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The text I’m going to start with tonight is a very unusual one. I’ll have to confess to you I’ve wrestled against starting from it. It sounds very negative but the message I have is not really a negative message. You’ll find my text in 1Peter 4:15:
“But let none of you [Christians] suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.”
One of the things that continually surprises me about the scripture is the things that it lists together that we wouldn’t list together. In that list you’ll find a succession of things and I suppose all of us would agree about the first three. They’re undesirable, they’re awful. Christians wouldn’t be involved in them. We may have been involved in them in the past when we turn to the Lord and trusted him for salvation and forgiveness we turned away from these things.
Then you come to the last one in the list and it seems so different. Let me read it again.
“Let none of you suffer as a murderer...”
There’s no problem with that. None of us believes it’s good to be a murderer.
“...or as a thief, or as an evildoer...”
Murderer, thief, evildoer. What’s going to come next? A busybody. Now, that’s altogether different. Lots of people don’t really feel any horror or sense of evil at the word busybody. Yet, the busybody in the word of God is lined up with the murderer, the thief and the evildoer.
There are various kinds of lists that religious people make. I’ll just give you a couple of examples. For instance, the sins of the tongue. We all agree on a lot of them being bad. For instance, what about lying? Nobody wants to be a liar. Or swearing. We agree that’s not right. Or blasphemy. That’s an awful thing. And then dirty talk. We all shun those things. But then there’s another one that’s the religious one. Do you know what that is? How many of you can guess? It begins with G. Gossip, that’s right. Gossip really is just as bad as any of the rest. In the Old Testament they called gossip a talebearer. In one of the verses of Proverbs it says “Where there is no wood the fire goeth out, and where there is no talebearer the strife ceases.” Behind all strife and contention amongst God’s people somewhere is a talebearer. It says a whisperer separated chief friends. Have you ever known that happening? I’ve known division come in families and friendships which were just created by one busy little tongue that went around saying, “Have you heard?” and “Don’t tell anybody but...” God set a watch over my lips after she said all that she needs to say.
There’s another kind of area which are the sins which defile the body. Here we all have a list. We put alcohol, that’s bad. Drugs, immorality by the various names that it’s called. But then there’s another one that’s the religious one. What’s that? Like gossip it begins with a G. Gluttony, that’s right. It’s just as sinful, just as destructive, just as defiling.
Now we’re going to go back to the list in 1 Peter 4 and we’re going to talk a little bit about this word busybody. There are two Greek words in the New Testament used for busybody. One means somebody who’s always doing a lot of different things. This is a completely different word and my message started when I looked this word up and saw what it was. This is not a Greek lesson but I’m going to teach you one Greek word tonight. You don’t have to remember it. Greek is a language that puts a lot of words together and makes one word out of them. I mean, it can go on putting prepositions and nouns and adjectives and just making one word. This word in Greek is ?allotrioepiskopos?. It’s important you get this word because my message really centers around it. Episkoposgives us—if you’re from a German or Scandinavian background you will remember or know the word ?biskop? which gives us the English word bishop. That is taken from ?biskop? and then it become bishop. An episkoposor a bishop is an overseer. That’s the real literal meaning. ?Allotrio? means that which belongs to somebody else.
Thayer’s Greek Lexicon which is one of the standard lexicons on the subject defines this word as follows: “One who takes the supervision of affairs pertaining to others, and in no wise to himself.” I like the no wise. That’s there in the lexicon. I’ll give you that again. This word here, ?allotrioepiskopos?, means “One who takes the supervision of affairs pertaining to others, and in no wise to himself.” Just imagine that one word can mean all that. That’s what the King James translates as a busybody, somebody who is a bishop over things that don’t belong to him. An overseer over things over which God has not given him oversight. Somebody with a long nose which he pokes into other people’s business.
The Bible says don’t suffer as a busybody. Do you know that busybodies suffer? A lot of the suffering we go through is not necessary. The Bible warns us don’t be a busybody because you’ll suffer. Somebody will take their sharp scissors and snip a little bit off that long nose.
1Peter 2:25, we have this passage which again uses the word episkopos.
