RSS

Tag Archives: faithfulness

The Point of No Return

When it comes to Christian leadership, have you gone past the point of no return?  Have you gotten to the point where the call of God on your life is all that matters?  Paul talks about this in regards to himself.

I believe that the key point in our ministries should be faithfulness to God.  We must be faith-ful.  That means that someone can put his or her faith in us.

We always talk about having faith in the Lord.  Rightly so – there’s no other person in the universe more worthy than He is to receive our faith.  The problem is that we’re called to be just like Him.  We’re to be people who are faithful in the same way that He’s faithful.

I’ve found that faithfulness in the ministry is a rare commodity these days.  Please realize I’m not talking about faithful works, but faithfulness to the call that’s been placed before us.

It seems that many Christian leaders have bought into the myth that’s being fostered in corporate America.  They’re constantly updating their resume.  That way they’re able to jump ship at the first sign of trouble or whenever a “better opportunity” arises.

We, as leaders, have to come back to the realization that success in ministry is not climbing a ladder; it’s following the clear call and leading of Christ.

For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena.  We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men.
I Corinthians 4:9

More and more, I’m beginning to understand what Paul was writing about here.  He’s not griping about the problems he’s facing in the ministry.  On the contrary, he’s becoming aware of a fact that every minister must face.  He says that he feels like a man doomed to die in the arena.

He’s just like a professional fighter who knows that he’ll always fight until the day his life will end.  If you’re going to be an effective leader, you’ll have to come to grips with the fact that you’ve made it past the point of no return.  You need to know within yourself that there’s no going back.  This calling is for good – there’s no safety net – you’re going to “die in the arena” of ministry.

There are so many leaders today who have no concept of this.  I’ve heard statements like, “Well, if this falls through I can always sell life insurance.”  This kind of thinking has no place in the heart of a true minister.

At one point, I was going through a particularly stressful time in my ministry.  I was also teaching an hour a week in a school of ministry at a nearby church.  This church, which was much larger than the one I was pastoring, made me an offer to come on staff with them.  The pay and benefits would have been a lot better than where I was.

I related this to a young pastor friend of mine.  He assumed that surely I would send them my resume just to test the waters.  My reply to him was that since God hadn’t changed my calling to my present church, there was no water to test.

He then looked at me with an expression that I will never forget as he asked, “What do you mean by calling?”

This is just the surface symptom of a deep problem facing churches in America today – leaders who have absolutely no concept of calling.  Unless you have a clear understanding of the call of God upon your life, you’ll fall victim to the greatest cause of defeat in ministry today.

I firmly believe that you’re not only called to a position, but also to a location in the body of Christ.  Unless and until God changes your assignment, you would be a fool to move somewhere else.

Question: What’s the calling of God upon your life right now?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 13, 2019 in Leadership, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Judging Ourselves?

What comes to mind when you hear the words judge and judgment?  When reading Scripture, these definitions may not be adequate to help us in our understanding.  We need to know what type of judgment is being referred to.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul was writing to a church that was beginning to question his apostolic authority.  They thought that their way was better than the Word Paul was bringing them on God’s behalf.  Many of them were resisting his teaching.

I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.  My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent.  It is the Lord who judges me.
1 Corinthians 4:3-4

It’s very important that we understand what Paul is saying here.  Many have taken it out of context in order to choose their own path rather than God’s plan.  It all comes down to what’s meant by judging.

It turns out that in the Greek language there are many words that are all translated by judge or judgment in English.  That makes for some confusion when reading certain parts of the Bible.

The word, judged, in this section means to interrogate or investigate in order to make a determination.  It’s a critical viewing of all the evidence with the purpose of coming up with a verdict.  That makes this an important concept for believers to grasp.

Paul is saying that what they’re determining about his ministry is not important.  They can do their surface investigation and observe all that he says and does.  But that’s not the end of the story.  God, Himself has the final say as to Paul’s faithfulness.

There were some people in Corinth who didn’t like the fact that Paul was bringing correction to the church.  It was uncomfortable.

“Paul should be more loving.  Why does he always tell us what we’re doing wrong?  He can’t be doing God’s work with that kind of attitude.”

There were certain parts of Paul’s ministry that they didn’t like.  So they were majoring on other teachers that they liked better.  Paul is clear that this type of judging is wrong.

