God’s desire: Our obedience

God doesn’t need our help;

He wants our obedience.

Several years ago, I learned some important lessons about my relationship with God by watching my grandson.  I was laying sections of sod from one part of my daughter and son-in-law’s lawn to fill in a bare spot in the yard.  The weather was hot, and the section of sod had to be transported quickly to the bare area.  The soil was prepared with a sharp rake and the sod put in place and quickly watered.  My grandson was four years old at the time and wanted to help his grandpa.  When I put the rake down, he quickly grabbed it, saying “Let me help you, Grandpa.”  I said “No, Grandpa needs to do this.”  Before I could reach him, he swung the rake around nearly clubbing me on the head, and dropped it on his foot.  He proceeded to the area where the sod was being placed and began scraping up the sod that had been previously placed on the lawn.  Before I could remove the rake from his hands, some delay took place in our project.  As I considered this chain of events, I began to reflect on my efforts to help the Lord.  It was as if the Lord were saying “Now see what happens when you try to help Me do my work?  You endanger yourself, you endanger Me, you tear up the work that has been done, and you delay the work that needs to be done!”

The first area in which I am tempted to “help God do His work” is in the area of physical needs for myself and /or for others.  Philippians 4:19 states “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”  God has gone on record that it is His responsibility to meet my needs.  He will certainly use our education, training and employment as a part of the process, but it is still His responsibility, not ours.  Walt Henrichsen, long time Navigator, and author of “Disciples are Made, not Born,” points out that if we try to assume responsibility for our needs four things will happen.

1) Our needs will never be met.  They will become like a black hole.

2) We compete with others to meet our needs.

3) We use others to meet our needs.

4) We end up on the back side of God.  (We accuse Him because our needs are not met to our satisfaction.)

The first temptation that Christ faced in the wilderness was that of stepping outside God’s provision to meet physical needs.  He was tempted to act independently of God to meet a valid need.  Whenever I choose to act independent of God to meet a physical need, I am trying to “help God do His work.”  I am acting apart from His will, declaring my independence from Him rather than dependence upon Him, and in effect stating that He is not capable of caring for me.

The second temptation that Christ faced was in the spiritual realm.  Again, the test was to assert independence from submission to God’s will and initiate some spiritual activity.  In His answer, Jesus declared that to perform any act with a spiritual objective apart from God’s will is to test Him.

We see the above testing of God in “helping Him do His work” multiple times in Scripture.  In Leviticus, we read of Nadab and Abihu offering unauthorized fire before the Lord.  In I Samuel, we see Saul offering the burnt offering against the Lord’s command.  II Chronicles 26 relates the story of Uzziah, who, though warned by the priests, entered the temple to burn incense on the altar of incense.

God is to be the sole author of any spiritual activity.  It is His gifts, His calling, His preparation and His guidance that will glorify Him. (Ephesians 2:10)   Pride in my life may lead me to “help God do His work’ by choosing some activity that is highly regarded  and visible for my personal gain and recognition.

Jesus, having defeated Satan in the first two temptations, was now to be tested in the area of methodology of God’s work.  Having declared that the spiritual is superior to the physical, and the spiritual activity of man is to be chosen only by submission to God, the Lord was then offered a seeming short cut to the accomplishment of that work. Spare the cross, said the Devil, You came for the Kingdoms,  “I will turn them over to you, if you worship me.”  The Devil is the father of lies, and Christ’s victory could not take place by agreeing to such an absurd proposal.  The Lord chose to submit to the Father’s will in the realm of the process of accomplishing his will.

How subtle a temptation is this third one for us in ministry!  In our failure to resist “short cuts” to “success” in ministry, we may fall trying to “help God do His work.” We may unwisely place an emphasis on ‘results.”  In Philippians chapter one, we read of those who “preach Christ out of envy, rivalry……selfish ambition.” In our desire to see something accomplished in ministry we may be tempted to “lord it over those entrusted to us” (I Peter 5:2-3) rather than by being “examples to the flock.”

What was the methodology of Christ in accomplishing the Father’s will?  We read in Mark 10:45 “For the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”  In the garden we see Him again in Mark 14:36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you, Take this cup from me.  Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Jesus methodology was that of the Cross. His call to us is no different than His.  Luke 9:23 relates “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and  take up his cross daily and follow me.”  And again, in John 12, we read in verse 24,”…unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”  Jesus calls us to die to the world, and to ourselves.  This is what accomplishes the work of the Kingdom in and through our lives.  All attempts to find some other way to accomplish His work are efforts to “help God do His work,” rather than to obey Him.  He does not need our help: He wants our obedience.

In Christ, Richard Spann

 

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