“For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and bishop of your soul.”
Bishop, episkopos, overseer, the one who takes oversight. There these words refer to Jesus and they put two things together. Shepherd and bishop or overseer. You see, the overseer is one who oversees anything but the shepherd is one who oversees something particular which is what? Sheep, that’s right. So, he’s a special kind of overseer, one who is overseeing sheep.
I spent 6 months, some of you might find it difficult to believe that but I did once, looking after a small flock of sheep. I discovered a lot of things about sheep which became quite useful to me later when I became a preacher. I discovered, for instance, in every flock there’s always one sheep that will do the wrong thing. If there is a gap in the fence it’ll find it. When it finds it it’ll wait ‘til it’s got the other sheep through and it’ll create a lot of trouble.
I believe, really, that the hardest thing to be an overseer of is living things. Inanimate things, material objects, figures, all that, that takes some skill and work but when you come to living things, that’s when it becomes difficult. The hardest of all living things to oversee is people like you and me.
Now, how can you be an overseer of things that don’t belong to you, they’re not your concern? God didn’t make you responsible for them. Let’s get the negative out of the way and then I’m going to come to the positive in the latter part of my message. One way that we can be busybodies, I think it’s very common, is being too critical of other people’s children. You know, that creates a lot of trouble. Basically, it’s the responsibility of parents to bring their children up. It’s not our responsibility to bring other people’s children up. I’ve discovered over the years that a lot of problems are created when somebody knows how to raise somebody else’s children. They’ll sit and speak about the way Mr. and Mrs. So and So raise their kids and what a bad job they’re doing about it. Do you know what they are? They’re busybodies, they’re shepherds over something that God didn’t give them to shepherd.
Then in Romans 14 we find two other ways that the Bible actually warns us against being busybodies in the special sense of overseeing something we weren’t told to oversee. Romans 14, it speaks in the first few verses about two kinds of things that people readily criticize in others which we have no right to criticize. Beginning at verse 1:
“Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.”
Not being an eater of herbs myself I just point out to you that this is the one who is weak who only eats herbs. Listen:
“Let not him that eateth despiseth him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.”
So, we’re not to criticize the things that other people eat and drink. This is very, very common indeed. I’ll tell you all I drink coffee. Some people would call me a backslider but I drink coffee. I’ll tell you something even more shocking. Sometimes I drink wine. If you criticize me for that do you know what you are? You’re a busybody.
But then you see, there are those that drink wine who criticize the people who don’t. I was with a group of Episcopalians and Catholics and they were really making a little bit of fun of the Baptists because they never drink wine. But you’re not allowed to do that either. Here’s an area that you’re not allowed to trespass on other person’s privileges.
Then it goes on to something that does relate to the season of the year that we’re about to celebrate. I said beforehand I might not mention it but it comes to my mind. Going on to verse 5:
“One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it.”
We don’t need to read further. I sent out a newsletter about a year ago in which I just used the word Christmas. Somebody wrote me a letter back saying, “I’m surprised that you observe Christmas. It’s a pagan festival, Christians shouldn’t observe it.” I don’t think that’s a Christian spirit. See, I don’t believe that was his business. I didn’t get angry about the letter. I’ve known Christians actually separate and split in a congregation because they couldn’t agree on whether it was scriptural to observe Christmas or not. Some of you people here would be shocked at those that didn’t observe Christmas. But, some people really believe that it’s pagan and it shouldn’t be observed. There’s quite a strong feeling about that in some countries of Europe. The Bible says when it comes to observing days, what another person observes is not your business. That’s his job. If he observes it, he observes it to the Lord. If he doesn’t observe it, it’s to the Lord that he doesn’t observe it. So, keep your nose out of his business.
This year, I suppose for the first year that I can remember, I don’t believe we’ve got a single Christmas decoration anywhere around the house. It’s not because we’re economizing on fuel, it’s not because we’re anti-Christmas, we just didn’t feel we wanted to do it. I went to a house the other day somewhere not far from here and the Christmas decorations in it were just beautiful. I was enraptured. I walked from room to room. I think they had Christmas decorations even in the bathroom if I remember rightly! So, there are many areas in which God gives each of us liberty to make our own decision. Somebody is not to come along and tell us what to do or what not to do. And a whole lot of trouble is caused amongst Christians by people trying to dictate to others in matters over which God hasn’t given them authority.
