December 12, 2017

An Overwhelming Minority

Doug McLachlan

Between the two vast eternities of past and future, we have our little moment of time, our little vapor of life! What are we going to do with it? As believers we should feel a compulsion to belong to a minority that accomplishes astonishing things for God at the end of the twentieth century. If we commit to belong to that body ourselves, we must also determine to produce a special group of disciples, a community of Christ-honoring servants, who also desire to make their mark on our culture and in our world.

We must remember that Christianity has always been a minority movement. It seems that the minority is shrinking, but even a shrinking minority is not a new idea! God’s Word has always moved forward with overwhelming and absolutely astonishing minorities. Gideon’s band of three hundred, Jesus’ company of twelve and Israel’s remnant in the Old Testament were overwhelming minorities that swept away the powers of evil and raised up the Lord’s flag where He was not loved and adored.

Now we need a renewed vision of what it means to be a part of that minority, and we need those who will surrender their lives for membership. Will you join?

A distinctively Christian and powerfully influential minority must aspire to three outstanding credentials. Let’s examine these credentials.

A Wartime Lifestyle

Because there’s a war going on, the first credential that we must adopt is the mentality of a wartime lifestyle. The casualties of this devastating warfare have littered the landscape of Western civilization with vast wastelands of shallow lives, empty hearts, vacant eyes, throwaway marriages, abused children, shattered families and, worst of all, lost souls.

Under such desperate conditions, Christians must not live luxuriantly, extravagantly, indulgently, indifferently or apathetically. Rear echelon bureaucratic deadness must be replaced with frontline battleground readiness. That’s what Bible colleges and New Testament local churches are all about — equipping soldiers for such readiness.

How do patriots live when their nation is at war? I believe they revert to an unencumbered lifestyle to assure wartime effectiveness. This is what Paul had in mind in 2 Timothy 2:3 and 4 where he unfolded three powerful characteristics of a true soldier of Jesus Christ — one who is not spiritually suffocating under the weight of materialistic nonessentials. Consider these characteristics:

First, noble soldiers are willing to sacrifice. Soldiers on active duty don’t expect an easy or safe time. Hardship, risk and sacrifice are part and parcel of a soldier’s calling. As believers, if we’re interested in a model for sacrifice, we have one. The one word that captures the heartbeat of Jesus of Nazareth is sacrifice. If we want our lives and our ministries to make a difference, we must bravely and warmly embrace sacrifice rather than selfishly run away from it.

Second, noble soldiers are willing to separate. In Paul’s hierarchy of values, “the affairs of this life” ranked far down on the scale. Paul was intimately acquainted with many Roman soldiers; he spent plenty of time in Roman prisons, often chained directly to Roman soldiers. He was, no doubt, aware of the Roman Code of Theodosius, which stated, “We forbid men engaged in military service to engage in civilian occupations.” The Christian soldier, then, is not to be caught up in the affairs of the bios — the realm of purely human and earthly things and pursuits. We are seduced and then ensnared by the glitz, glamour and gold of the world. These snares suffocate authentic ministry and shut down urgent evangelism, because materialism and evangelism are utterly incompatible. Evangelism always seeks out others, while materialism focuses on self.

Third, noble soldiers are willing to submit. This characteristic pictures instinctive obedience to our Master’s commands. The first duties of an authentic Christian are unconditional surrender to Christ’s sovereignty and uncontested obedience to His authority. We must do what God says, when God says it, with the right heart attitude- completely, immediately and joyfully. Soldiers are trained to respond this way in battle. Such instructive obedience to the voice of their commander in the heat of battle may save their lives.

If you wish to be a part of the overwhelming minority, you cannot please yourself. You will have to ad opt a wartime lifestyle and please Him Who has called you to be His soldier. Among other things, this change of lifestyle will mean that you must be willing to sacrifice, separate and submit.

A World-class Discipline

Paul shifted his metaphor for Christian living from the military to the athletic arena. The second credential of the overwhelming minority is a world-class discipline.

