Faith Community

Week 1

1.The community of faith

Acts 2:37-47

It has been said that the church was not born in the upper room – it was conceived in the upper room but born in the market place! On the day of Pentecost the promised Holy Spirit came to all those who were gathered together waiting on him. They then left the room where they were gathered, went in to the market place and began to tell people about what had happened..
Peter who was the disciple that denied that even knew Jesus and along with the other disciples had been hiding ever since Jesus was crucified now somehow had become a man of courage and he stood before the crowd and preached to them about their sin. When he concluded his sermon as recorded in Acts chapter 2, many of his hearers, under the conviction of the Holy Spirit asked what they needed to do to escape the judgment of God. Peter responded that having believed in Jesus they should turn from their sins and as an evidence of their belief be baptized. On that day 3000 people were added to the number of the disciples – this was the birth of the church. Baptism was the method by which new believers became members of this body.
This new church was not an organization as such but a gathering of people drawn together by a common desire to identify in their shared faith in Jesus. As they met together there were some things that they did which were particularly noticeable. They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles – they were eager to learn all about Jesus and how they should give evidence of their newfound faith in daily life. They participated together in all of life – they ate, learned and prayed together. They demonstrated fellowship at its deepest level.
As these new believers met and prayed, ate and learned together they discovered more about the person of Jesus and all that he had given to them. The consequence of this was a sense of awe felt by everybody. They witnessed many miracles that were an evidence of the Holy Spirit in their midst, however there was also a very practical aspect to this new found faith and fellowship.
The common faith the people shared resulted in unity and concern for one another. So much so that those who had the ability shared their own possessions with those in need, they took every opportunity to meet and worship God and to visit each other in their homes and to share meals.
The attitude that pervaded this first church was joy, cheerfulness, sincerity and love. They spent much of their time giving thanks and praising God. The result, not surprisingly, was that they enjoyed the favour of the whole community. So attractive were they in their lives together that the Lord added to their number new believers every day.
As believers in Jesus we become part of a household of faith that worships and serves together seeking to know more about Jesus. As we demonstrate his forgiveness and love we should expect God to make himself known through miraculous acts and also to gain the favour of the wider community. As we do, God will add new believers – every day.

  1. How would you answer someone who said that they didn’t believe that is important for a Christian to be a member of a local church?
  2. What were the characteristics of the early church as it met together?
  3. What was the result of these early church meetings?


  1. Growing Through Difference

1 Corinthians 12:4-7

As individual believers join together as the church they are described in the Bible as the ‘body of Christ’. This is a reflection of God’s desire that the church continue to do on earth the things that Jesus began to do in proclaiming the Kingdom of God.
While it is clear that all believers everywhere comprise one church or body, it is also true that any group of believers meeting together also represents the body of Christ. Indeed, even when only two or three meet in his name, his fullness is present with them. Each local congregation of believers is made up of a diverse group of individuals who are often quite different from each other in matters of taste, social and ethnic background, talent and ability. Nevertheless, they are moulded together by the Holy Spirit to become one body.
In this process of moulding the Holy Spirit gives to each person a particular gift that he intends to be used to build up the other members. These spiritual gifts differ from one person to another and are not decided by an individual’s own personality, talent or abilities but by the sovereign choice of God himself. As we use our gifts not only do we build each other up but we make known to the world the nature of God. Each gift is a representation of God’s character, as it is used his very essence is displayed. When all the gifts are on display, so too is the manifold nature of God.
The gifts that God gives vary in function. Some gifts have to do with the explanation and preaching of the Word of God, others include healing or exhortation, acts of compassion and mercy while yet others have to do with the practical aspects of our life together. In each case the gift is given with the expectation that it will be used in the household of faith that is the church. The gifts are not intended for the benefit of the one using or having the gift, nor are they to be exercised outside of a relationship with the broader body of Christ. The gifts we have are not only intended to build up the church but to reveal God to those who have yet to have faith in Jesus. It is only as each gift is used, as the Holy Spirit enables and as Jesus as Lord directs, that the who nature of God is revealed.
No two people are the same; we all have different characteristics including our personality and abilities. However, although we are different we are equal in God’s eyes. One member is not more valuable than another or more important than another. God by his grace gives good gifts to all his children so that they may work together in building up the Church. As we work in harmony God’s nature will be made known and people will be drawn into the community of faith.
Do you know where you fit into the body? Have you identified the gift God has given to you and are you using it? Each day seek opportunities to build up your brothers and sisters in faith as you exercise your God given gift.

  1. What is the purpose of gifts given to the body?
  2. Which of the gifts do you think the non church community would most want to see?
  3. How do you see this working out in your life?


  1. Having Favour with The People

Luke 4:14-21

The first church grew day by day with the addition of new believers because it had favour with all the people. Those people included the religious Jews who didn’t share the beliefs of these first followers of Jesus and the Romans who were occupying Jerusalem as a foreign power. The enthusiasm the new believers had for the teachings of Jesus and their desire to serve each other and the wider community meant they looked on favourably and  church that is  well thought of if it is an asset to the community. The sense of fellowship, love and unity that existed in the first church not only benefited them, if benefited the whole town!
When Jesus stood up and told his hearers that he was fulfilling Isaiah’s prophesy, as recorded in Luke 4, he didn’t intend that only those of faith enjoy the benefits of the Kingdom– they were for everybody. It is by no means clear that all those that Jesus healed, or fed or ministered to became his disciples– but their needs were met anyway. As the church is the embodiment of Jesus we are to continue doing the things that he did when he was physically here on earth. He healed the sick, he fed the poor, he set the captives free and he bound up the broken hearted – and so must we. The Church must continue to do these things and of course if it does, it will gain the favour of all the people.
Jesus didn’t heal people just to be a person pleaser – he was motivated by genuine compassion for the needy and the hurting. We too as his continuing presence in the world need to experience this same compassion and demonstrate his love to those we meet. As Mathew records in his gospel, Jesus, in the middle of busy ministry engagements stopped and saw the people and had compassion on them. He saw their need and he responded to it. In the midst of our busyness we must stop and see the people and do what we can to alleviate their need. (Matthew 9).
Among the gifts God gives the church are mercy, compassion, liberality and healing. It is as we use these gifts that not only do we see the evidence of changed lives but we also make known to our community the whole nature of God. The added benefit is that we will enjoy the favour of the people. The church should never be just a social agency, its primary responsibility is to tell people the good news about Jesus, but it does this in while responding and meeting the needs of a hurting community. Of course it is neither intended nor possible that we as individuals do the work alone. One of the advantages of the church as an organized body is the increased ability to work together to meet genuine need. But that doesn’t mean that was as individuals leave it all to an organization, we must also do what we can with what God has given to us.
It is as we manage our gifts, resources and abilities effectively that we are able to meet the needs of the lost and the hurting in our world. God expects us to see people as he sees them and then to do all in our power, individually and collectively to meet their needs.
Are there ways you can put your talents, gifts and resources at the disposal of the church that will assist it to meet the needs of our community?

  1. In what ways would the activities of Jesus help establish favour with the people?
  2. How might the spiritual gifts you have been given be used to help in this task?
  3. According to Jeremiah 29:5-7 how else can we seek the benefit of our communities?


  1. Now The People

1 Peter 2:4-10

Coming in to relationship with Jesus Christ results in our having a new status given to us. We are now the People of God. Before this we represented different nationalities, social classes, educational groups, races and so on – we were not ‘a people’ but now we are! We are special – we have been chosen by God to be his people, we are a royal people a holy nation set apart for God’s own possession. It is natural to identify with our country of birth or the one in which we live and be loyal to it. If we were disloyal we may even be called traitors! But once we become followers of Jesus, we are citizens of a new ‘country’ – the Kingdom of God. It is that nation that to which we owe our loyalty and whose values we adopt.
The people that we have become is characterized by Peter as a building, a spiritual house. Each one of us is a living stone that is shaped to fit perfectly into the place prepared for us, a building that is perfectly fitted together built upon the foundation that is Jesus. But the building that we have become is not just any building. It is a spiritual house, a place where God chooses to dwell. Peter goes on to say that this spiritual house becomes a place for a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God.
But what are these sacrifices? A little further in the text Peter tells us that the reason that God has chosen us as his special people is so that we can tell the whole world about his glory and majesty. We can explain that we have been called out of darkness into his marvelous light. The highest form of sacrifice we can offer our God is to tell others about him. We are to be a holy people – to be holy means to be set apart for a special purpose. The purpose we have been set apart for is to tell others the good news.
We are to be living stones that grow. We are to grow in such a way that we will be better able to fulfill the purposes he has for us. Our growth is to be spiritual growth and it is to be continuous. As we contemplate our lives over recent times, are we able to discern how we have grown spiritually? As new believers our growth can be quite rapid and obvious to others, but as we get older in our faith the growth becomes a little less evident. Sometimes it seems that we have achieved a certain stability as a Christian and no new progress is made. While this might be acceptable in our physical lives, and unfortunately as we get older sometimes our faculties decline, this is not to be the case in our spiritual life. God wants us to keep growing, to be daily changed and increasingly conformed into his image. Dr. D. James Kennedy once said that the problem with most people today is that they are satisfied with where they are spiritually, but dissatisfied with where they are materially. It ought to be the other way around.
The building that we are part of is expected to grow, as the stones grow. That is not the physical place we meet in one or twice a week, Jesus is not impressed by the size of our building, the number of people that fit in it or the colour of our walls. He wants the community of his followers to grow together, to stretch and adapt to one another so that it increases in its ability to make the change in the world that his kingdom will bring. Our challenge is to never stop growing which means that the building we are will also always continue to grow

  1. What new status does a Christian have?
  2. What does it mean to be a ‘living stone’?
  3. What are the spiritual sacrifices that you can offer up?


