What must be the leader’s relationship to the world? The Lord Jesus insisted that the disciples were to be in the world but they were not to be of the world. That cannot be altered. The leader must physically be in the world, but the leader’s heart must be separated from the world.
How is the leader to react to the things that are in the world? Is he to use worldly men? Is he to use the gifts of worldly men? This is a very sensitive question and we want to approach it prayerfully.
“Now I was cupbearer to the king. In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of king Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. And the king said to me, ”Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing else but sadness of the heart,” Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king, “Let the king live for ever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my father’s sepulchres, lies waste, and its gates have been destroyed by fire? Then the king said to me, ”For what do you make request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favour in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my father’s sepulchres, that I may rebuild it.” And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone and when will you return? So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time. And I said to the king, ”If it pleases the king, let letters be given to the governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may let me through until I come to Judah, a letter to Asaph; the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house which I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me” (Nehemiah 2:1-8).
The Lord Jesus ate with sinners, accepted their hospitality and used what they gave Him. He asked the disciples whom he sent out, to eat whatever they were given and to take no resources with them. He was thus asking them to receive sustenance from those who had not yet believed.
On the other hand, the Bible warns strongly against those who go to Egypt (symbolic of the world, the unbelievers) for help instead of turning to the Lord. The Bible says,
“Woe to the rebellious children”, says the Lord, who carry out a plan, but not mine and who make a league, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin; who set out to go down to Egypt, without asking for my counsel, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh, and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt! Therefore shall the protection of Pharaoh turn to your shame, and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt to your humiliation” (Isaiah 30:1-3).
“Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord! And yet he is wise and brings disaster, he does not call back his words, but will arise against the house of the evildoers, and against the helpers of those who work iniquity. The Egyptians are men, and not God, and their horses are flesh and not spirit. When the Lord stretches out his hand the helper will stumble, and he who is helped will fall, and they will all perish together” (Isaiah 31:1-3).
The Lord allowed king Asa to die because when he was sick, “he did not seek the Lord, but sought help from physicians” (2 Chronicles 16:12).
The apostle John recommended those who “have set out for his sake and have accepted nothing from the heathen. So we ought to support such men, that we may be fellow workers in the truth” (3 John 7:8).
We can draw the following conclusions about whether or not we are to use the men and the things of the world:
All who serve the Lord are to look to the Lord and only to Him as the Source and the Supplier of all that they need for His work. They are not to look to any person or hope in any person at all.
The Lord in His sovereignty may decide to use anyone He so chooses to meet the needs that have been presented to Him.
When He chooses to use someone to meet a need that is presented to Him, He may move the person directly to act in a certain way, or He may send His servant to go and ask the person to do something.
When the Lord touches someone to act in a way that meets a need that was presented to Him, He wants His servant to recognize it as His doing. All the honour must go to Him.
Any help that comes in should not just be received as coming from the Lord. The believer should check with the Lord whether or not the aid that is coming is from Him. This is important because the Enemy can send some aid with strings attached. He may come in as a helper, whereas his purpose is to ruin the work. This is clearly shown in the book of Ezra. The Bible says, “Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the Lord, the God of Israel, they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers’ houses and said to them, ”Let us build with you; for we worship your God as you do, and we have been sacrificing to him, ever since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria who brought us here. But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of fathers’ houses in Israel said to them, “You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God, but we alone will build to the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us”. Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah, and made them afraid to build, and hired counsellors against them to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia” (Ezra 4:1-5). Anyone who just accepts all help that is offered will be in trouble. It is childishness to think that all offers are from the Lord. There are times when sincere offers that have no evil motives must be rejected. Ezra said, “Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a straight way for ourselves, our children and all our goods. For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way; since we had told the king. ”The hand of our God is for good upon all that seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all that forsake him.” So we fasted and besought our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty” (Ezra 8:21-23).
No one should ask help from the Lord who has not put in all that he has into the situation. No one must pray that God should move someone to do something until he has done all that he could and there is nothing more that he can do. No one must ask the Lord to send forth labourers into His harvest unless he has already offered himself as one. No one should ask the Lord to send money for a certain operation, unless he has put in all that he has into that operation.
I personally, feel that all offers that will make man turn his eyes off the Lord and put them on man must be rejected. All offers that will make us sacrifice less, suffer less and depend less on the Lord must be rejected. My personal opinion is that one of the greatest hindrances to the spread of the gospel in the Third World is well meaning funds from Developed Countries. My prayer to the Lord is that God will stop all the money that comes from abroad into the gospel enterprise. When that day comes, false “ministers” will withdraw, the dependence on man will go, the lies that are told to obtain funds from abroad will go, the “prestige projects” that are accomplished with cheaply earned funds from abroad will go, the true men of God will carry out the ministry, and the natives will sacrifice and see the rapid spread of the gospel and the building up of the church. Lord, in your love and mercy for us, usher that day in.