As a matter of fact, it’s just as wrong to judge ourselves by these standards.  You can’t simply look at surface circumstances and events to determine if you’re in God’s will.

Paul states that even though he can’t think of anything he’s done wrong, that’s not what justifies him.  He has already been declared innocent by the blood of Christ.  What he does has no effect on that.

But, when it comes to a final determination of his ministry, there’s only One qualified Judge.

Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes.  He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts.  At that time each will receive his praise from God.
1 Corinthians 4:5

There will be a final judgment for believers.  This judgment will not be a Heaven or hell decision.  That was already decided when I bowed my knee to Christ.  The judgment for believers is all about their rewards…or lack thereof.

The Lord’s judgment won’t be based upon what it looked like on the surface.  He’ll take into account the thoughts and intents of the heart.  God knows our motivations and our faithfulness even if they weren’t apparent to all those who were watching us.

Be careful not to make a determination about yourself based upon your apparent failures.  Let God have the final say.  Keep staying faithful to the Lord’s call upon your life.

Question: How have your motives not always lined up with the outcomes of your actions?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 6, 2019 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Faithful at the Oars

We need godly leadership in the body of Christ.  But what’s the greatest character trait that a leader needs?  As we continue our study of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, we see one that I think is high on the list.

So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God.  Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.
I Corinthians 4:1-2

The Apostle Paul wrote this section of Scripture to encourage spiritual leaders to be faithful to their calling.  He’s talking to those who work in the ministry.

The word, regard, means, to account or to take inventory.  In essence, we’re told that when other people take inventory of our lives as leaders, it should be obvious to them that we’re servants of Christ.  It should be just as obvious that we’ve been entrusted with the secret things of God.

Unfortunately, what should be is not always what happens in reality.  There’s some uncertainty in Paul’s writing because he uses the phrase men ought to.  This means that he faced the same problem in his generation that we have today.  There are many leaders who don’t live up to their high calling in Christ.

The issue should be as clear to those around us as it was to the members of the Sanhedrin in the book of Acts.  It says that when meeting with the apostles they took note that these men had been with Jesus.  The apostles talked, ministered, and acted like Jesus.

That should be our testimony as well.  It’s sad that in many parts of the church, the ministry has fallen short from this ideal.

But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.  When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.
1 Corinthians 11:31-32

In the context of this verse, Paul is teaching on the subject of the Lord’s Supper.  He makes it clear, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that if we would only take the time to judge ourselves we would not come under judgment.

When will we learn this simple lesson?  We wait for condemnation to come on us from the outside before we’ll take a long, hard, and honest look at ourselves.  Then, when we’re criticized for our failure to follow in the footsteps of Christ, it seems to be easier to get defensive than to take stock of our own lives.

We should be constantly comparing ourselves to the ministry of the Lord.  Only in that way can we be assured that we’re adequately portraying the role of a leader.

In the verse, from I Corinthians 4 above, Paul uses the word servant.  It actually refers to an under-oarsman.  Like those responsible for propelling the ship forward, we have a shared ministry with Christ.

Leaders need to be supplying vision to the people.  The church should have a forward momentum because of our commitment as those who lead.  In most cases, if a rowboat isn’t moving, the problem lies with the oarsman.

It’s up to us, as leadership in the body of Christ, to set the speed and direction as ordered by the Lord.

Questions: What are your areas of ministry?  How do you submit those areas to Christ?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 4, 2019 in Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Who are You Really Serving?

There are posts that I really enjoy writing.  There are others that I wrestle with God about publishing them.  I don’t want to be the one who rocks the boat.  Unfortunately, today’s post is one of those that I didn’t want to write.

Jesus was nearing the cross and the battle lines were being drawn between Him and the religious leaders of His day.

As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law.  They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets.  They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers.  Such men will be punished most severely.”
Mark 12:38-40

In Jesus’ day, there were those who taught the Scripture, while at the same time having an element of self-indulgence.  There were times that they taught the truth of God’s Word, drawing people closer to the Lord.  At the same time, they were feeding their own egos and lining their pockets.

These religious leaders liked the fact that they were highly esteemed among the people.  They were able to dress well and were readily recognized.  People wanted to be at the meetings when these leaders were present.

