The Church's Greatest Advantage
By Iverna Tompkins
Transcribed by Jane Vaughn
Trust. That’s a beautiful word. I doubt there will ever be a time in our lives when we will need this word more than we do at this season in history. It is now a day when the Lord is saying, “Will you trust Me?” There were such times, seasons of life back throughout scripture, that as you read especially in the Psalms (i.e.35; 43; or 55) you can hear the cries of: “Oh, God! Everyone has left me! Why am I going through this now?” It helps us to know there were times in other lives that were not as wonderful as those people wanted them to be either. But there always was an answer for them – the same answer there is for us. That answer is in finding God in the midst.
It’s so important that we know some of these things. I think of Micah, living at a time when Judah had been besieged by their enemies and wickedness prevailed: north – south – east – and west. It was much like we might say today: “Who can you trust?”
This is an odd day – today. I bought a few solar lights to place in my front yard for the evenings so I could see the walkway. As you get older, you need more light. (Now that will preach! :-) ) But the very first night we put them out, someone came along and took one. :-( It made me very unhappy – and “broke trust.” Then I thought of all the nice things they could have broken in to steal – why a dumb little 25-dollar solar light? But that’s the world we live in these days, isn’t it? If it isn’t nailed down or connected to an alarm or something that makes one fearful, like and electric shock – it’s just gone! People will run over you with their cars if you’re not careful and it doesn’t matter if you’re actually in the pedestrian lane or not. It’s even come to the point we all simply expect to be cheated – and rarely are disappointed! :-) It is just that kind of world in which we live today.
Micah lived in such a world (Mic.1:1; Jer.26:18; 2Chron.32) and one of the things that’s so outstanding about him is, instead of moaning and complaining, he simply trusted and declared, “God, everything You do is right. Everything is right and everything is just. So, Lord, I ask forgiveness for what I’ve done – because I know I do deserve this” (see Mic.6:5b,13; 7:9). What an attitude!
But, you see, God always has been right – and He’s right in what He allows to occur in our lives. These kinds of difficult times aren’t always because we’ve been a “bad girl” or a “bad boy.” They can be in our lives because He knows what’s in us, and on what foundation we’re built. So, He allows some hard things to occur in our lives to confront those other things.
Micah cries out at that particular time. He said, “I will wait and look for the Lord. My God is my salvation. My God will hear me” (7:7). I wonder if that ring of certainty is honestly our testimony – seven days a week? (I can hear the deafening silence there where you are! :-) ). I wonder if people identify us (Christians) by that kind of positive attitude – or by the statement: “My God will hear me! When I pray, my God will hear me!”
Micah goes on to say, “Because of this whole situation and I know that God will hear me – rejoice not against me oh mine enemy! When I fall, I will arise!” (7:8). Micah obviously knew the “when” of that… and had the confidence of arising again.
“Wait!” you may say. “What about the scriptures that say, ‘If you trust in the promises of the Lord, you shall never fall?’” Peter said that, didn’t he? Yes, absolutely, he did (2Pet.1:10). Yet, here Micah is saying “If I fall…” But you see there are differences in the concept – /fall/. Sometimes you can just trip for a moment and fall down, but you don’t stay there. “Distressed but not destroyed” (see Paul - 2Cor.4:8,9).
I believe today, we have some unrealistic preaching taking place in some circles. This preaching says that you’ll never have a problem if you give your whole heart and life and soul and mind and strength to the Lord. You will never have a problem. The trouble with that is – I can’t find the verse! :-) And I’ve looked everywhere! :-) The real truth is – you will never be left like that – down, fallen (Ps.37:24). “When I call, I KNOW my God will hear me; I shall arise!” (Mic.7:8; see Jer.29:12; 33:3).
