Your church is beginning a new ministry initiative and a plea has gone out for people to help with it. Should you volunteer? Needs have been presented and assistance is requested. Should you get involved? Bible teachers or small group leaders are still needed. Should you accept the challenge? I could go on and on for we are constantly faced with needs and opportunities to serve.
As I was recently reading through the book of Ezra, I was struck by the reality that God does not lay it on everybody’s heart to do everything. Judah had been taken captive. Cyrus, king of Persia, was led by God to permit the exiles to go back and rebuild the house of the Lord. He said, “Any of his people among you may go . . . And in any locality where survivors may now be living, the people are to provide” (Ezra 1:3-4). Look at what follows in verse 5 –
Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites — everyone whose heart God had moved — prepared to go up and build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem.
If we break this verse down, we can use it to draw out some principles for serving.
1) God’s desires should be our primary criteria for involvement.
Notice that the verse reads “everyone whose heart GOD has moved.” It does not say, “everyone who heard the king’s proclamation.” Nor does it say, “everyone who was nudged by their fellow Jews.” And, it doesn’t say, “everyone whom the leaders determined.”
We need to let God do the moving in people’s hearts. In recruiting we should look for the right person for the right ministry at the right time … the person of GOD’s choosing. This means we should spend much time in prayer when we recruit, not arm-twisting people to get involved.
We do not have to feel guilty, nor should we make people feel bad, for not accepting each and every opportunity presented. We are accountable for what God moves us to do.
2) God does not expect everybody to do everything.
The verse implies that there were some whose spirit God did not stir to go and rebuild. Not everyone will be moved by God to the same task. We need to be careful not to look down on or judge those who do not get involved like we do. We can sometimes project our own heart passions on others thinking that they should feel the same way we do if they love the Lord like we do.
3) If God lays it on our hearts to do something, we should do it.
Notice how EVERYONE whose heart was moved by God obeyed His prompting. We don’t read of any excuses about it not being a convenient time for them to go. We don’t observe them being immobilized by fear of what might lie ahead or be expected of them. The journey would undoubtedly be filled with hardships and uncertainties but “everyone whose heart God had moved” went.
4) Just because God has obviously moved you to get involved doesn’t mean you can forego preparation.
Notice that “everyone whose heart God had moved — prepared to go.” For us this could mean pulling resources together, getting some training for the ministry ahead, praying for God to go before us to open doors and work in people’s hearts, etc.
5) If God hasn’t moved your heart to be involved a specific ministry, it doesn’t mean you are absolved of all responsibility toward it.
The people were to “provide them with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem” (Ezra 1:4). In this case it was their neighbors, undoubtedly both the Jews who stayed behind and the people of that land, who “assisted them with articles of silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with valuable gifts, in addition to all the freewill offerings” (Ezra 1:6). While God might not lay it on everybody’s heart to “go”, those who don’t are still to support the ministry. For us this could be financially as seen in the way their neighbors provided materially but it also could be through prayers and encouragement.