  1. Plants in the Garden

Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23

Of the many metaphors or pictures that are used in the bible to describe the people of God, gardens or vineyards are popular. Any gardener knows that the quality of the flowers and fruit of the plants in his or her garden depends upon the quality of the soil. (Please no one bring up hydroponics!) For this reason considerable time and effort is spent on getting the soil right. Rocks and debris need to be removed, compost, fertilizer and trace elements need to be added and water made available. The more time that is spent on cultivation, the better the result.
Jesus tells the parable of a farmer who went out to scatter seed. All of the seed was good quality; it was all capable of becoming a plant that would bear good fruit. Unfortunately not all of the seed fell on good, well prepared soil. Most of it still took root and survived for some time, but only the seed that fell on good soil produced fruit. Some seed never even took root, it was snatched away immediately. All of the other seed had a chance to grow – if the ground had been more receptive it would have done.
The good news of the gospel is the seed that is scattered into the hearts of the people in our community. We are those who sow the seed, but we have an added responsibility  – to prepare the soil of the hearer’s heart so that it can receive the seed and ultimately bear fruit. Jesus said that Satan snatches away the seed that is sown into the heart of the one who doesn’t understand. Our responsibility is to do all we can to bring understanding to the hearer, to explain things in word and action in such a way that the message is clear.
In other illustrations that Jesus used the primary responsibility for bearing fruit rested with the hearer. However the Christian community still bears responsibility. Sometimes a person may respond emotionally to the good news and when the pressure of life comes on, the shallowness of this response causes the plant to whither. We need to ensure that the person who receives the good news responds intelligently and not just emotionally. They need the knowledge of truth and encouragement during times of testing.
The person who receives the gospel but isn’t prepared to separate themselves from their old world and values are like the seed growing among thorns. Eventually these thorns will grow up and strangle the good plant to death. It may struggle on, but there is no vibrancy, no life and no fruit.
All of these people exist in the body we call the church. Many have responded, often with joy, but their lives have become stunted because of the reasons mentioned above and we as the church have a responsibility to care for and nurture these people just as a gardener tends his or her  plants. We must work to remove the weeds, rocks and debris that choke out growth. Pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to add the nourishment that brings growth and that he will also apply the pruning shears to areas of deadness. But even after pruning the wound that is caused to the plant may need to be treated and protected so that no disease gets in.
Of course the church also contains those that bear much fruit and we celebrate that together. But those that are fruitful still need to be pruned, fertilized and to have the soil in which they are planted improved. Our task is to collectively work together to create and maintain a garden in which all the plants of the kingdom can flourish.

  1. How important is it to sow seed in good soil?
  2. How can we improve the soil before we sow?
  3. How can the church tend the plants in the garden, for example pruning and applying improvements to the soil?


6. Belonging to God’s Family

John 3:1-15


The Christian life is one that has a different nature to normal physical life. While all of us share the common thread of humanity – some have an added dimension which gives to them a quality not possessed by all. Jesus explained to Nicodemus that while all men and women are born of water not all are born of the Spirit. It is only those that are born of the Spirit that can know that they have the promise of eternal life. Jesus told Nicodemus that he needed to be born again (or from above). This was not only true for Nicodemus it is true for all who want to enter the Kingdom of God and receive the promise of eternal life. The Kingdom of God is present in the world today in the life of the church. It is only those that have had this experience of being ‘born again’ that are truly members of the body of Christ that is the church.
Not everyone who is a genuine believer in God can point to a specific time when they knew without a doubt that they had gone through the experience of new birth and yet they know that it happened. Few of us can remember the events or details of our own physical birth, and yet we know it must have occurred. There is evidence of life and growth, the testimony of others and probably family resemblance. Others may have witnessed the birth and can tell us about it. We know we have been born because we have life! So that may be true of your birth into God’s family – you may struggle to name a time and date it happened, but you know it did, all the evidence is there!
The person who is born of the Spirit has the witness of the Spirit within. There is evidence in their life and resemblance to other family members. There is something about the Christian that binds him or her together with other family members. The organised or institutional church will sometimes contain persons who, while having some of the characteristics of other family members do not share the same life giving Spirit. It is not sufficient to attend ‘church’ or to involve yourself in the activities of Christian life, you must be born again. Each person must come to an experience of receiving the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Even those who have grown up in the Church and enjoyed the benefits of membership in the body must know that they have personally been born of the Spirit.
It may be that you have always been part of a community of faith and you have participated in the life of the Church, but still you are not sure that you have in fact received this new life personally. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal himself to you and confirm the fact of your new birth. If you are not sure, there is no shame in asking him to baptize you with his presence and establish the fact of your birth, filling you with his love and grace and guaranteeing you an inheritance as a child of God. The word baptize can cause some confusion, it means to be overwhelmed or immersed and that is how it is meant when referring to an experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit. It does not mean that there has to be dramatic evidence but it will produce certainty in the believer of their acceptance into God’s family. Some people will have an immediate emotional or spiritual response, but that doesn’t always happen. When Peter, Paul and others baptized new believers it was to signify that they had been immersed in the body of Christ and adopted into God’s family. Water baptism is a public testimony of an inward reality. If you have come to faith in Christ and have not been baptized, then it a  great (and Biblical) way to make sure your friends all know!

  1. What is required to become a member of a family?
  2. Can you live in the same house with others but not be of the same family?
  3. In what ways does your church demonstrate that it is a family?


  1. That the World May Know
    1 Corinthians 13:1-13

    The passage in 1 Corinthians 13 is often used in wedding ceremonies as an illustration of the love that should exist between a husband and wife. While this is a most reasonable thing to do, the passage actually is intended to explain the relationship that exists between the members of the church. Jesus said that the world would recognize his disciples by the way they loved each other. Sometimes it seems that Christians believe that what Jesus meant by love was grudging tolerance, however he intended the type of love described by Paul in his letter to the Corinthian Church.

    That Paul used this illustration in the midst of his teaching on the use of spiritual gifts in building up the body is no accident. The type of love required of Christians is a gift of God’s grace. It is not possible to act toward one another in this way unless the Holy Spirit enables it.It is also noticeable that it is more important to love one another than to exercise any or all of the gifts.  In 1 Thessalonians 4:9,10 Paul encourages the church to make it their ambition to excel at loving one another-the evidence of God’s presence is not the use of charismatic gifts but of love. The type of love that is patient and kind, that is not arrogant or boastful, doesn’t always insist on its own way or remind others of their past failures. It doesn’t get irritable but bears and accepts injustice. This love doesn’t take pleasure in the failure of others but is always glad when the truth is made known.
    If the church typifies this type of love then the world will sit up and take notice. God is not asking us to tolerate one another, but to love each other and to do it in such a way that the world notices. We need to remind ourselves that love when used in the Bible is not an emotion, but a verb, a doing word! When we are told to love someone, just as husbands are instructed In Ephesians 5, it means to do the things are that show we love, like the list in I Corinthians 13. It is more than showing an emotional reaction.
    In writing to the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2 God commends the members for their hard work and perseverance. They had even suffered physical persecution and had not surrendered their faith. They had worked hard to maintain good doctrine – by all accounts they were doing everything they should, as God would want. But after this encouraging pat on the back, God delivered a stern warning – they had lost their first love and if they didn’t recover it he would remove the Holy Spirit from their midst.
    While this first love related to their attitude to God himself it also concerned the relationships of the individual members to one another. God required that they do the things they did at first, that is, love one another. They were to show this love by demonstrating the qualities of love spoken of by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians.
    Do we as a church love one another? Is there evidence in our lives of the presence of God’s love? Perhaps individually and collectively we need to seek a fresh baptism of the Holy Spirit of love so that we can convince the world that we are his disciples.

  1. According to John 13:34-35 what is it that will convince others that we are disciples?
  2. How would you expect this to be demonstrated?
  3. How do you see the description in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 lived out in your church?



Week 2

1.First Place in Everything

Colossians 1:15-29

The centre of our faith is the incomparable Jesus Christ. Our beliefs are not based on a series of philosophical truths or logical arguments but on a person. A person who is at one time fully human and fully God.

Christians are not called to follow a systemized religion but to come into a relationship with a person. This person is Jesus Christ. The Scripture tells us that he is the beginning of all things; it is he that initiates and maintains all of creation, all things in heaven and on earth owe their existence to him. This does not mean only men, women, plants and animals but to angels and demons as well. No demon in hell exists except by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ.

He existed before all of creation and it is by his creative act the world and all its inhabitants came into being and they only continue to exist so long as he intends they should. His creative activity finds its fullest expression in the act of reconciling all of creation to God through the work of the cross. It is in his own body that he has made peace with God.

When Jesus rose from the dead he demonstrated that the power Satan has exercised over men and women everywhere has been taken away. As the first born from the dead Jesus destroyed for all time Satan’s works. Death no longer holds any terror for the Christian – the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is made available to all those who believe in him so that they no longer need to subject themselves to the activities of the devil. Now they can have the assurance of eternity in peace with God.

This person, the first born from the dead, the initiator of creation is also the head of the church. The church is described as his body because it acts in accordance with the desires and wishes of the head. The head is also the place of authority  – the church has authority over the heavenly realms because its head is Jesus Christ. He is seated at the right hand of the Father, the place of all power and authority and the church possesses this same power and authority because it is connected to him as its head.

The church has been given all power and authority in the world to accomplish God’s purposes. So long as we, the body, remain connected to our head, Jesus Christ, we have no need to fear the works or power of the devil. The church has authority over him and needs to confidently exercise this as it fulfills the commission given to it by Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the centre of our faith, he is to have first place in everything. As we listen to him and discover his plans and purposes we know that we have all the power and authority we need to accomplish his desires for us in this world. The kingdom of darkness must retreat as the Kingdom of Heaven advances. As we, the church, resist the works and activities of the devil he must flee.

It is God’s desire that Jesus reconcile all things in heaven and on earth to himself and Jesus has determined that we as his body should be his agents of reconciliation in our world. Let us go forward with all the power and authority that is ours as part of the body of Christ and invade the kingdom of darkness.