According to Jesus, for all of their training and knowledge, they weren’t scoring any points with God.  As a matter of fact, the Lord warned the crowds that they needed to do what these leaders taught, while at the same time rejecting their self-absorbed lifestyle (Matthew 23:1-4).

Jesus also condemns the religious system itself.  He points out the fact that their extravagant way of life is paid for by those who could least afford it.

That was the easy part of this post.  Now on to the difficult section…

Lately, I’ve been becoming more and more disheartened by the direction of our modern system of Christianity.  It seems like in many areas we’re taking on the attitude of corporate America.

What do I mean by this?  In most large corporations, the senior executives make more money than they could spend in ten lifetimes.  In that same company, the employees who do the bulk of the work can’t make ends meet with the one salary they earn from doing that job.

Now we have huge churches where the pastors have big homes, garages full of cars, private jets and a continual desire for more.  Many of their members have to work two or sometimes three jobs to make ends meet.  Granted, they’re preaching Jesus Christ and many are getting saved under their ministry.  But at what point is enough, enough?

I’m told that their luxurious lifestyle is the reward for their faithfulness in the ministry.  As a pastor who has been serving the same church for 30 years, I find that kind of thinking offensive.  I gave up a career where I was on track for a six-figure engineering salary when God called me.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not jealous of these preachers.  If I had it to do all over again I would gladly make the same choices for the honor of serving my Lord.  I just don’t like being told that the car I drive or the house I rent is the indication of how faithful I’ve been to the calling of God.

It’s nothing new.  The church has been dealing with this throughout history.  I like Paul’s attitude.

But what does it matter?  The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.  And because of this I rejoice.
Philippians 1:18

That’s the attitude I want to portray.  I apologize if I seemed to be ranting.  I hold no ill will against any of my brothers or sisters in the ministry.  I simply want Christ to be exalted in His church.

Question: What is the true indication of faithfulness to God?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 13, 2018 in Faith, God's Provision, Ministry, The Church

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

The Needs of the Lord

As we continue to go through the Gospel of Mark, we’re coming to the culmination of the earthly ministry of Christ.  He is approaching Jerusalem, knowing that the cross awaits Him there.  As the Lord is about to enter the city, Mark records an interesting event that takes place.

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden.  Untie it and bring it here.  If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.'”
They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?”  They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go.
Mark 11:1-6

We need to understand what’s happening here.  It has a lot to do with attitudes and faithfulness in the kingdom of God.

The first thing I see is that something is needed to fulfill the ministry of Christ.  It was foretold in the Old Testament that Jesus would enter Jerusalem on the back of a colt.  It was time for this to be accomplished.  In every ministry, there are needs that must be met in order for God’s will to be done.

Next, I see a supernatural revelation as to how this need was going to be filled.  Notice that Jesus didn’t say to His disciples, “Guys, I’m going to need to ride in on a colt.  You have to go out and find me one quickly.”

That tells me that to accomplish my calling, it will always require faith.  After all, there were other ways this could have been done.  Jesus could have purchased a colt in Jericho, the last town He visited.  Then He would have had it ready to go upon His arrival.

But that’s not how the Father wanted this to happen.  He desired the disciples to act in faith toward the instructions of Jesus.

Finally, it comes down to attitudes.  The disciples know what the ministry needs and how God intends to provide it.  The problem is that it all depends upon another party – those who own the colt.  All they heard was, “The Lord needs your colt to accomplish God’s will.”

Think about it.  How many times have we been in a meeting listening to a missionary share their excitement over the people-group that God has called them to reach?

“The Lord needs your money to accomplish His will.”

I know what you’re thinking.  The disciples told the owners that the colt would be sent back when the Lord was through with it.

“Give, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Luke 6:38

Why do we get the attitude sometimes, “Oh, no!  Another special offering.”  We need to understand that God looks at these gifts as loans to His kingdom.  He always repays with blessings we couldn’t ever get on our own.  But it all comes down to attitude.

Get your money or resources involved in kingdom work as the Lord leads you.  You won’t regret it.

Question: How have you been blessed by giving something to the Lord’s work?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 14, 2018 in Faith, God's Provision, Ministry

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Judgment and Mercy

In my last post I talked about the judgment of God that we all need to be prepared for. James completed his thought by talking about mercy.

