Ten Top Tips for God’s Messengers
Ten Top Tips for God’s Messengers
Billy Graham is still alive but he has already spoken his last words as a messenger of God to the world. These are the words that he will speak at his own funeral! He will speak to the people via DVD, reminding them that there is life beyond the grave and calling everyone that hears to put their faith in Jesus.
Ever since God called him to be his messenger in 1934, at just sixteen years of age, he has been a faithful messenger of the gospel. He has spoken to over 200 million people in person about Christ. He has been a friend and trusted adviser to nine American presidents. His lifetime audience, including radio and television broadcasts, has topped 2.2 billion. He has been determined to make the most of every opportunity, including his own funeral, to pass on God’s message to the world.
‘My messenger’ is the way John the Baptist is described by God (Luke 7:27). In a sense, we are all God’s messengers. Jesus speaks of ‘the message about the kingdom’ (Matthew 13:19). In the rest of the New Testament ‘the message’ is a virtual synonym for ‘the gospel’ (see Acts 2:41; 4:4; 10:44 and so on). Our task is both to hear this message and to declare it to others (1 John 1:5). In the passages for today we see the characteristics required of God’s messengers. We can see ten top tips for God’s messengers.
1. Stay close to GodPsalm 37:32-40
If we want to hear God’s message we need to ‘Wait passionately for God, don’t leave the path’ (v.34a, MSG). ‘The spacious, free life is from God, it’s also protected and safe. God-strengthened, we’re delivered from evil – when we run to him, he saves us’ (vv.39–40, MSG).
2. Seek Peace
God is a ‘God of peace’ (Romans 15:33) and God’s messengers must be messengers of peace. ‘A future awaits those who seek peace’ (Psalm 37:37b). God’s messengers should not be stirrers or seek to bring unnecessary division. Rather, we should be people of peace. Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ (Matthew 5:9).
3. Be generousLuke 6:37-7:10
- Be generous in your attitudes
Jesus says, ‘Do not judge’ and ‘Do not condemn’ (6:37). Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticise their faults’ (v.37, MSG).
- Be generous with your forgiveness
‘Forgive, and you will be forgiven’ (v.37b). The forgiveness God gives us should be a virtuous circle that overflows into our relationships with others.
- Be generous with your life
‘Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you’ (v.38). As The Message puts it, ‘Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back – given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity’ (v.38, MSG).
4. Be careful who you follow
‘Hitch your wagon to a star’ was the best piece of advice I have ever been given when I was looking for a place to train as a pastor. Jesus says, ‘The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher’ (v.40). As I looked at Sandy Millar I knew that he was the person that I wanted to train under because even though I felt I would never equal the wisdom and gifting of my teacher, at least I knew what I was aiming for.
That is why I often read biographies of people like Billy Graham, and why it is enriching for all of us to read their stories. They inspire us to aim higher.
5. Do not judge
Jesus says, ‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say, “Friend, let me take the speck out of your eye,” when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from the other person’s eye’ (vv.41–42).
It is far easier to see the faults in those around us than to see our own shortfalls and weaknesses. If we live this way, we will always be falling out with others. Jesus teaches us to pay more attention to our own faults and the areas where we need to grow. Only then can we help reconcile others to God in their struggles. When we treat others with the same patience God shows us, we are much more likely to get on with everybody else and recognise the validity of other people’s ministries.
6. Be fruitful
Jesus says, ‘No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognised by its own fruit’ (vv.43–44a). He does not say ‘by its roots’. What matters is not someone’s background and spiritual connections in their past, but their current and future fruit (their character, what they do, what they say, how they love and the effect they have).
7. Guard your heart
Jesus says, ‘Good people bring good things out of the good stored up in their hearts, and an evil brings evil things out of the evil stored up in their hearts. For out of the overflow of one’s heart the mouth speaks’ (v.45). If we want to be God’s messengers we have to fill our hearts with his message, his presence and his love. Billy Graham always used to say he liked to speak ‘out of the overflow’.
‘Begin with your own life-giving lives. It’s who you are, not what you say and do, that counts. Your true being brims over into true words and deeds’ (vv.43–44a, MSG).
8. Live it out
Superficially the two houses looked the same. But the one that collapsed had no foundation (v.49). ‘If you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a dumb carpenter who built a house but skipped the foundation’ (v.49, MSG).
This is the same image that we saw in today’s psalm: ‘I have seen the wicked and ruthless flourishing like a green tree in its native soil, but they soon passed away and were no more; though I looked for them, they could not be found’ (Psalm 37:35–36).
The difference, Jesus says, is the one whose house has a foundation; this person hears the message and puts it into practice (Luke 6:47). It is not enough to speak God’s message, we have to live it out.
9. Be under authority
The centurion recognised that Jesus’ authority came from being under authority, just as his own authority as a centurion to give commands came from being ‘under authority’ (Luke 7:8).
Our message today will have authority if we are under God’s authority and are led by his Holy Spirit. This authority does not belong to us: we are authorised by God to be his messengers. The apostle Paul spoke of being an ‘ambassador’ of the gospel (Ephesians 6:20) and writes that we have been given ‘the ministry of reconciliation’ by God (2 Corinthians 5:18).
10. Finish wellNumbers 22:21-23:26
According to the New Testament, Balaam’s life, as we have seen, is a counterexample. He is cited as an example of a false prophet. ‘They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Bezer, who loved the wages of wickedness. But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey – an animal without speech – who spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness’ (2 Peter 2:15–16).
It is a warning against ignoring the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Three times the angel of the Lord tried to stop Balaam going with Balak. But Balaam was determined to go in spite of the fact that the angel of the Lord was trying to stand in his way and said to him, ‘I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me’ (Numbers 22:32).
Balaam had set out to accept a fee for giving Balak the oracle he wanted to hear. Yet, we can see in the passage for today that at one stage in Balaam’s life he had tried to do the right thing. He said, ‘I must speak only what God puts in my mouth’ (22:38, see also 23:8,12,26).
Balaam’s life is a warning that even those who are used by God can end up in a mess. It is an encouragement to keep on doing what Balaam, at one point, set out to do – to hear God’s message and pass it on to others and to finish well.
Lord, help us to be your faithful messengers. Help us to stay close to you, to seek peace, to be generous, to follow the example of the heroes of faith, to be a reconciler, to produce good fruit, to put your words into practice, to be under your authority and to be sensitive to the guidance of your Holy Spirit. May we be faithful to the end.
I don’t like people being cruel to animals. Sometimes animals are more sensible than humans, as in this case where Balaam’s donkey had served him faithfully.
Balaam was determined to go on despite the obstacles. The difficulty we face in life is to work out what God’s plan is. It is sometimes difficult to work out whether God is stopping us from going down a disastrous route, or whether there is opposition we need to pray to overcome.