God’s Fellow Workers

I have decided over the next few weeks to dedicate this blog to my husband’s writings. The reason I want to do this is that I find myself these days missing sitting under my husband’s preaching ministry.  He has been given the awesome gift of preaching (and teaching) and now in retirement he has few occasions to exercise these gifts. Soooo, I have “raided” his computer to copy some of his preaching notes.  Now the thing I love about my husband’s notes is that they are ‘full’ outlines.  He likes to note complete thoughts so that when he preaches the sermon he feels much more comfortable to elaborate.  Now while I cannot bring you the full sermon he would preach, I can share with you his developed outline.

(As an added blessing I have asked him to do a weekly Lenten devotional.  So stay tuned!)

This first installment was prepared as a devotional message for those we worked with on Training School staff.

God’s Fellow Workers — Major Donald Hostetler

Scripture: I Chronicles 22:2-19

     I Corinthians 3:9

           David knew his life was coming to an end. He knew that the task of building a spectacular temple to the glory of God would be left to his son Solomon. But Solomon was young (some say twelve or even younger), so David needed to make preparations as detailed as he could to insure the project’s success – extensive preparations, the Word says in verse 5.

Everything was in order for the temple to be built: raw materials were provided – gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood and stone. The land was at peace, an important ingredient for building without interruption or distraction. And, as David said to Solomon, “you have many workmen: stonecutters, masons and carpenters, as well as artisans skilled in every kind of work in gold and silver, bronze and iron – craftsmen beyond number!”

Now clearly, we are not “beyond number” in this room. There are fewer of us than we would like. But we are all, regardless of our session name, God’s fellow workers. God’s fellow workers.

I) It is the Lord’s work in which we are engaged.

It is the Lord’s whom we are. “Now, my son, the Lord be with you,” David says. “Build the house of the Lord your God…May the Lord give you discretion and understanding.”

It is with God that you are fellow workers, Paul says to us through his letter to the Corinthians – God’s field, God’s temple.

A. On the one hand, that is an incredibly liberating understanding.

  1. God’s work is noble work — it has eternal value. Unlike the Temple that Solomon built, the workmanship in which we are engaged does not spoil or perish, wither or fade.
  1. God’s work is under HIS supervision, which means that He is responsible for the outcome – we need only follow his blueprint, His plans.
  1. God’s work is something we can be proud of.                                                                        ILLUS – public servants in Britain are proud to claim that they are “In her majesty’s service.” We are in His Majesty’s service – the service of the King of Kings.

B. On the other hand, realizing that the work we are called to is God’s work places enormous consequence upon us.

  1. People’s eternal destiny depends upon our ability to declare the word of the Lord with clarity, with purity and with power.
  1. God has placed His truth in our hands for proclamation and for perpetuation, and we dare not distort it nor dilute it.
  1. But most sobering, perhaps, is the recognition that God has chosen the hearts of His people as His dwelling place – He resides not in a Temple made of hands, but in you and me. Don’t you know that WE are the temple of the living God?

C. Consider how David’s instructions to Solomon were less about plans for the building he was to construct than for the life he was to lead: “May the Lord give you discretion and understanding…so that you may keep the law of the Lord your God…you will have success if you are careful to observe the decrees and laws that the Lord gave Moses…Be strong and courageous.”

It occurs to me that when we keep our attentions focused properly on God’s word and God’s work, it forestalls lots of potential problems.

God weeded out from Gideon’s army those who could not focus. The rebuilding of the Temple under Ezra and Nehemiah was complicated by the unfaithfulness of the people of Israel. The church at Corinth was quarreling among factions who claimed superiority over one another – Apollos is better than Paul; no, Paul is better than Apollos, etc. And so Paul emphatically declares to the church at Corinth that “it is God’s fellow workers that we all are”!!

As God’s Fellow Workers, let’s remember in Whose work we are engaged. And in that remembering, take heart in the truth that

II) God’s work means God’s supply.

A. Stories abound of God’s miraculous provision to accomplish his work. One of my favorites is the story told by one of the Army’s medical missionaries to India. Supplies were getting low and they had one day’s supply of disinfectant for surgeries. They were preparing to cancel the next day’s surgeries, when a carton arrived from the U.S. The note in the carton explained that a Salvationist was praying and felt God urging to send soap to Major Rader. They didn’t need soap – but the soap the soldier sent was Dial soap, which was the only bar soap that had an ingredient that supplied the hospital’s need for disinfectant until their regular supply could be replenished.

B. God will supply His work. God does supply His work. While we celebrate those occasions of His miraculous provision, let’s not overlook the “ordinary grace” of God’s daily provision of our daily need. Jesus prayed “give us this day our daily bread” – ordinary grace. The truth is, we have lavish provision of supply for God’s work.

In fact, it may be too lavish.

It may cause us to take it for granted, to be less than thankful for it.

It may tend to make us self-reliant in ways and at times that God wants us to be  God-reliant.

