managing it. This is where most people have a problem” (60). In this post we will learn from God’s Word to see how we can effectively handle our children’s anger and how we can better help them manage their anger.
Before we continue, let us define first the word anger and clarify some misunderstanding about it. According to one dictionary, anger is “a strong feeling of displeasure…aroused by a wrong.” Hence, to be angry or to have a strong feeling of displeasure about something which is morally wrong is not necessarily sinful. In fact, Jesus himself got angry and yet he did not sin (Mark 3:5; John 2:14-16). We can be angry and commit no sin. Also, we have to remember that the Bible never tells us not to be angry. In fact, Scripture commands us to be angry. “Be angry,” says Paul in Ephesians 4:26. However, we must be angry without sinning: “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” In short, we can be angry but we should not allow our anger to turn into sin. Therefore, when we deal with our children’s anger, it is important to remember the following four points:
- Anger is not always a sin. And so, we should not be quick to judge our children whenever we see them angry. It could be that their anger is a result of their holy hatred toward sin. For example, your child may be angry because his classmate has taken the name of the Lord in vain. Aristotle once said, “It’s not a sin to get angry when you get angry at sin.”
- Righteous anger is permissible. Thus, we should not forbid our children to be angry for righteousness’ sake. The authors of Parenting Today’s Adolescent explain that “God created anger to be an asset, but it gets misused and twisted in a fallen world. In basic terms, anger is an emotional alarm that sounds a warning when something is wrong…. The problem is that most of us don’t know what to do with appropriate anger when we feel it” (163-64). However, let us guide our children so that their anger will not turn into danger. Remember that anger, as someone has said, “is just one letter short of danger.”
- Righteous anger is not only permitted but even commanded, as previously noted. And so, we should encourage our children to have a righteous anger—to have a strong feeling of displeasure toward all forms of evil.
- Anger is normal. Let us tell our children that everyone experiences anger including parents. They should know that they are not alone in their feelings. But this does not mean that we are going to tolerate their unrighteous anger. By letting them know that we also get angry, we are showing them that we understand them. It is important that children feel understood.
Now, here are ten pieces of advice as we handle our children’s anger:
- Watch yourself when dealing with your children’s anger. Oftentimes when our children are angry we also get angry unnecessarily.
- When dealing with your children’s anger, apply the principle of James 1:19: “let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” Three principles can be drawn from this verse: (1) Before judging your child, listen first to his full explanation. (2) Talk to your child softly or gently. As Proverb 15:1 says: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (3) As you correct your child, control your temper, lest you mention or do something that will fuel your child’s anger. Henry Ward Beecher remarks, “Speak when you are angry and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.” The apostle Paul, addressing the fathers, writes: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4). It is better to be silent when we cannot control our temper.
- Since your children look up to you as a role model, teach them to manage anger in a God-honoring way by your good example. Ultimately, let’s point our children to Christ—our perfect example—who got angry but did not commit sin.
- Help your children understand the main cause of their anger. Then, help them deal with that which has caused their anger. Note that sometimes our children do not know what they are angry about. Sometimes they are not really angry but only frustrated with themselves.
- Help your children differentiate righteous anger from unrighteous anger. Ask your child, “At what or with whom are you angry and why are you angry?”
- Since anger is normal, help your children express their anger in a right or Christlike way. Children often don’t know how to express their anger in a positive way. Campbell explains it this way: “Children will tend to express anger immaturely, until trained to do otherwise. A teenager cannot be expected to automatically express his anger in the best, most mature way. But this is what parents are expecting, when they simply tell their teen not to get mad. Parents must train teenagers to take one step at a time in learning to deal with anger (How to Really Love Your Teenager, 65).”
- Pray for your children regularly, not just when they are struggling with issues of anger. It is a good practice to begin and close with prayer whenever you counsel them. Pray also that the Lord will grant you grace and wisdom as you address your children’s problem.
- Help your children develop temperance in their lives. Our children need self-control in dealing with anger. Self-control, a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22), is a good remedy for anger.
- Since self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, show your children their need of the Spirit of God. Doing so will also give you an opportunity to talk about the gospel with them.
- Deal with your children’s anger with love. Show love to your children even if you might not like their behavior. Be patient and understanding to them. Once our children feel loved, they will not hesitate to share with us the real cause of their anger. It is sad that some children would rather share their burden with their friends than with their own parents. May it not happen to us!
