Preparation for Service7 min read
…immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother. Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.
Paul is a man looked unto as a great example of a man of God. We can look at his humility: “By the grace of God I am what I am.” We can look at him as an example of zeal: “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” We can look at him as an example of sacrifice: “So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.” But seldom is he viewed as an example of a disciple’s preparation for service. Yet in our text this is exactly what we find: truth regarding preparation.
Every true believer has a duty before God that is specifically formatted to his life, and he is given a spiritual gift to help in that regards. Perhaps some are to be preachers, elders, and deacons. Perhaps some are to be discerners, people of prayer, people of faith, etc. But before God fully sets us on display as His servants for a specific purpose, He prepares us for that service which each assembly and the collective Body of Christ so dearly needs.
And, in fact, this preparation is necessary, because we must understand the nature of basic Christian living and Christian maturity before we are put in a responsible position to carry out God’s purposes. This has been the pattern in Scripture:
- Consider Moses. He spent few yet vital years with his mother as she taught him of the Living God that would be of tremendous help to him in years to come. And at age forty, he needed another time of preparation in the land of Midian, which was forty years in length. There he learned shepherding. There he learned fatherhood. There he learned humility having been free from the kings palace for so many years. And he especially learned something of the holiness of God at the scene of the burning bush. All these things would play a vital role in the last forty years of his life which he would spend speaking for God.
- Consider Samuel. He was but a child when God began preparing him. In fact, he grew under the influence of God’s presence in the temple. Though surrounded by a carnal priest (if one can use that NT reference for an OT character), his unrestrained sons, and a bothersome step-mother, God preserved this young boy by His presence and later used the boy for great service.
- Consider David. His was the right to reign, and yet he honored Saul as a leader, though weak he was. The later years of Saul’s reign was a time of preparation for David before he could become king.
- Consider the Lord Jesus. He spent thirty years preparing for a three-year ministry. And we see a glimpse of that thirty years in Luke 2, where the twelve year old boy was competent in the Scriptures and submissive in spirit. This was what characterized His life before His ministry, and it was precious in God’s sight. Then even after His baptism, He spent forty days in the wilderness to be tempted and proven to be without sin.
And so, as we look at a few points that we see in our text, be encouraged in God’s workings in your own life as He prepares you for service if you still have not been called to it just yet.
Firstly, in Paul’s preparation, there was vital communion. From the time of his conversion till the end of his life, Paul was a man of prayer. Simply by pattern we can speculate that before his public ministry, these three years served as a time for him to be drawn closer to God and to receive revelation of Truth and of the nature of his service (Acts 9:16).
Secondly, in Paul’s preparation, there was Godly fellowship. Now, at first he did not meet very many people or surround himself by several believers, but toward the end of his preparation, when he did accompany himself with others, he did so with Godly believers, such as Peter and James. When God prepares someone, they are not going to be isolated for long. The Lord expects us to fellowship with Godly friends that will sharpen us like iron. We are not going to be very well prepared for service if we surround ourselves with the world.
Thirdly, in Paul’s preparation, there was humble patience. Three years in the broad aspect of things is not a long time. But when one is actually in that period of three years, it can seem like quite a while. No doubt Paul had to learn some patience in this time, even with the new-found zeal in his life. He had to learn some things before he could be public in service, and he was obedient to this. He did not try to rush things so that he could preach and plant assemblies right away, but he waited for God to prepare him in the way He deemed fit.
Perhaps you, dear reader, are a fairly young Christian, and perhaps you still have to find your spiritual gift. Perhaps you have found it already. Regardless, these young years can be rather discouraging and obscure, because you feel like you have a duty before God and yet are not able to accomplish that in the way you think He wants you to. But be encouraged to know that someday God will appoint you to your work that He has for you. Right now may simply not be the time, but yet this period of life is vital. You see, if it were not for what you are going through right now, you would be severely unequipped to handle what God will place on your shoulders someday.
Let’s say that you know God’s will is that you be a missionary, and you feel useless not being in full time evangelism. Instead of feeling useless, know that God has day-by-day duties for you to fulfill that may seem small yet are very important in His eyes. Even though these tasks might seem small, God is proving you to be faithful in a few things before you will be faithful with many things and great responsibilities. If you don’t have this time of learning, you will not have a time of teaching. God has great plans for you, but right now His plan is to teach you. And honestly, it can be very discouraging to think that way, but in fact, we should embrace this. Whether you are convicted or not regarding God’s will for your life, simply follow Him continually and learn from His Word and from experiences that God will use to prepare you. Every experience and period in life, even though it may be hard, has purpose; if you are going through something, God will use that to accomplish His will later in your life. Don’t feel discouraged.
So then, be faithful, because if you are so discouraged that you become unfaithful while God is preparing you, then you will retard your spiritual growth and compromise the usefulness you have for God. Simply continue faithfully in whatever God has placed in your life at this time, and the day will come when you will continue on to a greater purpose. But always remember that your response to His preparing you determines the quality of your service.
Galatians 6:9 “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Matthew 25:21 “His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.