1. His service should be a Christ-exalting one.
It should be one in which the Lord Jesus shall “in all things have the pre-eminence” (Col. 1:18). Like John the Baptist each Christian should be able to say of his Lord: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Only as Christ is magnified in our body, whether by life or by death, is our service really worth while and spiritually profitable to God. (Phil. 1:20). Christ must have the pre-eminence in every department of the believer’s life. He must have first place in the family, school, business, social and ecclesiastical circles in which the Christian moves.
Whatever the character of the ministry may be which we render, whether it is the word spoken, the kindly deed done, or the life lived, the words of Paul should be kept in mind: “Whatsoever ye do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him” (Col. 3:17). Our Lord Himself declared: “Without Me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5) It is Christ alone that gives any virtue or value to our service. It has been well expressed by the couplet.
“Only one life, ‘twill soon be past;
Only what’s done for Christ will last!”
The Christian has but one Lord to honor, one Master to serve, and one Example to follow. The measure in which he succeeds in honoring, serving and following Christ will determine the profitableness of his ministry, both for the Lord and those to whom he ministers.
2. His service must be Spirit-led and divinely empowered.
God has declared: “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit saith the Lord of Hosts” (Zech. 4:6). Only as the believer is responsive to the leading of the indwelling Holy Spirit, as He seeks to guide through the Word of God, shall the ministry he renders be of real profit. Our Lord well knew how essential was this empowering by the Spirit. Ere He left this world to return to His Father, He said to His disciples: “Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto Me” (Acts 1:8). At Pentecost the Holy Spirit came, and from that time on every person on believing in the Son of God was indwelt by Him (Eph. 1:13; 1 Cor. 6:19-20). His indwelling presence and imparted power alone makes possible the living of the Christian life and the performing of any effective service for the Lord Jesus.
While it is true that the Holy Spirit indwells each believer, yet the Bible clearly teaches that He may be hindered in His work through the believer. We are told that the Spirit may be grieved by the believer’s misconduct, as Ephesians 4:25-32 clearly indicates. Again, the Spirit may be quenched by the Christian’s disobedience to His leading as we find in 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20. Still further, the Holy Spirit may be limited by our unbelief (Ps. 78:41). In such a case, until the believer is restored to the Lord the service rendered will neither be profitable to God nor man.
3. His service must be done in a scriptural manner.
God has not only indicated in His Word the various forms of service in which the believer may engage; but He has also laid down certain scriptural principles which should govern their performance. To put it in another way: the work of the Lord must ever be guided by the Word of the Lord if it is to be profitable in the true sense of the term. This lesson was impressed on King Saul when he sought to accomplish in his self-will what the Word of God forbad him to do. Samuel’s rebuke has a voice to us in this day and age. Listen to his words: “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 15:22).
The work of the Lord must not only be done at the right time and in the right spirit but also in the right way. There is much that passes for Christian work today which, when examined in the light of those unchanging principles laid down in the Word of God, will be seen to lack scriptural support for their existence. Much of the wild fanaticism and confusion seen in religious circles in Christendom today, is due to a failure to learn and practise these scriptural principles of gathering which should characterize the coming together of the Lord’s people in assembly fellowship, and also govern their carrying out of the work of the Lord. There is no substitute for obedience to the Word of God. We need to lay to heart the words: “To obey is better than sacrifice.”
To do the work of the Lord in a scriptural manner necessitates that the Scriptures be read, marked and inwardly digested, and then carried out to the best of one’s ability, without fear and favor. If this was done, a great deal of the spectacular, unwholesome excitement and confusion that characterizes the Lord’s work would be eliminated, and replaced by the solid profit which accompanies the preaching and teaching of the Word of God. Paul’s words to Timothy are in order at this point: “Preach the Word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2).
4. His service must be with true humility.
The Bible leaves us in no doubt that the work of the Lord should be done humbly and with a single eye to God’s glory if it is to be profitable. Paul’s farewell address to the elders of Ephesus lets us into the secret of His profitable ministry for God. Mark his words carefully: “Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears and temptations” (Acts 20:18-19). There was no loud fanfare of trumpets to announce Paul’s arrival, no press agent to describe what a marvelous preacher he was. Paul followed the example set by his Lord and Master, and performed his service with true humility. Though possessed of a great intellect, and many outstanding gifts which set him far above his fellows, he did not parade his superior knowledge and ability, but walked humbly before those to whom he ministered, even to the extent of engaging in secular employment to support himself when he thought this was necessary (Acts 20:34, 18:1-3; 1 Cor. 4:12).
Humility is thus a rare but essential requisite for the work of the Lord. It is still true that “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble” (James 4:6). True humility is a peculiar virtue, for the moment a person thinks he has it, that moment he has lost it! There is a subtle form of pride which apes humility and becomes very proud because it is so humble. The way up in the Christian life is always down, and the less one thinks of his own superiority, or even his humility, the better. An old Christian’s advice is good. He wrote: “Go forward. Stick to your work. Profit by the abundance of advice you are sure to get. Preach anywhere and everywhere with a good conscience. Be firm, without fault-finding. Be gracious with the weak. Do not as a rule defend your line of conduct or service. Pass on quietly and serve your generation, and be content with your Master’s smile and approval. Therefore, be stedfast.” (Walter Scott)
5. His service must be constrained by the love of Christ.
In that great description of the greatest of virtues, Paul by the Spirit declared: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity (or love) I am become as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing” (1 Cor. 13:1-3).
Service which is not motivated by love is thus declared to be utterly profitless. Love for God, love for Christ and love for one’s fellow-man is thus an essential requirement for the Lord’s servant and effective service. Paul recognized this fact and declared: “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if One died for all, then were all dead: and that He died for all, that they which live, should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:14-15).
Apart from this constraining love for Christ, service for Christ will degenerate into a cold, perfunctory thing, or become an irksome duty, to be gotten over as soon and painlessly as possible, and with the least sacrificial cost to ourselves. Genuine love for Christ will transform duty from a drudgery into a delight, and make our service for Him a thing of beauty and a joy for ever. In view of this, we can understand the words of that hymn:
“More love to Thee, O Christ,
More love to Thee!
Hear Thou the prayer I make
On bended knee;
This is my earnest plea:
More love, O Christ, to Thee,
More love to Thee!”
May these Profitable Things of Scripture which we have been considering be used of God to “stir up our pure minds by way of remembrance” (2 Pet. 3:1). May we be led to a more profitable study of the holy Scriptures; to know more of the profit of a godly life lived for God’s glory; to so fit ourselves that we shall engage in a more profitable ministry of the Word; to be more diligent in good works so that we shall be more profitable both to God and our fellow-men; to value the profitable use of judicious physical exercise, so that our bodies may be kept at their best for Him; to appreciate increasingly God’s discipline, so necessary for the profitable development of the Christian life: and to determine that by the grace of God our faithful service for Christ will be of such profit that it shalt earn His commendation.
If this is the result of our meditations on the Profitable Things of Scripture, then our time will not have been spent in vain and our profiting will appear to all.