  1. If Christ is supreme in all things, how should this be evident in us as individuals and in the church?
  2. Is truth something that is primarily known or experienced? What does it mean for you to know Jesus as truth?
  3. Is Jesus the centre of your life?


  1. Heaven Rules! – OK
    Isaiah 9:2-7In Daniel 4 a dream of Nebuchadnezzar was interpreted by Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar was told that all his power and success would be taken from him because he had trusted in them rather than in God. However he was assured that a remnant would be left to him, and his kingdom would be restored, when he recognized that Heaven rules.Isaiah the prophet looked forward to a time when one would come who would rule on earth as a heaven’s representative. When he comes all those who live in darkness will see a great light, all those who are oppressed will be set free and the government that he brings will be typified by justice and righteousness. (Isaiah 9)
    Of course Isaiah’s  prophecy looks to the person of Jesus Christ. It is in him that heaven rules. The government of this world and all that it contains, the heavens and all of their hosts will rest upon his shoulders. He came as a son, but reigns as Mighty God, Eternal Father and Prince of Peace.
    When Jesus came to earth and commenced his earthly ministry he announced that the Kingdom of God was at hand. It is Jesus that holds the keys to death and Hades and it is him who has authority over all things whether in heaven or on earth. In Matthew 16 Jesus told his disciples that these keys were to be given to the church. The authority that Jesus has by virtue of his place in the Godhead is given over to the church to be exercised on earth. The authority and the power remains in heaven, Jesus said that whatever was bound by the church on earth would be bound in heaven. While it is the church’s task to announce it to the kingdom of darkness, the authority rests with the Lord Jesus Christ who sits at the right hand of the Father. A Hallmark of Jesus’ reign is peace, he came to announce peace on earth, it is by his life, death and resurrection that this becomes possible. It is these things that destroy Satan’s power and takes away the enmity that exists between man and God.
    There will come a time when all those who believe in him will enjoy peace on earth. In the meantime we live with the assurance of Peace with God and the anticipation of a future where sin and all of its consequences will be destroyed. It is our responsibility as citizens of the light to bring light into our world, to proclaim peace and to do justice. Even though we see the kingdom of darkness all around us and it seems that the church is losing the battle, we have his assurance that his government will increase and go from strength to strength until his coming again. Let us act as citizens of a Kingdom that has won the battle and is advancing day by day with all the authority of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let us remind the devil that no matter what he does or says – Heaven Rules! – OK?
  1. What does it mean to you that you are a citizen of Heaven?
  2. How does the church exercise Jesus’ authority on earth.
  3. If heaven rules, why is there so much strife in the world?


  1. Not of This World
    Romans 12:1-21As believers in Jesus Christ we have become citizens of Heaven. Colossians 1:13 tells us that we have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of the Son. Philippians 3:20 adds that our citizenship is in Heaven. Because we belong to this Kingdom our lives and values should reflect those of the one who is King. Romans 12 instructs us that we are no longer to be conformed to the world of which we were once citizens but to be transformed by a complete re-orientation of our minds. Our values should no longer reflect those of the world we have left, our language, values and priorities have changed.We are now citizens of Heaven – the ideas and aspirations of the one who rules in Heaven should be ours. Our responsibility is to live in this world as ambassadors for the Kingdom we represent. We still live in this world, but we carry ‘diplomatic immunity’ which protects us from its ruler. We are protected by all the power and might of the Kingdom of Heaven. Any attack on us is an attack on heaven itself and all the might of our King will be brought to bear against the one who attacks us. An Ambassador does not spend his or her time trying to convince the people of the land in he or she is placed that their country exists, their role is to tell everyone how good their country is and explain why they should want to go there! You and I are ambassadors for the kingdom of heaven living examples of the benefits of citizenship brings.We know that a time will come when the devil, the ruler of the earth will be brought before the judgment seat of Almighty God. His punishment has already been determined and he will be locked in the pit of hell for eternity. Meanwhile as ambassadors in his kingdom we must be careful not to conform to its standards. As we daily renew our minds by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit we will declare to the world what Gods good and perfect will is.God’s desire is to bring peace to all mankind, he has provided the means for this in the person of his son. The evidence is given in the lives of his people as they conduct themselves in the world. Romans 12 tells us how we should live in relationship with one another and it is as we live this way that we overcome evil. As each member of the body serves the other and uses the gifts and graces God gives we build one another up. As we serve God with diligence, being careful to remain fervent in Spirit we announce to the world that the Kingdom of God has come.

    We are called to be ambassadors of Christ, peace makers in a hostile world. We make peace not by demonstrations of force but by doing good. So far as it is possible we are to be at peace with all – we are not to take revenge for injustices done to us but to allow God to bring justice to all. The values of God’s Kingdom are not the values of the kingdom of darkness. We are citizens of Heaven, our lives must reflect that citizenship, therefore do not conform to this world but each day allow God’s Spirit to bring your mind into harmony with his.

  1. What rights does a citizen have?
  2. What does an ambassador do?
  3. What makes a ‘good citizen’?


  1. Put Away the Gods
    Joshua 24:16-24At the end of Joshua’s life he reviewed, with the people, their history. He reminded them of their escape from Egypt, their testing in the wilderness and their entrance into the promised land. As he brought back to their memories the blessing, provision and protection of God he put to them a challenge.Joshua’s challenge to the people was that they serve God in sincerity and truth. They had received a land they had not worked for, a land full of promise, but in order for them to enjoy the blessings of the land they needed to be wholehearted in their worship of God. If they expected God’s protection they needed to serve Him, and Him alone. The evidence of the people’s sincerity would be that they put away all the gods and idols of the land from which they had come. God expected them to serve only him and not allow any other object of worship to take his place.Joshua expressed doubt that the people could do this, he was certain about himself – he and his house were going to wholeheartedly serve the Lord, but he thought this too big a task for the people. But the people of Israel insisted that they would put away all of their gods and idols and would serve God wholly and sincerely. So, having received the assurance of the people, Joshua led the people in making a vow to God of their faithfulness.

    There is an obvious parallel for us, the people of God. As we come to Christ he gives us an inheritance that we have not worked for and he promises his blessings and protection as we live in a land of peace in the midst of a hostile world. But he demands from us that we be absolutely loyal in our allegiance to him. We cannot live in his kingdom enjoying the benefits of his protection and blessings while serving the gods of other kingdoms. The gods of the nations we have left behind are the things we trusted in for our identity and security. They may include wealth and possessions, careers and homes, accomplishments and education, training and even families. None of these are wrong in themselves and they only become gods and idols for us when we trust in them rather than in God himself.

    Do we place our confidence in our earning capacity or our achievements? Are we able to face the future with confidence so long as we have paid off the mortgage? Do we spend more time and energy maintaining our interpersonal relationships than our relationship with God? If we do these things then perhaps they have become idols and false gods for us. God will allow us to place our trust in these other things but as long as we do he doesn’t guarantee his blessing or protection. Of course some who choose to follow Jesus come from different religious cultures and experiences, all of which require commitment to their own gods. It is not possible to serve the gods of other religions and expect God to protect deliver and bless us. He say he is a jealous God that does not stand for rivals. Like the people of Joshua’s day a choice is needed. Choose God and worship him, or find some other god and accept what they can offer.

    If we desire the privileges of living in the Kingdom of Heaven then we only have one choice – the Lord, he is God serve him!

  1. Are there things in your life that you tend to depend on, more than the promises of God?
  2. Do we sometimes resent giving God our time or talent or even our treasure because we have to go without something we want?
  3. Can we, like Joshua, confidently say “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!”


  1. Our Certificate of Citizenship
    1 John 4:7-21According to the apostle John there was one quality that all children of God possessed that would identify them as belonging to the Father. Unless this quality was present then the children were not legitimate and could not share in the benefits that came from being co-heirs with the Son of God.All of God’s children must demonstrate the quality of love. In the first place they must love God and then they must also love one another. The Christian takes on the very nature of God when he or she is born again by the Spirit of God and adopted into his family. God is love, it permeates every aspect of his being and out of this great love he sent his Son to take away the penalty of our sins and make it possible for us to be brought into peace with him.
    As a demonstration of his love God also sent his Spirit to dwell within us. This Spirit confirms to us that we abide in the Father and that his nature abides in us. Because the very nature of God is love, his love must dwell in us. He has demonstrated his love to us by sending us his Son and we demonstrate this same love by the way we relate to one another. We do not have the freedom to choose whom to love rather we are to abide in love so that it becomes part of our very nature. We will respond to all people from a heart of love, one that looks beyond the fault or weakness and sees as God sees. Giving love unconditionally and without reservation.
    This love, the love God supplies grows from day to day is perfected as we surrender our hearts and our will to him. It means that on the day of judgment as we stand before the Father we have confidence because God will come to us and be able to say ‘I know you are my children because you love others as I love you.’ This love of God takes away any fear we may have. We do not need to be afraid of the future or of the present. We have no fear of condemnation or the attacks of Satan because we share the love of God – and his love casts out all fear.
    To have the fullness of the love of God in our hearts is to be confident in all the things we do. We can face any eventuality confident with the assurance that we are God’s children and we are being made perfect by his love. As his love grows in our lives it dispels all fear. Fear and love cannot co-exist, one displaces the other and while earthly love can be overcome by fear, the love that comes from the Father, the very nature of God himself cannot be overcome or even diminished by any thing in heaven or in hell. The antidote to fear is not toughening up, or practicing some methods of relaxation or similar it is allowing the love of God to overwhelm you and fill you, because where the love of God is fear cannot exist.
    The love, which is the evidence of our relationship with the Father, is also the seal on the certificate of our citizenship. We are citizens of Heaven and we have been sealed by the Holy Spirit. This seal carries the stamp of love imprinted upon it and unless we carry that seal then we are aliens in the Kingdom of God. Let us be sure that we give evidence of the love of God as we love and serve each other and that we daily grow in that love expecting God to perfect it in us.
  1. What is the evidence that God’s love dwells in us?
  2. How can you experience the love of God?
  3. In a world where the media and others seem intent on creating an atmosphere of fear, what is the antidote?