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!
James 2:12-13

But what is this mercy? I believe that our generation has no concept of what this word means.

When we use the word mercy it’s usually when we’ve done something wrong. We want to be shown leniency, so we say, “Please have mercy on me.” This is not the Biblical concept of mercy.

It’s interesting to note that two times were recorded in the Gospels where Jesus made the same statement to the Pharisees. In both cases they were condemning Him for what He was doing. He did things like eating with “sinners.” The Pharisees were thinking, “How can the power of God work in you if you do that?”

Jesus had a stern rebuke for them.

“If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.”
Matthew 12:7

This statement was directed at the Pharisees, But I have to admit that when I began studying about mercy I had no idea what He meant by it. I had always quoted the verse “to obey is better than sacrifice.” This view of the mercy of God was new to me.

If you boil it all down to a simple phrase, here’s what I see in Scripture. Mercy is the favor God shows to His sons and daughters. For a detailed teaching on the mercy of God, click here.

This is why James talks about the fact that mercy triumphs over judgment. God would much rather reward your faithfulness than discipline you. It’s the same with sacrifice in the above verse. The Lord would rather reward your obedience than forgive your sin – even though His forgiveness is unlimited.

This knowledge of the mercy of God should color all we do in our relationships with other believers. If God wants to show us His favor, then we should have that same attitude toward fellow Christians.

James is clear on how we’re to do this. First of all, we’re to speak to each other in the understanding that the one we’re speaking to is under God’s favor. Why would I treat someone badly, that God loves and favors?

To do that would be to invite God’s discipline. It’s like that in any family. When someone is mean to their sibling, they’ll definitely get a time-out.

The second part has to do with our actions. Sometimes they speak more loudly than our words. How do we treat each other?

When we refuse to participate with fellow believers, it’s a sign that we don’t favor someone that God loves and wants to work with.

An understanding of God’s mercy is what should drive us forward. We need to let it work in us to live and act as Jesus did. Then we’ll see the results of God’s work in us and in those around us.

Question: How have you seen God’s mercy operate in your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 15, 2017 in Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

God’s Reward for Faithfulness

TrophyIn my last post I talked about leadership. Specifically how we as leaders should be faithful to the calling we’ve received. This assumes that I know both the what and the where of my calling.

In the same way, if I’m a member of a local church, and I know both what I’m called to do and that I’m where God called me to do it, then I can stand secure in my calling. I don’t run just because the work gets hard. I don’t get offended, even if nobody acknowledges me.

It doesn’t matter if someone looks at me cross-eyed. I’ll stay at the post God’s called me to. This is because I’m not serving men, but the God who calls and equips me for His service.

But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation – if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.
Colossians 1:22-23

This is a big “if.” We all like to think that we’re unconditionally free from accusation. We quote that there is now no condemnation in Christ. But these verses are all contingent upon us fulfilling our call according to the plan of God. It’s not about me fulfilling my plan because I got some people to buy into it.

On the other hand, if you’re truly called, people will begin to see that calling. They’ll stand with you and surround you. But it will not be a private vision. It will be a corporate vision for the people God has given you to as a gift.

Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?
Proverbs 20:6

It’s easy to say that you love the people the Lord has brought you to. The real question is; are you faithfully carrying out your call? Remember that it’s the hireling who runs away when the pressure is on.

It doesn’t matter how spiritual you make it sound. God’s solution is never for you to run away. The only true sign of unconditional love is faithfulness to the plan God has set out for you. Apart from that, all your claims of “loving the flock” are merely empty words.

A faithful man will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.
Proverbs 28:20

God rewards faithfulness. If all you’re after is to become a big name, then God will not support you. If you’re out to prove you can start a great ministry with lots of followers – go right ahead, but heaven has no obligation to back you up.

Too many ministers take churches as “stepping stones” as they “climb the ladder” to a more prestigious pastorate. We don’t do things as the world does. The church is not just a spiritual model of corporate America.

God’s people are a supernatural kingdom under the direct authority of a sovereign Lord. It’s not up to us to choose where and for how long we will work. It’s the King of kings who decides our destiny and, to tell you the truth, I have more faith in His ability to promote me than in my own.

What I need to do in the tough situations is to stand my ground and let the Lord work His will through me. Faithfulness will bring God’s reward.

Question: How has God promoted you in the past?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,