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Eyes on the Prize

The Olympics are a worldwide phenomenon.  It seems like for two weeks, everything else is put on hold.  There are no other important news stories.  Everyone focuses on the competition.

Are you one of those people who loves watching the drama of the Olympics unfold?  If so, what excites you about it?

Paul used the backdrop of the Olympics to explain his view of the ministry.  Listen to how he puts it.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.
1 Corinthians 9:24

In the ministry, we’re competing for the prize.  The prize is your destiny in Christ.  It should be your reason for living.

The fact is that only one gets the prize.  It’s the one who pushes himself out in front and crosses the finish line first.  Please understand that I’m not talking about racing against other believers.

No, you’re racing against yourself.  Your lazy self, your proud self, your distracted self, and your “all for Christ” self.  They’re all running against each other.  Run in such a way that you get the prize the Lord has called you to receive.

Paul tells us how this is accomplished.

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
1 Corinthians 9:25-27

The first key is strict training versus running aimlessly.  We need to focus on our calling in Christ.  What is it that the Lord wants you to accomplish?  What will it take for you to lay hold of it?

This is something that we need to hear in our generation.  We get so distracted by all that’s happening around us.  There are so many opportunities to participate in.

I wish it were simply a matter of right and wrong, but it’s not.  It’s about what you want to accomplish for eternity.

There’s nothing wrong with eating a hot fudge sundae.  However, if you’re training to run a marathon, then it’s not the best food choice.  In our ministry, we avoid certain activities, not because they’re wrong, but because they’re counter-productive to what we want to accomplish.

The other issue is beating the air versus beating my body.  This makes it clear that we truly are competing against our own selves.

Who is going to be in charge?  Will the desires of my flesh determine my destiny?  Or will I, instead, let my spirit lead me into God’s perfect will for my life?

These are the things we need to deal with on a daily basis.  We put the flesh down and build the spirit up.

Of course, that’s not easy or comfortable.  I’m talking about fasting and prayer.  Then there’s prayer in the spirit and meditating on the Word of God.  I also have to be in right relationship with my fellow believers.

Do I have to do these things in order to be a “good Christian”?  Absolutely not.

Unless…your goal is to win the prize of your destiny in Christ.

Question: What is your “strict training” that pushes you toward the prize?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on May 1, 2019 in Ministry, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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I Have the Right…

In First Corinthians, Paul explains to the church that as an Apostle of Jesus Christ, he has the right to ask them for support.  Those who work in the ministry should receive their living from that ministry.

Having laid that foundation, he now makes a very astounding statement.

But I have not used any of these rights.  And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me.  I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of this boast.
1 Corinthians 9:15

Paul makes it clear that he absolutely had the right to ask them for support.  But, by his own choosing, he did not ask them for it.  He also wants them to understand that he’s not telling them this to manipulate them into sending him something.

There were some important reasons for this decision.  Paul knew the controversy that his ministry stirred up in the church at Corinth.  It was a church of many factions.  They argued over whether Paul was an apostle or not.

Because of this, he decided not to ask them for support.  He didn’t want to be the cause of strife in the body of Christ.

Of course, that didn’t let the Corinthian church off the hook.  They were called by God to support Paul, even if he didn’t ask for it.  So there were blessings and rewards that they’ll never receive because of their disobedience.

Paul was able to do this because of the position he was in.  Firstly, we know from Acts, chapter 18, that Paul had a trade that he could fall back on.  He was a tentmaker.  Besides that, we know from 2 Corinthians 11:7-12, that Paul was supported by other churches while he ministered in Corinth.

He was able to minister freely in Corinth because God was supplying his need from elsewhere.

Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach.  Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!  If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me.  What then is my reward?  Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it.
1 Corinthians 9:16-18

This is the attitude of a true minister of the Gospel.  It’s unfortunate that many in the church use it to hold back support to those who need it.

