“Susan, how do you pull it all together?” I’m often asked that question after a large event given to me to organize comes to an end—and it always surprises me! My first thought is, I didn’t do this, did you not see all the people who did?! But, my simple answer is nearly always, “It’s a God-thing”. However, if the person asking the question gives me an opportunity to explain; it can become a teachable moment to explain the “whole” picture.
Confession. I didn’t always understand the principle of parts of the whole. Mm, maybe that’s why I didn’t readily understand working with fractions until I became a teacher! God gifted me with a servant’s heart. I want to help others and do so readily, without thinking. This is a strength, but before fully maturing, it was and can still be a weakness. Let me explain. Randy was called to leave public school teaching to become the pastor of the church we attended. God also called me to help him. Sounds good so far, right?
The church had gone through troubles with many people leaving. We were left with less than twenty people. Called and equipped by God to “do this”, we jumped in with both feet to provide children and youth ministry, worship music, once a month fellowships with themes to attract people, along with all the rest. Lots of ministry. Staff of one with one volunteer. We were younger then, lots of energy, but not so wise.
Let me help you see this “confession’ clearly as I describe a Sunday morning. While Randy taught Sunday school for adults, I taught all ages of kids who came with them. A few minutes before SS ended, I brought the kids with me into the worship area so I could lead worship while playing the piano—myself! After leading worship, I would take the younger kids back to their area to sing and do activities while Randy preached the sermon. When it was time to finish with a worship song, I brought the kiddos back into worship to sit near me so I could go back to the piano to play and lead the last song.
WHY did I do this every Sunday? Being immature, along with a servant’s heart, I felt I was doing this for them. I wanted them to know and grow in Jesus so much that I didn’t ask for help. And I was exhausted. We were raising three kids of our own. I was a public school teacher, too. But, what was I modeling to those I served?
One day, God halted me in my tracks as I read Paul’s writings. I was convicted by His Holy Spirit. I saw His Body of Believers more that way Jesus saw them. God had given me help, I just had not noticed. A collection of gifted people were ready to do their part and I thought I was serving them by doing it all myself. Wrong! Lesson learned.
Discovery: The people grew as they served, each doing their part, working together as the whole Body of Christ!
Paul explains this phenomenon best. Paul taught the church that we are all “significant parts” of the whole Body of Christ. We are not perfect, but Jesus, who works in and through us, is. HE brings all the parts together, standing on His foundation of salvation, to build the Whole—In Him, For Him. He does this because this is the best way for us to grow and mature in his character. As we mature, we begin to bear the “fruits” of His labor of work in us. The fruits of His Holy Spirit are noticeable and expressible gifts of His character! (See Galatians 5 for the list!)
As a leader in different areas of ministry as well as public school teaching, God taught me early on, passed on by previous generations, how to “pull it all together” in Jesus Name, for His glory. I am merely a part of the Whole Body of Christ. Realizing my role helps me to do what pleases God most—loving and serving with each other.
You will discover that Paul, inspired by God’s Holy Spirit, teaches this “parts of the Whole” many times in his letters to the church. Paul knew his part; do we know our part?
Do we know why we do our part?
“He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” Ephesians 4:16, NLT
CORINTHIANS—CALLED AND SENT
1 Corinthians 12, The Message
1-3 What I want to talk about now is the various ways God’s Spirit gets worked into our lives. This is complex and often misunderstood, but I want you to be informed and knowledgeable. Remember how you were when you didn’t know God, led from one phony god to another, never knowing what you were doing, just doing it because everybody else did it? It’s different in this life. God wants us to use our intelligence, to seek to understand as well as we can. For instance, by using your heads, you know perfectly well that the Spirit of God would never prompt anyone to say “Jesus be damned!” Nor would anyone be inclined to say “Jesus is Master!” without the insight of the Holy Spirit.
4-11 God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful:
healing the sick
distinguishing between spirits
interpretation of tongues.
All these gifts have a common origin, but are handed out one by one by the one Spirit of God. He decides who gets what, and when.
12-13 You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive.
14-18 I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, transparent and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it.
19-24 But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own. Can you imagine Eye telling Hand, “Get lost; I don’t need you”? Or, Head telling Foot, “You’re fired; your job has been phased out”? As a matter of fact, in practice it works the other way—the “lower” the part, the more basic, and therefore necessary. You can live without an eye, for instance, but not without a stomach. When it’s a part of your own body you are concerned with, it makes no difference whether the part is visible or clothed, higher or lower. You give it dignity and honor just as it is, without comparisons. If anything, you have more concern for the lower parts than the higher. If you had to choose, wouldn’t you prefer good digestion to full-bodied hair?
25-26 The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.
27-31 You are Christ’s body—that’s who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your “part” mean anything. You’re familiar with some of the parts that God has formed in his church, which is his “body”:
those who pray in tongues.
But it’s obvious by now, isn’t it, that Christ’s church is a complete Body and not a gigantic, unidimensional Part? It’s not all Apostle, not all Prophet, not all Miracle Worker, not all Healer, not all Prayer in Tongues, not all Interpreter of Tongues. And yet some of you keep competing for so-called “important” parts.
But now I want to lay out a far better way for you.
**The “far better way” is expressed in our next exciting episode of “Who we are and How we behave” to please God as the part of the whole Body of Christ! See you tomorrow, you’ll simply “LOVE” it! (Hint, hint.)
Thank you for caring enough to confront and correct me so many years ago. Thank you for bringing me back to this lesson when I need it most. Thank you for saving my soul with consistent work on my maturing character traits. I love you, Lord. I love your people. Help us to grow as one in You. I know how much this pleases you when we do our individual parts together in unity with Your Holy Spirit. What a blessing to you! Our goal.
In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen