When Should I Say “No” to a Ministry Opportunity?
Some people say “no” to everything, and others say “yes” to everything. Both can be bad.
We should say “yes” to immediate, short-term needs that come before us that we can meet.
We should only make larger, long-term commitments under the prompting and guidance of the Holy Spirit, and in consistency with our calling. Our other commitments must also be kept in mind; it isn’t good to over-commit. If we really feel led to take on one thing, maybe that means we should decline something else.
Example: The story of the good Samaritan of Luke 10
The priest and Levite who passed the man by were wrong to do so – there was a need, and they couldn’t just claim “I’m not called” or “God doesn’t want me to do that.”
However, the Samaritan was not called to make a hospital there on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem – that would be a long-term thing that someone should not do apart from a real sense of calling.
Note: When it comes to “immediate needs,” I especially mean the immediate needs that are actually right in front of us in our real life. One of the challenges of the modern internet and social media age is that we receive countless needs and crises from all over the world, many of them from people we don’t know at all. I don’t think we can deal with such things except by the prompting of the Holy Spirit – but we should often be more ready to help with the things right in front of us in real life than we often are.
Why does Mark 14:3 call a man “Simon the Leper” – was he still a leper, someone Jesus did not heal? Does Jesus heal everyone who comes to Him in faith?
Mark 14:3 — “And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard.”
Most people agree that this is referring to somebody who was formerly a leper. Seeing that now he was healed of his leprosy, it’s almost even more wonderful to call him Simon the leper, because everybody knows he is no longer a leper. I suppose it’s possible to consider that Simon continued to be a leper. But in Luke 7:36-50, when it mentions Simon, Jesus is with him at the home of a Pharisee. And in Mark 14, the whole situation takes place at the home of Simon the leper. He is hosting people in his home — people would not have come into his home if he was still a leper. So, we can say with confidence that Simon the leper was actually a former leper, who was in fact healed of his leprosy.
Did Jesus heal everyone who came to him with faith? As far as we know from the Gospels, Jesus did not immediately heal every sick or injured person that he saw. When Jesus came to the pool of Bethsaida, he saw people who were lame, ill, and afflicted all around the pool, but he healed only one. We know that the man who sat at the Gate Beautiful in Jerusalem, whom Peter and John healed in Acts 3, sat there for many, many years; Jesus passed by that man many times. So Jesus did not heal every sick or injured person that he saw. But there is no instance in the Bible where Jesus did not heal someone who came to Him in faith.
Regarding the second question, Hebrews 13 says that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. Does He still promise to heal everyone who comes to Him with faith? I believe that the Bible promises absolute, complete healing for every person who’s a believer in Jesus Christ. And ultimately, we call that resurrection. We need to understand there is complete healing reserved for every believer in resurrection. God promises that His healing, His work of salvation, is just as much for our body as it is for our soul or our spirit. God has promised to perfectly heal, strengthen and restore the body of every believer.
As you notice, I’m saying that that promise is ultimately fulfilled in the resurrection. We also believe that God often shows His grace and His goodness to people in the present time by healing those who come to him in faith. This is something in which we can and should take great comfort. I believe that God heals people today, and I hope you do as well.
Why God does not heal everyone immediately, right here and right now — even those who come to Him in faith? We can’t answer that. God does promise ultimate healing for everyone who comes to Him in faith, through the resurrection. Sometimes, many times, God grants gracious demonstrations of that healing power to someone immediately right here in the present. And we are grateful to God for when he does that.
Why was Achan’s family also killed for his sin of coveting and stealing? (Joshua 7)
That’s a valid question. Not only was Achan executed for the sin of stealing the things that were to be set apart to the Lord, but his family was as well. That is very clear in Joshua 7. Notice where they found the substantial materials which Achan had stolen. They found them under the family tent. In other words, I don’t believe Achan could have stolen or hidden those items without the knowledge and perhaps even the partnership of his family.
