Clay Pot—California, USA
Editors note: In the first article, published in Manna 81, we examined two characteristics that God seeks in those who serve Him: a surrendered heart and a rooted faith. In this concluding part, we will look at four more characteristics that Gods servants should develop in order to be used by God more powerfully.
Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. (Col 3:2)
The Living Bible version translates this verse as: Let heaven fill your thoughts; dont spend your time worrying about things down here.
As present-day Christians, we may be so caught up with the world that we spend our time, money, and energy on things that do not last, failing to take heed of Jesus warning: Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away (Mt 24:35).
We need to take stock of our life, and focus our energies on that which is everlasting—Gods word. This is even more so for those of us who serve Him. Gods servants should set their eyes and minds on the eternal promises of God. Our daily activities should be centered on the knowledge that there is more to life than just the here and now.
How wonderful it is when we can wake each morning, yearning to set our thoughts on heavenly things. No matter how busy the day ahead, we will pray to God and affirm this longing. This is how we can start to fill our lives with eternal values, every moment of every day.
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:1V2)
Jesus was able to face the cross because He had set His mind on things above, and His eyes on the joy before Him. He looked beyond the pain and suffering He would experience at Calvary, focusing on the glory at the other side. Setting His mind on things above enabled Jesus to walk through His fiery trial.
With our hearts set on things above, we will be able to see the sins that entangle us and remove them from our path, so we can run unimpeded the race marked out for us. When our life on earth ends, we are destined for only one of two places: heaven or hell. Have we given this any thought? Are we resolved to make heaven our final resting place? How should we go about achieving this?
Revelation 5:8 tells us that the prayers of the saints are collected in heaven, as golden bowls of incense. If we wish to set our minds on things above, we need to examine our prayers: What and who are we praying for? How much time do we spend in prayer? Are our prayers set on Gods work, or are they set on our material desires? It may not be wrong to pray for our physical needs, but God looks for those who seek His kingdom first.
A brother recently lost his job during the recession. Being his familys source of income, he prayed desperately for a new job. But during one prayer, God asked him, What is your priority? Are you seeking Me, or a job? The brother felt ashamed. He realized that, for many years, he had pursued after a good career and financial security, only attending church out of routine; Sabbath was not a delight. He had taken God for granted and had never truly sought Him. But God promises, [Y]ou will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart (Jer 29:13). And if you seek Gods kingdom first, He will meet all your needs (Mt 6:33). So, in that prayer, the brother surrendered his heart and soul to the Lord.
Soon after, the brother attended a national adult theological seminar for the first time, and he sought the Lord. He was filled with the Holy Spirit in his prayers, and he was assured that God would take care of him. He then interceded for truth-seekers in church, brothers and sisters afflicted with illness, and those who had not attended church for a while. He had never prayed like this before—in the past, he had only prayed for his own needs. During that seminar, he realized that God was in full control of his future—he did not need to set his mind on praying for a job; he would now set his mind on praying for the matters of God.
The earliest words of Jesus recorded by the Bible are: Why do you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Fathers business? (Lk 2:49). Not many would have figured out their lifes purpose at the age of twelve. But when Jesus took His final breath, He said, It is finished (Jn 19:30). Jesus had a clear purpose in life: His Fathers business, which He fulfilled on the cross. Let us imitate His single-mindedness and set our minds on things above.
And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. (Gal 6:9)
It is easy to become discouraged when serving God. Sometimes, we even shorten our prayers because our mind is trying to solve a seemingly insurmountable problem. We fail to look towards the almighty power and mercy of the Lord.
God delights in those who persevere and are not easily discouraged from doing good. The Bible records some examples of promising individuals who gave up before completing their duty. In his letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul mentions Demas, who deserted him out of love for the world (2 Tim 4:10). Another disciple, John Mark, who left Paul and Barnabas while they were on a missionary trip, also failed to fulfill his duty at that time (Acts 15:37V39).
As long as a worker does not grow weary in doing good, then God will use him. We need to seek Him with persistence and determination in prayer.
God does not seek those with immense power, talent or wealth—He seeks those whose heart and faith are set on Him, and who never give up. What God puts upon you will never outweigh the strength He has put within you. We need to trust Him in this.
Why did God use Paul so mightily? What was the secret to Pauls effectiveness? Surely, it was because nothing could discourage him. In the midst of suffering, Paul writes:
We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. (2 Cor 4:8V10)
Even when he did not know why he was suffering, Paul persisted. He remained resolute when faced with challenges because he carried Jesus death in his own bodyXhe always remembered Jesus suffering—which impacted Pauls own life and servitude. This sensitivity towards Christ meant Paul could manifest Jesus in his life.