Guest post by Rob Ventura & Jeremy Walker
Have you known any martyrs? Church history overflows with examples of sterling Christians who have given their lives for the sake of Christ. One of Western Protestantism’s most enduring and effective works of literature is Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, a compilation of histories of Christians suffering in the service of Jesus. Modern times have supplied us with more names, including some that have— in the eyes of some Christians—already become almost glamorous at a slight distance, such as those of Jim Elliot or John and Betty Stam. However, while many in the modern West know the stories, few of us have known any martyrs. Few of us have holes in our lives, gaps in the ranks of friends or families, created by our loved one’s death in the service of King Jesus. In some parts of the world, death at the hands of the enemies of Christ’s kingdom is all too common.
It was our privilege to know two of Christ’s martyrs. Since 1999 Pastor Arif Khan and his wife Kathleen (Kathy to her friends) had faithfully labored in Islamabad, Pakistan, where Pastor Arif had planted a church. In August 2007, three people—a disaffected ex-member of the church, his wife, and a gunman from an aggressively Islamic region—made their way by deceit into the Khans’ home and shot our friends dead.
Our friends. The believers. The martyrs.
Why were they there? What had carried them from the comfortable confines of the United States, away from friends and family, children and grandchildren? Why leave their home church? Why stay in Pakistan when reaction to American foreign policy and activity made their existence there increasingly dangerous? Why remain in the face of threats to their lives? Why teach and live so as to seal their testimonies with their life’s blood?
How do you reach this point? Not necessarily the point of martyrdom, but the point of willing and entire consecration, of being sold out for the one living and true God, ready to give all that you are and have for His sake and for His cause?
What would the Khans have said? At least part of their answer—a great part of their answer—would have been for the sake of Jesus Christ’s body, the church. They had a consuming desire to see the church built up so that through those who have been redeemed the manifold wisdom of God would be known to others (Eph. 3:10). They saw the importance of spreading the gospel to a lost world. This man and woman “loved not their lives unto the death” (Rev. 12:11). One of their own pastors said of Arif Khan, “He was a marked man. He talked of dying for Christ as though it was having a mole removed.”
It is not often that we meet people who are willing to spend their energy and even give their lives for the sake of seeing the church of the Lord Jesus Christ established and strengthened. This was the mind of the Khans; it was also the mind of the apostle Paul.
Paul gave his all for the people of God. He loved them at great personal cost. As he writes his letter, Paul tells the Colossians that he rejoices even in his prison sufferings because of his love for them. Now he specifically points to the nature and purpose of those sufferings, saying, “I…fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church” (Col. 1:24). What does he mean, and what must we understand?
So what does Paul mean? First, we must consider the words of the sentence itself. The word that has to do with “filling up” appears only here in Scripture. It carries the idea of completing something for someone else. The present tense of the verb and the immediate context in which it is used tell us that this was something that Paul was continually doing. When Paul speaks of something “behind of the afflictions of Christ,” the language suggests something lacking, that which still exists or is left over.
Then there is the word afflictions. This word speaks of oppression, tribulation, trouble, or persecution. It is, however, crucial that this word is never used in the Bible to refer to the sufferings that Jesus underwent on the cross for our sins.
Second, we must put this declaration in the context of the whole Colossian letter. The whole point of the letter so far has been to establish Christ’s supremacy as the saving and sovereign head of His people (contrast Paul’s self-owned label in verse 25 of “minister,” not mediator or redeemer).
So, in Colossians 1:14, Paul speaks of Jesus as the one “in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” The present possession of redemption and forgiveness is based upon the precious blood of our Savior, and not the sacrificial work of any sinner, even one who was an eminent apostle.
Paul says again with reference to Jesus, “It pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; and, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight” (Col. 1:19–22).
There is nothing lacking in the Lord Jesus Christ, either in His person or in His work. All saving fullness dwells in Him, and He is the means by which the Father reconciles men to Himself. Specifically, the terms of that peace He secured are written in the blood that Jesus shed on the cross for His people. It is the bloody death of Jesus alone that saves.
In these words there is neither room nor need for any other but Christ. If all fullness dwells in Him, what shall fallen mankind add to Him or His work? If it has pleased the Father to reconcile people to Himself solely by means of the crucified Christ, how can any suggest that Christ is in any way insufficient, especially after His glorious resurrection vindicated all that was said about Him (Rom. 1:4; 4:25)? If peace was already secured through the blood of Christ upon the cross, once for all (Eph. 2:13–14), what place is there for any other grounds of peace?