Those things were buried under the family tent. This indicates that the family knew what Achan had done. It may be a bit of a conjecture, but perhaps and somewhat probably they were complicit partners in his crime. They would have also benefited from the crime.
This is why, in this particular situation, God commanded that not only Achan be executed for the crime. God had previously announced that this would happen; He absolutely forbade, on pain of death, anybody to take from these things that were to devoted to unto the Lord. They were for the Lord, and for no one else and no other purpose.
Not only was Achan guilty, but when we find out he hid those stolen items under the family tent, I don’t think he could have done that without the knowledge and agreement, or perhaps even partnership, of the family itself.
Did the thief on the cross go to heaven when he died?
The Bible tells us that when a believer dies, they go to heaven. As Paul said, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. To be absent from this body, for the believer, is to be in God’s presence. Jesus told us that he goes to prepare a place for us. In Acts 7, as Stephen was being stoned to death, he saw Jesus welcoming him into heaven.
We should not believe in the idea of what some people call “soul sleep,” that when a believing person dies, that they go into some state of suspended animation for however many years. No, that isn’t what the Bible teaches.
What about the thief on the cross? I believe that it was the thief’s experience to be in heaven with God the Father and with Jesus Christ, God the Son, that very same day that he died — and that is paradise. Paradise is God’s garden. I believe Jesus was referencing heaven by telling the thief on the cross, “You’re going to be with me in heaven today.” I believe that the gates of heaven were opened wide for all of those who had died in faith in Jesus the Messiah. Once Jesus finished His atoning work on the cross, the price was paid. It was no longer merely looked forward to in anticipation, but at that moment, it was actually paid. Jesus, on the cross before He died, said, “It is finished.” That ancient Greek word He uttered from the cross is tetelestai, which can also be understood as “Paid in full.” And we’re very happy about that. Once that price was completely paid, you could say that the gates of heaven were open wide, and all of those who had died in faith were welcome to come into heaven, including the thief on the cross. When a believer dies, they do go to be with the Lord. I believe someone who dies without having faith in the Lord goes first to a place called Hades, where they await the final judgment. After the final judgment, they go to a place called the Lake of Fire or Gehenna.
In John 6:16, why did the disciples go to Capernaum without Jesus?
John 6:16-17 — “Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, got into the boat, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was already dark, and Jesus had not come to them.”
This is a question that can be answered by going to other passages of the Scriptures. In the New King James Version, it says Jesus walks on the scene here in John 6. The corollary passages to this are Matthew 14, and Mark 6. We know, by comparing with those particular passages, that Jesus didn’t just tell them to go; He commanded them to go over and said He would join them. So why did they go to Capernaum without Jesus? Because Jesus told them to.
Why did Jesus tell them to? I would surmise that Jesus told them to because he expected they would be tested on the Sea of Galilee, and he wanted to see how they would meet this test. They had trusted Jesus in the midst of a storm with Jesus in the boat. Now, how would they trust Jesus in a storm, without Jesus in the boat? I really love this because they went to Capernaum without Jesus, because of the specific command of Jesus— Jesus told them to do this. And they ran into a great storm on that sea. This reminds me that the disciples of Jesus, including ourselves, can be exactly where God wants us to be, and doing exactly what Jesus tells us to do, and we can still experience great difficulty. Some people seem to believe that if we are really in God’s will, everything is going to be easy. Friends, that’s not true at all. Sometimes when we are in the very middle of God’s will, we will experience a significant measure of difficulty and trouble.
How can one practice the gift of prophecy in a small group setting?
First of all, I’m always a little nervous about people pursuing a gift like prophecy. We need to be careful to avoid pretending that something is prophetic, when it’s not. We want to be very genuine about the gifts of the Spirit and never pretend or try to manufacture them — and I say that as someone who believes that God can actually and sometimes does speak through such gifts with people in small group settings. I believe that it’s appropriate, if believers are gathered together, worshiping the Lord, waiting upon the Lord, and ministering unto God. I love Acts 13 speaks about the disciples “ministering unto the Lord” in the midst of the setting of the church in Antioch. That’s when the Holy Spirit said, “Separate to Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:2) Presumably that was done through some kind of prophetic word.
How can this happen today? First of all, believers should wait upon the Lord, minister unto the Lord, worship God. And if someone has a genuine inner sense that perhaps the Holy Spirit would like to speak something through them to the group, let them say in a very non-dramatic kind of way, “Hey, folks, I think that the Holy Spirit would speak something to us as a group.” Maybe the Holy Spirit would speak something just through the reading of Scripture. Praise the Lord for that. Maybe the Holy Spirit would speak something through a spontaneous word, but I think it is so wise when people say, “I think the Holy Spirit is saying something to our group, and this is what I believe He’s saying,” rather than making things very dramatic or self-focused. Saying things like “My little children,” or “Thus saith the Lord,” can add a weight of self-importance and self-confidence, as if you know exactly what the Holy Spirit is saying. I don’t think that approach is right.
Ultimately, whoever is in spiritual leadership among that group must judge that word. The Bible commands that words of prophecy be judged among believers. And if those words will not be judged, then people shouldn’t be speaking forth suggested words of prophecy at all. It is essential for us to approach such things in a biblical manner, and the Bible says that words of prophecy should be judged.
Therefore, if a brother or sister appropriately brings forth what they believe to be a word of prophecy in a small group setting, then it should be judged. If I was leading the group, I would say, “I witness that what our dear brother or sister said was really from the Lord, and I receive it as the Lord speaking to us.” If it’s not such a case, then I think that it should be gently but straightforwardly said, “God bless our dear brother or sister, but I don’t think that they were speaking from the Lord.” If prophecy will not be tested or judged by those who are in spiritual leadership at a small group setting like that, then I don’t think it should be practiced at all.
Why did God allow Aaron to not eat the sin offering after the death of Nadab and Abihu? (Leviticus 10)
Leviticus 10:16-20 — Then Moses made careful inquiry about the goat of the sin offering, and there it was—burned up. And he was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, the sons of Aaron who were left, saying, “Why have you not eaten the sin offering in a holy place, since it is most holy, and God has given it to you to bear the guilt of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the LORD? See! Its blood was not brought inside the holy place; indeed you should have eaten it in a holy place, as I commanded.” And Aaron said to Moses, “Look, this day they have offered their sin offering and their burnt offering before the LORD, and such things have befallen me! If I had eaten the sin offering today, would it have been accepted in the sight of the LORD?” So when Moses heard that, he was content.
Moses wanted to know why Eleazar and Ithamar didn’t eat the portions of sacrifice that were given for the priests to eat. Since Aaron replied on their behalf in Leviticus 10:19, it seems they did not eat it because they followed their father’s example. Aaron did not eat of the sin offering on the day that his own sons were executed by the Lord for offering strange fire before God, mainly because of his grief. However, God required these two brothers, Eleazar and Ithamar, to eat of the sin offering. Even though they were their brothers, these executed men were not their sons. There’s a difference between Aaron, the father of the men who were killed by the Lord, and these brothers of the men who were killed by the Lord. And the difference is, of course, that it’s far more grievous to have your children die than it is even to have your brothers die. I’m not saying that it’s a light thing to have your brothers die.
God basically excused Aaron from the sacrifice, but He did not excuse the sons, these brothers of Nadab and Abihu, from the sacrifice. The ministry had to go on. That’s why, in that particular situation, it was required of them they should have participated in the sin offering, and God did not excuse them from that. For more information on that chapter, please refer to my commentary at enduringword.com.
