The early church was vibrant and alive. Individual Christians were gladly taking the initiative to accomplish any good work. One example of this is a disciple from Joppa named Tabitha, who returned to life when the Apostle Peter visited her and prayed for her. Luke reports that she “was always doing good and helping the poor.”
This is supported by the fact that the widows who mourned her passing showed him the “robes and clothing that Tabitha had made while she was still with them.” Among other things, this story reflects an enterprising spirit on the part of an individual who was willing to take the initiative to do what needed to be done in order to serve and bless others. (See: Acts 9:36-43)
Do we have the same heart for service that the early Christians had? How often do we encourage individual initiative in service to Christ? Or, has the effectiveness of the body of Christ been limited because we have not grasped, much less put into practice, this principle? Jim Martin shares some practical advise on how to do this in a recent post in which he discusses intentional living. It is definitely worth reading. If you want to take a look at it, just click here.
The Bible is full of stories about people who lived intentionally, who took the initiative in serving God. There is the Samaritan we call “good”, because he showed individual initiative. A man named Joseph took the initiative in preparing Jesus’ body for burial. There are the untold numbers of believers who were scattered from Jerusalem as a result of persecution, who told the story of the Messiah wherever they went. No doubt, Apollos is grateful that Priscilla and Aquila took the initiative and explained the way of God more adequately to him.
Our narcissistic culture has given rise to a form of egocentric individualism that should not be embraced. This, however, is not anything new. In fact, Jesus warned us to avoid this attitude in The Parable of the Rich Fool. In this story Jesus tells of a man who considers what should be done with a harvest too abundant for his barns. He contemplates his options as though he were the only person to be considered. Personal pronouns are as plentiful in this story as his abundant crops—twelve of them in three verses. Clearly, this man has an “I” problem. Such is always the case when individual initiative is inwardly focused.
For an individual to take the initiative does not, however, preclude the possibility of acting in conformity with the will of God. It is only through such actions that we will be able to fulfill God’s will for our lives as members of the body of Christ. That is a bold declaration, to be sure. But, it is clearly in harmony with what the Spirit reveals through Paul in Ephesians 4:16. Here Christians are told:
From [Jesus] the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. (NASB)
“We, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Romans 12:5, NASB) This does not mean, however, that individuals cease to be significant. In fact, it is by functioning as a part of Christ’s kingdom that we realize one of our greatest potentials as individuals. As functioning members of Christ’s body we become an integral part of what God is doing in the world today, because everybody is somebody in Christ’s body!
Any body of believers can fashion a multidimensional ministry portfolio, which thoroughly correlates with God’s kingdom call on our lives. This may even look good on paper. However, only those bodies of Christians composed of members who are willing to take the initiative will ever realize the blessings of God, seeing their collective dreams become realities. The work of God is done by saints in service, not committees in meetings! No single believer can do everything; but, every single saint can do something with respect to extending a kingdom-presence in the world. When we intentionally live into this vision for our lives, we will be blessed. Indeed, God blesses individuals who take the initiative by embracing Christ’s sovereignty and living into His kingdom-calling on our lives.
© Bill Williams
July 10, 2006