Indeed, Paul will not let this theme lie: “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Col. 2:13–14).
To take the perfection of Christ and His work and to say that people somehow must add further to it completely misunderstands and undermines the profound nature of what God has accomplished through His incarnate Son. It fails to take account of the complete inability of anyone to please God, let alone save himself, apart from the glorious Jesus.
Would it not be both foolish and blasphemous to seek to insert human effort, positively or negatively, into the divine plan of a gracious salvation? Did Christ not say, “It is finished” (John 19:30)? Paul would surely be the world’s most incompetent debater if he were now to state something that runs directly or even tangentially counter to all that he has just established. He is a wiser man than that.
Third, we must also take into account the comprehensive and consistent testimony of Scripture. The plain teaching of the Word of God is that Christ alone accomplished all that was required for the salvation of His people when He suffered once and for all in their place at Golgotha (see, for example, Isaiah 53:4–6 or Hebrews 1:3; 10:14). There is no deficiency of any sort in Christ’s sacrificial death, and to suggest otherwise opens the door to a host of other empty possibilities, including the notion of works of supererogation (the idea that unusually holy people have a surplus of merit that others can benefit from), the veneration of Mary the mother of Christ, and the concept of penance for sins.
It is already clear that the atoning interpretation is entirely incorrect. Christ’s sacrifice for sin was in no way deficient. The sufferings that Paul underwent had no saving merit: the apostle did not contribute in any way whatsoever in redeeming the people of God. Jesus Christ alone has suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). Our Bibles make plain that it is Christ alone, through His saving sufferings, who brings us into a right relationship with God the Father.
However, there are other lines of thought in Scripture that we must take into account when working out what Paul does mean. In 1 Corinthians 12:12 Paul states that the saints are many members of one body, the head of which is Christ. The same unity of identity is plain in Matthew 25:34–40, where the works done for Christ’s people are considered as done to Christ Himself (or not, vv. 41–46). This involves unity of mission. In Acts 13:47 Paul appropriates language that Isaiah uses of the Lord Jesus to assume the same gospel role in setting forth the Christ: “For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.” This further implies unity of suffering, and Paul had this ground into his consciousness from the beginning of his ministry: “And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks…. For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:4–5, 16).
In summary, the sufferings of the body of Christ—the church—are the sufferings of Christ Himself (1 Cor. 1:5; 1 Peter 4:13), not in a redemptive, but nevertheless in a real, sense.
Note: This article is an excerpt from chapter three of A Portrait of Paul, by Rob Ventura and Jeremy Walker, with permission from Reformation Heritage Books. The general topic of suffering will be preached on by Derek Thomas at Pastor Ventura’s church in North Providence, Rhode Island, May 27-28, 2016. For more information about this event, click here.
 See Daniel Bergner, “The Believers,” The New York Times Magazine, December 30, 2007, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/30/magazine/30khans-t.html for more information about the Khans (accessed June 28, 2010).
- Make God’s Word your primary voting guide. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 110:105).
- Pray before casting your vote. Ask the Lord, first, for guidance as you vote. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him…” (Prov. 3:5-6). Pray also for the candidates even the ones whom you do not like. “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim. 2:1-2).
- Vote for a candidate who upholds Christian principles. Are his/her views on important social and moral issues biblical? Religious freedom. Will the candidate hinder you from exercising your faith in Jesus Christ, or will he/she protect your liberty as a Christian? Sanctity of human life. Will the candidate promote abortion, or will he/she fight for the sacredness of life in the womb? Marriage. Will the candidate endorse (so-called) “same-sex marriage,” or will he/she uphold the biblical definition of marriage—a union between one man and one woman only? Each candidate should be evaluated in light of these and other moral questions. As followers of Christ, we must not “give approval to those who practice” what God has declared to be morally evil (Rom. 1:32).
- Vote for a candidate who is able to lead our country with justice. Remember that you are not voting for a pastor, but for a president. The candidate might not share all of your theological views, but if he/she is committed to a fair and righteous judicial system, then you might want to consider voting for this candidate.
- Vote for a candidate who has already demonstrated his/her ability to lead well. Look at the candidate’s track record and ask these questions: What did he/she do to improve our economy, stop crime, and maintain peace and order in our land? Did the candidate abuse his/her political power to serve his/her own interest? Was he/she immoral, corrupt, dishonest, or greedy?
