Summary: An exhortation to serve for the right reasons and in the right place.
"Seeking Not Ease Nor Applause of Men"
I get a little worried some times when I hear that a preacher has left a church because the "Lord led" him especially when it is to a bigger church. I cannot say that I have ever heard of the Lord leading a man to a smaller church. I am sure that He has called men from a larger church to a smaller one but I would imagine more men are obedient to the bigger church calls than the smaller ones.
When I see a guy moving five times in five years to bigger churches, I become more concerned. In the secular world that would be wonderful career progression, but the ministry is a calling not a career. It strikes me odd that God once called men to long term commitments to a place of ministry and now it seems more like hit and runs. I have often said that when a church calls me to pastor I will put my tombstone in the church cemetery. Of course, Christians nowadays only stay an average of two years at a church so why should the pastor stay much longer? I have my doubts that this is a change in Christ. It seems more like a change in Christians. I am glad that Christ does not share the same commitment level as modern Christians and pastors. I believe that God can move a man or His people, but I think He has issued far fewer marching orders than He gets the credit or blame for issuing.
I also get worried when Christians show up at a church all fired up to serve, but only if the service requires very little time and effort, yet has a big title so that they get their name mentioned often in the bulletin or have it called from the pulpit. They want lots of authority with very little responsibility and even less accountability. If they do not get that position quickly, they just pack up and head off to greener pastures or riper pickings.
That makes me think of an old gospel song, "Working Like The Devil For The Lord." The part that I remember goes, "Every Sunday morning you don’t have to search cause he stands out like a sore thumb on the front row of the church. He’s in charge of collection plates, chairman of the board, but he’s working like the devil for the Lord." The chorus is "Are you working really working night and day working hard? Are you working like the devil for the Lord? Well, I’d hate to be in your shoes when you get your big reward if you’re working like the devil for the Lord!" My title for this message came out of an old hymnal and if you are truly sincere in serving the Lord then you must be come to the place where you are not "seeking ease nor the applause of men." Amos was content to be a herdsman and a gatherer of sycomore fruit. He did not expect to ever be a prophet since there was none in the immediate family. He had it good as far as he was concerned. Yet, when God called him to stand before a King and a priest and give a very unpopular message he gave up his comfort and did not care what either of those bigwigs thought of him. (Amos 7: 14-17)
Moses gave up his comfort to lead the children of Israel, but tried to do it in his own power and ended up as a shepherd on the back side of the desert. After God ’umbled him, he was not looking for any service opportunities, but the gifts and callings of God are without repentance. (Rom 11:29) So, do not think failure cancels your call to service or erases your gifts.
The only way you are going to have the success of Amos and Moses without suffering the failures of Moses is that you must submit to the Lord’s leadership. Sometimes that means doing some desert time like Paul. Hmm, two of God’s greatest men spent time in the desert. You have to wonder if that is not the only way to fruitful service. Paul was saved on the Damascus Road, but he learned submission to the Lord’s leadership in the desert!
In your desert experience, you will learn to submit by seeking Him personally. (Vs. 15-19) The best way to get to know Him is by being alone with Him! (Vs. 15-17) When a couple marries, they usually take off for a week or two for a honeymoon. This gives them a chance to adjust and to get to know each other as man and wife. They may have dated for a couple of years and been engaged for a year and think they know each other well.