A true minister is called to preach.  They’ll do it for Christ’s sake.  They’ll do it no matter how hard a church makes it for them to survive.

As a pastor and traveling minister, I understand this.  When God places a message in my spirit, I can’t help but preach it.  I serve Christ, not the church.

There have been times that I knew God wanted me to preach in a certain church.  I obeyed.  Then, whether by oversight or decision, I received no offering from them.  Am I going to be bitter or complain about it?  Absolutely not!  God pays my salary.  Whoever He uses to support me is up to him, not me.

On the other side of the coin, I don’t want to be found guilty of not supporting the Lord’s servants.  If I’m a member of a church, then I want that pastor or minister to be abundantly supplied.  I want their ministry to be a joy, not a constant struggle to survive.

This is an issue that many churches need to come to grips with.  They think that it’s their responsibility to keep their pastor in poverty.  It may not be until the Judgment Seat of Christ that the church board finds out what their greed and desire for control has cost them.

We need to support those in ministry as the Lord leads us to.

Question: Why is it better if the minister is not struggling to provide an income?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2019 in God's Provision, Ministry, The Church

 

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Will Work for Food

In my last post, Paul gave the Thessalonian church the underlying principle of living an ordered life in Christ.  He also commanded them to avoid those who live in a way that’s outside of God’s order.

Now the apostle applies this truth to a specific case.

For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example.  We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it.  On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you.  We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow.  For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”
2 Thessalonians 3:7-10

If you remember, at the beginning of this letter, Paul had to set some things back in order.  The church was confused because of prophecies telling them Christ had already returned.

Because of this false teaching, there must have been some who had stopped working at their jobs in order to “wait for the Lord’s appearing.”  These people then went around expecting other Christians to provide for them while they waited.

Paul made it clear that there was no job description that had you do nothing while others took care of your needs.  Please understand that I’m not talking about those who are unable to work, or have lost their jobs and are in the process of seeking a new one.

Because this was a young church, Paul modeled this lifestyle – making tents to provide a living for himself.  He makes it clear that this wasn’t necessary.  As an apostle, he had the right to ask the church for offerings in support of his ministry.  But instead, he felt it important to be an example of a Christian in the workforce.

Of course, there are those who are of the opinion that ministers, pastors, and missionaries don’t do any work.  They think that prayer and the study of God’s Word isn’t real work.  A simple look at the percentage of believers who come out to a prayer meeting or Bible Study will make it clear that we’re doing what few others want to do.

The fact is that we’re all called to work at something.  Usually, if you’re fulfilling your calling, you’ll enjoy most of what you’re doing.  That’s why Paul summarized with a final command.

We hear that some among you are idle.  They are not busy; they are busybodies.  Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.
2 Thessalonians 3:11-12

We must all seek the Lord for the vocation He’s calling us to.  No matter what it is, whether religious or secular, it can all be done for the glory of Christ.

Question: What’s the work that the Lord has called you to do?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2018 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Ordered Life

Do you know Christians who live a life that’s out of order?  What’s your response to that kind of living?  The Apostle Paul wrote about this issue and gives us some clear commands.

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.
2 Thessalonians 3:6

Here Paul gives us a command from Christ Himself.  It’s not an opinion or a suggestion.  It’s a guiding principle that Paul will apply to a specific situation later on.

Unfortunately, the translators use a more specific word than the one Paul used.  The word idle is not in the original Greek.  Paul uses a word that means out of order.  He’s talking about people who are not living in their God-assigned positions in the body of Christ.

I’m not talking about religious positions.  You can be a lawyer, plumber, or IT specialist and still fulfill your calling in Christ.  I’m talking about knowing where you fit into God’s kingdom and functioning in that role.

Paul also talked about those who don’t live according to the teachings passed on from the apostles.  They gave us a specific pattern of living that’s recorded in the Scriptures.  The goal of every believer should be to follow this lifestyle.

