What Shall This Man Do?       

A Devotional Snapshot

 

by God's Little Boy
© MakeshiftDarkroom.com 2015
Posted 9/25/15


 

 

"Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, *and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me." (John 21:21-22)

* "But this one...what?" A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament

 

Introduction:

Why so hasty, and why all the concern?

What shall this man do? This can be a driving pet occupation for some. This man is deeply touched by all of the genuine and heartfelt regard for his good, but God, as with every other concern, has got this covered too. I am confident that this man will realize the things that God has prepared for him.

I know that some would prefer to use this title to exhort men to good works, Christian service, and great heights of achievement. Devotional exhortations should encourage men toward that end as the tendency of man is to neglect such endeavors. But there has never been, nor is there now, any shortage of such sermons. You cannot take a single step, in any direction, without tripping over messages like that; and so, I feel that there is room to make another point here (at least once). It is true that we are admonished to make our calling and election sure, and we should. We should commit our way to God and be available for all that he desires to do with our lives, but I would like to throw my hat on the other side - onto the subject of divine sovereignty and write about that for now, if I may. I trust that you will not misinterpret my meaning, motives, or tone. Before reading any further, however, I strongly recommend that you take a few moments to duct tape your ankles together (figuratively speaking) to prevent any knee-jerk emotional responses. And remember, if you have found this obscure blog you have come here of your own choosing. This particular "devotional" is very nontypical, but one that I genuinely feel is needed to balance certain degrees of hyper-evangelicalism found in Christendom today (which can be counterproductive). It is understood that hypo-evangelicalism is a more common problem, but hyper-evangelicalism should also be addressed. This piece was written about two years prior, but was not posted until the date shown above. This post is therefore deliberate and not emotionally impulsive; I hope that your evaluation of it will be likewise. Should anything here seem disagreeable, there is always the < "back" button on your browser.

 

 

WHAT SHALL THIS MAN DO?

 

I heard the term "lightweight" used somewhere a while back, and it made me think. The context in which the term was used suggested a person being of lesser significance or sufficiency due to their own choices. The idea is that there are many people who are lightweights, by their own choosing, and some who are self-made heavyweights. We see this thinking expressed in talk radio where the term "greatness" is often used. It is really quite humorous; God moves, and sends from heaven, and makes someone an overnight success, through a sovereign act of grace, and the first thing "that man" does is credit himself for it and assume the mantle of "greatness." No one reaches heavyweight status by their own strength; if they should realize any "greatness" it has been given to them as a gift of grace. The heart of man is vain to be sure.

Over the years, God has reduced this whole idea of lightweight / heavyweight in my thinking. We understand what is meant by these terms, and we understand that choices are involved, but we have to be careful with this orientation. It is the sovereignty and providence of God that ultimately determines our place in this world. Although the responsibility of free will is certainly part of the equation, we must remember that everything is ultimately a sovereign appointment. In the mysterious joint venture of free will and divine sovereignty it is divine sovereignty that is the greater cause.

"A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven." (John 3:27)

"For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?" (1 Corinthians 4:7)

"A man's heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps." (Proverbs 16:9)

"Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain." (Psalm 127:1)

The builders did labor, but it was the Lord who caused the building. The watchmen watched, but the Lord decides whether the city will be kept. The man who would become a great "heavy weight" through his own determination will end up in tired frustration unless the divine will has also purposed it. But if the Lord purposes it who shall disannul it? (Isaiah 14:27)

 

DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY

Let me give you a good "street" definition for the term, "divine sovereignty," in this particular context.

 

"Divine sovereignty means that God can do whatever he wants, with whoever he wants, whenever he wants, and in any way that he chooses - and there isn't a darn thing, in the world, that you can do about it."

 

It's just that simple.

God does (or doesn't do) what he wills with whosoever he wills, any time he wants and in any way he chooses. This is the prerogative of sovereignty. God is sovereign! When you can speak everything that exists into existence, out of absolutely nothing, then you get to call the shots and determine, not what is "fair," but what is "good" according to the Divine will.

