Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.
— 1 Corinthians 4:1
When I was first starting to study New Testament Greek many years ago, I pulled out my Greek New Testament one day and flipped it over to First Corinthians 4:1. There I discovered that the Greek word for “ministers” was the word huperetas — the Greek word that was used to depict the very lowest class of criminals. I knew Paul must have had a reason for selecting this word to describe “ministers,” but it made me wonder.
The huperetas of ancient times were the criminals assigned to live the rest of their lives in the bottom galleys of huge ships. In those galleys, they became the engines that moved the ships through the seas. As I pondered this, I could see so many reasons why Paul used this word to describe those of us who are serving in the Kingdom of God!
For instance, a great number of these criminals were held in the bottom galleys of ships. They were seated and chained to a bench along with other criminals — and together they shared common chains, held a common oar, and worked the same number of hours. They all had to provide equal labor to the task. Their entire lives became a group effort. They became inseparable from the other men who were on the bench with them. As I reflected on this, I thought of how God never calls you to do a big job all by yourself. He will call others at the same time to assist you. When you say yes to the will of God — when you jump into the middle of your assigned task and surrender your time, money, talents, and ideas to the Lord — you will discover that others will be right there by your side to help you with the task. You’re not the only one God has been speaking to!
The ships on which the huperetas served were so huge that it would have been impossible for one servant to move an entire ship by himself. It required the strength and effort of many servants working together in order to move those huge ships.
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In the same way, you cannot accomplish what God has called you to do all alone! Look around you! Look at the people God has placed around you to help you fulfill your dream. Don’t ignore them, thinking you can do it alone. If your vision from the Lord is big, it will require others to become involved in what you are doing.
I wouldn’t be able to do what God has told me to do if I had to do it by myself. The vision is too big and demanding. That’s why God didn’t stop after He called me. He also called others to stand with me, pray with me, and stay for the long haul, working beside me “on the under-rowers’ bench.” Their call is just as real as my call. They will answer for their part just as I will answer for mine. And when rewards are given, they will be rewarded for how they helped “row the boat” and keep this ministry moving forward to reach millions of souls.
For example, the Lord has called me to take the teaching of the Bible to spiritually hungry people in the former USSR every day through the vehicle of television. But at the same time He placed this vision in my heart, He also called partners to pray for the program, pay for television time, and support our ministry in the United States. Without our partners, I could not do my part in the territory of the former USSR. They are equally as important as Denise and me and our ministry team.
How about the staff members of our television ministry outreach, such as our television producers, editors, and secretaries? How about the dedicated work force who answer letters from our television viewers? Since 1992, this television staff has answered millions of letters from those who have written to Denise and me as a result of watching our television program. Our television department has also edited thousands of television programs and distributed several hundred thousand separate showings to eleven time zones of the former Soviet Union.
These precious staff members are the ones who do the work behind the scenes so that these programs can go into millions of homes every day of the week. If I didn’t have them, I wouldn’t be able to minister to the masses of people God has entrusted to me or help the hundreds of churches and pastors located all over the former USSR who look to me for apostolic guidance. I am so thankful for the others on my team whom God called to help me with this awesome task, because this job is too big for me to do alone!
Likewise, if you are going to fulfill the dream God has given you, you will have to learn how to cooperate with other key people — your partners in life — who can assist you in fulfilling that dream.
The huperetas in Paul’s illustration lived together and worked together. And when rewards were given for their extremely hard work, every man in the group was rewarded. Since they labored at the same task, shared the same oar, and sweated the same amount of sweat, the entire bench of workers was equally rewarded. On the other hand, if one rower on a bench was lazy and kept the whole bench of rowers from carrying their share of the load on the ship, every rower on that bench was punished.
In other words, the difference in one coworker’s attitude was so powerful that it had the ability to bring about victory or defeat for all of them. Since each member of the team was vital to success, their entire existence became a group effort. Therefore, they had to learn how to function as a team.
When these men rowed, the boat moved. When they stopped rowing, the boat stopped. These servants were the driving force behind the speed of the ship. If they ever stopped working hard at rowing, the ship stayed motionless in the water. It was totally dependent on the rowers in the bottom of the boat, which was powerless to travel anywhere without them.
Similarly, if you are going to move ahead with what God has called you to do — whether it is your ministry, your family, or your business — you must learn how to be a faithful servant, working together with others as a team “in the bottom of the boat.”
The bottom of the boat may not be the most pleasurable place to be. Serving day in and day out may seem monotonous and almost boring at times. But sticking with the vision and continuing to row will eventually produce eternal results for the Kingdom of God! So surrender to the plan of God, take your place in the ship, grab an oar, and start rowing! If you want to get to your destination more quickly, put your whole heart and soul into rowing that boat!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I thank You for the life-changing truths I just read! I want to take my place in Your plan for my life — and I want to give 100 percent of my attention and strength to see it come to pass in my life. With all my heart, I tell You that I want to follow You and to do whatever is required to see that vision come to pass in my life. And thank You for calling others to come alongside to help me move this vision along a little faster!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that I have taken my place in God’s plan. I have grabbed hold of an oar, and I am rowing and rowing with all my strength and energy. The assignment God has given me probably won’t be achieved quickly, so I have mentally prepared myself for a long-term stint at doing what God is calling me to do. It will take unbelievable strength and energy to move that vision from the realm of dreams to the realm of reality. But because of the power of the Holy Spirit in me, I have all the strength I need for this wonderful and awesome task!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. Do you know what boat God has called you to jump into and start rowing? What church, organization, ministry, or mission are you supposed to be helping?
2. When you look at your own life, can you see that it has taken the combined efforts of many faithful people to get you where you are today? Have you ever made a list of the people who helped you get where you are — and have you taken the time to write them a note to say thank you for what they have done for you?
3. If your answer to the above question is no, then why don’t you take a few minutes today to make that list and to write a few notes to people who have made a difference in your life?