In 1 Thessalonians 4:1, Paul says to the Christians of Thessalonica, “Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God.” Please notice the phrase “abound more and more.” His point is that, generally speaking, a Christian’s service to the Lord should increase over the course of life. There should be a noticeable progression in service. At twenty, the Christian should do more for Christ than he did at fifteen. At twenty-five, he should do more than he did at twenty. At thirty, he should do more than he did at twenty-five. On and on it should go.
Of course, we understand that at some point the physical limitations of getting older will stop a Christian from performing certain acts of service. Even in old age, though, a person can shift focus to different kinds of service. The elderly preacher can’t hold down a pastorate anymore, but that just gives him more time for prayer. The retired school teacher can no longer be “salt and light” in the school system, but she can do more visiting. Even the Christian in the nursing home can be an effective witness for Christ. The goal is to always abound more and more in service.
I was in my early twenties when I gave myself fully to Christ. Since I had been out of church for some time, my first order of business was to start slipping in for Sunday morning worship services. That led to my faithful attendance in Sunday School. That led to me getting serious about having a daily prayer life. That led to my faithful attendance for Sunday night services. That led to my faithful attendance for Wednesday night services. All of that church attendance led to me getting serious about Bible study. That led to me teaching a Youth Sunday School class. That led to me hearing God’s call to preach and accepting it. That led to me becoming a pastor.
You see, things started with me taking the baby step of slipping in for Sunday morning worship services. I took that step, stayed at that level for a little while, and then felt God push me to take another step. I took that step, stayed at that level for a little while, and then felt Him push me to take another step. I took that step, stayed at that level for a while, and then felt Him push me to take another step. The process has been a slow walk, not a long jump. The fact that I currently serve as the pastor of Disciples Road Church is simply where I am right now in my lifelong process of abounding more and more in service to Christ.
The New Testament uses the words “bishop,” “elder,” and “pastor” interchangeably to describe the role I play. Each word speaks to a different aspect of the role. “Bishop” carries the idea of overseeing. “Elder” carries the idea of leading with wisdom. “Pastor” carries the idea of shepherding the sheep. In 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Paul gives a God-inspired list of the qualifications of a pastor. Interestingly, in verse 6, he says that a pastor shouldn’t be a “novice.” It’s a real shame when a young Christian is rushed into the ministry. He hasn’t had the necessary time to get his roots sunk deep. He hasn’t been able to sit under enough teaching. He doesn’t have adequate experience where the rubber of Christianity meets the road of life. For this reason, young preachers oftentimes flame out like shooting stars. Most of that kind of thing could be avoided if each potential preacher was made to work through the careful process of abounding more and more in service to Christ.
I’m not saying that the end of every Christian’s road of service will be the ministry. It won’t be. I’m saying, Christian, that your life should show progression in service. If you aren’t currently doing any more for Christ than you did last year, you are wasting valuable time. You need to get off dead-center and take another step in service to Him. There is another level, one just above you, that you need to reach. Once you’ve been at that one for a while, then you’ll be ready for another one. You’ve got to keep moving up.
Earvin “Magic” Johnson was one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He had incredible natural talent, but he also had a strong work ethic. Each off season he would diligently work to add another dimension to his game. One off season he worked on his free-throw shooting and became an excellent free-throw shooter. Another off season he worked on his long-range shooting and became an excellent long-range shooter. He was never satisfied with where he was as a player. He was always working to get better.
Well, Christian, what Magic Johnson did as a basketball player, you should do as a servant of Christ. When you get your church attendance to where it needs to be, start working on your prayer life. When you get that in order, go to work on your Bible study. Once you get a good handle on that, hone in on specific acts of Christian service. Once those have become part of your routine, start working on your evangelism. Then work on your giving. Then work on your personal holiness. As I said earlier, on and on it goes.
God will take you as you are but He won’t leave you there. In our 1 Thessalonians 4:1 verse, Paul doesn’t talk about “how you ought to stand and to please God”; he talks about “how you ought to walk and to please God.” There is a big difference between standing and walking. Walking implies movement and progression. It goes right along with “abounding more and more.” Take a look at where you are in service to Christ right now and dedicate yourself to doing more for Him.