That being said, our generation of the church has some definite issues that need to be overcome in relation to this command.  The first is that we don’t like commands of any kind, especially in regards to our spiritual life.

If someone wants to give us their opinion, or suggest something to us, we’re usually okay with that.  We just don’t want to be told that we have to do something; or even worse, being told we can’t do something that we want to do.

Another problem I see is that a large percentage of the modern church has no idea what the pattern of living is that was handed down by the apostles.   They don’t know what a Christian lifestyle should look like.

Then, there’s that part about keeping away from or avoiding those whose life is out of order.  The fact is, out of order people like being around other out of order people.  It helps them to suppress any feelings of guilt about how they’re living.

It’s sad that we live in a time in history when many believers simply want to blend in with the world.  We say that we want to be “relevant”.  But in many cases, it’s because we want what the world offers.

Those of us who try to live according to the pattern handed down to us are the ones who are avoided.  In many instances, we’re labeled as “self-righteous” or “haters”.

It’s time for the church to pray for a restoration of the Scriptural patterns.  It’s time for the church to once again walk according to the lifestyle handed down to us from the apostles.

Make that a priority in your prayer time with the Lord.

Question: What are the main attributes of a Godly lifestyle?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2018 in Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Called to Glory

I’m continuing to look at Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonian church.  After talking to them about the second coming of Christ, he now starts to close with some words of encouragement.

But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.  He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Thessalonians 2:13-14

This is a very important message which our generation of the church needs to hear.  Even though the Thessalonian church was only recently established, they had grown quickly in their spirituality.

This fact is brought out in how the Apostle describes them.  Paul literally says that God took them for Himself from the firstfruits.  In Paul’s mind, this was a “firstfruits” church.

There was a point in Paul’s ministry when he received a dream from the Lord that sent him into the region of Macedonia.  Thessalonica was the first city in that region where he was able to preach in a synagogue.

Because of that, this church was always the firstfruits of Macedonia in Paul’s mind.  But there was something they needed to do in order to claim that status.  They had to believe the Word that was preached to them and then submit to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.

Their goal was not only to have their sins forgiven but to become what God wanted them to be.  This made them fully aware of the calling that was placed upon their lives.  It’s what we need to understand as well.

There’s more to being a Christian than just getting into Heaven.  We’re all called to a higher walk.  The Good News is that God wants us to share in the glory of Christ.

But please notice the important word in that passage.  It’s the word “might”.

This is not something you receive simply by praying the Sinner’s Prayer.  It’s what you have to move forward to obtain.  Yes, that’s the word translated by, share, in that Scripture.  It means to obtain and surround yourself with.

I believe that this glory is not reserved for the sweet by and by.  It’s something the Lord wants His church to walk in right now.  If the world would see the glory of Christ surrounding us, they would be drawn to His saving grace.

What does that say to us?  Paul is not trying to teach something new here.  We’re called through the Gospel that we might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, we need to stand firm and hold on to the teachings we’ve been given.

Then, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to complete His work in us.  That means spending quality time in His presence.  Time spent in the Spirit will cause us to obtain and surround ourselves in the glory of Christ.

Let that be your spiritual goal.

Question: What’s the next step you need to take to press into your calling?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Our Last Days Calling

In my last post, I talked about how Paul described the Lord’s return in Second Thessalonians.  He said that those who didn’t know the Lord would be shut out of His presence.

Please understand the justice of God in this situation.  When this passage talks about the people who don’t know God, it literally means, to know by observation.

For instance, I know about Abraham Lincoln, but I can’t say that I know Abraham Lincoln.  That’s what it’s talking about.  It means to know God – not simply to know about God.  These are people who don’t want to know God.

They’ve heard about Him.  They just don’t want to get to know Him, and they sure don’t want to obey the Good News of the Lord Jesus Christ.  These are people who have made a conscious decision not to obey the Lord or the Gospel.