- Cast your ballot in good conscience. Admittedly, it can be challenging to find a candidate who is both gifted in leadership and righteous in character. However, God knows our struggle in this regard, and yet he calls on us to participate in the process. So, if you’ve sincerely sought the Lord’s guidance, you can cast your ballot with peace and confidence, trusting that your obedience will be pleasing to the Lord.
- Recognize that from eternity past God has already ordained our next political leader. “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Rom. 13:1). Ultimately, it is God—not the people—who appoints a leader (Gen. 45:8). We are only God’s instruments in bringing about his eternal plan. Be willing, therefore, to submit humbly to God’s sovereign will, knowing that his will is always for our good and for his glory.
- If the candidate who wins is immoral, remember that God is able to use even wicked leaders to accomplish his eternal plan (Rom. 13:1-7). Of course, this does not give us permission to vote for bad candidates! However, it should remind us that our greatest hope does not lie with any earthly leader, but with our heavenly Father, who is divinely able to overcome evil for good. Indeed, God in his providence can even use a bad ruler as his “servant for your good” (Rom. 13:4).
- Never forget that God is causing all things—including the upcoming election—to work together for the good of his people, conforming them more fully to the image of his Son, Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:28-29). Whatever the outcome of the election may be, one thing is certain: God will use this election for our sanctification. We are concerned about peace and prosperity, but God is concerned about our piety and his eternal glory.
- Finally, respect those who oppose your political position. Even among Christians, there are varying opinions regarding who should be elected to leadership. So, learn to “agree to disagree,” or better yet, to disagree with kindness. Even if your preferred candidate does not win, you are still to honor the candidate who is elected. You must also obey your new leader, unless he/she instructs you to do something that would require you to disobey God. As Christians, our greatest allegiance is to God. As Scripture exhorts us to do, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
Since April of 2001 I have been a minister of the gospel and throughout my fifteen years of life as a pastor, I have collected thoughts that I would like to share with my fellow pastors and with those who desire to be pastors someday. Of course, there are more than fifteen reflections that I have gathered; but, for the sake of brevity, let me share only fifteen.
- Pastoring is a calling from God. Having a degree from a seminary is not a guarantee that you have this ministerial calling. Some graduate from the seminary but are not in the ministry, or do not stay long in the ministry, because they do not have this pastoral calling.
- The God who has called you to the ministry will also provide for you. He will prepare you for the ministry. He will give you a congregation to serve. And he will sustain you throughout your life in the ministry.
- Don’t accept a call to pastor a congregation unless you are really convinced that the Lord is calling you to serve that church. Why? Because when problems arise from that congregation, your strong conviction of God’s calling will encourage you to continue serving that church amidst difficulties. You can say, “Lord, You have called me to serve You in this church and I know You will sustain me.”
- God resists the proud in the ministry. Thus, expect God to humble you. Sometimes He humbles His servants through infirmity. All accomplished pastors that I know have a form of affliction that keeps them humble before God. At the end of the day, God will use the ministry to sanctify you. God’s main goal in your life is to conform you to the image of His Son Jesus Christ.
- Your wife can be a great help to you in the ministry. If you are a pastor and not yet married and desire to get married, look prayerfully for a godly woman who will serve with you, not hinder you. If you were already married when you became a minister, help your wife understand the nature of the ministry. You may want to consider buying her the book Letters to Pastors’ Wives: When Seminary Ends and Ministry Begins (2013).
- Your family is your priority over your ministry. As Paul indicates in 1 Timothy 3:4–5, “He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” If you neglect your family, your congregation will suffer eventually.
- God has called you primarily to preach His Word and pray. Therefore, learn to delegate your other responsibilities to others so that you can focus on your primary work. As Christ’s disciples say in Acts 6:2–4, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
- Don’t stop learning about your vocation. In the midst of your busy schedule, set aside time regularly to read books or articles that will help you become a better servant of the Lord. Attend pastors’ conferences where you can fellowship with and learn from like-minded ministers about the ministry.
- Don’t underestimate the wisdom of experienced ministers. Seek their advice and listen to them. They can save you from committing mistakes or making wrong decisions. Find an older pastor who can mentor and encourage you in the ministry. A young pastor has the tendency to think that he knows a lot, but the longer you stay in the ministry, the more you will realize how little your knowledge is.
- No matter how hard you try to serve your congregation, you will always have a member who will complain about your service. Remember that you cannot please everyone in the church, and you are not to please people but God. Don’t let your critics stop you from doing the Lord’s work. Fix your eyes on Jesus.