So – what is that all about? Where are we going with this discussion? My real question is this: What is the Church’s greatest advantage? You know what that word means. Let’s read it exactly from my good old 1828 Webster’s Dictionary: “Advantage” is: “any state or condition or circumstance favorable to success, prosperity, interest, or reputation.” Now, read that again. That’s what having an advantage is. Here’s an example: “The enemy had an advantage because he was on elevated ground.” So – an advantage is a benefit, a gain, a profit. What is the Church’s greatest benefit – gain – or profit? What brings us to the condition, state or circumstance that’s favorable to success and prosperity?
Before I actually address that specifically, which I will get to, I’d like to first point out what it isn’t because we’ve heard so many messages that say: “this will get you that.” But then “this” doesn’t necessarily produce “that.” :-) And we are left frustrated and confused, especially if we have dared to make the same statement to someone else: “This will get you that!” And then, when “that” doesn’t come you wish “this” had never been spoken. :-)
When I say “the Church” I need to remind you – that designation refers to any and all who have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. Jew and Gentile alike become the Church in this day and era and age (cf.Eph.2:11-13). Everyone who has accepted Jesus as the Savior of his or her life is a part of His Church. Jesus is the Head of it. He loves the Church and gave Himself for it. With that in mind, let’s look at our concept.
The Great Advantage for the Church is NOT:
I know that’s immediately shocking to some of you. You were just sure you were going to get the lollipop award for knowing the right answer! :-) I know you were thinking, “Oh, she’s going to say “Faith is our greatest advantage because the Bible says, ‘what is it that overcometh? Even our faith’” (1Jn.5:4). But you know, you can have faith in the wrong person – a little “g” god–thing (which becomes an idol, of course).
Or – to some people success is a result of “this,” but to others success is “that.” They each seem to have faith for whatever it is they reach out to grasp saying, “When I get there, then I will be successful.” And yet, those of us who travel meet many successful people, ones of great means or wealth or position, but who are totally dissatisfied, unhappy, depleted and defeated regardless of the fact that they have apparently reached their goal. And the on-lookers think, “WOW! If I had everything they have, look at what I could do!” Maybe – maybe not. They didn’t attain happiness or satisfaction although they originally had faith that certain achievements or measurements would bring that desired success.
So it really isn’t our faith that is our greatest advantage, yet we get nothing from the Lord without it (Heb.11:6). But just having faith is not our greatest advantage.
It isn’t our Fellowship.
What could be more wonderful than our relationship with God? Don’t we just love the fellowship? And we can have great fellowship with the Lord (1Jn.1:3; Jn.15:15). There’s an old hymn we used to sing long years ago – “I’d rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today.” That is so personally meaningful to me. And there’s another old hymn that speaks to us about “Friendship with Jesus – fellowship divine. Oh what blessed sweet communion! Jesus is a friend of mine!” How wonderful! And it is so necessary for us to have that relationship with Him.
But that’s not the Church’s greatest advantage – to have friendship with Jesus, or even with one another.
It’s not the Filial Love either.
It’s not our family love – the Family of God – although that too is sweet to have. In each individual church, we can have such a loving experience together – truly a family. In a great church, where the feeling of “family” is important, the people are glad to see visitors come back again and say, “Thank you for coming back.” “Good to see you again.” “Welcome!” “Welcome!” Oh yes, family love! There’s nothing like the love of the family of believers.
In fact, I followed a car all the way across town one Sunday. The license plate was 1COR13. I just knew it stood for First Corinthians 13 – the great “Love Chapter” of the Bible. And I thought, “They’re going to some church.” And when they turned from the street, it was into a neighboring church parking lot. That’s a wonderful thing for believers to have love for one another. The love just comes out of us and we really care about one another – we take care of one another. We need that too.
Recently in a church service, I observed a brother who had been praising the Lord at the altar during the Worship Service. He was sort of stumbling to get back to his walker when another brother just quickly came over behind him and was just there if he needed assistance. That’s filial love. I like seeing that demonstrated! Don’t you?
But that’s not the Church’s greatest advantage.
It’s not our “Followers.”