Then, just to give you one more negative example. Really, I don’t say this to be cheap or unkind but it’s mothers-in-law. I say this on the basis of experience. I’ve counseled scores and scores of cases where the root problem has been a mother-in-law. See, in Genesis 2:24 the Lord said—and if you check that carefully you’ll find God himself said this.
“For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother, and cleave to his wife. And they two shall be one flesh.”
And when a man and a woman get married, something new begins. A new home is brought into being. Father and mother are left behind and father and mother do not have any right to dictate to their son and their daughter-in-law how they are to run their home. It’s their responsibility, they’ve been given the oversight and parents that try to run their children’s homes and marriages, in the words of the New Testament, are busybodies. I don’t mean to say that a parent would not be concerned. Naturally. But this is a place where you’ve got to stand back and exercise self-control.
I say this out of experience. I have counseled scores and scores of cases where one of the root problems has been a mother-in-law or a mother that wanted to go on ruling her child’s life after marriage. That doesn’t mean that you’re not free to offer counsel or help but there’s one important thing to remember when you offer people counsel. It’s twice as effective when it’s asked for. You wait another week or two and wait ‘til they come. There’s a sign on Northeast 3rd Avenue that says—outside one of these rental places—”Free advice to do-it-yourselfers.” I’ll give you one piece of free advice. It’s don’t. But if you don’t ask me for it I won’t give it to you.
Now, I want to come to the things that are positive, the things that God does expect us to oversee for ourselves, the areas of responsibility that God has given to each one of us. I’d like to give you, first of all, a scripture from Genesis 2:15 which has taken on a lot of meaning for me lately.
“The Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.”
What’s that in one word? What did he have to do to the garden? To oversee it, to look after it. So, man was created to be an overseer. It says in Genesis 1:26 that God created man to rule. Rule, or govern, and oversee. I believe that there are elements of God’s original purpose of creation left in man even after the fall. I think there’s something in man that makes him want to govern and there’s something in man that isn’t satisfied unless it’s fulfilling that God given impulse to oversee. Man is by his nature from creation an overseer. What we’ve got to do is find a legitimate way to give expression to this.
I want to give you some very, very simple thoughts. Let me say two things about overseeing first. First of all, it’s practical, it’s always in a practical realm. Secondly, it’s nearly always progressive. You start with something small and move upward. The people that don’t succeed practically in the small never succeed in the big. God’s order is always small first then great. A lot of people are waiting saying, “If God will give me some great responsibility I’d be faithful.” But meanwhile they’re not faithful in the small responsibilities and God never will give them great responsibilities. God says he that is unfaithful in that which is least is unfaithful also in much.
This is very different from theology and in many ways it’s very different from religion. Overseeing is something you’ve got to make work. Theology, in most cases, doesn’t work. The theologian doesn’t bother because he doesn’t try to make it work. He lives in a realm detached from reality. One of the things this teaching about overseeing does is to bring us down to the realm of reality where we’ve got to make it work.
I’ve proved that in my own experience. Even quite recently I’ve been challenged by the fact am I making my messages work in my own life?
Let’s take, first of all, somebody who is beginning life, a child. I believe very, very early in a child’s life the child should be given things to oversee. I think that’s one of the parent’s responsibilities. I’ve met some people that have grown up to the age of 16, 17 and never have been given any responsibility of oversight. When responsibility is suddenly thrust upon a person like that they crumple under it, they’re just not used to it. I believe the real function of a parent is to start giving responsibility to children very, very early and grading it so that the child is responsible in something simple and goes on to something a little more complicated and so on—growing up to accept responsibility.
What’s one of the first things we’ll make a child responsible for? I’ll give you my list and you can check with me. I think, first of all, a child often can be made responsible for its toys. You know, why should mother go in every night and pick the toys off the floor when junior can do it? You start him the wrong way if you let the child walk out and leave the toys scattered on the floor every night. You’re missing an opportunity to train that child in something that’s going to be of value.