- When necessary, don’t be afraid to confront a member of your congregation who has offended you (Matt. 18:15). When the offense is not dealt with, it can become worse. Keeping your resentment to yourself is not good for your heart both physically and spiritually. So, don’t avoid confrontation, but deal with it in a Christlike manner, trusting that God will bring reconciliation.
- Don’t think that God needs you in the ministry. The truth is you need Him more than He needs you. His work can continue without your help. So be thankful to God if He is using you in the building up of His church. To be a minister is a great privilege from the Lord. Think about this: you are serving the Maker of heaven and earth.
- The condition of your body can affect the life of your congregation. If you are not healthy, you cannot function well in the ministry. Hence, don’t neglect your body. Eat well. Exercise regularly. Get enough sleep. At times ministry can be stressful. Learn to rest and relax, or else you will burnout and cannot continue in the ministry.
- Pay careful attention to yourself. Realize your tendency to commit sins that can disqualify you from the ministry. “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). As you shepherd your congregation, shepherd your own soul. Don’t be too busy about the ministry that you neglect the One who has called you to the ministry.
- When you feel discouraged and about to quit, remember that what you do for the Lord is not in vain in Him. When you don’t see the fruit of your hard work in preaching, keep in mind that God’s Word will not return to Him void. His Word will always accomplish the purpose for which God has sent it (Isa. 55:11).
Therefore, my fellow pastors, let me encourage you with the words of the Apostle Paul, “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:18).
1. Don’t worry about the year 2016.
Don’t worry about what you will eat, drink, and wear this year. Your Father in heaven knows your needs. Instead of worrying, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” and all your needs will be given to you according to his will (Matt. 6:33).
After all why worry about the unknown future of 2016 when you can pray. “O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” Yes, what will take place this year is not known to us, but for us believers in Christ, we know that God is causing all things to happen for his glory and for our good (Rom. 8:28-29). And the word good in this passage ultimately refers to our conformity to the image of Christ. The bitter events of 2016 will only make us better believers. Let us therefore welcome the New Year without fear.
2. Don’t boast about the year 2016.
Don’t brag about what you will do in 2016; you don’t know what will happen this year (Prov. 27:1). “You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14).
Don’t act as if you can control the future. You are not in control of everything. Don’t think that you can do and get whatever you want this year. You are not all-powerful. Don’t be overconfident about your future plans. You are not all-knowing. You don’t even know if you are still alive tomorrow. Thus learn to qualify your plans by saying, “If the Lord wills, I will live and do this or that” (James 4:15). Nevertheless, no matter what happens, God’s will is always best for us because he is all-wise and all-good.
3. Don’t waste the year 2016.
You waste this year when you use it only for your own pleasure. Remember the rich fool who said to his soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’” But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (Luke 12:19-20).
What a wasted life this rich fool had! He used his time, energy, and resources only for himself. With God’s help, let’s spend all the days of 2016 for God’s praise. Let’s also seize all God-given opportunities this year to “do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). Remember, “Only one life, So soon it will pass, Only what’s done for Christ will last.” A life spent in the service of Christ is the most meaningful life that anyone can live in this world.
Have a blessed New Year!
- Pray the prayer of the psalmist: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24).
- Be totally honest as you answer each question.
- Agree with God about each need He reveals in your life. Confess each sin, with the willingness to make it right and forsake it.
- Praise God for His cleansing and forgiveness.
- Renew your mind and rebuild your life through meditation and practical application of the Word of God.
- Review these questions periodically to remain sensitive to your need for ongoing revival.