What does it take to discourage us today? Perhaps even a single negative word can cause us to give up serving the Lord. If this is so, we need to ask God to help us maintain a tender and compassionate heart when we face criticism. This can be difficult if we like to seek the praise and approval of others. There will be disagreements, and even resistance, when we work together for the Lord. And there will be times when we need to be steered back onto the correct path by our co-workers. So we must persevere in our work with an understanding heart towards others, and never stop cultivating the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our life.
We should never be brought to our knees by anything, except prayer. God does not seek extraordinary people—He seeks ordinary people who have the extraordinary capacity to spend time in supplication. An ordinary person can be filled with the Holy Spirit and become useful to God despite any difficulties, as long as he is persistent in prayer.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 Jn 4:7V8)
There are some people in this world who yearn for love, who go through the week without experiencing even the slightest human touch. When we embrace each other as brothers and sisters, we are showing love, without judgment or criticism. It is a beautiful experience to enter a church filled with Gods love, where brethren interact with each other as family members.
When we are busy with many duties at church, we may fail to show even simple gestures of love in our interactions with fellow members. We may lead countless Bible studies, and be able to recite many verses from the Bible. We may know how to defend our faith and win people to Christ. But if we do not have love, then we are like a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal (1 Cor 13:1).
To have sympathy for someone is to feel sorry that he is hurt; to have empathy is to actually feel his pain. But the Bible goes one step further: we are to have compassion, defined as the desire to alleviate that persons pain. This means praying with them, comforting them, supporting them and spending time with them. In short, we go the extra mile to help them. If we study the life of Christ, we can see that He was filled with compassion. He was regularly moved to heal, to comfort and to teach the masses. He even went all the way to the cross to save sinners.
The latter part of Matthew 25 states that on the last day, we will be judged by how we have treated the hungry, the thirsty, the sick and the needy. It is easy to blame people for the circumstances they find themselves in and to tell them: If you didnt do this or that, then you would have food to eat. Likewise, it is easy to say to those in spiritual need: You dont have enough faith; you dont have enough love; you must have sinned. But does this really help them? Instead, we should try to stand with them and share their pain. We need to love each other in the family of God. And we need to bring others into this love—the sheep who are without a shepherd, those who are hurting and spiritually dying.
If we have unconditional love for others, then God will use us powerfully. He wants us to venture out and take His message to the world. He wants us to take up our cross. But we need to do all these with love. Even if we give all our possessions to the poor and are burned alive for preaching the gospel, if we do not love, then these sacrifices will come to nothing (1 Cor 13:3).
Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD?
Or who may stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol,
Nor sworn deceitfully. (Ps 24:3V4)
This passage beautifully illustrates that a holy life starts with cleansing. Each morning, we should ask the Lord to convict us of our sins. If we confess our wrongs, as the Bible says, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn 1:9). When the Holy Spirit fills us, we naturally want to draw closer to God—to become holy. And this is the expected state for all servants of God.
Holiness was an important component for the Old Testament priests who served before the Lord. Aaron and his sons had to wash their hands and feet with water from the bronze basin before they entered the tabernacle or burned a sacrifice on the altar (Ex 30:17V21). This teaches us that we must cleanse ourselves before we come before the Lord—clean hands symbolize a clear conscience. We must confess our sins in prayer and ask for forgiveness each time we come to church, especially if we are a servant of the Lord.
The above psalm also speaks of the need to have a clean heart in our service, doing all things with pure motives. Looking at it from another angle: Cursed is he who does the work of the Lord deceitfully (Jer 48:10a). When we are praised for the work we do for God, we need to be careful not to let pride taint our once-pure motives. We should seek to please God over man, and never worry about who gets the credit for the work we complete. With such an attitude, we will be able to do more for the Lord.
In these two articles, we have looked at characteristics God seeks in His servants: a surrendered heart, a rooted faith, a mind set on things above, a persistent spirit, unconditional love, and holiness. But this is not an exhaustive list; learning how to serve the Lord and allowing Him to work through us is a life-long process.
As servants of God, let us honestly evaluate our faith: Do we set our mind on things above? Do we love without conditions? Let our prayer to Him be: Dear Father, we want to be used by You. Please fill us with Your love. Fill and transform us with Your Spirit, so that we can serve You better through Your power. Amen.
 The Living Bible copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.