What about the New Apostolic Reformation movement? (NAR)
I have heard of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) movement, and I don’t think much of it. I don’t agree with their foundational premise. The foundational premise of the NAR movement is that the big problem in the church today is that we aren’t recognizing apostles in the midst of the church. They maintain that the church can only go forward into the next level of what God has for them if they start recognizing apostles in their midst, and bow down before the authority of such apostles.
I disagree with that in the strongest terms. I do not believe that God is restoring apostles to the church in the way that the NAR claims He is doing. I believe that this is not a biblical thing, and I believe that it’s a dangerous thing.
I believe that we have apostolic authority in our day and age, but it does not come from somebody who claims the title “Apostle.” There is no person who claims to be a modern day apostle who has authority over me or over my faith. The writings of the apostles and prophets in the Bible have that authority. I think this idea that the church needs a restoration of people who claim to be apostles is nonsense, and dangerous nonsense. We are free men and women in Jesus Christ. We are ruled over by God through the foundation that was given to us by the apostles and prophets, as the Holy Spirit tells us in Ephesians 2:20. Beyond that, I don’t think we need apostolic authority from people who claim to be apostles in our modern day and age.
Are we to not preach the gospel to those who are “pigs” or “dogs” as in Matthew 7:6?
Matthew 7:6 — Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.
No, we are to bring the gospel to pigs and dogs, so to speak. But there are people whom we know to be hardened rejecters of the good news of Jesus Christ. I think Jesus does not require us to bring the gospel to them, in the same way that he would require us to bring the gospel to people in general. Some people that you know are hardened rejecters of the Word of God. I think Jesus almost gives us a pass before those people. Don’t give what is holy to the dogs, nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample those things in pieces. I think that God wants us to know that where there are people who are hardened against receiving God’s word, sometimes it’s unwise to bring them God’s word. This isn’t a general sense of us going out and deciding who a pig or a dog is, and saying that we’re not going to bring the gospel to them.
Did Achan’s sin disqualify the line of Zerah from the Messianic lineage?
I wouldn’t say that in an absolute sense. God certainly brings redemption. I don’t think that Achan’s sin would be disqualifying for his entire line of descendants. God wasn’t shy about including sinners in the line of the Messiah. We have some pretty notorious sinners in the line of the Messiah. Judah was in the line of Messiah and he sinned pretty grievously. Others such as Rahab or David are in the line of the Messiah. There are some pretty grievous sinners in the line of the Messiah. So no, I don’t know if that should be regarded as an immediate disqualification.
Many Bible passages promise God’s protection. Why then do wicked things happen to those who are believers and not in habitual sin?
It’s true, there are passages in the Scriptures which promise some kind of protection from harm or evil. But I would just say that those passages and promises in the Scripture are not absolute. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, I am sure there are innumerable instances in which God has preserved you from troubles or hardships that would have come upon you, but God in His grace and mercy protected you. We just have no way to count or measure such things.
However, God does not make any kind of promise to believers, even believers who are truly walking in faith, that they will have no trouble. Do you remember what Jesus said? He said, “These things I have spoken to you that you might have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Paul wrote to the Thessalonians that they should not be surprised by this affliction to which they were appointed (1 Thessalonians 3:3). In other words, God appointed them to affliction. God uses pain and trouble in the Christian life.
Not every trouble or affliction or pain that comes into the life of believer is from God. Certainly there are things that we could be delivered from if we just trusted God in the midst of them. But there certainly are difficulties, problems, and troubles that believers experience, which God has appointed.
There are some things that God wants us to be delivered from in faith. There are other things that God would have us be delivered through in faith. In other words, we’re still in the circumstance, but delivered through it.
Nowhere in God’s word does He give a broad promise to every believer that, once we believe in Jesus, we will be spared all the tribulation or difficulty in this world. However, God does have a plan and a purpose for suffering. Certainly there are some sufferings which believers experience that God would deliver them from if they would just trust Him. But we know that God can use and wants to use suffering at times in our walk with Him, as we go forward in the Christian life.