Agonizomai: Looking for Work

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Looking for Work

Looking for Work

Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. These are great promises that have been relied upon by countless saints throughout the ages. And God has been faithful, otherwise we would have heard news to the contrary. For the devil would never miss an opportunity to broadcast the least slip, the tiniest untrustworthiness in God. That is Satan’s currency now, as it ever was.

But there are always more subtle tacks that the adversary can employ. If God will not prove unworthy then perhaps the saints can be deceived into receiving His graces unworthily. It’s a poor second best but it beats just sitting around twiddling his thumbs and waiting for the final demise.

For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. What a great promise! And what a terrific reminder that perseverance will be rewarded. One remembers that great passage in Hebrews that speaks of how God is, and how He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Or again, it evokes the idea of striving to enter in at the straight (narrow) gate. The parable of the importunate prayer also comes to mind.

From these and many other exhortations we can readily gather that God wants us to apply ourselves heartily and wholly to seeking Him and His kingdom. Man has always been required to work. It is true that, after the fall the work became toil – but there was never a time when we creatures were not expected by our creator to apply ourselves with energy and enthusiasm to seeking and doing His will.

But…and it is the biggest “but” of the Bible – a “but” upon which St. Paul, Augustine, Martin Luther and millions of saints have hung their hat – it is not work that has the effect but grace. God requires us to work but He does not need us to work. He requires His saints to seek Him and to press into the kingdom but He neither needs them in the kingdom, nor their work in pressing into it. He is able, indeed he has already done all that is necessary for the saints. He could translate them to glory instantaneously without affecting His justice one iota. Christ finished it all.

In God’s kingdom it is attitude that counts and not results. Producing results is man’s way, but bearing fruit is God’s. Working for outcomes is the way of the world that ends in death because it ties human effort to results rather than recognizing God’s sovereign hand of grace in all things. A simple attitude of obedience in abiding in His Word bears fruit not only in the abider, but in the whole kingdom. Results happen as we abide, not because we work. And often the results are not those we expect.

Then why work at all? Why not sit and await God’s good pleasure to call us home? Because our Lord Himself excoriated the slothful and wicked servant who hid his talent in the ground rather than diligently investing it. Surely that is enough authority for any of us. We had better not do the same! It is plain that God requires us to work. Our work is the means by which God is pleased to bring the results that He desires. But our work does not cause the result and we need a serious attitude adjustment when we believe it does.

Scripture abounds with admonitions against the error of confusing our work with His providential sovereign grace. "A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps". "The king‘s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will". God’s pronouncements against Egypt in Ezekiel 29:9-10 speak with anger of man taking credit for, and pride in, the things that God’s providential grace has supplied. Examples are endless, for that is the essence of the message of the gospel and the revelation of Jesus Christ. Man has no power to produce or guarantee results no matter how hard he works, but he can rest upon God to bring about the right end. It is God dwelling in the work and the worker that has effect.

So let us distinguish the subtle deception that corrupts the perfect way because our fallen minds rush to what they know best. God’s ways are not our ways. We think that it is our work that produces results but God tells us that it is He Who does it. We think that if we work in seeking God that our work secures the result of finding Him. Not so! What guarantees the result of our finding Him is not our work but His grace, His effectual call, His faithfulness, His reliability, His lovingkindness towards us. Our work is only the means by which He is pleased to lead us to see and to experience these things.

Would I rather be pleased with myself because I worked harder or longer than a brother in seeking God and His will? Or would I prefer the meek and humble acceptance of the fact that it is all of His grace. In all things, an attitude of gratitude always surpasses the thought that it was wrought by me. Perhaps I ought to revisit more often the parable of the labourers who received the same wage, though some worked from the 1st hour and others only from the 11th. I must not allow trust in works of any kind to obscure the truth that all things are from and through and to Jesus Christ – even the effect of my labours.


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