A. Genuine Salvation (2 Cor. 5:17)
- Was there ever a time in my life that I genuinely repented of my sin? Yes or No
- Was there ever a time in my life that I placed all my trust in Jesus Christ alone to save me? Yes or No
- Was there ever a time in my life that I completely surrendered to Jesus Christ as the Master and Lord of my life? Yes or No
- Is Christ lived out in my home and have I physically confessed Him Lord at home. Yes or No
B. God’s Word (Ps. 119:97 &140)
- Do I love to read and meditate on the Word of God? Yes or No
- Are my personal devotions consistent and meaningful? Yes or No
- Do I practically apply God’s Word to my everyday life? Yes or No
- Do we as a family discuss God’s Word often? Yes or No
C. Humility (Isa. 57:15)
- Am I quick to recognize and agree with God in confession when I have sinned? Yes or No
- Am I quick to admit to others when I am wrong? Yes or No
- Do I rejoice when others are praised and recognized and my accomplishments go unnoticed by men? Yes or No
- Do I esteem all others as better than myself? Yes or No
- Do I rejoice when others in my family succeed? Yes or No
D. Obedience (1 Sam. 15:22; Heb. 13:17)
- Do I consistently obey what I know God wants me to do? Yes or No
- Do I consistently obey the human authorities God has placed over my life? Yes or No
- Do I consistently obey and honor my parents? Yes or No
E. Pure Heart (1 John 1:9)
- Do I confess my sin by name? Yes or No
- Do I keep “short sin accounts” with God (confess and forsake as He convicts)? Yes or No
- Am I willing to give up all sin for God? Yes or No
- Do I repent and confess my sins to others in my family? Yes or No
F. Clear Conscience (Acts 24:16)
- Do I consistently seek forgiveness from those I wrong or offend? Yes or No
- Is my conscience clear with every man? (Can I honestly say, “There is no one I have ever wronged or offended in any way and not gone back to them and sought their forgiveness and made it right”?) Yes or No
- Is my relationship right with each family member? Yes or No
- Do I go to bed at night with unresolved conflict with others in the family? Yes or No
G. Priorities (Matt. 6:33)
- Does my schedule reveal that God is first in my life? Yes or No
- Does my checkbook reveal that God is first in my life? Yes or No
- Next to my relationship with God, is my relationship with my family my highest priority? Yes or No
H. Values (Col. 3:12)
- Do I love what God loves and hate what God hates? Yes or No
- Do I value highly the things that please God (e.g., giving, witnessing to lost souls, studying His Word, prayer)? Yes or No
- Are my affections and goals fixed on eternal values? Yes or No
- Are Biblical values reflected in my selection of music and T.V./movies? Yes or No
I. Sacrifice (Phil. 3:7-8)
- Am I willing to sacrifice whatever is necessary to see God move in my life and church (time, convenience, comfort, reputation, pleasure, etc.)? Yes or No
- Is my life characterized by genuine sacrifice for the cause of Christ? Yes or No
- Do I have a servant’s heart at home? Yes or No
J. Spirit-Control (Gal. 5:22-25; Eph. 5:18-21)
- Am I allowing Jesus to be Lord of every area of my life? Yes or No
- Am I allowing the Holy Spirit to “fill” (control) my life each day? Yes or No
- Is there consistent evidence of the “fruit of the Spirit” being produced in my life? Yes or No
K. “First Love” (Phi. 1:21-23)
- Am I as much in love with Jesus as I have ever been? Yes or No
- Am I thrilled with Jesus; filled with His joy and peace, and making Him the continual object of my love? Yes or No
- How would others in my family view my love toward God on a scale of 1-10?
L. Motives (Matt. 10:28; Acts 5:29)
- Am I more concerned about what God thinks about my life than about what others think? Yes or No
- Would I pray, read my Bible, give and serve as much if nobody but God ever noticed? Yes or No
- Am I more concerned about pleasing God than I am about being accepted and appreciated by men? Yes or No
M. Moral Purity (Eph. 5:3-4)
- Do I keep my mind free from books, magazines, or entertainment that could stimulate fantasizing thoughts that are not morally pure? Yes or No
- Are my conversation and behavior pure and above reproach? Yes or No
- Do mom and dad approve of my friendships? Yes or No
N. Forgiveness (Col. 3:12-13)
- Do I seek to resolve conflicts in relationships as soon as possible? Yes or No
- Am I quick to forgive those who hurt or wrong me? Yes or No
O. Sensitivity (Matt. 5:23-24)
- Am I sensitive to the conviction and promptings of God’s Spirit? Yes or No
- Am I quick to respond in humility and obedience to the conviction and promptings of God’s Spirit? Yes or No
- Am I sensitive to my parent’s desires? Yes or No
P. Evangelism (Luke 24:46-48; Rom. 9:3)
- Do I have a burden for lost souls? Yes or No
- Do I consistently witness for Christ? Yes or No
Q. Prayer (1 Tim. 2:1)
- Am I faithful in praying for the needs of others? Yes or No
- Do I pray specifically, fervently and faithfully for revival in my life, my church and our nation? Yes or No
- How much time do we spend as a family in prayer?
From George W. Noble’s Book of 750 Bible and Gospel Studies (1909)