  1. Established in Love
    Ephesians 3:14-21As Christians we are planted in the love of Christ. This is the fertile ground in which we grow. The apostle Paul prays that we grow according to the riches of Christ’s glory and that we be strengthened by God’s power in our inner being. Having been established in this love and with the strength God provides we are to do all we can, together with our brothers and sisters in Christ to learn about the extent of this love. How broad is it? How high? How deep? Can we ever comprehend the extremities of God’s love?

    Of course there are no limits to God’s love – he is love. He is the author and perfector of love, to find the limits of his love is to find the limit of God himself and he is infinite, unlimited, all-powerful, and ever-present. No matter where we go – God’s love is there. No matter how far we feel we have strayed from him, his love finds us there. Whether we find ourselves in the depths of despair or the heights of ecstasy God’s love is with us. It can never be exhausted or outrun or escaped from.

    And yet despite our endeavours to discover the extremities of God’s love we are reminded that it can only be known through a relationship with Jesus Christ. God does not want us to simply understand that his love is unlimited and inescapable; he wants us to experience it personally. We must come into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and it is in this that we discover the reality of his love. This love surpasses knowledge; it must be experienced not simply comprehended. To experience God’s love and to grow in relationship with Jesus Christ causes us to be filled with the fullness of God. This is his will for us, not just as individual believers but as the church. He doesn’t want us to grow in isolation but together with all the saints. He wants to fill us with his fullness, for us to know the depths of his love and the enormity of his power.

    This power that God causes to work within us is able to do more than we can dare to even imagine. He wants to abundantly supply all we need to bring glory to him. As we discover the love of Christ we learn that it is his will to bring all people everywhere into relationship with him. It is this that will bring him glory.

    We know that God desires to redeem all people to himself and we know that he will supply more than we can ever imagine to accomplish this purpose. Let us with confidence reach out into our world with his gospel believing that he can do all things through the power that is within us by the love of Christ.

It passes knowledge, that dear love of thine
My saviour Jesus, yet this soul of mine
Would of thy love in all its breadth and length
It’s height and depth and ever-lasting strength
Know more and more

Mary Shekleton and Ira D Sankey


  1. How can the church together learn about God’s love?
  2. If Christ’s love surpassed knowledge, how can we comprehend it?
  3. What limits God’s power?


7. Nothing is Impossible

Luke 1:26-38
When the Angel of the Lord appeared to Mary he announced that not only was she going to have a child but that the one who would be born was going to be the ruler over the House of Jacob. To say this was a shock would be the understatement of all time. Not only was Mary not married, she was still a virgin!
As a Jew Mary would have been looking forward to the coming Messiah. The one who was to come to restore to the people of Israel the promises of God. She was no one special, didn’t come from an influential family, and certainly would not have expected to be the mother of the anointed one. Not surprisingly Mary queried the Angel, not on the basis of her fitness to be the mother of the Messiah, but because she was a virgin. Perhaps she thought the whole idea was so fanciful, so bizarre, so impossible that it simply could not happen.
However the angel assured her that she would indeed become pregnant and she would give birth to one who be called the Son of God. And to confirm that God is the God of the impossible informed her that her older cousin Elizabeth, who was supposed to be unable to have children, was 6 months pregnant – ‘for nothing is impossible for God’.
The promise that God made to Mary through the angel was that a son would be born who would have the throne of David and whose kingdom would never end. What would have been going through Mary’s mind during her pregnancy? What did she think, how could she make sense of it all? At the time of Jesus’ birth shepherds came and confirmed the words of the angel, a little later Jesus was presented in the temple according to Jewish custom and two prophets; Simon and Anna also confirmed the destiny of the child. Within a short period wise persons from a distant land also came bringing gifts and worshiping him.
The coming of the Kingdom of heaven is summed up in the person of Jesus. He was conceived by a miracle and born in the most humble circumstances. He came as the promise of God to fulfill the eternal promises of God. God chose a humble woman who had found favour with him to be Jesus’ mother. A young woman of no particular merit – except that she enjoyed the favour of God. She was the agency by which God chose to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth. A young woman faced with the prospect of disgrace because of her place in God’s plan and yet God exalted her, blessed her and protected her because of her faithfulness. Because of her obedience and faith a child was born who became the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
God uses the most humble of means to accomplish the most extraordinary purposes – he delights in demonstrating that nothing is impossible to the one who believes and acts in obedience to his call. God sets before us a tremendous challenge – ‘go into all the world and make disciples’ he gives us all authority in heaven and on earth to accomplish this task and promises to be with us always. Let us accept his commission with confidence daring to accomplish extraordinary tasks believing that the power that works within us can do far more than we even dare to imagine.

  1. What made Mary suitable to be the mother of Jesus?
  2. What makes you suitable to accept his commission?
  3. What limits your willingness to accept his challenge?



Week 3

1.Excel Still More
1 Thessalonians 3;4

 Three times in his first letter to the church at Thessalonica Paul urges his readers to excel still more. They were already doing well but there were some areas in which they could do better. Paul was encouraged by the way these young Christians were growing, he had received a report from Timothy that they were continuing in their faith and had expressed their love and concern for him and his companions. They were standing firm, resisting temptation and were genuine in their commitment – but there was still room for growth.
The first area Paul suggests that they should strive to excel in is in relation to their love for one another. He goes further than this, the love that they have for one another should extend to all men (and women). It is comparatively easy to show love to those we like or get on with, but to love all people, even those that are sometimes objectionable and even offensive? In this context Paul is reminding the Thessalonian Christians that they were not to confine their affections to those in the church but to extend them to those who were not part of their fellowship. If we are to reach people with the good news of Jesus Christ we must love them in the same way that Paul loved those he lead to faith in Thessalonica and that Jesus showed when he gave up his life for us all.
Secondly Paul urges these young believers to excel in their personal lives. In particular they were to be pure in their behaviour, especially when it came to their sexual relationships. At the centre of the need for constraint in the area of sex Paul points out the need not to defraud a brother. To take something that belongs to another is fraud, it is inconsistent with any notion of the expression of love. The attitude of the community in which this church lived was casual in regard to sexual relationships. It is evident that it was common for lust to be given fairly free reign and fidelity in marriage was not held in high regard. As a consequence Paul reminds these believers that their behaviour was to be different, it was not appropriate to pursue relationships with another man’s wife or to commit adultery. Our own generation is very casual in its attitude to sex. It is no longer expected that sexual relationships will be confined to marriage or that a marriage will be of lifetime duration. In the midst of these lax moral views Christians are called to be different, to be pure and whole heartedly committed to their own marriage. They are to excel in their marriages so that they may not reject the Holy Spirit that God has given to them.
The third area in which these Christians was to excel is in business! The reason that they needed to excel in their work life was so that they could behave properly toward outsiders. When Paul uses this term he is referring to those who are not Christians, their salvation is always at the forefront of Paul’s thinking. The way we conduct ourselves at work and in business is essential to the way we communicate the good news of Jesus Christ. In fact it is only as we work hard that we are able to conduct ourselves properly toward those outside of the church.
Our work is not just something we do to earn money, or the way we occupy ourselves between bible studies and church meetings. It is the primary way we demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ to those outside of the church. Paul calls us to strive to excel in the area of business and work. We are to demonstrate to the whole world that our work is important to God and we are to commit ourselves wholeheartedly to excelling in the way we work and do business. It is as we excel still more in our relationships, marriages and work that we make known the good news of Jesus to those outside of the household of faith.

  1. What things does Paul suggest we should excel in?
  2. How is it possible to love all men (and women)?
  3. What do you think about the idea that we should excel in business?


2. Make It Your Ambition

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

Three times in Scripture Paul talks about ambition. In Romans 15:20 he writes that it had been his ambition to preach the gospel, not where someone else had preached but in new fields, to people who had never heard the gospel before. In 2 Corinthians 5:9 he declares that it has always been his ambition, in whatever he did to be pleasing to God and now in 1 Thessalonians 4 he urges his readers to make it their ambition to mind their own business and to work hard with their hands so that they would be able to behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.
We can well understand the first two of Paul’s ambitions because they involve the spiritual aspects of life. Surely it is reasonable to be ambitious to reach the lost with the gospel and every Christian should obviously do their very best to please God in whatever they do. But to make work an ambition? Surely this is worldly, a desire that belongs to unregenerate life. Not so, Paul makes it clear that it is his desire that the Christians to whom he writes should strive to be successful at work.
The word that is translated ‘ambition’ in many of our Bibles comes from the compound Greek word meaning to love honour. In other words Paul is suggesting that his readers should deliberately seek to receive honour from people, and from God, they were to be ambitious and successful. There is a tendency among some Christians to assume that success is somehow unspiritual, that it is wrong to be recognized as an achiever in our chosen and God given fields of endeavour. Nothing is further from the truth. God does not delight in failure; in fact many times in the Scripture he gives instruction on what must be done in order to succeed. It is suggested by some that we should seek success in spiritual concerns such as soul winning, answers to prayer, even preaching but we should remain silent about our achievements in the business world. Somehow or other our work is unspiritual, unfortunately this idea reflects a total misunderstanding of ministry and the opinion that God has of the work we do.
All of the things we engage in should be expressions of worship, our activity at church, the songs we sing and the prayers we offer, but also how we spend our recreation and the business we conduct each day of the week. Most believers will spend far more hours at work than they ever will at church, and it would be unreasonable to presume that God is not interested in the way we spend the majority of our time. He is not only interested, he wants to see us succeed, and in fact he wants to work alongside us so that we will succeed.
The ambition that Paul speaks of however does not draw attention to itself. We are not be ambitious for glory and so even in our success we do not promote ourselves but instead point to the one who gives that success. It is as we remain in right relationship with God that we can not only expect to succeed in all of our endeavours but we can also be sure that the focus remains on God. It is not wrong to succeed – God expects it. Christians are not called to be mediocre; they are to be ambitious to do well. They should exert every effort to succeed in their God given fields of service. It is not only reasonable but right that we receive the respect that comes from others when they see that we have been diligent to apply ourselves and gain the profits and rewards that come from hard work and integrity. Paul says to excel still more as we make it our ambition to mind our business, to work hard and therefore conduct ourselves properly toward outsiders. How ambitious are you? Are you working with God to ensure that you do succeed in the things you commit to?

