The ways of the world consist of human effort leading to the broad road of destruction. God's kingdom consists of obedience leading to narrow road of life. The currency of the world is money, but for God's kingdom, it’s obedience to God.
I faced a decision to enter the narrow way versus the broad way. In my early 30s, I taught a noon-time Bible study. My boss said, “One of your friends invited me to your Bible study. I don’t want you teaching it.”
Later, my boss made me responsible for sealed bids on electronic components. “What is the lowest price you have for this contract?” my boss asked, “I want my friend to know so he can beat that price.”
“That’s unethical!” I said. Later, my boss fired me because I wouldn’t compromise my integrity.
1. Seek the lost
Zaccheus, a rich chief tax-gatherer who was small in stature, climbed in a sycamore tree to see Jesus in a crowd. He looked up and told Zaccheus to come down, as He must stay in his house. People grumbled that a sinner entertained Jesus. Zaccheus said he would give half of his possessions to the poor and give back four times as much to those he defrauded. Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:1-10). Seek the lost by being open to opportunities.
I needed to wait on God’s timing for job and career changes. I learned that it’s better to train others than do all the work myself. People need follow-up to fulfill their commitments. Submission to authorities opens ministry opportunities and God’s blessings. Material things don’t matter since everything belongs to God.
2. Steward God’s resources
Jesus told a parable about a nobleman who gave ten minas to his ten slaves so they could do business until he returned. After the nobleman returned, he called his slaves to learn what business they did. The first said his ten minas made ten minas more. The nobleman (master) commended the slave over his faithfulness and gave him authority over ten cities. The second slave made five minas and given authority over five cities. The third hid his mina in a handkerchief and buried it in the ground because he was afraid. The master said to take away the mina and give it to the one with ten minas and collect from a bank (Luke 19:11-27). Steward God’s resources (money, time, spiritual gifts, and bodies) for greater authority and responsibility.
After leaving Cedar Rapids, Iowa, I took a job as an Industrial Engineering consultant in Omaha, Nebraska. When business slowed, I was laid off. An elder at our church told me, “Mark, there’s a guy in Lincoln, Nebraska, that you might want to meet as a potential ministry partner. His name is Dean Hatfield.” Two ladies in the church nursery told Karen, “Dean Hatfield led our husbands to Christ while students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Mark should meet him.” God spoke through circumstances and people to maximize my gifts.
3. Listen to God
Jesus told two disciples to bring an unused colt, simply saying “The Lord has need of it,” if asked for an explanation. With Jesus on the colt, a multitude of disciples praised God saying, "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord; peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" When the Pharisees said He should rebuke His disciples, Jesus responded, "if these become silent, the stones will cry out!" (Luke 19:28-40). Listen to God so Christ can enter your city and your circumstances.
These early years of my career taught me to pray and rely on Christ as Lord of my life. In 1986, we moved to Lincoln with my family to partner with Dean, becoming a college missionary. In 1989, I witnessed first-hand the Biblical illiteracy and confusion that arose after the tele-evangelist scandals. College students were asking me in the dorms, “Why are there so many denominations? Why are people trying to get rich through religion?”
4. Share Jesus’ concerns
Jesus wept over Jerusalem because they rejected the peace He offered. He was hidden from their eyes. In the future, enemies would destroy their families because they didn't recognize His coming. (Luke 19:41-44).
Share Jesus’ concerns for His presence and peace.
In prayer, God said I needed to do something about Biblical illiteracy. A journalism student said, “Mark, take these two journalism courses to help in your ministry.” My wife met the wife of the Dean of the Journalism College in Bible Study Fellowship. The dean, who became a mentor, recommended I pursue a Master’s in Journalism to develop my writing skills for ministry (God may lead you to further training). Over the next 33 years, we experienced God’s provision and faithfulness in answer to prayer.
5. Pursue prayer over riches
Jesus entered the temple and cast out those who were selling, saying His house shall be a house of prayer, but they made it a robbers' den
(Luke 19:45-46). Pursue prayer over riches.
In 1998, a friend invited me to attend a four-day prayer summit in Seattle to build biblical unity within the city. I desired similar interdenominational prayer in Lincoln. God opened the door in 2004 to initiate weekly pastor’s prayer groups in Lincoln along with a yearly prayer summit that still occurs. During these years, I learned that regular prayer and study of God’s Word with others pays dividends and opens doors.
6. Feast daily on God’s word
Jesus taught daily in the temple, but religious and influential men tried to destroy Him. In contrast, all the people were hanging upon His words. As part of the body of Christ we need one another for accountability
(Luke 19:47-48). Feast daily on God’s word with others.
For further thought: Thank God for how He is writing your life story. Thank Him for making you alert to opportunities to show His love and tell His message. Ask Him for a friend or friends to meet regularly for prayer and fellowship.