Depending on God in Everything
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. (Psalm 127:1)
All of our plans, all of our efforts, and all of our prudence are of no avail unless God prospers those means.
In Psalm 127:1 there is the concept of both offensive and defensive efforts- of both building for progress and watching against destruction. In a sense, the verse sums up all our responsibilities in life. Whether it be in the physical, the mental, or the spiritual, we should always be building and watching. And Psalm 127:1 says none of these efforts will prosper unless God intervenes in them.
We must depend upon God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. We must, to the same degree, depend on Him to enable us to do what we must do for ourselves. The farmer must use all his skills, experience, and resources to produce a harvest. Yet he is utterly dependent upon forces outside himself. Those forces of nature- moisture, insects, sun- are, as we have already seen, under the direct sovereign control of God. The farmer is dependent upon God to control nature so his crop will grow. But he is just as dependent upon God to enable him to plow, plant, fertilize, and cultivate properly. From where did he get his skills, his ability to learn from his experience, the financial resources to buy the equipment and fertilizer he uses? Where does even his physical strength to do his tasks come from? Are not all these things from the hand of God who “gives all men life and health and everything else” (Acts 17:25). In every respect, we are utterly dependent upon God.
There are times when we can do nothing, and there are times when we must work. In both instances we are equally dependent upon God.
There can never be too much emphasis on our dependency of God. And at the same time neither can that dependency cause us to sit idly by while there is work to be done. We must always recognize that God calls us to work beyond our knowledge and skills but He also gifts us with abilities to carry out His plans and work. One might say that every accomplishment is the ideal place where our efforts are combined with and compliment what God is doing. Therefore, for us to be successful we must first discover what God is doing and what He wills and then fit ourselves into His plans.
Let me give a few examples. Jerry Bridges uses the example of how the farmer plants but then must trust God for the right combination of nature to harvest a crop. In talking with medical people, I have learned that medicines are only agents which enhance the bodies natural means of healing. Even with surgery there is the dependence on the bodies natural healing process for an incision to grow back together. So we use medical means to help us get well but we are totally dependent upon God for health, healing and strength. We may use our skills to build a home, it we are dependent upon weather conditions to live in it safely for we have no control over wind and water and decay. We may have vehicles that are manmade and skills to drive them but we are dependent upon God to keep us safe in our travels. We may have skills and education that qualifies us for a job but we must depend upon God for daily strength, favor and opportunity for continued employment for there are many factors beyond our control. Every part of life is the cooperation between us and God- with God leading.
These things are truths for the individual but they are equally truths for the church. It is true that God sent Jesus into the world that we might be saved and salvation is the work of Christ. However, it is equally true that we humans have been tasked with the telling this news to those who have yet to hear it. So while salvation is the work of God, we cooperate with God by telling the gospel. Though God is unwilling that any perish, we too must make the effort to persuade all to know Christ. Like we do in life, sometimes we choose to depend solely on our desires and efforts and forget that we must depend on and cooperate with God for everything, and certainly sometimes the church limits its work and effort to the available human resources and preferences.
What we must do since it is Christ who is building His church is to discover what He wishes it to be and by coordinating our efforts and using our abilities and trusting and depending on God’s sovereignty we labor together so that the end product is what is pleasing to God more than it is pleasing to us.
Several years ago, when Sherry and I were wanting to build a house, we would set some money aside and we would say that as soon as it reached a certain amount, we would begin to build. We would put money into an account and it seemed that just about the time we were almost there something would happen and we would have to tap into those funds. After some years and at least for me a lot of frustration, one day as I was praying about this (really complaining about it) the Lord gave me these instructions: “Start with what you have, go as far as you can, and trust me at every step to supply.” So we did. And at every step as we reached the limit of our abilities and resource, God intervened and the project kept moving. I wish I could tell you that it was done in a short time and that there was instant supply. What I can tell you is that in due season God supplied. In the meanwhile, we kept working in the Kingdom of God. I accepted a call and moved 3 hours away and so for almost eight years little was done and neither were we able to accumulate any large amount of money. During that time, I would find incredible bargains of supplies and my trips home would be many times bringing them and storing them. What I learned from this and it is now my operational mode is that we simply do what we can toward the goal and we depend on God for all, both the abilities to do what we can and the supply of what we can’t.
In these days of the pandemic, this is most obviously true. We do what we can to gather, to worship, to witness, and to work and then we depend upon God to make it all come together for His glory and our good. May God give us grace to fully trust and depend upon Him.
Dr. John Thompson