  1. What three ambitions did Paul speak of?
  2. What ambitions do you have?
  3. Is it right to be ambitious?


3. A Quiet Life

2 Thessalonians 3:11-13

 The first thing we are to be ambitious to do is live a quiet life. These two things seem to be in conflict with one another. Most ambitious people are far from quiet, they like to make sure that other people are aware of their achievements – they want to draw attention to themselves. But we are to make it our ambition to live a quiet life.
Success and self promotion are not the same thing. Many very successful people are known for their humility, they are self effacing often pointing out the achievements of others while minimizing their own. While the brash, in your face, cocky self-promoters are seldom appreciated and often find that their success is short lived and may even be tinged with controversy. Tragically this equally applies to some prominent church figures. Preachers who draw a crowd because of their personality, making promises of success that almost suggest that God will come on demand. These men and women cannot be said to be living a quiet life, they love the limelight and the attention. When the ministry succeeds it is because of their talent, hard work, or gifts and God seldom receives the glory. Of course this is a bleak picture that paints an extreme but these figures do exist and we have all seen them. But given that all of us are called to ministry and that ministry is where we spend the majority of our time, the workplace, those same excesses we deplore in preachers and other figures of prominence in the church should equally be deplored in the workplace or on the sporting or academic field.
There is some sort of paradox that suggests that it is right and proper to pursue work choices and careers that provide greater material benefits and badges of success while this same attitude is condemned among pastors and church leaders. I am not suggesting that pastors should accept a call to a church on the basis of the financial package they might receive or see a move to another church as a promotion, but if we are to extend the notion of ministry to activities outside of the pulpit, as we should, then shouldn’t the values we find reasonable in the market place be equally reasonable in the pulpit? Rather than condemn pastors for having a worldly or mercenary attitude to their roles, perhaps we, in the marketplace should adopt the notion that we are called to our workplace, it is our place of ministry – it is a divine calling whose success is not determined by the salary package or retirement benefit we receive.
We are exhorted to live a quiet life, a life that does not draw attention to itself; one that is at peace, a life that is at rest and content with its lot. We must not confuse ambition to succeed with discontentment. Paul wrote that even though he had experienced hunger, deprivation, imprisonment and other sufferings he had learned to be content. He also experienced success. He established churches, spread the gospel into uncharted lands, preached before religious leaders, performed miracles and witnessed the salvation of many and was one of the pre-eminent religious leaders of his day. In all of these things he says that he had learned to be content, but his ambition remained. He pressed on for the prize that was to be given to him at the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul’s life was one of constant activity, even when chained to a soldier or locked in a prison cell he remained active, he wrote and prayed, preached and taught. Yet he remained humble, he was self conscious about his appearance before other people and the effect he might have on them. He didn’t promote himself, he was conscious of the authority and calling he had but he did not draw attention to himself or seek any credit.
We are to be ambitious to succeed but also to live a quiet life, to be content with our lot convinced that if we work hard and remain in relationship with God, success will take care of itself.

  1. What do you think it means to live a quiet life? 
  2.  In what way do you see being quiet as related to peacefulness and contentment?
  3. Is it possible to successful but still quiet?


4. Minding Your Own Business

1 Corinthians 3:6-15

 How easy is it to be more concerned with what everybody else does than our own business? It is much easier to point out the weaknesses in others and their own lack of success than to honestly evaluate our own performance. But Paul exhorts us to be ambitious to mind our own business. We are to make a determined effort not to get caught up in affairs that don’t concern us.
In his second letter to the Thessalonians Paul expresses concern that he had heard that some of their number were acting as busybodies, not working but living undisciplined lives. These people were told to get to work and eat their own bread. They were to mind their own business. When he wrote to Timothy, Paul singled out young widows as those who could learn to become idle, going from house to house as gossips and busybodies. They get this way because they do not have anything with which to occupy themselves . His expectation was that these young widows should remarry and keep house! While such a suggestion today would probably get the militant feminists among us up in arms, in the context of the day it was not usual for women to pursue careers (although there were obvious exceptions) and the norm was for them to be fully engaged managing their own home. For married women their primary ministry was managing a good home. This was not some activity that was accepted merely out of necessity but because it was a high calling that God had placed on their lives.
In whatever vocation we find ourselves there are times of drudgery and boredom. Not everything we do is exciting or challenging. This is not only true for the vocation of housework, but for that of teaching, gardening, machine operating or banking. It is often in those times when we are carrying out repetitive tasks that don’t require our full attention that our mind wanders into other people’s areas of concern. Rather than just concentrating on the job at hand we start wondering about what others are doing, sometimes those thoughts become negative and even detrimental. If we are not fully occupied in our work the temptation to engage in conversation with others, or to meddle in their affairs increases and unfortunately, for most of us we eventually give in. The protection we have is to be fully occupied. Not only does this give us a defense against the temptation to be a busybody it will also gain for us a reputation for hard work, diligence and industry.
Paul was quite specific about our attitude toward busybodies – we are to take special note of them and then to refuse to associate with them. However we are not to treat them as enemies, but by our attitude to convince them of their folly (2 Thessalonians 3:11-15). How easy is it for us to fall into the trap of engaging with those who are idle? Whether it is over the water cooler, the telephone or the office desk it is easy to get into a conversation that starts OK but ends up somewhere else. A few minutes turns into a lengthy chat and our work suffers because of it. Too often Christians are criticized at work because they talk too much about their faith or their church and while we should always want to take the opportunity to share the good news, when we are at work our time belongs to the person who employs us.
If our ambition is to mind our own business we will need to make a determined effort. It won’t happen by accident and the devil will take every opportunity to throw barriers and temptations in our way. When the two-minute chat threatens to turn into a lengthy conversation, move away. When the office gossip approaches your desk, get busy or move away. Learn how to finish ‘phone calls and discourage the person who loves to waffle about things that are really of no importance when you and they should be more profitably employed. Make it your ambition to earn a reputation for discretion, hard work and industry and in this way you will behave properly toward outsiders.

  1. What should be our attitude toward busybodies? Why?
  2. Why do you think Paul singles out young widows as potential busybodies?
  3. What deliberate actions can you take to make sure you mind your own business?


  1. Work With Your Hands

Acts 18:1-3

When Paul writes that we should work with our hands is he suggesting we should all aspire to manual labour? Even though there is some undoubted benefit in doing creative things with our hands and exerting ourselves physically I do no think this is what he meant. His emphasis is that we should provide for ourselves and not depend on others for our daily needs.
Paul was trained as a theologian but also as a tentmaker. In Acts 18 we read that he stayed with Aquila and Priscilla and worked together with them because they were all tentmakers. This was their occupation not just some handy work they were employed in, at some point in Paul’s life he must have received training in this particular trade. There were many times when Paul was not working at his trade, he traveled the world as an itinerant missionary and was often supported by those he ministered to, but on the occasion he was in Corinth he went back to practicing his art. At other times Paul writes that rather than be a burden on the young churches he had established he and his companions supported themselves, they were entitled to support but they chose to meet their own needs.
Preaching, teaching and pastoring are all legitimate occupations and Paul makes it abundantly clear that those who engage in these activities are entitled to be remunerated. To be a teacher or pastor is a high calling and of no less value than any other occupation, but it is no more important as a ministry than any other either! All vocations are equally valuable, they are all places of ministry and it is hoped places that God has called men and women into rather than just some job they do. However the fact that something is lawful or legitimate does not mean that we have the right to claim it. Paul could legitimately call on the churches he had established to fund his missionary endeavours, but he chose not too. Rather than impose a cost on them that would have been difficult for them to bear, he chose to find employment in an occupation he was trained in to pay his own way. In doing this he also made it possible for these young churches to use their money in other ways to alleviate the needs of the poor or spread the gospel.
The point that Paul was making is that it is important to work hard at whatever vocation we are called to. It may be that over time we will be expected to do things that seem a little outside what we would normally do, perhaps you feel absolutely called to full-time pulpit or pastoral ministry and yet you have to work at something else in order to pay the bills. If this is so, then God’s command is to work hard at whatever it is you are called to do and accept it as a ministry that he has called you to. At other times you may be convinced that the job you are doing is the one that all of your life’s events have led to. It is the result of your education and training, the courses you have done and the disciplines you have exercised. If this is so, then take it as God’s call on your life and his ministry for you. Work hard and expect to succeed and then use the benefits you receive to assist others and to spread the good news of Jesus Christ.
While I am sure that Paul did not see tent making as God’s primary call on his life I am equally sure that the tents he made were good tents. I am confident that when he put his mind to completing his trade he was fully committed. He did not just see this as a means to earn a living but an opportunity to use his skills in the marketplace to bear testimony to his faith in Christ. Whatever workplace you find yourself in right now accept as God’s choice for you until he tells you differently. Until that happens work hard at what you do as though you are working for God not for man and then you can be sure that he will give you the opportunity for higher honour.

  1. How do work and ministry relate to one another?
  2. What is the most important ministry you can be involved in?
  3. What reason is there to ‘work with your hands’?


