John 14

Today’s reading is John 14.

We usually don’t expect a leader’s followers to be more successful than the leader himself. In the NFL, a great coach like Bill Walsh has had a number of his assistant coaches go on to become head coaches. None of them, however, had the kind of sustained success that Walsh had. Not even close.

Bill Parcells was another great football coach whose assistants became head coaches themselves. One of Parcells’s assistants, Bill Belichick is an exception to the principle I’ve been talking about. Belichick has been more successful than his mentor, Bill Parcells, but Belichick’s assistants who became head coaches have been failures. Being tutored by a great coach, then, does not necessarily set one up for success. Athletics is just one example. I think you will find this to be true in music, in business, and in ministry. It is rare that a student surpasses his master.

It is surprising, then, to read Jesus’s statement here in John 14:12b, “…whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these….” Jesus prophesied that his disciples would do greater things than he did, that we would be more successful than he was. What was he saying, exactly?

First of all, the next phrase explains why Jesus said this: “…because I am going to the Father.” Disciples do greater works than the Lord himself because the Lord himself did not remain here physically. That’s one reason, then, why Jesus said his disciples would do greater works than he did. Jesus preached to thousands early in his ministry, but only a handful of disciples remained even after his resurrection (see Acts 1:12-14). By contrast, the disciples of Jesus would reach thousands with the gospel (see Acts 2:41), so the raw numbers of believers were greater.

But verses 13-14 give a greater answer for why the disciples of Jesus did greater works. The answer is not that they were greater than the Lord but that their works were empowered by the Lord. As verse 13 put it, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” We are capable of doing more than Jesus did because he will work through us when we ask him to use us for his work. We have his empowering promise and we need it because he is almighty and we are weak and incapable without him.

Do you live and serve God in light of and based on this promise? Do you expect God to use you in service to him? Do you ask him to use you, in his name, to do great works for God? If something is lacking in our ministry for Christ, maybe it is that we just don’t ask the Lord to use us and keep his promise to do greater works through us. But Jesus said, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

Live by this promise when you share the gospel or open the word or do any kind of ministry. Ask Jesus to do powerful work through you that only he could do. He promised that he would! All we need to do is claim that promise by faith and serve God accordingly.

1 Corinthians 4

Read 1 Corinthians 4.

Some Christians have a regal view of the ministry. That is, they see pastors and other ministry leaders like monarchs. They look up to us, in some ways, so they think that everyone must give us honor and respect and treat us with reverence.

What nonsense.

Paul continued, here in 1 Corinthians 4, correcting the false ideas the Corinthians had about ministry leaders. Paul and Apollos were not in competition ( 1 Cor 2) with each other but instead were partners together in God’s work (1 Cor 3).

So, here in chapter 4, he says, think of us as “servants of Christ” (v. 1) who must be faithful (v. 2). Instead of living like modern day royals, Paul said we ministry leaders are “fools for Christ” (v. 10a). Instead of being put on a pedestal, we are paraded like prisoners of war (v. 9).

While some people treat us with honor and respect, that’s not the norm. Instead, people “curse” us (v. 12b) and “we are slandered” (v. 13a). People think we are the “scum of the earth, the garbage of the world” (v. 13c).

Being an elder is not majestic. It isn’t easy or particularly fun most of the time. When we are mistreated, we have to respond in a godly way, not the way we might want to. That means “When we are cursed, we bless…; when we are slandered, we answer kindly” (v. 12, 13). Most of the people in our church are kind to me. But some people have said the most unkind things to me or about me, sometimes in public meetings.

But, enough about me. Given what you know about ministry, don’t you want to become a ministry leader? That’s where Paul turned next in this chapter. Despite the pain that ministry leadership can bring, Paul wanted to build more leaders.

The Corinthians didn’t have enough “fathers” (v. 15). They needed more so Paul said, “I urge you to imitate me” (v. 16). He also sent Timothy to them to “remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.”

That’s the essence of spiritual leadership: Know the truth. Teach the truth. Live the truth. Then encourage others to do the same.

No church has enough leaders. Our church could certainly use more. Are you growing in your knowledge of God’s truth? Are you teaching it while simultaneously living it out?

None of us is perfect but, when there is sin in your life that is out of step with what we believe and teach, are you dealing with it biblically?

This is what the church needs so that the gospel can advance and people can be redeemed from this lost, cursed world. Will you step up to the need and become a spiritual father?

Matthew 10

Read Matthew 10.

Christ sent the Twelve disciples on a brief preaching mission in this chapter. The first 15 verses describe the call and commission of these Apostles as well as the specific instructions Christ had for this mission.

After verse 16, Jesus described aspects of discipleship that could apply to anyone who witnesses for him. He told the disciples they would be forced to choose either to love family or to love Christ (vv. 34-39).

Not everyone disciples know or meet will reject them. At the end of the chapter Jesus indicated that some will welcome the disciples because they welcome Jesus (v. 40). This alludes to the fellowship that believers have with one another because of our fellowship with Christ.

But Christ went further than just alluding to the fact that some people will receive us. He promised a great reward for those who receive us. Verse 41 says, “Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward” (vv. 41-42). Think about that: the person who “welcomes a prophet as a prophet” receives the SAME level of reward as the prophet himself: “…will receive a prophet’s reward” (v. 41).

And even if someone gives you “a cup of cold water to a disciple” that person receives a reward.

So even beyond the fellowship we have as believers in Christ, we have the promise of rewards from the Lord for helping and serving those who witness for Christ.

I think Christ is describing here the reward that comes for supporting people who serve the Lord full time in ministry. If you welcome missionaries or other servants of the Lord into your home for a meal or for lodging, Christ promises rewards for you. If you give monthly financial support to missionaries and other servants of Christ, Jesus says you will be rewarded.

You may not be able to give much. “A cup of cold water” (v. 42) is not much. But the gift is an expression of the heart that loves God and his people.

Do you give financially to support missionaries? If you think that you have too little to give to make a difference, reconsider that based on this passage. God rewards those who love him and show it by supporting and providing for his servants.