Who Done It?

“Doing things for God” or “God doing things through you.”

The two phrases above represent two alternate ways of viewing our work in the world.  I hope that we believe and embrace the latter; I’m afraid more often we buy into the former.  Many Christians talk about “doing things for God,” like God needs us to give him a hand.  Poor God, he’s so overwhelmed, what with running the entire universe and all, that he needs me to do some things for him.  To say we “do things for God” implies one or more of the following: a) God can’t do it himself; b) God is lost without me; c) my identity is in my doing; d) I deserve credit for what I’ve done.  You could probably think of other implications of this ideology.  Truth be told, God can accomplish his will without your help; it’s you who are lost without him; your identity isn’t what you do for God, but who you are in God; and it’s only God who deserves glory.  Moreover, if we’re left with this way of thinking, then we must admit that we are failures, because of our constant failure to do much good for anyone other than ourselves, and even then, we often fail.

The better phrase that captures Christian work is “God doing things through you.”  God calls us to his work and enables us to do it.  He empowers us to fulfill his will through his personal, powerful presence in us—the Spirit.  God is with us to accomplish his work.

I remember when I was a kid I asked my Dad, who works in a non-profit ministry, “How many people have you saved?”  His reply surprised me: “None,” he said.  Then he explained to this effect: It’s not we that save people, but God.  We don’t have the power to save, the power to heal, the power to restore—but God does.  God works his will through us, as channels of his grace, ambassadors of the gospel.

One of my favorite verses in Scripture is 1 Thessalonians 5:24: “Faithful is the one who calls you, who also will do it” (my translation).  The first word in the Greek text is the adjective “faithful.”  Paul stresses that God is faithful.  Since it is God that has called us to our work for him, and he is faithful, then it also means that God will see us through in the fulfillment of his purposes.  I like to express the truth of this verse, and throughout Scripture this way: God enables us for what he expects of us.  We don’t do it ourselves; we don’t do things for God.  But we also don’t do them without his help.  He doesn’t ask us to build a building without providing blueprints and tools.  He doesn’t call us to tell people about salvation without the presence of his Spirit in our lives, with his power and love.

You’ll never save anyone’s soul.  But I believe God will save many through your faithful witness.  You may never “do great things for God,” but I believe he will do great things through your surrendered, dedicated life.  May all this be to his glory, forever.  Amen!

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2 thoughts on “Who Done It?

  1. I heard the beauty in some understanding when I heard you preach this. The Kingdom of God is not of this World yet in a way it is. If God’s will be done and we are all in the body of Christ as one church then it would make perfect sense that we could be his acting force in the world. That is when we are in his will not in our way since “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags” Isaiah 64:6. Praise God in all that happens for it is his glory. I am a good artist, but just because God allows me to be a good artist. My best talents for testimony are not by my doing but his. If we are in God’s will then it is God’s actions shining through us. We are just the candles in the world, but what is a candle without the light?

  2. Well said Zachary. We have to hold two things in tension, I think. On the one hand, we need to remember that God is the one who works salvation; we can’t do anything apart from his empowering presence. On the other hand, God desires to work his plan through his people. This means we don’t just sit around and say, “Well, God will do what he wants.” Yes he will, but what he wants is his redeemed creatures to participate in his redemption purposes.

    I really appreciate your comment!

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