6. Behaving Properly Toward Outsiders

Colossians 4:5

The reason Paul gives for why we should live quiet lives, avoid being busybodies and to work hard with our hands is so that we can act properly toward outsiders. He sees a real connection between how we conduct ourselves at work and the way we will be received by those outside of the church. Too often we, as Christians, fail to take our work importantly as if it doesn’t matter how well we do in the workplace as long as we turn up to church on Sunday’s and ‘worship’ the right way. Paul sees it differently.
Most of us will have far more contact and opportunities to share the good news at work than in any other place. This is where we connect with non-believers and spend most of our waking hours. It is unlikely that our testimony will have much credibility however, if we have a reputation for laziness or are lax in our attitude to work. Christians must aspire to being known as hard working employees, fair and just employers and honest buyers and sellers in the market place. We will only achieve this as we mind our own business and live quiet and unpretentious lives.
In his letter to the church at Colossae Paul wrote that his readers should be wise in the way they acted toward outsiders, making the best use of their time and every opportunity. In particular he points to matters of speech, we are to let our words be seasoned with salt so that we will know how to respond to everybody. Acting wisely toward those outside of the church is very important. If we expect to reach people with the good news we must be credible, the message must be reflected in the way we live. As Christians we often emphasise the need to do the right thing and this often reflects in those activities we choose not to get involved in. Over the years Christians have been more known for what they are against than what they are for and as a consequence they are caricaturized as non-drinking, non-smoking, non-gambling, non-swearing, non-dancing wowsers who think all enjoyment is sinful. While many of the values Christians do hold can be Biblically supported, the shame is that they hold them while having a less than ideal attitude to their work and involvement in the community in which they live. It is not my intention to comment on the rightness or otherwise of these Christian taboos, but simply to point out that it is disappointing that the reputation we have is not one that is positive but almost entirely negative. Where is the caricature of the hard working, industrious men and women of integrity that live quiet lives, refusing to gossip and meddle in other people’s affairs? Where are the people who insist on employing Christians because they know they will always turn up on time and work hard while they are there, always paying their bills promptly and never overcharging?
Make no mistake your work matters. It matters to God and also to those who are not Christians. Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work hard with your hands, and then you will act properly toward outsiders. Then you will be able to make the most of every opportunity and people will want to listen to what you have to say because you have earned the right to speak. Your primary place of ministry is your place of work; it is where God wants you to be, it is what he has prepared you for and why he has given you the gifts, talents and abilities he has. Now all you need to do is add to those God given resources the desire to work hard and succeed and the attitude to please him in all that you do.
Is the way you work pleasing to God? Does it open up doors of opportunity for the gospel to be proclaimed? Make these things your ambition and trust God to make the way open for you.

  1. What is the connection between work and proper behaviour toward non-Christians?
  2. How are Christians thought of in your work place?
  3. How does your work, or the way you do it, open opportunities for the gospel?


7. Not Be In Any Need

Acts 20:33-36

A consequence of working hard is to be free from need. While God expects that those with the capacity to do so should help those in need he also wants us that can, to provide for ourselves not only so that we won’t be in need but so that we can contribute to the relief of others who are less fortunate than us.

The profit motive is a powerful reason to work. No one goes into business with the intention of losing money (apart from those who are manipulating the tax system), and very few, if any, would put in the hours they do without the desire to make a profit. There is nothing wrong with being successful, and to be successful in business almost inevitably means making money. Most of the great men and women of the Old Testament were financially successful, but unfortunately many of them also came to grief because of their wealth. Abraham and Lot separated because their possessions were too great for them to live together. There is a significant difference between not being in need and not being in want and the balance between the two is not easy to find.

In the early church there were those who were in need, but also some who had more than was necessary for their own needs. The consequence was that those that had an abundance made available to the needy the resources required to alleviate the need. The bible says that because of this there was not a needy person among them (Acts 4:34). The great tragedy was that even in this atmosphere of generosity there were those that tried to gain for themselves a reputation by the way they used their wealth. Paul makes it clear that his attitude towards wealth was simply that it was a means to an end. By earning money he did not become a burden on others, he was not in any need. Of course we know from the biblical record that there were many times that Paul suffered hunger and personal loss and his idea of his needs being met were probably quite different to many of our own.

Paul was able to write that by working hard he could be an example of how others could contribute to the needs of the weak. As we make it our ambition to work hard and succeed in our vocation we will inevitably reap financial rewards, but as it has been said before if God gives you a million dollar salary it is not so you can have a million dollar lifestyle. It is quite clear from Deuteronomy 8:18 that it is God who will ultimately determine whether or not you will be financially successful, your power, talent and ability come from him. When we make our success a source of pride we are headed for a fall. God chooses to give some the capacity to earn great wealth and to others he gives the capacity to succeed with less. Unfortunately because we live in a world where sin is dominant and men and women generally do not equally share the benefits and blessings God has given to them, there are those in our community, and even in our churches who are in great need. It is as we make it our ambition to live quiet lives, to mind our own business and work hard that we are able not only to act properly toward outsiders but we can help those who are in need as well. 

The example of the early church is one we should want to copy. What a marvelous testimony to God’s grace it would be if it could be said of the modern church that with ‘great power the apostles were giving witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them’. The members of this church understood that wealth was given to some so that all could benefit. Ask God to give you the ability to see that the success he gives you is a testimony to the trust he places in you to use his resources wisely.

1.    How does your work help alleviate the needs of others?

2.    What is the reason why some people succeed more than others at work?

3.    How does your experience of the church reflect that of Acts chapter 4?




Week 4

1.Made Ready for Work
Ephesians 2:10

For many years whenever I read Ephesians 2:10 I immediately connected the idea of good works with those ‘spiritual’ activities that were done in connection with the church and its program. They obviously included feeding the hungry, healing the sick, visiting prisoners and so on. While there is no question that these are very definitely good works, are they the only works God prepared for us to walk in?

Paul describes these works as ‘good’, that is to say they are morally or physically benevolent. In Colossians 1:10 he tells us that we are to bear fruit in every good work. Assuming that the activities we involve ourselves in are not, by their nature, evil or else intended to bring some disadvantage to somebody or offence to God, they are good works. The question that remains is whether these activities are those that God, before the foundation of the world, prepared for us to walk in.

To walk in something suggests that we are engaged in a particular activity over a reasonable period of time, there is a sense of continuity and purpose in our actions. It does not give the impression of infrequent, casual activity but rather a long-term, determined course of action or behaviour. So whatever the works are that God has prepared, they are something that should occupy a significant part of our time and energy. Obviously these works are significant, because God prepared them even before we were saved, they are not trivial or valueless. Most importantly God prepared them and he intends that we walk in them.

The activities that occupy most of the time for those in business or the workplace are of course their employment. Most of our life leads us to the job we have, whether it be our schooling, training, natural inclination or abilities. As we look back on our lives, quite often we can see the various things that have prepared us for things we are doing now. Of course this is not always so and some of us can be found in jobs that are just fill-ins, or a means of providing money so that we can do the things we want to. But if we are involved in meaningful employment it is usually because of the circumstances of our life and the choices we make. God has not only prepared good works for you to walk in, but he has also moulded and enabled you so that you can do so adequately.

There sometimes seems an implication that work is, if not actually evil, merely a necessity to meet the needs of life that occupies our time before the more meaningful activity of church affairs. Spiritual work is done at church; our jobs and places of employment are secular. This is nowhere taught in Scripture, while mankind was forced to live a life of work and toil because of his disobedience to God, work itself was never considered to be evil. In fact we see that on the 6 days of creation God worked, and then he rested. He insisted that his people should work 6 days and then rest on the seventh. Work is God’s idea; he planned it and intended that his sons and daughters should engage in it. Even before Adam and Eve sinned they were given the privilege of working! (Genesis 2:5 and 15).

What then are the good works that God has prepared for you to walk in? Do you believe that the job you are now doing is the one God prepared for you? Is it the one that all of your training, education and circumstances has shaped you for? Or are you just filling in time until something more spiritual comes along? Unless you are sure that the job you are doing is not the one God wants you to do, in which case you shouldn’t be there anyway, assume that it is God’s choice and commit yourself to bearing fruit in these good works. 

1.    What good works has God prepared you for?

2.    What things in your life have prepared you for the job you have now?

3.    What should you do if you realize you are not in the job you should be?



2. A Calling or Just a Job?
Acts 18:1-4

Is the job you are in a ministry, a calling – or is it just a way to make money to pay the bills? Have you ever thought about your job in terms of it being God’s chosen place of ministry for you? If you haven’t now would be a good time to start. God has prepared and equipped you to glorify him in the work that he has provided for you, but sometimes we are less than sure that the place where we work is where God wants us to be. How can we know that we are in the place of God’s chosen appointment?

In the first place it is really important to think of your work as your ministry, not just the place of your ministry. Sometimes we get the idea that the workplace just provides the context for us to do spiritual things like witness and pray. But we don’t always see the work itself as being a spiritual undertaking. We must start to see work itself as something that God takes pleasure in and is therefore a means by which we may worship him. Whether you are a carpenter, a nurse, an engineer or a salesperson God is interested in what you do and he is pleased when you do a good job. Secondly it may be appropriate to ask yourself whether or not you prayed about your career choice, or whether you actively sought God’s counsel and felt a sense of call to the place you work. After all we expect our missionaries and pastors to be ‘called’ to their ministry so why shouldn’t you?

It may be that you have a sense of calling to be a teacher, or pastor, evangelist or some other type of ‘full time’ ministry, but you need to work in order to pay the bills. Paul found himself in this position when he engaged in the trade of tent making. It is unlikely that he saw this as God’s primary call on his life but circumstance made it necessary or desirable for him take on this work. What then about your work in these situations? I am sure the quality of Paul’s tents was beyond reproach, I am equally sure that he didn’t overcharge his customers or cheat his suppliers. I am quite certain that everything he did in his place of work was with a mind to glorifying God and acting properly toward outsiders. This clearly is to be your attitude to your employment when you find yourself in need of finding work in order to support the ministry that God has called you to.