Jesus said, “Go and make disciples” (Mt.28:19). And oh, how thrilling it is when He uses us in that way! Just yesterday I received a telephone call from someone in another state. And this person said, “I just want you to know the incredible impact you have had on my life.” This is a person who is out in the ministry today – and gives me a lot of credit for the encouragement, training and mentoring from years ago.
It’s wonderful to have followers! People that hear your testimony of what God has done for you and what Jesus has meant to you, and they grab hold of that and follow or copy the good things of your life. (If you’re wise, you don’t let them see anything other than the good stuff. :-) ) But that is thrilling when people give a good report and credit you with some important part they claim you have made in their lives! Influence.
But that’s not the greatest strength or the greatest advantage of the Church.
And then there’s Favor.
There’s a lot of preaching about favor today. Oh, yes, we all want to be under the favor of God. I would raise both of my selfish hands in the air to claim His favor! :-) I want to be under or within the favor of the Almighty God! I want Him to say to me, “Thou art highly favored among women” (Lk.1:28). When He favors me, everything goes smoothly for me. It’s a wonderful thing and I love it when I can sense, in the natural, the supernatural favor of God!
But that’s not our greatest advantage or asset. That would simply set us apart from everyone else and they’d say, “Oh, yeah. Well, that church. They’re just favored and – you know, we’re not favored.” And that is not the truth! God is “no respecter of persons” (Ac.10:34; Rom.2:11; 10:12,13).
It isn’t our gifts – our Fabulous Gifts – or, wonderful giftings!
Tongues – interpretation of tongues – prophecy – or the laying on of hands and seeing the sick recover. Those are all just marvelous gifts of the Holy Spirit! A Word of knowledge – or the word of wisdom – or, faith (1Cor.12:1-11). All those are gifts from Him – and there are many, many more (see Rom.12:6-8; Eph.4:11-13). Wonderful favor-filled gifts…
But spiritual gifts are not our greatest advantage.
Are you getting curious? :-) I hope so! That’s the purpose of identifying all these others! :-) I want you to be thinking – all the time! Keep thinking – what IS the greatest advantage we have as the Church?
It is not our Feelings.
We will – trust me when I say “will” – we WILL come to understand the difference between enthusiasm, volume, feelings, and – anointing! We will learn to discern between them!
Some people – many people – have never learned to discern what it is they are seeing in others, or experiencing in themselves. Some people have served the Lord for long periods of time but they still don’t know the difference. They think if you don’t scream and shout or something loud, it isn’t really anointed. But I have heard people who barely spoke beyond a whisper – and the anointing was so obvious – and powerful and – effective! It was so wonderful to see and hear the voice of God in that way. And what they spoke came to be.
So it isn’t our feelings, although admittedly I, of all of you, love to feel the Presence of God! I do! Sometimes I just sit in a church service and say, “Let me feel Your Presence, Lord. I know You’re here because I read the Book and there’s more than two or three of us gathered in Your Name (Mt.18:20), but I want to feel Your Presence!”
But that’s not our greatest advantage – even when we do feel Him.
And, it is not our Function.
I have seen churches go through many changes over the years. They would begin in small buildings with few amenities and only a few people – with a single guitar or maybe two. And if they were lucky, one of them could play. :-) I’ve watched the changes in these churches and approved of every one of them as additions were made to the structures, or color was introduced, and the people worked hard to brighten up the whole building. And look what has happened! Over some time, they may have grown to two choirs, added a Youth Ministry and Children’s’ Church, and Adult Small Groups, even a Recovery Ministry – all worthy functions of a growing church.
But it isn’t our function, Church, that is our greatest advantage.
It isn’t how big we can make the church become. It’s not how many people attend. It isn’t our function: how well you sing – or how well you write – or how well you do whatever it is you do – none of that is the Church’s greatest advantage.
“Well, then – what is it?”
I thought you’d never ask! :-) What is the Church’s greatest advantage?
Go to Part 2