By David Stahl

One of the biggest drivers in our lives as to why we do things (even things for God) is based on our understanding of a reward system.  Most rewards from God are not external although the church preaches this.  How can you be “blessed” (which means happy) if you do not have a church of 1,500 members with big buildings, well manicured lawns, paved parking lots, or a network of churches so people can call you Apostle or Bishop? How can we be “blessed” if we do not have a BMW, Mercedes, Landrover or a big house with a circle driveway to entertain friends?  How can we be “blessed” if we do not have a mighty ministry traveling around the world?  For some strange reason we think since we are in service for the LORD He must give these  things to us to show the world He is on our side (an African term), but not true.  My friend God is not really too concerned about all of this stuff, but He is concerned about our heart condition and why we do things for Him.  Funny He already knows our heart yet He allows us to continue in our selfishness and presumption hoping we will turn from our evil ways giving Him the preeminence. God said of Joseph, “And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.”  (Genesis 39:2) All Joseph had at that time was a loin cloth and God.  God did not list Joseph’s possessions because he had none, but what made Joseph prosperous?  Well the Biblical definition of being prosperous has nothing to do with things, but means to push forward in God.  Joseph was pushing forward in God as he allowed God to work in his life from the pit, to Potiphar’s house, to the prison, then to the palace. No palace unless there is a pit my friend. Man (both men and woman) even Christians (both men and women) often go after the external rewards because they have never really allowed God to work in their lives (like God did in Joseph’s life) and seek the external rewards because they feel unfulfilled in their lives (and heart) and secretly do not believe their eternal reward from God is waiting for them in Heaven.  Karen made this observation and the more I observe people spiritually functioning in church the more convinced I am of her words. Now I find myself here often with my fellow brothers and sisters (I have not made it yet) and make no bones about it. I have a long ways to go (please pray for me), but God does not want to change our external situations and perceptions of our lives, but wants to change our inward desires and motives for external things. This is why in Ephesians Paul said, “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;”  (Ephesians 3:16)  Not with might by His spirit in the external man, but the inner man.  Yes believe it or not God cares little about our external, but is intent on changing us inwardly and will do whatsoever we allow Him to do.  Now before you get all depressed do not feel too bad Brother Peter suffered from the same ambitions and desires.  In Matthew Brother Peter asked Jesus, “Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?” (Matthew 19:27) Peter exposed his heart for why he did things for Jesus and why he followed Him.  Peter wanted to know what he was going to get for serving the LORD.  What is his reward, what shall he get for all of his troubles.  I have met so many Christians (at all levels of spiritual growth and development) with this same question.  Some ask in words, but others ask in deeds and actions.  When we moved back from Germany to Jacksonville we started an once a month Home Group Meeting in our home. We continue this time of fellowship in our home in Sneads Ferry and is a great joy in our home.  How can we not use our home (something God has given us) as a place to gather people to hear His word and fellowship with His children? God gives us things so we can use them to bless others. When we started I asked a friend (I still call him friend) I have known for over 30 years, traveled overseas many times in ministry, who lived 30 minutes (now 60 minutes) from our home, and is a great Bible teacher to come monthly and share with us.  At first he was delighted (or so I thought) the people just loved him, he brought a strong word. Sometimes he would bring his wife and they would minister.  When Karen and I would have friends from around the world come and stay with us (I would preach them around the area) they too would speak at our Home Group Meeting.  It was a wonderful time many people (me included) looked forward to each month.  But as we were driving back from a trip to Africa my good friend informed me he was no longer coming to our Home Group Meeting. To be honest I was not surprised you see while in Africa he asked me a question about his character and I told him the truth; what people in past have failed to do because if they tell him the truth they risk him breaking off relationship with him, which he has done with me and many others.  Call me crazy, but if I care about you and our relationship I will not try to blow smoke in your ears, but try my best to share my heart, have it be at your level of expectation or not.  But now what surprised me was the reason he gave me. He said, “sometimes I come and receive no money.”  Now that was true, however there were also times he would come (and I know for a fact) he would receive $100s of dollars, so what was his motive in coming?  Was it for the people to share (his wonderful gift to teach) the word of God or to make money?  Well out of his own mouth spoke his heart.  Now I do not share this story to demean him or make him feel bad (I would love to have fellowship with him, again he is a great Bible teacher), but I share this story so that we can learn from the loss I bear and feel in my relationship and somehow somewhere someone will not make the same mistakes. Also I share this story in hope (as strong medicine for both of us) it will be a means to come together again as the Bibles commands us to do, settle the offense in our heart, and once again join our God given strengths together to minister edifying the Brethren.  You know we think God measures our ability in keeping relationship by the number we keep, well I am persuaded that is not true.  God measures our ability in keeping relationships by how many we have lost not how many we have. I guess our entire relationship of over 30 years was not what I thought it was.  Godly relationships are not one sided they are mutual in respect. One person is not over another oh no we all are to be servants, but when one thinks they are the boss or even a “mentor” (a mentor is a worldly business term) (even if someone willfully puts him in that place of authority in their life) they assume the role of providing guidance and direction which is the role of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said of the Holy Spirit, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.”  (John 16:13) Jesus said “all” and He means “all.”  We must not allow ourselves to be led astray in these areas even when it comes to people we look up to and admire.  By all means live a Godly life and we must allow people to observe ours, but we must never allow people to pattern their lives after ours or live their lives according to our understanding of God.  Mentor relationships are not Godly they are selfish built on arrogance, control, and manipulation the biggest sin of church leadership today. I have seen it all my life and on five continents.  These relationships are not built on Godly principles, but built on an inward lack of the mentor (or mentoree) and their need to be esteemed and exalted. At its best any mentorship program (or mentor relationship for that matter) in a church is nothing more than a humanistic approach at leadership.  Now friendship is much different it is based on mutual respect which honors the values and contributions each brings to the relationship.  This is what God is looking for in relationships. It is amazing how we all seem to hide behind verses in the Bible when we are confronted with things about our character we get all spiritual ignoring people (but this is manipulation at its finest) who either made a heartfelt mistake or who would dare to speak the truth in love.    