The Bible tells us that Peter left his nets to follow Jesus, while he did go back to fishing for a while, this was not God’s calling on his life. Matthew stopped being a tax collector when he decided to follow Jesus, but there is no suggestion that Zacchæus resigned from his business. In fact his encounter with Jesus caused him to start doing business in a Godly way. Erastus continued as the city treasurer while a follower of Paul and there is nothing to indicate that Lydia gave up her business interests after her conversion. On the other hand there were others who were dependent upon the church for their financial support. The issue here is not whether the type of work you are doing is spiritual or not, in fact all work is, for the believer, spiritual, but whether or not it is God’s idea for you to be in that place of work.

Are you working in the place God wants you to be? Is this so that you can serve him in other ministry elsewhere or in addition to your work, or is it the primary place of service for you? Be clear in your mind about these things, it is not that your attitude to your work should change (unless it’s out of sync with God’s will now) but that your understanding of God’s eternal purposes for your workplace and your part in it may need to be re-evaluated. If your work is your primary place of ministry, then it must be first priority in your service. Other legitimate activities, even church based activities, must not be allowed to encroach on the time and energy you give to your ministry. Remember this is not your job – it is your calling. It is the ministry that God has equipped and enabled you for.

1.    In what way are you called to your job?

2.    Is your job your ministry of just a means to pay the bills?

3.    How can you treat your job as your ministry?


3. Signs Along the Way
Jeremiah 31:21

What do we do when we are unsure that we are in the right place? What if we don’t think our job is the one God has in mind for us, but we are not really sure? Is every job, no matter what, our ministry? These are all legitimate questions and most of us have faced them at one time or another – even those in the pastorate! For a number of years I was (what was called in the denomination I was part of) a pastoral carer. That meant that I was responsible for looking out for a number of other pastors, making sure that if they were struggling or facing difficulties it didn’t go unnoticed. A good number of these pastors confided that they were unsure of whether they were really called to their ministry or if in fact they were in the right church. I confess that as a pastor I have faced similar doubts. What is true in the pulpit is also true in the pew. Many people are uncertain that the job that occupies so much of their time and energy is in fact the one that God has picked out for them.

There are a number of measures that can be taken to gain some sort of assurance that we are where God wants us to be. In the first place do the activities we engage in conflict with the what the Bible teaches? Are our values and morals compromised; are we able to be ethical and honest in all our dealings? Some occupations are clearly outside the will of God, the young women who has made her way through prostitution will certainly need to change her occupation, as will a stripper or seller of pornographic material – these are obvious, but some less so. What if your company sells tobacco products or alcohol? What if you are involved in part of the gambling industry such as horse racing? What if the news agency you own sells dubious materials? Some people will be quite clear in their opinions about these things while for others there will be uncertainty. The three obvious things to turn to are prayer, the Bible and the counsel of Godly people. If these three line up then there is a clear indication of what is right to do. Sometimes however it remains for the inner conviction of the Holy Spirit to direct you in the way you should go.

If you become convinced that the job you are in is not where God wants you, or if you seem to be going through a succession of career choices that leave you unsatisfied it may be a time for some healthy reflection. What led you to make the decision you have about the job you are in? What were your circumstances at the time, how was your relationship with God? Was anything special happening in your life? What was your motivation? Jeremiah suggests we should set road marks on the road so that we will know the way we have come – what are the road marks in your life? What are the pivotal experiences that have caused you to make the choices you have? As you consider these things it may bring into perspective the reasons why you are where you are or why you feel unfulfilled. There is nothing more certain than if God has called you to a ministry, vocation or arena of service and you turned aside, you will remain unfulfilled until you put it right. Go back to the time you made the decision to work where you do and ask yourself whether you were being obedient to God. If you weren’t then repent and ask God’s forgiveness. He may then either give you a sense of fulfillment in your present job or provide the way to leave and this time when he tells you to do something, do it! On the other hand if you are convinced that you are where you are because it is where God wanted you, thank him for it, accept it as your ministry and until he moves you elsewhere work as hard as you can in the job you are in. Your job is not a life sentence, it may be that after a season God will move you to another field of ministry, be open to it, but don’t push.

Remember your workplace is a place of spiritual warfare, expect opposition but be confident of the victory. Frustration, dissatisfaction and boredom are tools of Satan to render you ineffective, don’t become fooled into making wrong choices about your work – seek first the Kingdom of God and he will make your way plain.

1.    Are you convinced that you are in the right place of ministry?

2.    What three things do you need to line up to be sure of God’s will?

3.    Do these things line up for you?




4. Gifts, Talents and Abilities
1 Corinthians 12:12:4-7

Much is written and said about Spiritual gifts, the Bible clearly teaches that all Christians have the Holy Spirit dwelling within them and that he gives each a special enabling for service. These gifts are described in various places in the Bible and no doubt these lists are not meant to be exhaustive but rather an indication of the range of the characteristics of God that are to be displayed by their use. One thing that is clear is that each person is given a manifestation of the Spirit. In common language a manifest is a document that discloses something that would normally be hidden from view, and in this sense the gifts of the Holy Spirit disclose those aspects of the character of God that would normally be hidden. How does this relate to the workplace?

The work of the Trinity in Spiritual gifts is that the Holy Spirit according to his choice distributes the gift, but the place of ministry where that gift is to be exercised is to be determined by the Lord Jesus Christ. Even then we cannot presume upon the effectiveness of that ministry; that is decided by God the Father. Each of us have received a gift, even though many are unaware of what gift they have, but what is our place of ministry? For many years it has been taught, or assumed, that the place to exercise your gift is the church. If the purpose of these gifts includes making known the invisible attributes of God to the world it would make no sense to confine their use to the church, one hopes that those inside already know God and have the means to understand him better. However those outside of the church do not have either that knowledge or the ability to discover for themselves. What better place than the work place is there for you to put God on display? And how better can you do it than by allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal him by the gifts he has given to you?

If you were to ask the average person in your work place what aspects of God’s character they would most like to see it is probably not going to be preaching or teaching. They probably get enough of that already, but they may want to see mercy or love or compassion. They may have a need that requires healing or a problem that needs solving. Maybe your business needs a miracle or an employee a word of encouragement. These are the gifts God gives to his children and your place of ministry is where the Lord Jesus Christ has put you – for most of us, the workplace.

We should not confuse our gifts with our talents or abilities. You may have been trained and educated in administration but know that this is not the way God wants to supernaturally reveal himself through you. But this does not mean that you should not honour and glorify God in the way you administer. Perhaps you work as an engineer but God has supernaturally given you the gift of healing. While you glorify God in your engineering you will be constantly aware of the needs in the workplace that can be healed by an act of God’s grace applied through you. If you have the gift of compassion you will probably notice the wounded and hurting gravitating to you with their pain, while at the same time you are making efficiencies as a cost accountant. Sometimes your gifts will be reflected in your career, perhaps the nurse has the gift of mercy, or the manager that of administration. Sometimes God will add the supernatural edge to your job, but at others there seems no obvious relationship between your work role and the gift you have. 

Whatever the gift you have, and you do have one; it is up to you discover what the place of ministry is that Jesus has prepared you for. Remember that he puts you there so that you can reveal his character and nature to those who would not otherwise see him. This is an awesome responsibility, but also a privilege, imagine how much more effective you could be if you and number of others all showed different aspects of God’s character, so that his whole nature was revealed in your business?

1.    How does the Trinity work in the use of the gifts you have?

2.    How are you able to use your gift in the your place of ministry?

3.    Are your gifts the same or similar to the natural talents you have?


5. Work That Produces Fruit
Colossians 1:10

God has prepared work for us to do, some of that work is acts of charity and mercy, and some so-called spiritual activities in and through the church and others are in the vocations and careers in which we are employed. I say so-called spiritual activities because all work that Christians engage in is spiritual. There is no distinction between secular and sacred for those who belong to the church. It is significant that in some non-Christian cultures all of life has some spiritual significance and yet we in the Christian church make a distinction between spiritual and secular activities as if God is not interested in the things we do outside of the church. We know of course this is not true. God expects that we bear fruit in the work that he has provided for us to do, but what is that fruit?

We know that the Bible speaks of fruit of the Spirit which is identified in Galatians 5:22 and consists of characteristics of life which glorify him. They include love, joy, peace and kindness. Elsewhere in Scripture Jesus tells his disciples that they are to bear fruit and so prove that they are in fact disciples. While the fruit spoken of here is no doubt consistent with the fruit of the Spirit it also has a stronger application, that of reproducing. The vine that Jesus speaks of in his analogy of bearing fruit needs that fruit to reproduce. The seed is contained in the fruit and unless this seed is formed no new plants will grow. God expects that we will set seed that will produce new life, new believers who have come to faith through our example and witness.

In the work that we do we should expect to bear the fruit of new life. Our witness and example should provide opportunities for us to share the good news of Jesus Christ with those we work with or for. Peter reminded his hearers that they should always be ready with an answer for the hope that is within them, this should be our example also. As people become curious about the reason why the fruit of the Spirit is evident in our lives they may be prompted to ask what it is that makes us tick. This is the opportunity you should be waiting for. God expects that we bear fruit, this is why he has prepared good works for us to walk in. We must be always on the alert for an opportunity to share the good news, not by preaching at people but by allowing God to make himself known through the way that we live, the attitudes we display, and the Spiritual gifts we employ as we engage in the workplace we are in. It was said to be Francis of Assisi who is reported to have said: ‘by all means preach the gospel, and if necessary use words’ (though there is no actual evidence that he did!) This may be good advice for the work place, but if we are to see people discover the good news for themselves there will come a time when we will have to speak. We need to be ready with an answer when they ask. How ready are you? Are you confident that you could explain to those you work with how to become a Christian and what that will mean to them in the future?

