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ss nucleus - summer 1995,  Dionysius Dialogues - Responsibilities

Dionysius Dialogues - Responsibilities

Competing Demands

Nitpickerus: Dionysius, I seem to remember you saying that we must obey all of God's commandments all the time regardless of what we perceive the consequences to be.

Dionysius: Yes I do recall saying that.[1] God's laws are absolute. We can't pick and choose.

Nitpickerus: But we can only do one thing at a time. We can't always be doing everything.

Dionysius: I agree. If obeying God meant always doing everything, we'd have to be everywhere at once. God doesn't expect more of us than he did of Jesus. Jesus simply dealt with the things God gave him to do each day.

Nitpickerus: But there's so much need.[2] There's so much we could be doing.

Delegation and specialisation

Dionysius: But not even Jesus met every need himself. He didn't feel it was his job to heal everyone, or to preach to everyone or to relieve everyone's poverty. This didn't mean that he wasted time, or neglected his work. But he had a strategy to involve others to do what he was unable to do alone. He chose twelve people on whom to concentrate his efforts,[3] and among these focused particularly on three: Peter, James and John.[4] He showed them what to do, and then got them to do the same.[5] He moved fast but he always took time to rest and pray even when faced with pressing need.[6] He wasn't overcome with the enormity of the task, but told his disciples to pray that God would raise up others to help with the work.[7]

Nitpickerus: So I'm not personally responsible for everything that's wrong in the church and the world?

Dionysius: Strange as it may seem Nitpickerus, no. Nor are you responsible for putting it all right. God only asks you to play your part, nothing more, just as he asks others to play theirs.[8] As each part of Christ's body does its work, the whole body grows and builds itself up in love.[9]

Nitpickerus: So I have an important role to play?

Dionysius: An essential role.[10] Don't waste time wishing you were someone else,[11] or looking down on others who aren't the same as you.[12] Jealousy and pride are extremely destructive. Simply play the role God has equipped you to play. That way Christ's body (the church) will be built up and his people prepared for works of service.[13]

Knowing our gifts

Nitpickerus: That sounds so simple, but how do I find out what my part is?

Dionysius: God has given you certain gifts and abilities which equip you for playing your part:[14] perhaps encouragement, or leadership, or teaching.

Nitpickerus: So how do we know what they are?

Dionysius: Some people have a specific call,[15] but most first come to realise what their gifts are as they begin to exercise them. This can be a painful and difficult experience both for ourselves and for others as we learn to overcome fear and doubt. We all make many mistakes,[16] so need to be patient and forgiving with one another in the same way that Christ is.[17] We all need encouragement as well as correction at times.

Nitpickerus: Shouldn't a genuine gift function perfectly from the beginning?

Dionysius: We all need to develop our gifts Nitpickerus. It's important to realise that at first they may be barely recognisable to ourselves or others. It takes time to mature in whatever our role is.[18] When we look at a mature teacher or administrator we need to remember the time and trials involved in making them what they are. Paul didn't go on his first missionary journey as an apostle until at least thirteen years after his conversion.[19]

Nitpickerus: So we should wait for a long time before doing anything at all, just in case we mess it up?

Dionysius: No. The opposite is true. We should use every opportunity to grow and develop in whatever our specific area of ministry is. If God has given you faith, then use it. If he's equipped you to lead, then look for opportunities to serve him in this way.[20] As we prove faithful with the gifts he has given us, he will give us more responsibility.(21)


Nitpickerus: So we should all concentrate purely on our own narrow area of ministry and leave everything else to others?

Dionysius: I didn't say that. There are things we are all expected to do as Christians: to encourage each other,[22] to share our faith,[23] to share with others, to provide hospitality.[24] The point is that we all also have specific gifts. There are those God has specially equipped to be prophets, evangelists, teachers and pastors or whatever.[25]

Nitpickerus: My problem Dionysius is that I'm so incredibly gifted that I don't know which of my many gifts I should concentrate on.

Dionysius: Only God knows the truth of that Nitpickerus. If you have so many talents, then why not concentrate on doing the things which no one else is doing. This is what Paul did.[26] That way, you'll extend God's work while giving others a chance to use their talents as well. Otherwise you'll end up worn out, and everyone else will end up idle or frustrated.