Then, what about as he grows a little older, its bedroom. There was a question asked in a high school recently, the teacher asked, “What did any of you children do before you came to school to help your parents?” One child brightly answered, “I switched off the electric blanket.” That’s not very advanced responsibility. It’s something because a lot of children wouldn’t do it. I think I heard Charles Simpson say about his little son that we teach him to establish he kingdom of God in his bedroom. When his bedroom reflects the kingdom of God then we’ll promote him to the next stage. That’s very real.
Then, what about pets? Most children at one time or another have pets to look after. Is that right? Have you ever heard this phrase? “Mother, there’s a girl at school going north and she’s leaving two turtles behind. Can I take them?” Who’s going to look after the turtles? Mother or the girl? That’s the question we faced in our family recently. The turtles disappeared so we didn’t have to solve the question.
Then, what about younger brothers and sisters. There is the place where responsibility is going a good deal further. You’re actually going to have to look after human beings. In most societies that have not become so highly individualized as ours it’s normal for the elder children to look after the younger. It’s one of the best and most important responsibilities, I believe, that a child can have.
You’re probably aware, I mean, you could probably tell me some of my problems. One of my problems is I never had any brothers or sisters. I never had to face the tension, the struggles of dealing with human beings on that level. I think the Lord made up for it a little later when he put me in the British Army but I wish I’d had some prior experience.
We’ll go from the child to the man. I mean man, male. What’s the obvious thing that a man has to supervise as he goes up in life? A wife, that’s right. Somebody said I’ve only got one sheep but I’m going to look after her. Any man who can look after his wife is really making progress.
Then after they’ve been married a little while, what else usually comes along? Children. This is very simple but it’s just to get you moving along with me.
Now, we’ll take the woman and I want to ask you what’s one thing that’s the woman’s responsibility? I think I’m going to surprise some of you. The home, that’s right. That, I believe, the Bible teaches clearly is not the man’s responsibility. Some men are busybodies in their homes. Let me show you 1 Timothy 5:14. Let me give you this passage. I really mean this, I think it’s important. I think a lot of people have neglected it. I wonder how many of you would agree that every now and then there’s a little anti feminine bias in the King James translation? Would you believe that? I think so. I think this is one case. It says:
“I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary [that’s the devil] to speak reproachfully.”
Where it says “guide the house” the Greek word is oikodespoteo. You see that word there, despot? That’s the word that’s used there. The words are very definite, strong, authoritative. That’s the authority of the woman in her area of the home. She is the mistress of the home.
Now let’s go on to things that are spiritual in the sense that they relate to the life of God’s people. Again we find that oversight or overseeing is a basic principle which recurs all through the New Testament. The person who becomes an overseer in spiritual things, I believe, in divine order should begin with just one or two persons, succeed with them and go on to a small group. Very rarely is this followed today in the church but I believe there’s divine pattern in this. When you’ve succeeded with supervising one married couple or two married couples you’ve established what the Bible calls a good degree.
There are also areas of supervision. There’s supervision in what is essentially the material and there’s supervision in the spiritual. Let’s look in Acts 6 for a moment. Acts 6, reading from verse 1, just a few verses.
“In those days, when the number of the disciples were multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.”
Even those Spirit baptized wonderful Christians of the first chapters of the book of Acts were upset when they weren’t fairly treated in the regard of their widows being ministered to. I think that’s got a lesson for us. I think there will always be danger and there will be confusion and there will be division when material problems are not fairly and wisely handled. I doubt whether the church would ever have made the progress that’s recorded in the following chapters if it hadn’t succeeded in solving this problem.
I’ve come to see this lately, even in our fellowship here, that when we can solve the financial problems we’ve gone a long way to solving spiritual problems—when we get our finances organized right. A simple, practical, scriptural way. We’re proving this again and again. Let’s never belittle the material things and say they don’t matter because if we don’t handle them right we’ll mess up the spiritual things.
