This is a message from pastor and teacher Bill Serjak.
When one of us does something well, Sandy and I will jokingly say that we are just like Mary Poppins, “practically perfect in every way.” Many think that becoming perfect individuals is the goal of the Christian life but it really isn’t. We Christians are not moving toward individual perfection. Thinking that we should, comes from the highly individualistic culture we have in this country. God has not called us to become rugged individuals who can accomplish anything we set out to do with no real help from anyone except a little from God. The ultimate goal of our Christian life is not individual perfection but to fit together perfectly as God’s family. There is no such thing as an individual Christian living on his own. When the Lord returns, He will not send me to a planet where I can live eternally in individual perfection. For better or for worse, God says that we will all live together for eternity. Even in the movie, Mary Poppins, the goal was not for the kids to become perfect, but for their family to function well together. As Christians, are ultimate goal is to fit and function perfectly together as God’s family.
In this passage, Paul tells us some things we can do to help us fit together. One thing he says is, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” Christians are supposed to look at themselves with sober judgment. The world around us tells us to promote ourselves and build an image that will make us look better than we actually are. However, we Christians are to look at ourselves with sober judgment seeing ourselves the way we really are. Paul says we can do that according to the measure of faith we have been given. Our faith will not necessarily make us look better than we are but when we have a strong faith in the grace of God, we can look at ourselves as we really are. If our faith is only in ourselves and not in God’s grace, we will always try to make ourselves look better than we are. As our faith in God grows, we can increasingly show the outside world who we really are. We won’t continually be trying to make ourselves look better or worse than we are but can look at ourselves with sober judgment. Then, as we grow in our relationship to God, we can become increasingly like His children. As we grow as God’s children, we will fit together better and better as His family.
If a pastor is going to serve in a church for a long time, he (or she) will need to live realistically and know what he can do well and what he can’t do so well. He will wear himself out if he ties to maintain an image of being a perfect pastor who can do everything well. The pastor has to see how he fits into the body. Paul also said, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.” We all need to see what we can do well and do it. What we don’t do very well, others usually can.
Recently, the session has looked for an interim pastor to come here when I retire. We have had to describe what I do and what the interim pastor will need to do. That has been a sobering experience for me because I see all the areas of the church that are functioning very well, often without me. We have incredible music at our services and I don’t have anything to do with that. Balfour and Carol Lynn take care of the morning worship and Jeff leads the evening worship music. On Sunday night, the church has been having a wonderful sharing time before the evening worship. I didn’t have anything to do with making that happen. David has pretty much started that and keeps it going. People of all ages share together what God is doing in their lives. I am afraid to go there because I might mess it up. Many people won’t honestly share when the pastor is there because they think he will have all the answers and will judge them if they share their weaknesses. There are large areas of the church in which I am not involved. David knows about things that go on that I don’t even know about. Grace also knows large areas of the church and I just trust her to do them well. With anything financial, Judy Henderson is the one who knows about that. She also helps keep many children’s programs going.
I can speak about how many areas of the church are taken care of by others because I only have one more week before retirement. It is unlikely that the church will get rid of me now. Actually, the way I described it is the way the Church should function. Paul said that the role of the pastor/teacher is to equip the saints to do the work of ministry. As I look back on what has been happening, I can see how God has been putting together this church. At the point of my leaving, I think things will keep working well because so many people are already functioning so well in so many areas. I sometimes feel that my main job is that of an encourager to remind people of what a good job they are doing. That is not an unusual position. When I saw a film clip about how Walt Disney ran his movie studio, he said that he thought of himself as a honey bee. He was surrounded by many creative people who were like flowers blooming all around him. He then just buzzed around taking pollen from place to place. I think that is a great imagery of how an organization can function. The minister does not do everything, nor should he. The people are to be equipped in their relationship to Jesus Christ to do the work of ministry.
God called us to work together in the body of Christ with a diversity of gifts. He also tells us, “Love must be sincere.” Many years ago, I heard an illustration that seemed a bit lame to me at the time, but it has stuck with me, so it may be better than I first thought. It is just the basic meaning of the word sincere. It is from the Latin and it literally means without wax. That may seem like a long way from what we mean by sincere but it gives a good picture of the meaning of the word. When marble was sold at that time, small flaws in the marble would show up in tiny cracks that weren’t visible to the eye. Those who bought marble would run their fingernail over the marble to feel for those cracks. Unscrupulous marble merchants would feel for those cracks in the marble first and fill them with wax so they could not be detected.
When Paul tells us that our love should be sincere, it literally means without wax. We should not cover the imperfections in our love with the equivalent of wax, pretending we love when we really don’t. Our love should be sincere and not just a surface appearance in our lives. God doesn’t want us to have any sort of image, even the image of being loving. He wants to grow real love in the depths of our hearts. Our love should not be an act, but the way we really are. Sincere love will help us live well together in the body of Christ. When that happens, the way we talk about each other to our faces will be pretty much the same way we talk about each other when we are apart. Our love should be sincere.
Finally Paul tells us, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” That is a tremendous amount to put in one short sentence. All of it is not something we can learn to do directly; it is beyond our capability. Instead, this attitude comes to us indirectly when we really put our trust in the sovereignty of God. As long as we think we can fix everything in our lives we will never “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” All this only comes when we see God directly at work in our lives and know that He is in the process of making all things work for good. By trusting in God, we can become joyful in hope; otherwise, hope becomes wishful thinking and loses its joy. It is only when we know God is in control that we can be patient in affliction. When things are going badly, we can know that it is a temporary state because God will work all things for good. By trusting in God, we can be faithful in prayer. When our faith is in God, we can do other things, but the most important thing we will ever do is to pray. When we pray, it puts our focus on God. It is not that God will do what we ask Him to do, but prayer focuses us on God so we can see Him working out His will in our lives. Prayer reminds us that God is God and we are not. When we pray, we are not talking to ourselves but to the God who is actually there and who loves us.
The things Paul mentions here are some of the things God is using to bring us together as His family. Living together as His family is the ultimate goal of God for our lives. He is not just perfecting each of us. He is fitting us together as His family.