“Do not quarrel along the way.” At a time when things are finally looking better for the Local Church, that might seem like a peculiar thing for the District Superintendent to say. At a time when the Local Church is about to begin conducting services in the traditional way for Local Churches, to assemble for edification, exhortation, and worship, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, why is the District Superintendent concerned about the welfare of the Church in its local congregations? Today, I am writing to you as a Pastor. I am addressing you in the same love and care a Local Pastor shows to the sheep of the flock, even as I did while a Local Church Pastor. It is spoken in the purest love of God for my dearest family in Christ Jesus. Yes, indeed, this is personal between us.
This experience and time are so precious, the cost has truly been extreme, it cannot be wasted on the pretense of perfection while ignoring our common challenges and weaknesses.
It is a time for rejoicing in thanksgiving, and I am confident we will begin that way. But how long will it be before someone among us will yield to a temptation, will be caught in Satan’s snare, will see the opportunity to exalt one’s self or feel the need to defend one’s self? I pray to God that it will not be me and that he will protect me and keep me from temptation and the Evil One. But I know you are not that much different than me. The truth is I am a child of God being transformed into the nature of Jesus Christ and yet have this clay temple wherein I dwell that is continually attempting to redirect my attentions from King Jesus to the slave’s person known as Chip. Maybe you have already attained unto perfection, but I doubt it. I know that is something for which I continually strive.
The frailty of human remembrance, the deceit of personal thought, the motive of well-intentioned agendas, and the blurred focus of personal grace in defending one’s self against allegations of either causing some undesirable outcome or contributing to it by doing nothing can cause a person to do hurtful deeds and imagine unreasonable thoughts.
Your District Superintendent loves you and knows who you are. You are children of God, servants of the Most High, and saints, a people who are dear to God and to your Superintendent, but a people who still live in earthly bodies. He has watched you become distracted, give up at times, and seek to preserve self over providing service to others on occasion. But above all, he knows you also face and struggle with the same temptations and distractions he does.
So, for today’s post “From The Superintendent’s Desk” I want us to focus on a historical narrative that reminds us to be on guard against this temptation. In this story the times were difficult. There was a famine in the land and the famine did not have an end in sight, so far as the people knew, except Joseph and those who believed him. Food had been found and things were looking up for the moment. A family reunion was happening, tears of joy were being shed, and great rejoicing at the thought of the whole family finally being together seemed a reality.
It isn’t much different for us, is it? Today, times are difficult. There is a pandemic in the land and the end doesn’t look as close as we once thought it would be. There are some signs of better times for the moment, but we know hard times are just ahead. It looks like we are about to finally be able to rejoin our family in Jesus Christ for closer and more intimate fellowship and worship.
At the very height of this celebration to begin even bigger celebrations in Jacob’s family, the wise one, the dreamer, Joseph, who was saving the known world from annihilation, says to his close family, “Do not quarrel along the way.”
Why would he say something like that? Was he just being mean and a spoilsport? Did he just want to rain on their parade? Or, did he have their best and truest interest at heart? First, let us read the short text that leads up to this remark.
Genesis 45:16-24, NIV
- When the news reached Pharaoh’s palace that Joseph’s brothers had come, Pharaoh and all his officials were pleased.
- Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Tell your brothers, ‘Do this: Load your animals and return to the land of Canaan,
- and bring your father and your families back to me. I will give you the best of the land of Egypt and you can enjoy the fat of the land.’
- “You are also directed to tell them, ‘Do this: Take some carts from Egypt for your children and your wives, and get your father and come.
- Never mind about your belongings, because the best of all Egypt will be yours.'”
- So the sons of Israel did this. Joseph gave them carts, as Pharaoh had commanded, and he also gave them provisions for their journey.
- To each of them he gave new clothing, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred shekels of silver and five sets of clothes.
- And this is what he sent to his father: ten donkeys loaded with the best things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain and bread and other provisions for his journey.
- Then he sent his brothers away, and as they were leaving he said to them, “Don’t quarrel on the way!”
Why would Joseph say something like that? “Don’t quarrel on the way!”, what was he thinking? This was once again one big happy family. What could possibly go so wrong as to cause them to quarrel along the way? Perhaps we are thinking the same thing of the Church in its high moment of holy focus on its identity in Jesus Christ and opportunity to reunite in corporate worship?
Recapping the story, when Pharaoh heard what was going on, he told Joseph’s brothers to bring their father and families from Canaan, but not to bother bringing their heavy furniture and goods because he would provide everything they needed. So, they went back to Canaan with wagons provided by Pharaoh, and with beautiful garments, animals, and provisions from Joseph. Benjamin got a gift of money and a special wardrobe.
There are several reasons they may “fall out” or quarrel along the way. Let’s name a few.
- They were the sons of Jacob, Israel, of different mothers, known for their sibling rivalry and deceitful behavior, even to the point of disposing of one of their own some years earlier.
- Perhaps because of their guilt in mistreating him years earlier, Joseph warned them not to quarrel on their homeward journey.
- Joseph remembered how they treated him when he was given a coat of many colors and was the obvious favorite of his father, now he had given Benjamin extra money and clothes and was concerned the brothers might once again resent the favoritism being shown.
- They were preparing to cross a land stressed by drought and likely encounter people who would be enemy to them when they saw the animals and wagons loaded with supplies that could keep a host of people alive through this time of trouble.
- They knew they would be facing their father and be required to share with him how they had been deceitful with their father and harmful to his favorite son and might be looking for one of them to be the scapegoat or somehow excuse themselves from incrimination of the evil they had committed against their brother and their father.
Today, we are facing remarkably similar circumstances in the Church. Today, and over the next few weeks, it is expected most Local Churches will begin some type of re-opening for assembly. This provides an opportunity for those things which have been learned and employed through this costly but rich experience
- to be either forgotten or remembered,
- to continue to enrich the ministry we do or to be cast away in preference of prior traditions,
- to be retained and even modified for the honor and glory of
- to be celebrated as wonderful additions to ministry in the Church, and
- to keep the Church united because of the knowledge of the devastation of being out of close fellowship.
Or, these precious insights might just be thrown away in favor of returning to selfish motives and agendas of personal preference. Brothers and Sisters, “See that you do not quarrel along the way.” To be Christ-like demands of us, to love one towards another.
Let us pray.
Matthew 6:10-13, NIV
“… ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Today we ask you to give us our daily bread. And, Father, please forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one. Amen.’”
There is one way we will be successful in avoiding quarrelling along the way.
We MUST: Focus on Jesus and Follow His Plan as we remain one in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Will you meet the challenge?
When the Lord reviews our conduct, how will we have done in this moment?
By the grace of God and knowledge of your profession of faith in Jesus Christ, I am believing you will receive high marks and will be declared victorious in this time of trial and triumphs.
Remember, my goal is to facilitate your fruitful ministry in the Lord Jesus Christ, to make provisions for you to be much better and do much greater things than I have ever done. All I say and do is for that end in you, to glorify God, edify the Church and serve the purpose and power of the gospel.
Be strong and courageous in Christ Jesus, dear friends. I am counting on you to succeed in and for Jesus, King of kings and Lord of lords. You are my legacy of leadership in Christ Jesus. Even more importantly, you are the ones our Lord has chosen to do the work in the area you serve for this time. You must and will be successful. Our Lord is the reason.
The LORD bless you and keep you,
The LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you,
The LORD lift his countenance upon you and give you peace.