“Then the twelve [the apostles] called the multitudes of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables [minister charity in the material realm]. Wherefore brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.”
There were two levels of ministry. The level of service in the material realm: food, clothing, money, whatever was needed to help people physically. And then the ministry in the spiritual realm which was prayer and the ministry of God’s word. I don’t believe that the prayer and the ministry of the word would have been half as effective if it hadn’t been undergirded by a success in the material problems.
I suppose that we face the same situation today. I think a lot of our spiritual problems are due to the fact that we haven’t really resolved the material problems. Again, in this fellowship I see wonderful progress towards doing that. I’m more optimistic about the possibility of solving these problems in this fellowship that I’m in now than I’ve ever been in any group that I’ve ever been with before. I believe it’s going to open the way for tremendous spiritual progress when we know that the widows, the people out of work, the mothers with children who don’t have husbands and others that are in need are adequately provided for. I believe it gives us a foundation for spiritual growth and development. I’m happy that it is so.
As many of you know, probably all of you here, we went through this tragic experience of the mother that lost her little boy. When the news first came to me—of course, I was distressed like everybody—but one thing I immediately said to myself, “Thank God she’s cared for.” There are those who are directly responsible for looking after her spiritually and materially. I tell you today in the memorial service for that little boy—those of you that were present would agree with me—I have never known a greater measure of joy and victory in any similar situation in all my ministry. But it wouldn’t have been if the material hadn’t been adequately cared for.
What did he call the people, what’s the basic sort of general word those who look after material needs in the church, what’s the one word? Deacons, that’s right. And the others are called the elders, the overseers, the bishops. It’s the word episkoposthat’s used.
Let’s notice also this principle which I think is important in 1Timothy 3. We’re dealing with very simple, basic principles tonight. 1Timothy 3:10, speaking about those who are to become deacons, those who are to minister on the lower material level.
“Let these deacons also first be proved [be tested]: then let them use the office of a deacon, when they’ve been found blameless.”
Nobody is put into responsible position in the church in the New Testament without being first thoroughly tried out in the practical realm.
Then it says in verse 13 of the same chapter:
“For those that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree...”
So you see, if you’ve been successful in the material then you are qualified to be promoted to spiritual oversight. See, so many of us are too spiritual. We bypass the test in the material, we’re not made to make it work there and we go on to the spiritual and we’re a failure. Let me make these observations. I’ve seen in my life scores and scores of people called into full time service for the Lord: missionaries, ministers, pastors, evangelists, youth leaders and so on. Never do I recall seeing a man called out of secular failure into spiritual ministry. Never in my life have I seen a man who couldn’t make it in the secular realm called by God into spiritual service. I’ve seen a lot of men who tried to make it and all they made was a mess. I believe this is a deep, basic principle. Make it work in the material, make it work in dollars and sense, make it work with your secular employment and you’re beginning to qualify for spiritual promotion. It really is remarkable. I mean, I have been in full time ministry nearly 30 years. I cannot recall ever seeing God do that. It’s contrary to his basic principles.
We talked about the person who is an overseer over things that were not his responsibility. I want to take that from the negative and put it into the positive. God gave me this picture that really, if it’s possible to be an overseer over things that are not your responsibility, that don’t belong to you, logically it should be possible to be an overseer over things that are your responsibility, that do belong to you. Furthermore, not merely may you be an overseer but you need an overseer. I believe every Christian should try to answer or at least face up to these two questions. The first one is, What do I answer for? That’s number one. Number two is, “Whom do I answer to?” This is the essence of my message. I hope I get it clear to you.
All this came to me out of this negative picture of somebody overseeing something that wasn’t their responsibility. Gradually God began to show me there must be something that is your responsibility. You are an overseer over something. There’s hardly a person here tonight who isn’t held accountable by God to oversee something, even the youngest people here.
Then the other side to it is you need an overseer. This, I believe, is the truth that God has been bringing out and is going to emphasize more strongly for many of us that you’ve got to find a place where you’re overseeing the things that God has put you over and you’re being overseen by those who God has put you under. I’m going to say that again. You need to find the place in God where you are overseeing the things that God holds you accountable for. At the same time you need to be under those whom God has made to oversee you. And that’s your place.