We are expected to bear good fruit in the work that we do. Certainly God wants to bless our efforts and make us successful but the primary reason we do these works is to advance the Kingdom of God. When Jesus received the anointing of the Holy Spirit he declared that he was going to do a number of good works, and these he did. But he also stated that the came to earth to seek and save those who were lost. Jesus never lost sight of the fact that his primary purpose was to rescue men and women from the grasp of Satan. He did good works but they never interfered with the best work he could do. The fruit he bore are the lives of the boys and girls, men and women who will reign with him in eternity because they have received the good news. God has prepared good works for you to walk in, but never lose sight of the fact that his primary purpose for you is that you make disciples wherever you go, teaching and training them so that they too can become disciple makers.

1.    What fruit does God want you to bear at work?

2.    What pruning needs to take place for you to produce more fruit?

3.    How does being successful at work relate to bearing fruit?


6. The Marketplace Church Connection
Ephesians 4

If our primary place of ministry is the workplace, what then is the role of the church? Is congregational meeting necessary, does being a Christian require that we attend a regular meeting with other believers? These are all valid questions and while there are times when they are asked by people simply looking for an excuse not to go to ‘church’ they deserve a considered response. In the first place, as we have already discussed, church is not a building or an organization but is the term used to describe all those people who are united in faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. On this basis we do not ‘go’ to church, we are the church. Wherever two or more believers meet together it can be said the church exists in that place. Whenever those two or more make an agreement to meet at a particular place or at a particular time, organisation is required, there is nothing spiritual about this, neither is it unspiritual, it is just necessary. Apart from this it is only natural that believers will want to meet with others who share their beliefs, values and aspirations. 

In the days immediately after the church was born the new Christians met in each others homes, in synagogues and in other places to have fellowship, pray and learn. They ate together and encouraged each other in the things that they were discovering. As they grew in their faith they also arranged to collect money to assist others in need and to send out missionaries, they appointed leaders to give them guidance and they adopted rules that governed their beliefs and practices. These things evolved with time and developed to meet needs as they arose. This fledgling church did not set about planning a corporate vision with constitution and by-laws attached, they listened to the Holy Spirit, responded in faith and then put in place the organization that was required to carry out the instructions they received. In its simplest form the church is the gathering of two or more believers with the intention of mutual encouragement and growth.

With this understanding it is evident that the church is not the place that we invite people to hear the gospel, it is the gathering of believers. We have tended to make the congregational meeting the primary place of evangelism, and while there is no question that large public meetings are appropriate vehicles for evangelists to proclaim the good news, this is not the primary purpose of the church. The early church met together to learn and to grow. It did this in the context of worship. This ought to be the purpose of the church meeting today. It is a place for believers to come to be built up and equipped so that they can walk in the good works that God has provided for them to do. Church is where we go to recover from the week we have had and to be prepared for the one to come. It is a place of healing and nourishment. The connection between the church and the marketplace is that the church prepares us for our ministry in the marketplace.

Each week, as we gather with other believers, we should be built up and equipped for the ministry we have been called to. It is not the pastor’s job to evangelise your friends and workmates, it is yours. It is his job, and that of other gifted people, to equip you so that you can do the work of the ministry. It is as we each do this work that the body grows. It grows numerically because day by day new people are added and it will grow in maturity as our spiritual character is developed by doing works of righteousness. 

If you want to grow in your faith, if you want to be effective in your ministry then it makes sense to take the time to meet with like minded others who will be able to encourage and support you. You will also be able to multiply your effectiveness as you pool your resources and complement each other in your shared responsibility to share the good news.

1.    What is the connection between the church meeting and the congregation?

2.    Do Christians need to go to church?

3.    What should happen at meetings of the church?


  1. Working Together
    1 Corinthians 3

    Early in the church’s history there was competition. Some believers wanted to be known as followers of Apollos, others of Paul or of Peter. Some wanted to be preachers, others teachers or workers of miracles and healing. More glory was given to some than to others and there was an unhealthy preoccupation with personal ambition of the type that did not glorify God. Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth addresses a number of these issues. His emphasis throughout was that we are united in faith and love and our desire should be to work together and in harmony.

    It is the Holy Spirit that determines the gift that any believer has; it is not given on the basis of individual talent or ability, but by the sovereign choice of God. It is the Lord Jesus Christ who chooses the place where that ministry should be exercised and God who determines what the results will be. There is no place for selfish pride in our ministry; it is not we who receive the praise, honour and glory but God himself. Paul reminds his readers that we are co-workers in God’s vineyard, one person may sow the seed, another water the growing plant and yet others who do the pruning and harvesting. No one worker is greater than another and each needs the other to be successful.
    Our workplace is the place where seed is sown and it may be that the ministry you have is to sow that seed. Perhaps a word here or there or the consistent reliable witness of your behaviour will result in a seed taking root and beginning to germinate. Or it may be that as you develop relationships opportunities emerge for you to share your testimony or minister to a particular need in a workmates life – you are tending the seed that has been sown. On the other hand you might be just in the right place when that plant is ready for harvest. Perhaps you are the one that is turned to when your friend is ready to reach out to God. Each of us has a part to play, no one is more valuable than other, all of our contributions are equally vital.
    Paul reminds his readers at Corinth that they are responsible for their contribution. They need to pay strict attention to how they build on the foundation that is laid by Jesus Christ. We do not need to be concerned with how someone else is doing, but we must be very careful to build as well as we can with the resources we have been given. Each of us is given gifts, talents, ability and time to use to build the Kingdom of God. Some of us will build by teaching, others by encouraging or acts of generosity. Still more will be enabled to pray for miracles or healing and so on. Whatever the gifts we have been given they are to be used to build God’s Kingdom. In any building endeavour people of differing skills and abilities are brought together to work side by side. Usually the plumber does not do the work of the electrician and the plasterer does not fit the roof tiles. Each tradesman knows his or her area of expertise and works in that area. They depend on the others to complete the job. So too in the task of building the kingdom we each have a part to play. We should not to do the work assigned to others, but we do need to pay attention to the job we’ve been given.
    If it is your job to sow the seed in people’s lives that others will nourish and bring to harvest, then it is necessary that you do it. If you don’t, who will? If you don’t share the good news with your workmates, who will? God has placed you where you are in work, life and community because there is a job you need to do. He hasn’t given this job to anyone else – just you. We all know what it is like at work when one person doesn’t pull his weight an extra burden is placed on everyone else. So too in the work of the Kingdom, if you don’t do your job, others will have to do your share. As we each do what is assigned to us, alongside others who are doing what they have been equipped to do, then the whole building will grow.

  1. How do we work together to build God’s kingdom?
  2.  How does what we do at work affect this?
  3. What tools has God given to you to do the job he has provided? How do you use these tools to assist others?



Week 5

1.See the People
Matthew 9: 35-36

Some years ago I was in Argentina attending a conference on evangelism with delegates from around the world. As part of the conference we traveled by bus or air to various towns and cities to assist the local church in ministering to their community. It was a great time of blessing, miracles were experienced, people saved and lives changed. One morning however God led me to read Matthew 9:35-36 and it wasn’t until later in the day that I realized the import of what he was saying. As a group of us traveled by bus to the city of Rosario we enjoyed fellowship and encouragement together anticipating what God was going to do, but as we approached the city the bus rounded a bend and came upon what can only be described as a slum. The contrast between the green fields, comparatively affluent travelers, the luxury coach and the slum and its inhabitants was stark.

God reminded me of the passage I had read that morning. These verses relate the activities of Jesus as he traveled through towns and villages preaching the gospel, healing the sick and teaching in the synagogues, all of the things we were doing on our conference. But the significant thing that God lead me to in this passage was that Jesus stopped what he was doing and saw the people. Depending on the version of the Bible you use, this verse may be translated slightly differently, but in any event – he saw the people. What God was saying to me at that time was ‘don’t get so caught up in your agenda, the things you are doing and even the miracles and the blessings that you fail to see the people’. I was a ‘full-time pulpit minister’ at the time, by which I mean I was employed to be a pastor in a local congregation, and I confess that there were many times that I got so caught up in the next part of the church program, the next activity, conference, spiritual retreat or evangelistic endeavour that I failed to see the people. In fact sometimes the whole thing would have gone a lot better if there weren’t any people, especially those with needs. God was very clear, I had to stop and see the people; this is what it is all about.

Sometime later I was getting ready to attend a breakfast with a visiting Christian politician from Asia and once again God drew me to this passage. In the past I had been ‘full-time’ in the pulpit and worked in the secular world in order to pay the bills and fund the ministry, but at this time I was ‘full-time’ in the business world and pastored a church ‘part-time’ – these descriptions are all wrong – but you know what I mean! Now I saw my primary place of ministry as the marketplace I was engaged in, but God brought me back to this passage of scripture. What he told me was ‘the message I gave you in Argentina when you were a pastor, is the same for you in the marketplace – in other words stop what you are doing and see the people’. God was telling me that my primary role in ministry whether it was in the pulpit or in the marketplace is to see the people.

In business it is very easy to get caught up in making profits, increasing sales and reducing costs so that the people become a commodity or a resource. In fact the language we use reflects that – we don’t refer to our employees as people but human resources. As a minister in the marketplace our primary responsibility is to care for the people that God has given us responsibility for, of course we need to make a profit, otherwise we won’t be in business very long – but we must not get so caught up in our agenda that we fail to see the people and their needs. We can start by learning their names and finding out a little about them. We may discover their needs and probably also their strengths. Once we know them and the things that are important to them we are better able to pray for them and on their behalf and start to fulfill our pastoral responsibility in the marketplace to which we have been called.

This week as you go about your day-to-day business in the marketplace remember to stop and see the people, and have compassion on them.

1.    In what way are we to ‘see the people’ in our part of the marketplace?

2.    What happens when we see the people as Jesus saw them?

3.    Why do the people need a shepherd?