First, there is the discipline of rigor. Rigor implies structure and severity of life. Paul’s word athlein means “to strive for masteries.” By this word he implied that the Christian must expend significant energy, evidence devotion to his task, and exercise the discipline necessary to carry it out.

World-class athletes live their lives under discipline. There will be days when such athletes would like to drop their training and relax their discipline. There will be pleasures they would like to indulge and appetites they would like to satisfy, but they have learned to say no to their pleasures, their appetites and themselves.

Those of us who aspire to Christian ministry must learn the same lesson. If we lust for relaxation and pleasure (as the underlying objective of life), we must learn to say no! If we are smitten with moral anemia and long for the easygoing way of self-indulgence, we must learn to say no! How can we ever accomplish this task? Certainly we won’t be able to accomplish it in our own energy. It is only God’s grace that makes us willing and able to expend “holy sweat” to serve God and others.

Second, there is the discipline of regulation. The athlete compete not only rigorously but also lawfully. He knows what it means to abide by the rules both in preparation for the contest and in the performance of it.

There’s a mood of antipathy for the very category of law in Chris tian circles today. We want exceptions from rules, guidelines, restrictions and regulations. Absolute autonomous freedom is the name of the game in twentieth-century Christian life. Paul indicated, “No way — not if you want to win the crown, not if you want to gain the prize that awaits you at the bema.”

High personal standards based on holy Biblical principles are not a restrictive prescription for misery but a divine provision for authentic and fruitful ministry.

A Wholehearted Work Ethic

The third credential that Paul employed to call forward those who would be part of this overwhelming minority is a wholehearted work ethic. He used the metaphor of farming and several characteristics of a farmer’s work to illustrate our task as Christians.

First, farmers work strenuously. Labor (kopes) is the term the New Testament uses to describe toil to the point of sheer exhaustion. This kind of activity takes everything out of body, mind and spirit that we have to give.

In our self-indulgent world, the work ethic has disintegrated. Christians prefer to be entertained by superstars rather than be energized to serve. It is essential that we reclaim a wholehearted work ethic; we must not fear to break sweat or to toil for Jesus Christ.

Second, farmers work patiently. Perhaps more than any other workman, the farmer must learn that there is no such thing as a “quick fix” or an instant result. We, too, must learn to wait. We must sow the good seed of the Word in to the hearts and minds of ourselves and our listeners. Then we must brood over that seed — watering and cultivate it by prayer and active service — and be willing to wait for God to give the increase. Today there is no such thing as deferred gratification. Everything is in the present tense: “Deny me nothing! Give me everything, and give it to me right now!” This attitude won’t do for authentic servants.

Third, farmers work obscurely. How many famous farmers do you know? Most of us could not even name the Secretary of Agriculture. Unlike the soldier and the athlete, the farmer’s life is often devoid of excitement. It is remote from the peril of the soldier or the applause of the athlete. I wonder how many of us are willing and content to work out from under the eyes of men and only in the eyes of God. It is people like this who form the bedrock and the backbone of the overwhelming minority.

Fourth, farmers work triumphantly. The farmer is the first to be “partaker of the fruits,” by tears and sweat and pain, and especially by a sense of utter dependence upon God. The Christian, like the hardworking farmer, can expect to bear and enjoy the fruit of Christian character (Ga l. 5:22, 23), Christian conduct (Rom. 6:22; Phil. 1:11) and Christian converts (Rom. 1:13).

We must ask ourselves, “Are the distinctive credentials of the overwhelming minority evident in my life?” In every generation God carries His work forward on the shoulder of the overwhelming minority who are equipped by Him to accomplish astonishing things for Him.

I can hear someone saying, “How is it possible? There is no way I can live like that!” In the word s of songwriter Elvina Hall, I also hear, “… the Savior say ‘Thy strength indeed is small! Child of weakness watch and pray; Find in Me thine all in all.’ Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe …” We must “… be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:1).

As an overwhelming minority we must be surrendered, and then we must be strong. Now, who are the people in this generation who will aspire to these credentials? Will you?


(Originally published in FrontLine • March/April 1994. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)


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