I’d like to give you another scripture in connection with this thought of your place and answering that question. It’s in the book of Proverbs, just one verse. Proverbs 27:8:
“As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place.”
I’ve meditated on that and I’ve seen great depths of truth in it. What is more weak or helpless than a bird that has wandered from its nest? I’m sure all of us have seen one at some time or another just waiting to become prey to some cat or some passing beast. Why? Because it’s got out of its place. The Bible says a man out of his place it just as weak and just as helpless as that little bird out of its nest. Do you know what that tells me? That every man has his place. There is a place for every person here tonight, every child of God has his God appointed place. If you’re out of it you’re just as exposed and just as much in danger as the bird that’s wandered from its nest.
To me this has become a very deep and solemn truth. What comfort, what protection, what security there is for the bird in its nest. And how completely bereft of those things when it’s out of the nest. So it is with you and me. What comfort, what protection, what security there is when you’re in your place. And how completely you’re without those things if you’re not in your place.
I believe every man has a place first geographical, second spiritual. I believe it matters where you live. I don’t think it’s the same if you live in Plantation or Hollywood or Fort Lauderdale. I have learned by experience God always has a place for me to live. If I’m not in that place I have no inner rest in my spirit. I’ll give you just a few examples from experience. I can’t dwell on them too long.
In l948 my wife and I and our 8 girls had to leave Israel. We left as refugees with just as much as we could carry in our hands. We went to Britain which is my own native land and we were refugees in Britain. I’ll tell you, the hardest thing in life is to be refugee in your own country. Because we came from Israel and most of our girls were Jewish and the feeling in Britain at that time was very hard against the Jews in Israel, it pulled against us. But before we left Israel the Lord spoke to me and said, “I have a place and a work for you.” He put the place before the work. For about three months we were absolutely homeless in the cold, hard city of London. I mean, we lived in garages, we lived in places and brothers, I have to say the hardest people to deal with were the Spirit baptized Christians. My own unsaved parents were a lot kinder to us than the Christians were. I just say this by way of observation. There’s no bitterness in my heart but I can tell you when you’ve taken it from God’s children, you can take anything!
Here we had 8 girls, my wife and I, a family of 10. Accommodation in London at the end of World War II was almost non-existent. If a person succeeded in renting a house they would move in and sleep on the floor because if they didn’t occupy it immediately somebody would move in, squat in the house and you couldn’t turn them out.
So, I went to the phone directory and I looked up what you’d call here in America real estate but in Britain they call them house agents. I wanted to look under the heading of house agents and there was no classified section in the telephone directory but there was one house agent whose name was “House.” That’s the way I got to know him. I found him, we went to see him, we told him what we needed and he looked at us. Accommodations for 10 people in the center of London! Unheard of! He said there is one house. The top half of the house is available, it’s got about six rooms. But he said it’s under contract, the purchase is going through, there’s no hope of your getting it. My wife said would you let us see it? Just to indulge us, you know, just to keep us quiet, he took us out and he led us up this house and we got to the top floor. There was a large room that would comfortably seat well over 50 people partly furnished. The Lord had given me that scripture “He shall show you a large upper room furnished.” While I was talking to this real estate man I couldn’t say any more because the Holy Spirit was bubbling up inside me. If I had spoken I would have spoken in tongues!
He said, “You can’t have it.” My wife said just one thing. “If that deal falls through will you notify us first?” Two weeks later he phoned and said the deal has fallen through. I said, “We’ll take it.” When we moved in and told our neighbors in the street that we found that accommodation they very nearly fell over backwards. One lady said, “I’ve been in this area for 2 years looking for housing and I couldn’t find a thing.” God had a place and he had a work because that large upper room furnished we used for 8 years for regular meetings. We had five meetings every week in that large upper room. And hundreds and hundreds of people in those 8 years found the Lord as savior, baptizer, healer and so on. I learned it matters where you go. God has got a place. And, in most cases, your work is related to your place.
