THE MAIN THING
is to keep
THE MAIN THING
THE MAIN THING
The above statement, repeated often by Jim, was one of his favorites, and for obvious reasons. To him, the main thing was the focus of the Lord’s command given to His disciples in Matthew 28:18-20. “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” This command, referred to as the Great Commission, was bracketed by the assurance of His power and His presence. One might think that with the importance stressed on this command by our Lord, who also reassures us that He will be with us, and His power will accomplish His work, that many followers of Christ would be involved in this-His supreme task left in the hands of His followers. Sadly, there are few in our parishes, our pews and even in our parsonages who see this as the main thing in their lives.
The world, the flesh, and the devil all conspire to oppose our commitment to making disciples. Terry Taylor, former U.S. Director of the Navigators once mentioned that many of the devil’s schemes against us all begin with the letter “D.” In regard to our desire to fulfill the great commission, these include distraction, diversion, delay and discouragement.
Distraction is one of the most commonly used tools of our enemy to prevent active involvement in discipleship. We see this referred to in Mark 4:19. “But the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.” The worries of this life are unavoidable, and some of the desires for other things may be good in and of themselves, but if they dominate our lives and prevent our ministry, then we have lost our focus on the main thing. I have seen, for example, the discipleship ministry of couples put on hold for several years due to involvement of the family with little league sports activities. It consumed their time, often 3-4 hours per day, and occasionally required commitments on weekends. I have often thought that our enemy does not need great sin in our lives to sideline us. He can use the “little league.”
Diversion is also a tactic used by our enemy which results in the replacement of a discipleship ministry with something which is good, but not essential. Our time is directed to other activities in the Christian community and in our churches which do not contribute to making disciples.
Delay in our response to the Lord’s direction in His work with individuals results in missed opportunities. Colossians 4:5 reminds us to “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.” I myself, regretfully, am able to look back on missed opportunities due to a delayed response on my part.
One of our previous Pastors, Frank Kik, liked to tell a hypothetical story about a conversation between God and the devil, during which God said that He was going to take away all the devil’s powers but one, and asked him which one he wanted to keep. The devil replied that he wanted to keep the power to bring discouragement. Over the years, I have met with a number of those who were discouraged about discipling others. Their discouragement was due to a number of factors. Some stated that it just took too long to see change in the lives of individuals, and that was what discouraged them. Others related that the effort required was too demanding. The failures of those that were being discipled also contributed to the discouragement of some individuals. I think that everyone involved in this ministry goes through times of discouragement. There was a time in my life about thirty years ago when I was experiencing significant discouragement in discipling others. I will always remember with thankfulness the four people the Lord brought within an eight hour period of time to give encouragement. I Corinthians 15:58 reminds us, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
There are at least two basic requirements needed in our lives in order to keep the main thing as the main thing. The first of these is our relationship with the Lord. Nothing, even work we do in His name, should take priority over intimacy with our Lord. Nothing that He does through us is as important as Who He is to us. Matthew 4:19 states “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Our task, ultimately, is simply to follow Him. It is His task to make us into fishers of men. It we are a fisher of men, it is because we are following Him. If we are not a fisher of men, it is because we are not following Him. Unless our character is transformed by intimacy with Him, we cannot expect the conduct which follows. We must sit with Him (Ephesians 2:5-6) before we are able to walk (Ephesians 4) and stand (Ephesians 6). We must “be” before we “do.” We must spend much time with Him as our “root” before we can experience “fruit.” Years ago, I was helping lead Evangelism Explosion in our church. A young man had completed the training , was a skilled presenter of the gospel and had been used in the lives of others. Six months later I visited him in a local restaurant and asked him about his ministry. He stated that nothing of any spiritual value was going on in his life. As I asked further questions, he related that his personal daily time with the Lord was no longer a priority for him and only occasional periods of reading and prayer were a part of his life. He had lost meaningful spiritual contact with the Head of the Body. He was no longer following to a degree that permitted the Lord to use him in the lives of others.
The second requirement needed in our lives that would help keep the main thing as the main thing is accountability to each other. The Lord never commissioned us individually. He sent His disciples out two by two. The Apostle Paul stated “follow me as I follow Christ”, and “join with others in following my example.” (Philippians 3:17) In the Acts of the Apostles, we see a series of teams in various locations with mutual accountability. Within our Kansas Navigator Teams, accountability to others has been a significant part of our continued effectiveness in fulfilling the Great Commission.
It is by close intimate fellowship with our Lord and being linked together with others for encouragement and accountability that we are able to withstand distractions, diversion, delay and discouragement. As we continue in these, we are enabled by His Spirit to keep the main thing as the main thing.