Excelling for the Lord
There is a phrase used among brethren that demonstrates contempt for some of their brethren. The word is almost a universal byword o# derision among saints. The most damning accusation that could conceivably be brought against any man's motives is to say, "He is trying to be a Big-Name-Preacher." Now, it is obvious that there are such men-preachers out to peddle themselves rather than giving away the Gospel. These men desire the acclaim of men and the prominence that it brings. They are those who look upon their brethren as a source of livelihood and other preachers as either competitors ox allies. These caricatures axe pitiful creatures, more to be pitied than hated but certainly to be avoided (2 Tim. 3).
Put this crushing accusation often keeps men o# high ability from striving for goals of higher service and excellence for the Lord. There seems to be a great deal o# what this writer calls "inverse snobbery" among God's people. Many who have obeyed the Gospel are simple and modest personalities. But, this modesty should not extend to smother any ability ox zeal that is greater ox stronger than our own.. Rather, we should rejoice that every part of the body lass differing abilities--the total effect being a body which is strong and effective over all (1 Cox. 12).
"Seek that ye might excel to the edifying of the body of the Lord" (1 Cor. 14:12). We can be justifiably proud of any effort we put forth to excel for the Lord by serving the church. Whether it be intellectually, spiritually, or in good works, our service to God is not in vain and it should give us as much pleasure to serve the Lord as it does for Him to receive it (Eccl. 2:26; Matt, 25:21; Luke 6:22, 23). Our rejoicing in service to God is not for the "name" we may garner among men, but for the joy we have in that our names axe written in heaven (Luke 1p:20). The brother who puts out the least amount of work he can get by with is cheating both himself and the Lord who gave him the talents to produce more. The brother who "cuts back" because of "Big-Preacher" criticism or because the grade inclines upward, mill never reach the top of anything.
This is not an idle admonition. Many are content to remain in stasis, making no effort to climb to greater service. There appears to be no sense of urgency or zeal that would prod the "soldier o# Christ" to arise and go out to join forces with God's warriors to defeat the army o# Satan. Preachers who are giving two lessons a week, study infrequently, write little or not at all, and for all intents and purposes ignore the plight of the lost and erring are misusing their support and are prostituting their function. Many preachers seem to think that the church exists to provide them with a living, and if their fruit is unconverted souls it is because "The church does not provide me with any contacts-" "The work o# evangelism can be done, and is often accomplished independently of the local church. The Bible evangelist does not depend on the church to provide him with work to do. Any student of the life of Paul will testify to this. Our work is as a "servant of Christ" to "make all men complete in Christ."
Did you ever wonder where the expression "Sour Grapes" comes from? It is derived from the fable of the hungry fox by Aesop, an ancient Greek philosopher. The tale is related that there was a hungry fox who happened to pace through a grape vineyard. He saw a particularly succulent cluster o# dew-washed grapes, and the saliva began to flay. He stretched and strained to reach the grapes, but they remained just out of his reach, tantalizing him with the promise of their sweetness. Finally, setting back in frustration and hunger, the fox declared heatedly, "Well, the grapes are probably sour anyway---who wants sour grapes?" Feeling somewhat less frustrated, but hardly lees hungry, the fox stalked off without ever tasting the grapes. Aesop's moral wasp "There is always some comfort in pretending we rig not want the things we cannot get."
The moral strikes close to the motivation behind most cxitici.sata of those men who "excel to the edifying of the body of the lord" (1 Cor. 14.12), It is much easier to live with our own lackadaisical character if we can write off those who work harder than we do as "glory-hounds." Any maxi who has ever worked on an assembly line ox with a group in a common job knows the stigma the slow-moving and lazy attempt to put on the efforts o# the diligent. "In all labor there is profit, but the talk of the fops leads only to poverty" (Prov. 14:23). These critics seldom produce anything but criticism. They are always going to do something, at least they talk about it a lot, but when it comes to any worthwhile work they are obvious frauds. The slothful desire the respect and honor given to those who labor hard and well, "but his hands refuse to labor. He covets greedily all day long" (Prov. 21:25). Solomon said that he could always tell the farm of a sluggard, "Lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down." The wise king of Israel learned something from this scene. The result of "a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep" in the end brought only disorder, chaos, and final destruction (Prov. 24:30-34).
Look to the critic who is always down upon men of ability; look at his life and its fruits. Test his knowledge of the word, and the effect that it has upon his life, and then weigh his words against the labor of the one he is so contemptuous of. It is the height of hypocrisy to claim to have a knowledge of God and not be diligent in our service to him (Heb. 11:6; Phil. 3:13, 14; 1 Tim. 3:10; Gal. 6:9). God tells us that a man is a liar if he claims a right relationship with God and yet is slothful in his service and is contemptuous of his brother (1 Jn. 2;4,9). But the man who excels for the Lord will be known and honored by those who appreciate service to our King. "Seest thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before the king; but he shall not stand before mean and obscure men" (Prov. 22:29).
Truth Magazine XXI: 6, pp. 92-93