C. We have everything we need to accomplish God’s purpose for us in this place in this time. All our basic human needs are met. Just as Solomon, we have all the physical requirements necessary: technology, books, desks, etc. Just as Solomon, we have workers skilled in every kind of work – teaching, encouraging, ministering, helps, exhortation, … every kind of skill (gift, if you prefer) that is needed in the accomplishment of our sacred purpose.

We are in a land of peace. Oh, and we have all the time we need!

Time is a precious commodity. It can be used wisely; it can be wasted. It can be managed or it can get away from us. But the Word says, “My God will meet all your needs from His abundant riches in Christ Jesus.” He is not likely to make the sun stand still to give you extra hours in the day, though Staff and Cadet alike have often wished it could be so. Nonetheless, what needs to be done can be done because God’s work always merits God’s supply.

III. God’s Work means following God’s instructions.

With this in mind, then, let’s hear the instruction David gave as wisdom for us. He ordered all the leaders of Israel to help his son Solomon: “Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God. Begin to build the sanctuary of the Lord your God, so that you may bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord and the sacred articles belonging to God into the temple that will be built for the Name of the Lord.” (v. 19)

A. The task of building the Temple was a shared task. Many thousands of workers would together build the Temple.  We are ALL God’s fellow workers. And it is imperative that our work be done as an offering unto the Lord: “Devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God.” Work is not a replacement for devotion; rather, it is an outcome of devotion.

B. Then the next word: “begin to build.” This is a sacred pursuit and you have ample supply of skill and material – get to it! The workers who were charged with building the sanctuary of God were engaged in the most sacred pursuit possible in their day. To build a sanctuary that would stand as a lasting testimonial to the power and majesty, glory and might of Yahweh, the God of Israel, was a supremely worthy pursuit.

C. Our calling as Officers is to build living sanctuaries. We are called to minister the Gospel of Jesus Christ so that lives of testimony to the power and majesty, glory and might of Jehovah are raised up. Paul called the Church the “Temple of the living God” and that is the cathedral that we are building.

We know the story of the building of the sanctuary. We know that each of the workers put himself into his craft; that every individual sought to give personal testimony by the performance of their workmanship. In minor ways, perhaps known only to God, the imprint of the individual was left in the workmanship of the Temple.

Each of us leaves an imprint upon the others in this community. Each of us impacts others in ways that last.

ILLUS – Our second appointment was in Findlay, Ohio.  One of the major companies in that community was Cooper Tires. After passing inspection tests, the  inside of the tire was stamped with the name (not a number, the name) of the worker who made it.

The imprint that we make on the lives of others is likewise unseen. But I can’t help but wonder whether we would do things differently if our imprint was more permanent and visible. May God forgive me for those who walk around with unseen imprints that say, “emotional scar—left by Don Hostetler.” “loss of self-confidence – product of Don Hostetler.” Etc.

May God help me to have more imprints that read: “love of God’s Word – product of Don Hostetler” … “joy of the Lord – seed planted by Don Hostetler.”

Each one of us has a role to play in building the Temple of the living God that is the church of God in this place. Each one of us is important and none can stand in isolation from the others. The goldsmith needs the carpenter who needs the stonecutter who needs the mason etc. We work together as God’s fellow workers.

Robert Fulghum wrote a book some years ago titled “Everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarten.” To some extent, everything we need to know, we learned in Sunday School. One of the choruses we used to sing in Sunday School went like this: “If we all pull together, what an Army we’ll be. For your work is my work and our work is God’s work.”

Hear the word of the Lord: “Devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God. As God’s fellow workers, begin to build the sanctuary.”

Albert Orsborn wrote a song when he was a Divisional Commander. He felt that he had been humiliated by the Territorial Commander’s decision to reduce the size of his command. Orsborn says that this song carries upon it “the marks of the Valley of Humiliation.” He was in the hospital feeling sorry for himself after an accident, when the Holy Spirit used the singing in another room to bring him into submission to His will.

May this be the prayer of each of us::

Saviour, if my feet have faltered
On the pathway of the cross,
If my purposes have altered
Or my gold be mixed with dross,
O forbid me not thy service,
Keep me yet in thy employ.
Pass me through a sterner cleansing
If I may but give thee joy!

All my work is for the Master,
He is all my heart’s desire;
O that he may count me faithful
In the day that tries by fire!

Have I worked for hireling wages,
Or as one with vows to keep,
With a heart whose love engages
Life or death, to save the sheep?
All is known to thee, my Master,
All is known, and that is why
I can work and wait the verdict
Of thy kind but searching eye.

I must love thee, love must rule me,
Springing up and flowing forth
From a childlike heart within me,
Or my work is nothing worth.
Love with passion and with patience,
Love with principle and fire,
Love with heart and mind and utterance,
Serving Christ my one desire.

Albert Orsborn, The Salvation Army Song Book,

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