Behold, God will not cast away a perfect man, neither will he help the evil doer, Job 8:20.
We are all familiar with the warning that Jesus Christ gave us in Luke 9:25, For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? All too often it is preached with the emphasis on the man who lost his soul trying to gain earthly wealth and neglected the saving of his soul. Truly that is an awful consequence to putting the things of this world above the things of God!
What is usually neglected is the awful consequence of the Christian (most often a preacher) who is cast away from usefulness to God. This was the fear of the Apostle Paul when he wrote, I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway, 1st Corinthians 9:26,27.
At first there doesn't seem to be a connection. In the first warning from Jesus Christ we are given the scenario wherein a Christian puts worldly possessions and wealth above his duty to Jesus Christ. In the second scenario posited by Paul the emphasis is on keeping the Christian's body in subjection.
I have known two men of God who were put out of the ministry early because of morbid obesity. One of them who was a gifted evangelist became so obese that he could not control his flatulence when he preached. Children in the church would titter and even adults had trouble controlling themselves as he would make points in his preaching only to have his bowels trumpet a big amen. The other was even more grievous because he was one of the most gifted pastors I have ever known. He died too young while in a nursing home from the ravages of having neglected his health.
Yet there is a definite connection between not keeping a body under subjection and and seeking this world's wealth above the ministry. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need, Philippians 4:11,12. Far too many preachers can not accept poverty. Not for them is the Apostle Paul's statement, Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace, 1st Corinthians 4:11.
Their energy and focus is on milking the ministry for every dime that it can furnish to keep up a lifestyle that their spouse will accept. I have observed over the years that most preacher's wives show little evidence of true bible salvation. They tremble with doubt and whenever strong preaching takes place, and when they counsel with their husbands for help, their husbands are so horrified at the shame of having a spouse (or children) who are possible lost that they patch it back together with some lame prayer that means nothing because it is prayed without the belief that repentance brings. Or, they have a spouse who cannot accept the deprivations of the ministry but instead becomes that brawling woman in a wide house. Like the horseleach there is never enough.
Such a man becomes a castaway. He cannot keep the desires of his or his wife's flesh from dictating his every move. Eventually, the Lord sickens of a man who turns left when God would have him turn right. He goes on ahead when God would have him stop. He goes forward when God would have him back up. He does not succumb to liquor or adultery. He isn't even seeking filthy lucre. He just seeks the comforts that only money can give. He gets so wrapped up in debts to please his flesh or the flesh of his wife that to follow every whim of the Spirit of God would bankrupt him. He cannot get God to cover his debts because God didn't give him his debts.
Such a man is often the unhappy pastor of a church. He has sought a church that can pay him what he thought that he needed, but he cannot distinguish between his needs and his wants. Such a man has a nagging in his heart and a sense of unfulfillment. He kowtows to the whims of his church and he cannot afford to alienate key people in the church with his preaching. Such a man will talk soul winning all of the time but when his church is examined, there are no new converts learning the life of Jesus Christ. He has power with God only sporadically.
Other men seek to scratch the itches of their flesh through evangelism. Some of the most successful evangelists that I know (and by success I'm talking about lasting results that can be measured years after they leave), have other sources of income to keep themselves from being on the phone 24/7 seeking meetings to pay bills that God would never have them to have accrued. Some successful evangelists are pastors of a church, some are clever entrepreneurs.
What always fools the castaway man is that he thinks he's serving God. His soul is often in turmoil and there is a nagging in the back of his mind that will not settle. Yet, day after day he drudges along in a ministry that his flesh has dictated. From time to time he gets help from a very merciful God. He will preach with a freshness that gives him hope only to sink back into despair.
If it sounds like I know this too intimately, you are correct. I spent many years in such a trap only to have a merciful God tear down the entire fabric of my life in ways that I would not have done to my worst enemy. How I thank God for the utter humiliation of those days! How I thank God for all of the friends who turned their back in shame as God tore down my world! How I thank God for the few friends who stuck with me and were used of God to help me get back on my feet!
How I thank God for the Black Creek Baptist Church which was a little church in the middle of nowhere that nobody wanted! They hired a pastor that nobody wanted. For 11 1/2 years my wife and I have lived in substandard housing with substandard cars and substandard clothing but have never been so happy and never had such power with God and men. We would not trade this little congregation where we have witnessed the miracle of the new birth and utterly changed lives in some of the most broken people that we have ever known.
Many years ago, I read the story of a missionary couple who served God in China for over 50 years until driven out by the Japanese. They had some friends who were also missionaries. Their friends had a picture of two beautiful little girls on their mantlepiece. When they asked about the girls, their friends told them sadly that God had called them to go to China and that they had told God that they did not feel that they could not feel safe in China with those little girls. They told God that when those little girls were out of the house, they would serve him. Both girls died of disease in the next year. The grieving couple told them that if they had obeyed God those little girls would be with them. Instead they were with God.
Years ago, I visited a church in rural Pennsylvania where the pastor, his beautiful wife and many children lived in a dilapidated trailer in a field. The sewage didn't work in the winter and the pastor had to scoop the toilet out with a bucket. They were some of the happiest people I ever met. He told me that when he was young, his father had been called to preach but he declined the call saying that he could not support his family as a preacher. In the next year, his father was paralyzed from the waste down and they grew up in bitter poverty. When his own turn came for the call, he accepted without hesitation.
My friend, do you trust God? Are you so constricted with the cares and sorrows of this world that serving God is always on a back burner? Perhaps it's not too late. Tell God that you cannot see your way out of this but that you will pay any price. Don't be surprised if the way is hard and humiliating. How ever far it took the prodigal son to get to the pig sty, it was that far to get back.