When it is certain that God is providing some help, it should be received without further questions.
Nehemiah, behaved himself well before the king. He was a faithful cupbearer. He was constantly joyful. He was a blessing to have around. The Christian must be the same in the world. He must be a blessing wherever he is. The world may not like him, but his work must be of such quality that the unbeliever must say in his heart, at least, that he does well. He must be faithful. He must be such that if a piece of job is given to him it can always be considered as done. He must go early to work and he must put in all the hours of work for which he is paid. He must work hard all the time he is there. His work may not be recognized. His work may be ill-spoken of, but his work must be outstanding.
Nehemiah showed perfect courtesy to the king. He said, “Let the king live for ever!” He could have said, “I have no king but the Lord. The only king who will live for ever is the Lord. I will not greet the king that way. I will say, ”Mr Artaxerxes.” If he had said so and acted thus, he would have been foolish. Believers must respect people’s earthly positions. They are to give to Caeser what is Caeser’s and to God what is God’s. The Bible says, “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do honest work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarrelling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all men” (Titus 1:2) “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgement” (Romans 13:12).
It does not matter whether the political leadership is good or bad, the believer must be subject to it. It does not matter whether it was raised democratically or not, but once it is in power, the believer must be loyal and submissive to it. There are times when God purposely decided to allow worthless men to rule. The Bible says, “The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will, and sets over it the lowliest of men” (Daniel 4:17). The lowliest of men is actually not the humblest of men, but the basest of men. God puts into political authority anyone He likes, including the wise, the foolish, the kind, the wicked, the just, the corrupt… and commands all believers to be subject to them and to obey them and pray for them. No believer dares speak evil of any political system or political leader. He has been commanded to speak evil of no one. He is to be subject to any and obey even the basest of leaders. No believer is permitted to become personally attached to any particular leader, or leadership or political party or system of government. He is to submit to the one that God raises and puts over him. It may be democratic or not, it may be socialist, capitalist, feudalism’s and so on. None of these must be allowed to disturb him. He is an exile. How can he begin to get involved in the policies of the alien country? He will pay his taxes and perform the duties that the state demands. He will do this regardless of who is leading and what system is leading. He knows that he can carry out his mission which is to bring people to Christ and build them up to maturity under any type of government. The church has been under all the possible types of governments that have ever existed. The church has grown and flourished under dictatorships, communist governments, socialist governments, democratic governments and the rest. The church has also failed to bring people to Christ and to flourish under all kinds of governments: dictatorships, capitalist systems, democracies and others. The growth of the church is independent of the political system in power. It depends on the sovereign will of God and the believers’ relationship to their Lord.
The Lord Jesus did not say one word against the Roman political system that was operative in His day. It had weaknesses, but He did not speak against those weaknesses or against the leaders. The apostles did not say anything against the political leaders of the day. They did not try to pray them out of office so that they might be replaced by better people. They did not pray for or wish the death of the political leaders who were wicked. They rather obeyed them and prayed for them and not against them.
Why did they adopt this attitude? They adopted it because they knew that the appointment of political leaders was God’s affair, and they did not want to mingle in matters that were not theirs. They also knew that they could carry out their mission regardless of who was in authority. They knew that all the governments will be defective regardless of how hard man tries, until the Lord Jesus comes to earth and takes the leadership of the world, politically, economically and spiritually. Only then will things be what they should be. With that knowledge, they were content to pre-occupy themselves with the one thing that will not be possible when the Lord Jesus has come in power and that is to preach the gospel and build the church. This would be impossible then. It must be done now! For that reason, those who are wise now leave economic, political and social matters aside. These will be well settled when Jesus will reign on earth. They should concentrate on reaching lost men for Christ and bringing them to maturity. This task will be absolutely impossible when Jesus will come again.
Do you then see what our attitude should be to political leaders? This attitude should also apply to our relationship with governments, ministers, directors, chiefs of services and officers and all who have political authority over us, whether they be big or small.
There is however a limitation to this obedience. If anyone who is above us should ask us to obey him and disobey the Lord, regardless of who that person is, we must ask one question, “Who is the higher authority?” After we have found out who the higher authority is, we must obey the higher authority and disobey the lower. That is a principle of obedience. Whenever there is conflict between two authorities, the believer must obey the higher authority. Therefore, when the believer is faced with the choice of obeying either God or the political leaders, he must obey God who is the higher Authority. Nevertheless, he must willingly and gladly submit to whatever punishment the lower authority which may be political, social, economic or religious, decides to give him for disobeying it. So the believer is subject to the governing authorities in everything. Often he will obey without consequence. This is when what is demanded does not conflict with the will of God in any way. Occasionally, he will disobey the demands of authority when they contradict the law of God, but be subject to the punishment from man that this disobedience incurs.