Since I am on a roll I would like to touch on another touchy issue that is destroying relationships at all levels within the church and that is the endless stream of preachers from all over the world coming to America and even Europe on their annual business trip to get money and support for their church.  That is not the model you find in the New Testament. Yes the disciples did carry money church to church, but they did at the direction of the Holy Spirit they were not manipulated and guilted into giving money as I see going on today.  I will be honest African pastors have mastered this as a art.  When I pastored in Germany our congregation was about 70% African and how the apostles, bishops, pastors, prophets, etc. would try to get their greedy little fingers in the heart and wallets of our people, but I would not allow them to come and fleece the flock which often caused problems between my African Associate pastor and me. I have gone to some churches who were having special services for such “men of God” and it was appalling to watch the manipulation and downright foolishness in the name of the LORD.  In Africa I have sat in the office of pastors as they counted the Sunday offerings from four or five services (they are not that poor) and as pastor belonging to the greater denomination would bring in their money and add it to a money making pyramid scheme (a fee for service) for a spiritual covering within the country.  This is not the model found in the Bible.  But this foolishness also happens in America. Apostles, bishops, pastors, prophets make their way across the pond to America to see how much money they can get for their churches. I have heard them measure the successfulness of their trip by how much money they got. Now do not get me wrong I do believe in helping out churches overseas in need if I can, but it is at the direction of the Holy Spirit. Relationship is never the reason to make money.  Relationship is the reason to join hearts and lives together, to come along side each other and work together. You know if your church cannot stand on its own two feet then maybe your church does not need to be standing.  If God is not enough to provide what you need then all of the money in America will never do.    

Peter asked Jesus, “what shall we have therefore?”  And Jesus said unto them, “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. 30But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.”  (Matthew 19:29-30)   Did you get that?  I did not see where Jesus said you will get money for driving a few miles once a month, crossing the oceans and living in squalor, or you will get a big name and be honored in the nations, but our reward is 100 fold IN OUR NEXT LIFE for those who can wait, those who like the back seat, and those who do not mind being last.