it's not a flawless measure of effectiveness, but i loved this book. the LORD has been so faithful in his message to me, reinforcing the same themes throughout the different books and studies to which i'm exposed as well as personal experiences, the testimonies of others, and even the scriptures i read. i am consistently surprised by how surprised i still am that a unified singularly plural God J would send a unified message throughout the various avenues available to him. of course he works this way, it should come as no surprise. yet i thank the LORD that i am so blessed that he would speak to me at all, let alone through several different mediums. all that to say that second only serves to reinforce the importance of humility, faithfulness, and selflessness in ministry—which is to say, all Christian living—which the LORD speaks to me through spiritual leadership, the current series on spiritual gifts, different messages, the books of acts and paul's pastoral epistles.
i was struck several times that the word "second" also refers to a duelists "backup" who, should he fall, is obliged to stand in his place. though romaine never uses this example it is, i think a marvelous example of the ministry of those not in senior positions. ideally you will never become a hero, but rather minister to the needs of the one who has retained your service. you receive no honor for this position, but the honor of your "first" relies on your service.
the ultimate effect has been growing to understand, much to my delight, how little the LORD needs me! rather than a disappointment, this is such a wonderful blessing because serving the LORD becomes a delight, a compulsion out of love rather than a duty. in such an understanding, while my failures are still frustrating and disappointing, they are no longer covered by guilt, fear, and often attempts at self-justification. as i learn that the LORD is not required to use me, and indeed could probably do a better job without me, i also realize that he chooses to use me. he delights to do so; he enjoys the fellowship with me, his child, as well as my purification, perfection, maturation, and growth.
along with this wonderful blessing comes a great deal of responsibility. because the LORD has chosen to use me, and i have responded by accepting the appointment puts a higher standard of living upon my life. choosing to die to oneself means living an entirely self-sacrificing life with no room for indulgence, selfish ambition, laziness, or pride. the grace of God flowing through my life, filling in my abundant lack, does not release me from accountability. on the contrary, to whom much is given, much is required. if i wanted an indulgent and selfish lifestyle, i should have turned away the gift-because although i am certainly not justified by good works, i am certainly held accountable to the mighty grace working within me. having access to such a great power leaves me completely without excuse for fruitlessness. because the fruit is not born by my abilities, the only reason it cannot be born in my life is because i have somehow blocked it.
being God's servant means freedom from sin and life in the light of his love and grace. what a gift! fellowship with his resurrection-it cannot be measured! however, truly loving my savior, who only asks that i love as he loves, means being obedient to the example that he has given me. this examples compels me to, like paul, make myself a spirit of all. many times i have been inspired by the passage in 2 cor 6 sometimes entitled "the marks of the ministry." this is a list of characteristics of the kind of servant ministers who truly love others more than their own lives. although the grace of God frees me from the constraints of the law, it merely trades it for the constraints of the love of Christ J a much better type of bondage. paul and his ministry team chose to voluntarily put themselves into bondage to all men, choosing the lay aside the freedoms granted to them in order to ensure that the gospel they preached would have every opportunity to spread purely throughout the people and they would have every opportunity to receive it. this "above and beyond" kind of attitude is radical and extreme. it is the spirit spoken of in 1 cor by paul when he chastises the church in corinth for seeking justice through secular avenues rather than choosing to allow others to wrong them. this is also the spirit that compels a man to give a thief freely what he takes and then more. this is the beautiful grace that is given to us by God and does more, i think, to model his spirit than anything we can say.
i have been convicted so many times regarding pride, oh my oh my i have an ego! i have a stubborn and proud spirit and i am thoroughly convinced that this is the number one reason the LORD has not used me to the degree that i desire. i have tried to beat that spirit into submission, to master those bitter thoughts that resent the success and honor of others and excuse my own failings. there is a spirit in me that is petrified of being exposed for the weakling that i am. it is one thing for me to say i am weak, fleshly, prideful, and sinful creature (and have everyone else pat my head and tell me how untrue this is) and quite another for someone to see my weakness first hand. for this reason i am afraid to ask for help, afraid to be honest at times, and desperate to prove my worth. there is no place for this in the heart of any servant. as a servant of Christ, any time i am recognized for anything i do, i am taking glory from the LORD. i should hate praise because it draws away from the glory of my friend, father, and savior, Jesus. it is this spirit of pride that leads to bitterness, grudging service, murmurings, backbiting, and overall fruitlessness.
as i learn more about the ministry of servants, and really we are all "seconds," and as i see examples of good service, i realize how important it is to place my "rights" and pride not second, not even third, but in the garbage. becoming Christ's means i reject those rights, adopting his spirit, his mind, and his agenda. this is not negated when i am mistreated or when my toes are stepped upon because i do not serve for recognition, because others deserve my service, or even because i can see fruit but because God requires it. i cannot glory in the effectiveness or honor of my ministry any more than i can take responsibility with the seeming lack of these things, provided i am faithful to his leading and walking in the spirit. what an awesome liberation to know that God doesn't need me!