Holding to Truth

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Is It More Important to be Faithful or Powerful in Serving the Lord?

Recently, I read the first chapter of Ephesians while sitting at Starbucks, and the first first verse stood out to me.

It says:

Ephesians 1:1 Paul an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus…

One of the words that stood out was the word “faithful.” It caused me to consider how Paul was appreciating the fact that the saints were “faithful in Christ Jesus.” I also began to consider how this is in contrast to being powerful or wanting to perform miracles. Let me explain.

In serving the Lord, it’s very easy to want to perform miracles. It’s easy to want things to happen immediately and for thousands of people to be attracted to the Lord. I know because I’m this way.

Some of this comes from growing up as part of the microwave generation where we expect everything to happen instantly and part of it simply comes from the fact that we’re human which means we always want things to be easy. But this is not what is the most useful to the Lord.

What’s the most useful is the faithfulness of our service. What’s useful is our showing up day after day to speak for the Lord and to minister Christ to others. Instead of expecting things to happen at once or for thousands to get saved, it’s better to labor faithfully so that the Lord can gain something substantial over time.

This reminds me of a story I heard about a servant of the Lord named D.L. Moody, an American evangelist who lived in the 1800’s. At one point, he made a decision to speak the gospel to one person every day. He didn’t determine to speak an open air message to hundreds or thousands but to simply speak the gospel to one person each day.

If you consider this approach, it means he would speak to at least 365 people in one year, 730 in two, and 1095 in three. All while presenting the gospel individually, one person at a time. Who knows what the Lord was able to do and how many were saved. It’s possible to preach the gospel to 1,000 people at a time, but that’s somewhat difficult for the average person to do. However, it’s entirely possible for everyone to speak something about the Lord to one person every day.

I really appreciate Brother D.L. Moody’s faithfulness to talk to at least one person every day. There’s even a story where one night, when he was going to bed, he realized that he hadn’t yet spoken to anyone. So he got up, went outside, found a policeman, and presented the gospel. The policeman ended up becoming angry, but the next day he received the Lord, making the late-night trip eternally worthwhile.

The problem is that, most of the time, we want to take the “fast” way. We want things to happen quickly and to appear overnight. The result is that we don’t speak to anyone and nobody gets saved. We’re waiting for big opportunities instead of being faithful with the many small opportunities the Lord gives us.

This also reminds me of the master and the slaves in Matthew 25. The master represents the Lord and the slave represents us, the believers. In the story, the master gives three slaves a different number of talents. One he gives five; a second he gives two; and a third he gives one. The master then goes away for a period of time.

When he returns, he asks how many talents the slaves have. The first slave says that he had been given five talents and now he has five more talents because he traded with them and gained more. The master responds in verse 21 and says, “Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful over a few things; I will set you over many things. Enter into the joy of your master.”

As you can see, the emphasis is on the servant’s faithfulness, and he’s rewarded accordingly.

The story of the second slave is much the same. He tells the master that he received two talents, he traded, and he gained two more to return. The master once again praises him for his faithfulness and says he will be set over many things and can enter into the joy of his master. But the story of the third servant is different.

The third servant responds that he knew the master was a hard man so he buried his talent and only has the one to return. The master responds in verses 26-27: “Evil and slothful slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I did not winnow. Therefore you should have deposited my money with the money changers; and when I came, I would have recovered what is mine with interest.”

He then calls for the servant’s one talent to be taken away and given to the one with ten talents. The master finishes by saying in verses 29-30, “For to every one who has, more shall be given, and he shall abound; but from him who does not have, even that which he has shall be taken away from him. And cast out the useless slave into the outer darkness. In that place there will be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.”

What we see here is that two slaves are rewarded for their faithfulness and one slave is punished for his slothfulness, bringing us back to the main point of this post. Is it more important to be faithful or powerful in serving the Lord? Maybe it can be argued that it’s better to be both, but what if we become slothful because we’re waiting to do something powerful? Wouldn’t it be better to faithfully serve the Lord and to accumulate interest for God’s kingdom day by day and week by week?

For me personally, it’s tempting to want to take the way of being powerful and performing miracles, but most of the time, Lord’s way is the slow and faithful way. His desire is that we would invest our talent by speaking for Him every day. Over time as we do, more interest is gained for God’s kingdom and His economy is advanced.

So may we all be those who give ourselves to labor faithfully for the Lord day by day. May He have mercy on us so that we would be the good slaves who labor faithfully for the Lord and gain profit for His kingdom.

Photo credit: Arnar Valdimarsson

About Joe Putnam

Hi, my name is Joe Putnam. I live in Lubbock, TX, and contribute posts here on Holding to Truth from time to time. Please leave a comment to let us know what you enjoyed from this post. Thanks!

7 Replies

  1. Good reminder. Encouraging, Joe. It’s almost coincidental that I was struck by this verse yesterday in my Bible reading:

    “It is sought in stewards that one be found faithful.”

    and then later

    “So then do not judge anything before the time, until the Lord comes, who will bot bring to light the hidden things of darknes and make manifest the counsels of the hearts, and then there will b e praise to each from God.”

    Those are both out of 1 Corinthians 4 (v.2, 5).

    1. Joe Putnam

      Hi Clark, thank you for sharing these additional verses. It’s so easy to get caught up in wanting to do something powerful or miraculous, but the Lord’s desire is that we would be faithful in small things. If every member did this, we could do so much more than with one or two powerful members functioning for everyone. This is something I’m still learning to do, but I want to be one who is faithful to serve the Lord in a normal and consistent way.

  2. This post really hits home, Joe. As Christians, it’s easy to find ourselves seeking outward gifts and power while neglecting Christ as life. This reminds me of the contrast between the books of Judges (power) and Ruth (life) in the Old Testament. In Judges, you see power: the judges did miraculous, outwardly spectacular things as the Spirit of Jehovah came upon this. However, in Ruth you do not see anything outwardly spectacular, but you see God working in the way of life in order to eventually bring forth Christ through Ruth, one of the ancestors of Christ.

    Along these lines, take a look at this quote from the Life-Study of Ruth, Message 8: “It is crucial for us to see that only life can bring Christ forth. Only life can keep the lineage, maintaining the thin line to bring God into humanity, to produce Christ and to minister Christ and to supply the entire human race with Christ. This was done not by the judges but by Ruth and Boaz, who took the way of life… I would rather have no increase and keep the genuineness in life. I would rather be without any power, without any result from the work, and remain in the line that brings forth Christ out of eternity into time, that brings forth Christ with His divinity into humanity.”

    I echo the aspiration in this excerpt. May God make us faithful in caring for life more than power, and may all our Christian activity have its source in the divine life in order that we may minister and bring forth Christ.

    1. Joe Putnam

      Wow, John-Paul, thank you for the quote and the comparison between the book of Judges and Ruth. I also want to be one who serves according to the line of life and ministers Christ to others.

  3. Thanks for the reminder. Matthew 24:45 says, “Who then is the faithful and prudent slave, whom the master has set over his household to give them food at the proper time?” Here the Lord ties “faithful” to giving food – a daily task, not a huge, infrequent task.

    1. Joe Putnam

      Thanks, Don. May the Lord gain us as stewards who are faithful to give food at the proper time.

  4. Jordan A. Secligen

    If we are faithful to the Lord He may grant us the burden to speak the gospel to all kinds of people for their salvation.May the Lord grant us wisdom to carry out His will on earth.

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