 


If God so chooses, he can reach down and take a podunk nitwit, who couldn't hit a cow in the tit with a tin cup if he were standing in the milking pail, and make him a world-class evangelist (your heavyweight) and at the same time take another man, who is an available and aspiring evangelist, and make him a checkout clerk at Payless shoes. And after he has done this, he doesn't have to answer to anyone or give a reason for doing so. He does so simply because it pleases him to do so. He does so because he is sovereign; and many of his sovereign choices will leave us absolutely astonished and marveling in wonder.


 

God may take a fruitful servant home to glory while he is still in his prime and serving in the midst of a revival, and we are shocked and ask, "why God, are not the laborers few?" It is called sovereignty. It is all in keeping with his perfect sovereign plan. The purposes of God in redemption are in no wise diminished by the shortage of labor. There really isn't much that has to be, or even aught to be, in terms of our making it happen, but the things that are, simply are because he wills it to be and makes it so. Can anything be without God? He is the great cause of causes and planner of purposes. So go easy on those Payless clerks, it's hard enough for them as it is.

God is God and we are not. He has been God for a really long time and the last time I checked he was still God. Contrary to what some say, God really isn't "hard up" (for help) - he need not use anyone, but he chooses to use some and that's just the way it is. God can commission stones if need be (some would say that he has). There is a time when God uses men who are "available," but then there are even more times when he doesn't - at least not in the way we would expect. Sovereignty is not detained by our availability. When we look at Christendom we see very few heavyweights and many lightweights, and this has little to do with man's availability. Some speak as though availability is the guaranteed doorway to God's power. It certainly can be, and it often is, but God moves sovereignly according to his own desire and not some presumptive evangelical formula. Many of the most available people glorify God in the simple things of daily living and never realize the whirlwind experience of the God of Elijah, and this at no fault of their own. With everything else that we know to be true, we need to clearly understand this also. If we do not understand this we can be swept away by an untempered zeal that could make us rather obnoxious and difficult to be around. Buttonholing people to conform to our misguided notions concerning Christian service can be detrimental; and we could end up doing more harm than good, with regards to the end result. If you don't like this it might be that there is still too much Hammond Indiana in you.

If we have found favor and success in our ministerial endeavors - if we have been granted the ministerial "Midas touch" (whereby everything we touch turns to gold) we should not become haughty and impose high standards upon others who may not have the same graces. We are only men with limited vision; it is always safe to let God be God, in the lives of others - at least long enough for them to swallow their own spit. If God has chosen you and given you the power and the desire to do something "great" that he has ordained, then praise him and go for it, but please let sovereignty and providence determine "what" this man shall do. Instead of driving others and hindering their capacity for life, perhaps it would be a better idea to get on your knees and thank God for using a wretch in such an unusual way with these three golden words: "who am I?"

It is God alone who ordains men to ministry, men may decide to respond, but men do not decide to be ordained (put in place). Some speak as though ordination is a default mandate to all Christian men warm and breathing. Ordination is determined from above, it is not a human career decision. This explains the high casualty rate. How does one know if he is called to the pastorate? If you can keep away from it, you're not called. Spurgeon once said, "do not enter the ministry if you can help it." I'm glad he was the one that said it. Can you imagine what the scrutinisers would say if that were this man's quote? If God ordains a man to ministry and determines to put a man into a specific ministry he has no problem getting him there (just ask Moses in Exodus chapter 3). Poor Moses, he didn't know that he was going. He didn't want to go, he tried four times to get out of it, but divine imposition sent him anyway. He was going to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt and that was that. This was true concerning Jonah also. He was going to go to Nineveh - he just didn't know it yet. Jonah was thoroughly unavailable, but he was chosen; and in a very unusual way he was "sent." If nothing else, the story of Jonah teaches us one very important lesson: If you are ever going to backslide, whatever you do.... do not, I repeat, do not get on a ship!