Nitpickerus: So the answer to my permanent state of exhaustion is delegation,[27] specialisation[28] and prioritisation?[29]

Dionysius: Broadly, yes. Be more focused in what you do yourself and mobilise others, leaving the rest to them. Ask God for his wisdom[30] in how best to sort out your priorities. As the Word says, 'there is a proper time and procedure for every matter' and 'the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure'.[31]

Nitpickerus: What is wisdom?


Dionysius: There are three things it's not. It's not cleverness or intellectual knowledge. The opposite of wisdom is not ignorance but folly, so it's quite possible to be a clever fool.[32] It's not full understanding either. Only God has that. There will be unsolved mysteries in this life, no matter how wise we are.[33] It's not sanctified common sense either. No matter how wise we are, our intuitions will never be infallible.[34]

Nitpickerus: So what is wisdom?

Dionysius: If you like, it's God-given practical insight leading to sound judgment and action.

Nitpickerus: What's the point of having it?

Dionysius: Firstly, it results in godly living.[35] It's intensely practical. Secondly, it creates unity in Christian fellowship.[36] The wise person can bring peace, harmony and good relationships out of discord. Thirdly, God can guide us through wisdom.[37]

Nitpickerus: It sounds a bit worldly to me. Can't he just guide us directly you know, moment by moment revelation?

Dionysius: The way some Christians talk, you can be forgiven for thinking so: 'God told me this, God told me that'. Our generation is fascinated by spectacular forms of guidance: dreams, visions, fleeces, 'words' from God. There is no doubt that God can and does guide in these ways on occasions,[38] but this is the exception rather than the rule. Normally God guides through wisdom. The apostles weren't looking for special revelation before doing anything, like many Christians do today. On occasions they received it, but generally they just got on with the job,[39] guided by the general commands Christ had already given them.[40]

Nitpickerus: So how does one obtain wisdom?

Dionysius: I thought you'd never ask. It comes from God,[41] in fact Paul calls Jesus Christ 'God's wisdom'.[42] It seems that some possess it as a special gift[43] but we get it principally in three ways: by asking God for it directly in prayer,[44] through careful and diligent study of God's Word,[45] and through listening to those who possess it.[46]

Nitpickerus: I could do with some wisdom about money, especially with Nick Leeson losing his Barings.

Dionysius: Ah! You're getting back to the eighth commandment. I think we should return to that in the next issue of Nucleus.

  1. nucleus. July 1992. p17. Jas 2:10
  2. Mt 26:6-9
  3. Mk 3:13-19
  4. Mt 17:1; Mk 6:7-13
  5. Mt 10:1-8;Mk 6:7-13
  6. Lk 5:15-16
  7. Lk 10:2; Mt 9:37-38
  8. Eph 2:10
  9. Eph 4:16
  10. 1Cor 12:22,26
  11. 1Cor 12:14-16
  12. 1Cor 12:21;Gal 5:26
  13. Eph 4:11-13
  14. Eph 4:11; Rom 12:6-8; 1Cor 12:4-6
  15. Rom 1:1; 1 Tim 4:14
  16. Jas 3:2
  17. Jn 21:15-19
  18. Eph 4:13
  19. Acts 13:1-3
  20. Rom 12:6-8
  21. Mt 25:20-23
  22. Heb 10:25
  23. 1Pet 3:15
  24. Rom 12:13
  25. Eph 4:11
  26. Rom 15:20
  27. Ex 18:13-26
  28. Rom 12:6-8
  29. Lk 4:42,43
  30. Jas 1:5
  31. Ec 8:5,6
  32. 1Cor 1:19-20
  33. Jb 42:3
  34. Pr 14:12
  35. Pr 2:1-10
  36. Jas 3:13-18
  37. Pr 3:5-6
  38. Acts 10:9-23; 13:2-3; 16:9-10
  39. Ec 9:10; Col 3:23
  40. Mt 28:19-20
  41. Pr 2:6
  42. 1Cor 1:30
  43. 1 Cor 12:8
  44. Jas 1:6
  45. Pr 7:1-4
  46. Pr 12:15; 19:20
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