This theme will be developed later on in the Word of God, but for now, I want you to realize that when the Lord returns, there will be two groups of people on the earth.   There will be those who have decided to serve the Lord and those who have decided not to serve the Lord.  There isn’t going to be anybody who doesn’t know about Him – no middle ground.

Why is Paul telling us all this? The answer is found in the very next verse.

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.  We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
II Thessalonians 1:11-12

We have a purpose to fulfill.  He wasn’t telling them this just to give them more information about Christ’s return.  Too many Christians have made studying the Lord’s return an end in itself.

The fact that we know Jesus is returning should spur us on to do the work that He’s called us to.  We need to be found fulfilling the call of God prompted by our faith.

That’s what God wants for us.  Paul is explaining to these people that they need to be ready for the Lord’s return, but more importantly, they need to be fulfilling their call in Christ.

Don’t just hide under a bush and say, “I’m waiting for Jesus to come.”  We know there are people who’ve done that throughout history.  Many people have set dates for the return of Christ.

Then they went out and sold everything they had.  They ended up sitting on a mountain in white clothes just waiting for Jesus.  They sat on that mountain for a while until they realized that Jesus wasn’t going to come at that time.

We’ve got to learn that same lesson.  Yes, Jesus is coming, but we don’t know when.  So we’ve got to do what we’re called to do until the day that Jesus Christ returns.

Question: What is God calling you to do in these last days before His return?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2018 in Ministry, Return of Christ, Spiritual Walk

 

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Don’t Tell Anyone?

In my last post, I talked about how Jesus would go off to pray in solitary places.  Then He would hear from the Holy Spirit as to what his assignment was for the near future.

We also saw that as a result of this time in prayer, a leper was miraculously healed from his condition.  The Lord gave him some interesting instructions when the leper was healed.

Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning:  “See that you don’t tell this to anyone.  But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”
Mark 1:43-44

This aspect of Christ’s ministry always fascinates me.  Why didn’t He want those who were healed to go out and spread the news to everyone they met?  I think that there are some important truths that we need to understand about this.

I’ve always felt uncomfortable around believers who think it’s their mission to evangelize everyone who comes within earshot of them.  They try and force others to do the same.  They teach that all Christians should tell everyone they meet about Jesus.

You would think that the Lord would want everyone to know that this man was healed.  After all, leprosy was one of those diseases that Israel believed you only got if you lived a particularly sinful life.

To be healed of leprosy meant that you had repented and were forgiven of the sins that had caused it.  At least that’s what the normal Israelite of that day believed.  This would prove that the Messiah was sent to forgive sin.

You would think that everyone should hear this news.  Wouldn’t that bring the crowds to Jesus?  Isn’t that what’s needed to grow a ministry?  Apparently not according to how Christ thought about it.

The fact is, that we all have a certain group of people that we are called to reach.  Those who will listen to your testimony won’t necessarily listen to mine.  We all have a different field to work in.

This man originally had to go to the priests for his diagnosis.  The priests were the ones who pronounced him a leper in the first place.  They recorded his name and condition for future reference.

Now, when he shows up at the Temple a healed man, he’d have to explain the healing to them.  In the priests’ minds, to be healed of leprosy was to be forgiven of sin.  They, of all people, would understand the importance of this man’s testimony.

This is how people should be won to the Lord.  Each of us must go to those we’re called to reach.  That’s the best way to grow the Kingdom of God.

The outcome was the same for the Lord.

Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news.  As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places.  Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.
Mark 1:45

For obvious reasons, the former leper didn’t follow Jesus’ instructions to the letter.  On his way to the priests, he told everyone about his healing.

Jesus didn’t need a huge advertising budget.  He didn’t need social media or a cable TV program.  He did what He was called to do and the ministry increased.

We need to learn this lesson.  I can’t do what you’re called to do.  Neither can I strong arm you into ministering the way that I do.  We’re called to be ourselves and live for Christ in our own circles.

Question: Who do you find it easiest to share the Gospel with?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2017 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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