Thursday, June 12, 2014

Problems in the Church and God’s Solution

It does not take long after the birth of the Church on the day of Pentecost, before the enemy begins to attack it. In the early chapters of the book of Acts we see the enemy seeking to bombard the local assembly of believers from the outside through persecution (Acts 3-4). But the believers only grew and became stronger as a result of the persecution. Then in chapter 5 Satan changed his tactics and began to attack the assembly from within their own ranks when Ananias and his wife Sapphira pretended to be something they were not and lied to the Holy Spirit. God took this hypocrisy very serious and they both died. The result was that there was reverence for God, unity among the believer’s and once again the church grew (Acts 5:11-16).

It was long until the enemy attacked again. Like before, this assault came from within their own ranks as we see in the first seven verses of chapter six. New problems arose, by the way the word problem really isn’t found in the New Testament, the Bible addresses them as our weakness or as sin. But we learn that complaints came from Greek speaking Jews called Hellenist, who thought their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.

There are many things that we can learn from this portion of Scripture and I would like to point out a few things connected with the way they handled difficulties when they arise. It has often been pointed out that the people of God are not perfect, but we are forgiven! But since we’re not perfect, problems arise among us, difficulties surface, weaknesses are revealed and sin is brought to light! The question is, not if they come, but when they come how are we going to deal with them? They way these early Christian solved the problems that arose among them is very instructive. Warren Wiersbe called this portion “the Mathematics of the Ministry,” noting that there are four elements seen here.

First, we read of the multiplication of the followers of Christ (Acts 6:1). These believers were living out Christ in their lives through the power of the Holy Spirit. The assembly was multiplying. In fact, multiplication is the underlining theme of the book of Acts. In chapter one there were 120 believers gathered together in one accord (1:14-15). On the day of Pentecost in chapter two there were 3000, shortly after that the number grew to 5000 (4:4). Then we see the church growing and increasing in number (5:14), multiplying greatly (6:7), with many believing (9:42) and great number believed in 11:21. At creation God said, “Be fruitful and multiply” and we see this applies to the new creation as well. God desires to see His people reproduce by witnessing and giving evidence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).But how do we do this, what enables us to multiply. I would suggest 5 things:

1. To be filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18) and in Acts 5:42 we read that they were daily in the temple and in every house teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
2. There was unity among them (1:14, 2:1, 44). There was not strife, competition or friction.
3. They had a holy boldness to preach and share Christ (Acts 4:29-31).
4. The opposition actually strengthened them and caused them to multiply (Acts 5:41-6:1).
5. They were constant relying upon the Lord and not their own strength (Acts 4:29).

The second thing to notice in this mathematics of ministry is that often times, multiplication can bring about division. Growth always brings about challenges! We might call it “growing pains” of a local assembly. New Christians don’t cause problems, but they sometimes reveal problems that already existed. As they grow and begin to ask questions and it can challenge us if we are not prepared for it. Their questions and are lack of scriptural answers can cause us to feel threaten instead of encouraged and refreshed! The older we get the more we don’t like change or challenge. It has been said that a local assembly can be like a morgue or a museum where preserving the past is more important than ministering to the present, so that there will be a future!

When division comes we can either use it as a tool to build with or use it as a weapon to fight with! It all depends on how we face the problem. Satan wants us to use growing pains to divide the assembly and hinder the testimony of the Lord. But the Lord wants to use all growing pains as a tool to mold and shape each of us into His image and use the experience to grow the local assembly. When problems come how should we respond?

1. We should give thanks! Why? Because a dead church does not have problems! Brother Campbell use to say, “If you never have a problem in your local assembly it is because you’re not a threat to the enemy and he leaves you alone.” Spurgeon used to say, “The devil never kicks a dead horse.” Growing pains in a local assembly only give evidence that there is potential for the glory of God.

2. We should face the growing pains prayerfully and in love asking how can we turn this into something for the glory of God and for the good of His people.

The third thing we see here in Acts 6 is subtraction. The apostles learned that they could not do everything. They had to give up something in order to solve the problems. They were so busy trying to meet all the needs that they actually were missing some who were needy and the Word of God and prayer were being neglected! If prayer and the Word of God are neglected the assembly will suffer! When there is no power it is often because there is no prayer! When the Word of God is not looked at as the life line and authority, there will be no spiritual guidance to solve problems in the local assembly. These two things must be a priority in our lives and in the life of a local assembly! Think of Moses how he would go up on the mountain alone with God or into the tabernacle to hear commune with Him and then come out of the Lord’s presence and share with the people what he had received from the Lord. 

The Lord Jesus had this in mind for us in John 15:7 when He said, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” He followed this pattern in His own life as we read in Mark 1:35, "Now in the morning, having raised a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.” Then He went out and preached and there was power in His ministry (Mk. 1:38-39). 

There are some of us who have a lot of light, but very little heat and others who have heat but very little light! We need the light of God’s Word and the heat of God’s heart that comes from spending time in communion with Him! We see in Acts 6:2, 4 that an evaluation is needed in all of us. Sometimes we spread ourselves so thin doing good things that it actually creates more problems.

Lastly, we read of addition in our portion, others were added to help in the work of the Lord in the local assembly. The assembly is not a place for us to sit on the sidelines like spectators at a sports event. The Lord has gifted each of us with spiritual gifts and desire for us to use those gifts for the building up of the local assembly. He desire for us to be participators not spectators! Notice these brothers they were to add had to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, of faith, of grace and of power (Acts 6:3, 5, 8). We need to be adding each of these five things in our own lives (Eph. 5:18, Gal. 5:16, 18, 22-25). 

Multiplication can lead to division, which ought to lead to subtraction that should cause addition. All this ends up causing multiplication again as we see in Acts 6:7, “Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.” 

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