 

THE LORD IS NOT RESTRAINED

Jonathan said to his armor bearer in 1 Samuel 14:6, "the Lord is not restrained to save by many or by few," and may I say that it is most often by few that the Lord saves. God deliberately saves by few; it is his preferred method of operation within his own perfect will. Even Gideon's 300 were far more than God needed. When God decided in Old Testament times to send a message to earth he didn't send all of the angels, one was all that was needed. When the Spirit spoke in Antioch he said, "Separate now for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." Out of all of the Christians (called out ones) in Antioch, God called out two men with a specific calling and gave them the corresponding grace for that calling. They were called out from among the called out. Were they better? No, just chosen. Barnabas and Saul understood that they were chosen instruments and that, by grace, they were given something that other men were not given. There is no record in the epistles of Paul driving the churches to do what he knew God had graced him and a few others to do. Take another look at Christendom; much of the increase comes about through the ministry of a chosen few in key locations around the globe. God, according to his own choosing, raises up a man among millions (much to that man's surprise) and uses him for a far reaching work that God ordains; it has always been this way. But some who have been given much by God soon require the same from others. When someone receives grace to do something "great" they often turn around and demand the same performance out of others, whether God gives it or not. Maybe this is just human nature, or perhaps the old school Methodists are to blame.

 

EMPIRES AND LEGACIES

The world doesn't need any more empires. We should not get caught up in empire building; and it is God who grants us a legacy, we should not seek to make our own. Very few of us are amazing. If any man is amazing he shouldn't think that he got there because of all of his amazing decisions. I'm not saying that our decisions aren't important - you can't get anywhere without them, but once again it is divine sovereignty that is the greater cause. God didn't look down from heaven upon any of us and get weak in his knees and say, "Wow, look at that guy! We really need him! If we don't get him on board our plan is shot - sign him up, quick! That sounds funny, but there are people who act and speak as though this were true. Who taught them this, and why? They fail to recognize a theme in scripture often written about here which is, "not man, but God" - a theme that heaven will not despise. Those who are given much can easily be snared by the perils of having much. It is easy to be overcome by some notion of individual greatness, but this is a lying vanity. When men assign promotion the results can be disastrous. There are some who have been given far too much, far too soon, and have been allowed to retain it for far too long (like King Saul). On the other hand, there is a treasure of sobriety that comes with humility of mind. "when thou wast little in thine own sight." (1 Samuel 15:17a)

Every empire that has ever existed either has fallen or is yet to fall. Many that have fallen have collapsed under their own weight. It is not a matter of "if" but "when." We know that God has not called his people to build empires, but to build up people. The bigger the empire gets the more difficult it becomes to hold together and the harder it will fall when it falls. So.... why build a bigger empire? Is it the record books or the history books that we are after? If God raises up a movement and blesses it, that is his work and he will use it for his purpose, but we should not become enamored with the movement lest the movement itself become too important. Whenever "the work" trumps people, "the work" has become too important. Why would I say such a thing? Because people are the work!

 

FOOLISH, FLAWED, AND UNQUALIFIED

It has been somewhat amusing and certainly enlightening to watch how the "middleweights" become critical of the "heavyweights" who are being used to a much greater degree. There are those who think that they are surely the people and that wisdom will die with them. (Job 12:2) It must be painful for these types to have to watch God raise up some foolishly flawed and unqualified preacher (by pure grace) who doesn't do things their way and yet have a successful global ministry that reaches millions of people with the gospel. In spite of the foolishness, (of preaching) flaws, (in their message) and the undeservedness of such an unlikely instrument of grace, God is not ashamed to call them his brethren and to use them outside some hotshot's accepted box of ecclesiastical methodology. "Why on earth are you doing it that way God?" "You're not supposed to use people like that in such a manner!" "You're violating your own New Testament model!" God is a God of mind boggling diversity in every area and he will never cease to astound us - he loves to pitch us curves. Just when we think we have him figured out within our own evangelical construct, he topples our house of cards. By their fruits you will know them; and by hearing the voice of God behind their message. If God has chosen these unlikely ones to do his work in an unconventional manner, then may God be glorified in what is his sovereign will. Right when we think that we are the people, we find out, much to our amazement, that we are not alone. Don't be surprised if, one day, you hear God say to you, "Thank you, that will be all; please have a seat."

What shall this man do? What is that to thee? Follow thou him.

 

 

 

 

 

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