Principles for Local Church 09 Serve Even When it is Tough

Sometimes it is hard to use your gift. That is a fact of life, a fact of ministry, and definitely a fact of local church. Joseph was in jail, falsely accused of rape, when he only did the right thing. That’s a tough environment. Sometimes we go to church and we feel accused, we feel passed over, we feel ignored. We feel like we should have been promoted quicker than that, we feel the church has ignored us – worse still, we feel that God Himself failed to protect us, help us, deliver us, exalt us, promote us.

Joseph is there in jail and he sees the chief butler and the baker of the Pharaoh. He doesn’t sulk, he doesn’t say the time is wrong, he has too much to deal with, it’s not the right place. He still serves!

Even in prison, Joseph interpreted dreams and encouraged these two men. He was not waiting for better people, a bigger crowd, a more anointed meeting with smoke machines and worship leaders. No, he served where he was no matter what he was going through.

He overcome the temptation to be bitter by serving. As a pastor, that temptation is there. I help people in remarkable ways and sometimes they totally forget what I have done. They forget how hard I have worked for them. But you keep going and keep reaching out and keep touching life and keep being grateful and keep serving. This example should help all of us serve in tough situations.

I want to say a lot more, but this account says it all – serve in the hardest times. It’s a principle that will lead to promotion. Go to church this weekend and serve, it will change your life. No matter what you are going through, help someone else in their mess and it will become a message!

Principles for Local Church 08 Avoid Sexual Immorality

Joseph was working for Potiphar when Potiphar’s wife started making advances on him. He wisely refused her advances, saying that to accept her offer would be to “sin against God” (Genesis 39.9). You cannot live in this world long without encountering the fact that our world is very sexually immoral. It is filled with lust and fornication and adultery. You will even encounter this in the local church! Christians living together as if there is nothing wrong with this, as if marriage is no longer holy, and is an outdated tradition rather than the purpose and plan of God!

Within church life I have had to deal with people who are into pornography, lust, fornication, adultery, prostitution and all forms of immorality. All of them have the same choice – to be in bondage to this, or to trust Jesus and find a place of freedom.

And you have to make a choice – what will you do about it! Will you be free? The best choice to make is the choice to overcome! To walk in holiness and righteousness. To be pure.

Avoiding sexual immorality is possible through the new birth and the grace that God has given us, and if we ask for wisdom He will give us wisdom to get out of any situation. One of the problems of course is that we are often fighting not just the world but our own bodies lusting after things we cannot have. That is why staying pure can be a great struggle. But we can and must overcome and walk in victory like Joseph did. Joseph would have been a great asset in the local church – because he did not have sex outside of marriage and stayed pure. A lot of the hard work of a pastor is counselling and pastoring people who never made the strong godly choices Joseph did. Churches fail because of people making bad choices in the area of sexual purity!

A second area of wisdom found in this account of Joseph choosing sexual purity is that Joseph also chose not to be provoked by false accusations. After being spurned by Joseph, Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of attempting to rape her. This lie caused Joseph to end up in jail. Satan loves to tempt us into sexual sin, but if he cannot, he loves to accuse of being immoral anyway. He is the accuser of the brethren, and if you are in local church with the brethren, at some point you will be accused of something.

Joseph was falsely accused, but he did not let that define him. I know good people who have been accused of terrible crimes, often the exact opposite of their character. If you want to be in local church, especially if you want to be a leader, you must learn how to deal with being accused and moving forward as if you do not even hear what they are saying about you.

Life is not fair. Joseph going to jail was an injustice – he had an experience that he did not deserve. That provokes strong emotions in people – we want to rise up and challenge injustice. I have experienced injustice many times in my life, and my flesh wants to go out there and somehow prove my innocence, and let people know you cannot do that to me, I will not be cheated. But that is not the way of Jesus. 1 Cor. 6.7 actually says “Why not rather be defrauded?”. There are times i have let myself be defrauded rather than speak up against an injustice against me because I will not attack the church, I will not expose my brother’s nakedness. As you grow in Christ, you will find out there is a need to accept injustice in life and just keep walking with God.

There’s a lot in Genesis 39 about how to be a remarkable disciple of Christ. Why not spend some time meditating on it today.

Principles for Local Church 07 Learn to Handle Being Hated

Joseph was a big dreamer, and he told his dream to his brothers and rather than rejoice in his dream, they hated him yet the more (Genesis 37.5).

I have found that if you really want to achieve your dreams, if you really want to walk in victor, if you really want to win in life, someone will always hate you. The bigger the dream, the more the hatred. There are rivers of hatred that will come your way and you need to learn how to surf them! We must not respond to hatred in a natural, carnal way, we have to respond in a spiritual way.

You must learn to respond with hate with love. We must learn to handle our detractors with love and patience and kindness and not envy and bragging and acting unbecomingly! One of the hallmarks of love according to 1 Cor. 13 is that love is not easily provoked. Getting provoked is one of satan’s favourite ways to get you to leave the local church that Jesus has assigned you too.

Joseph’s brothers hated him but he loved them. When he was promoted above them, he used that position to feed them not get revenge on them. That kind of heart is essential. I am in the position now where we are funding projects of other churches who tried their hardest to stop us growing and planting! That’s a good place to be. I will not let other people’s behaviours provoke me.

Often if we do not deliberately focus on choosing love, we act at the level we are treated. If we did not get love, we don’t care. If no-one in the church noticed us, we fail to notice others. If a leader is selfish, we become more selfish. That is not the way!

We need to learn how to surf a wave of hate and still stay loving, and still dream big even when being rejected and persecuted. There are times people have deliberately stood in the way of my dreams, lied about me, attacked me, tried to get me excluded from certain situations. That’s not abnormal sadly, you will be rejected if you want to succeed – rejected by your class, your friends, your tribe, your nation. This is a real experience that you have to learn to surf.

Some keys to surfing a wave of hatred aimed at you.

  1. Remember this is not everyone. Some people hate me, but other people really love me, they celebrate me, they want me to come and minister to them, they seek out my prayers. They promote me. You realize this wave is not the entire ocean, it really helps you press on. Sometimes one person’s reaction can feel like everyone’s reaction and it just isn’t true.
  2. Do not let the wave of hate move you. Do not leave a church because of hatred, do not move to PITYTOWN and start pitying yourself and having a pity party. Do not move to a mindset of feeling unloved. Stay where God has placed you.
  3. If you are hated because you are not fully developed in an area, get developed.
  4. Do not stop dreaming. Even when his brothers hated him, Joseph went and had another dream! I love that.
  5. Do not drown in the wave of hate. It’s not worth it.

The hardest time of hatred and rejection is when it is someone you admire and look up to. A pastor you respect, a teacher you admire – and they try and shut you down or dismiss you or even worse persecute you. It’s really hard.

I know one man, who is now with the Lord, who rejected me even though I was utterly committed to his ministry. He treated me like a wild man even though I loved him and served him and gave to him. He seemed to welcome people who did not love him and were using him. I thought “why am I being so loyal to this man”, I was tempted to let the wave move me. But I kept dreaming and God turned the whole thing around and I am walking in some big dreams right now.

Do not retreat when rejected. And do not respond with hate. There will always be haters. Haters cannot stop you walking in your destiny, but you descending into hating yourself will!

I used to think if a pastor was hated they must be a bad pastor, but now I know universally liked pastors are generally the bad pastors! A good pastor is loved by some and hated by others. Jesus was not liked by everyone and nor is anyone trying to be like Him!