We’ve lived here in Fort Lauderdale about 6 years now. Two and a half years ago the Lord impelled us to move. We were very happy in our house, four bedrooms, three bathrooms, northeast section, no problems. We owned the house. My wife said, “I’m going to start looking for a house.” I was away preaching, she called and said, “I’ve found a house.” I said, “Tell me the price.” She mentioned it and I said, “You can just forget it.” A month later we were in it! God had that place. I wouldn’t dare to live anywhere else in Fort Lauderdale today than where I’m living. God has spoken to us half a dozen times, “I’ve set you in this place and I will bless you in this place.” And, I believe that.
Let anybody have all the visions they want about Southern Florida being flooded but I’m going to live in the place where God set me ‘til God moves me! That’s the only place I feel safe. I wouldn’t feel safe in any other place but the place that God has put me. That’s geographical.
But God has a spiritual place for you, too. I believe that spiritual place is determined by a relationship. I believe if you got rightly related to everybody that God has put in your life, all those relationships like so many lines coming from different angles would pinpoint one place which is your spiritual place, the place where you’re in a right relationship to every single person that God has put in your life. There’s only one place. Under somebody, over somebody or over something with those around about you. One place that’s your nest, that’s security, it’s your comfort. God’s committed to provide it for you in that place. He’s not committed exactly in the same way to provide for you in any other place but the place where he’s put you.
I want to speak about three things that I believe are requisites for finding your place. I don’t want you to put your hand up tonight, don’t do it, but I would say that probably 50 percent of the people here tonight don’t know for sure they’re in their God appointed place. I want to thank God humbly but sincerely, I know I’m in my God appointed place. And, that’s a beautiful feeling. It’s my nest, it’s rest, security, comfort, protection. God overshadows me with his wings. And under his feathers, I trust, because I’m in my nest.
There’s one thing I’m afraid about. It’s moving out of that place and getting out from under God’s cover. He’ll still look after me, I’m his child but I’ll have many hardships and problems I don’t need when I’m out of my place.
Let me quickly suggest to you three things which I believe are requisites. The first one is need. The second one is lose your life. The third one is humility. I was talking to a group of people not far from here a month or so ago and I got amongst them on a misunderstanding. I thought they wanted me to talk to them about relationships and they didn’t. But I did anyhow! As a matter of fact, I think that was the one thing they didn’t want me to talk to them about. But I did it in all good faith. I spoke about how each one of us needs to find his place and be rightly related and come under covering. One of the men who is a friend of mine came to me afterwards about a week or two later and he said, “You know, one of the brothers that was there said he couldn’t agree with what you said because to look for that was a confession of weakness.” I said, “You couldn’t be more right. That’s exactly what it is. It’s a confession of weakness. I’ll confess I’m weak, I need it.”
Let me give you this passage quickly in 1Corinthians 12 about the parts of the body. We won’t take long, just skim through it. 1Corinthians 12, beginning at verse 14:
“For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body...”
That’s your place, where God has set you.
“...as it hath pleased him.”
Not you or me but him.
“And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now there are many members, yet but one body.”
Listen now, this is the verse:
“The eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet [and that’s Jesus Christ, the head, he cannot say to the feet], I have no need of you.”
Every member of the body needs all the other members. If you don’t know it that’s your problem. You are weak. Paul goes on to say in the next verse those members of the body which seem to be more feeble, are necessary. The most vital members are the weakest. What member is more important to you than your eye? What is more tender and more easily wounded than the eye? How much protection God has put around the eye. The eyebrow, the cheekbone, the nose, the eyelids, the eyelashes. It’s all there for one purpose. To protect that delicate but vital member, the eye. But my eye tonight in my head is in its place. It’s safe, it’s protected, it’s provided for. But if it were to say, “I don’t need the rest of you,” it would be in danger.
The first requirement is you acknowledge your need.
The second is a willingness to lose your life in a scriptural sense. I’ll give the scriptures, I won’t have time to turn to them. Matthew 16:24–25. Jesus said:
“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself...”
That’s the first step.
“...take up his cross and follow me.”
