The Simple Plan Of Teaching Others
There is a story told of a community of fishermen that loved to get together to talk about fishing. They met once a week and spent hours pouring over the different ways to catch fish, the newest instruments, the most up-to-date information on the habits of fish. They met during the week to have another meeting to study fishing. Twice a year (sometimes more) grand meetings would be held inviting neighboring fishing communities to come and learn more about fishing and the importance of fishing. Speeches filled the assembly halls with examples of those who fished in days past and the great numbers of fish caught (one such story told of catching 3,000 fish in one day). Flyers were printed with all the information on how to catch fish, where to catch fish and the need to catch more fish. One could say that this community of fishermen were busy about the need of fishing and had all the resources to catch fish daily. Sadly with all the energy put into the science of fishing, few fish were ever caught and sometimes a few years would go by before even one fish was caught.
The problem in this fishing community was very simple. While everyone agreed on the need to catch fish only a few (if any) ever took the time to put a hook in the water and make an effort to catch fish. They knew just about everything there was to know about fishing but no one wanted to take the time to go to the river or the lake to catch fish. Some communities would hire a man to come in and do their fishing for them. Others were content to read about it but no one should expect them to do any fishing. Remarkably there were many who thought the fish would just jump out of the water and into the boat - why should they do anything - let the fish come to them.
With all the great evangelism plans and gospel meetings about teaching others, the words of Jesus still ring true today: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:19,20). The emphasis should be made of the need to "GO" and the only way to "MAKE" disciples of all the nations is to have someone sit down with someone and teach them the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord further admonishes the need of "TEACHING THEM" and that takes individuals teaching individuals. All of this requires "putting a hook in the water" but you can not put a hook in the water unless you GO to the water.
"Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them" (Acts 8:5). "Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to [the eunuch]" (Acts 8:35). Cornelius tells Peter "So I sent for you immediately, and you have been kind enough to come. Now then, we are all here present before God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord" (Acts 10:33). Paul found Lydia at the riverside in Philippi (Acts 16:11-15) and then taught the jailor and all his family (Acts 16:25-34). People taught people the gospel in the First Century.
The great need of the church today is for its citizens to realize that all the talk of saving souls is only as good as those who are willing to lay aside the busy affairs of life and spend time gleaning the fields ready for harvest. "Lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest" (John 4:35). Jesus admonishes still today, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few" (Matthew 9:37).
The book of Ezra is a remarkable book of "those whose spirits God had moved" (Ezra 1:5). The city of Jerusalem lay in ruins for seven decades and the house of the Lord was burned. Zerubbabel led the faithful back to Jerusalem and the Temple was rebuilt. The faith of the people was focused upon the protection of Jehovah before they rebuilt the city walls under the leadership of Nehemiah. In the process of this spiritual renewal, the leaders came to Ezra and declared, "The people of Israel, and the priests and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands. For they have taken of their daughters for themselves and for their sons" (Ezra 9:1,2).
Ezra was ashamed and humiliated because of this sin. The people also were ashamed and weeping came to Ezra declaring they had trespassed against God by taking pagan wives from the peoples of the land. In a extraordinary act of faith in Jehovah God and the will of "those whose spirits God had moved" with the power of His word, the people declared they would make a "covenant with our God to put away all the women, and such as have been born of them, according to the counsel of the Lord, and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God. And let it be done according to the Law" (Ezra 10:3). The tenth chapter of Ezra shows they fulfilled their promise by putting away their pagan wives and even those who had children.
One cannot but be touched with the deep fervency of their love for the will of God. They had struggled to return to a city in ruins to rebuild the house of the Lord. Through adversity and opposition to rebuilding the Temple, those of a willing mind completed the work. It was a hard and arduous task to rebuild stone by stone the glory of the Temple. These were extraordinary people of faith. They not only possessed the fortitude to fight for the house of the Lord they also had within their hearts the conviction to mold their lives to God's will no matter the cost. How high a price to put away a wife that you have no right to be married to? What cost does one pay to serve the kingdom of God in the marital relationship? Where are the willing hearts devoted to the Lord even it means living as a "eunuch for the kingdom of heaven's sake" (Matthew 19:12)? Was God asking something too hard for the people of Ezra's day? Would the brethren cry out, "Unfair, unfair"? Could Ezra change his teaching on the law of God concerning pagan wives?
Thomas Carlyle wrote: "Conviction, were it never so excellent, is worthless till it convert itself into conduct" (Sartor Resartus, 1836). Truth is the word of God. Standing upon the foundation of truth with conviction will only be of worth when we turn that belief into action. Those of Ezra's day were passionate for the cause of the Lord and not their own desires. They were willing to take up a cross for the Lord. May we find their spirit today in the people of God to be fully devoted to the will of God no matter the cost. "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:26).