You know what to deny is? It’s to say no. What’s to deny yourself? It’s to say no to yourself. You say, “I want, I feel, I like, I wish.” You say no, I don’t give way to you.
Do you know what I’ve discovered? Everything that I do for God that is of permanent value is done out of self denial. Have you ever noticed the time that it least suits you the people come to you that need you most? Have you ever noticed that? That’s not an accident, God’s planned it that way because out of self denial you come to the place where you can serve. As long as you are serving yourself you cannot serve others. Nobody in this room, I imagine, has got a stronger ego than I have. Brought up an only child with a strong character, so on and so forth. I’ve learned that any time I’m going to do anything that amounts to something for God I’ve got to say no to my ego. Not what suits you, not what you feel like doing. It doesn’t mean that what I do for God is always unpleasant. It may be very sweet, very enjoyable, very blessed. But it comes out of that basic denial of my own ego.
Then Jesus said, “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it. Whosoever shall lose his life—and the Greek word is soul or ego—shall find it.” You’ve got to be willing to lose that life, that ego life, that “I” life, the life that says, “Look at me, I want, I’m important, I feel, I think, I wish.”
I always remember a lady that came up to me—I don’t think I really did the right thing but it was the end of a lesson on Romans. She was obviously going to argue with me and not with me but with the apostle Paul! She said, “You know, Brother Prince, what I think?” I said, “No, and I’m not the least bit interested.” She thought that what she thought mattered more than what Paul said. Until we get out of the way of that “I” we’re not in a position where the Holy Spirit can use us.
This becomes very practical in our own relationship in the body. 1John 3:16–17:
“Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us [that’s soul]: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
We’ve got to lay down that ego for the sake of others. Lose it to find it. I’ll tell you a story, it happened recently. It’s just a beautiful example. I just hope I’ll be able to take the third step. I want to tell you this, I was preaching near Boston and I preached 24 times in 10 days and I don’t preach short. They asked me to go and talk to a group of ministers and workers. Everything in me said no, I don’t want to. But there was no getting out of it without offending people and causing hurt. So I went. As I stood there I thought, “You people, I don’t owe you anything. Why am I here?” Then I thought, “You know, I can’t afford that attitude for my own soul’s sake.” I opened up and God gave me something I’d never known to say before. As I stood there God gave me a revelation from his word. Do you know what that was? That was my reward for being willing to deny myself. God gave me a truth, I’d like to share it with you. Some other time I will. About Gethsemane, about Jesus denying his own will before he laid down his own life. I saw this is the step. You can’t lay down your life ‘til you’ve denied yourself. That’s the way it went with Jesus and it has to go with us.
“None of us liveth to himself, and none of us dieth to himself.”
Whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.
And then humility. I don’t claim to be a humble person and if I did you’d all refuse me. But I have learned one thing and I’ll pass it on to you. I have learned how to humble myself. That’s different. I’ve learned at a specific moment how to humble myself before God. Jesus said when you’re invited to a wedding banquet, don’t choose the top seat, choose the lowest. Because if you choose one of the top seats someone will come and say, “Move down.” But if you choose one of the lower seats somebody will come and say, “Move up.” And he said it’s much better to move up than move down.
That’s how it is in the body of Christ. When you move in, don’t choose the top seat because it will be embarrassing when you’re moved down. Choose a low seat and you’ll be moved up. That’s beautiful.
I must close there, let me just quickly recapitulate those three requirements for finding your place. First of all, I’ve got to have a sense of need. I’ve got to know that I’m not independent, that I’m not self sufficient, that I need a place in the body. Secondly, I’ve got to be willing to lose or lay down my life for others. And thirdly, I’ve got to be willing to humble myself and take a lower seat that God may move me up.
Shall we bow and pray? “Father, we just thank thee tonight for this meditation in thy word. I’m prompted to pray right now Lord for those in this congregation who do not know really whether they’re in their place or not. I pray, Lord, that as they meditate on these scriptures and these truths you will give them the grace to meet the conditions in their own lives which will enable you to bring them to their place and set them in it that they may be blessed and made a blessing. In Jesus’ name.”
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