I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. (John 17:4)
All life has a destiny; it cannot accomplish its purpose without work; life is perfected by work. The highest manifestation of its hidden nature and power comes out in its work. And so work is the great factor by which the hidden beauty and the Divine possibilities of the Christian life are brought out.
In the child of God, work must take the same place it has in God Himself. As in the Father and the Son, so with the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, work is the highest manifestation of life.
Work must be restored to its right place in God’s scheme of the Christian life as in very deed the highest form of existence. To be the intelligent, willing channel of God’s power, to be capable of working the very work of God, to be animated by the Divine Spirit of love, and in that to be allowed to work life and blessing to men- it is this that gives nobility to life, because it is for this we are created in the image of God. As God never for a moment ceases to work His work of love and blessing in us and through us, so our working out what He works in us is our highest proof of being created anew in His likeness.
If God’s purpose is to be carried out- with the perfection of the individual believer, and with the appointment of His Church as the body of Christ to carry on His work of winning back a rebellious world to His allegiance and love-working for God must have much greater prominence given to it as the true glory of our Christian calling. Every believer must be taught that, as work is the only perfect manifestation, and therefore the perfection of life in God and throughout the world, so our work is to be our highest glory.
Shall it be so in our lives?
I think it’s fair to say the the resource most lacking in the church is that of workers. I have no doubt that most congregations desire to grow and would wish that they might in some way touch their community, but how to do so and who will do it is not easily found. In the church of today. Many Christians see their duty- if I may use that word- as just showing up for the worship service, sitting in a pew, singing with the congregation, giving a sum of money in the offering, enduring a sermon, and then going home to prepare for the rest of their week. Much of our programs are designed to provide a benefit for us personally. And because of all this, we find little of the work of God being done.
That brings us then to the question; What is the work of God? One of the purposes of Christ coming in the flesh was to make known to us what God desires His church to do.
10 for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
This was the purpose of God through Christ and it is the purpose of Christ through His church and it is the purpose of every believer and not just a select few. All activity that the church may be engaged in that does not have this purpose at its root then is busy work. Only the work that carries out the purpose of God will last in eternity. Paul says it this way:
According to the [remarkable] grace of God which was given to me [to prepare me for my task], like a skillful master builder I laid a foundation, and now another is building on it. But each one must be careful how he builds on it, for no one can lay a foundation other than the one which is [already] laid, which is Jesus Christ. But if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will be clearly shown [for what it is]; for the day [of judgment] will disclose it, because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality and character and worth of each person’s work. If any person’s work which he has built [on this foundation, that is, any outcome of his effort] remains [and survives this test], he will receive a reward. But if any person’s work is burned up [by the test], he will suffer the loss [of his reward]; yet he himself will be saved, but only as [one who has barely escaped] through fire.
1 Corinthians 3:10-15
In other words, our activities will be measured against the standard of Christ’s purpose of “seeking and saving the lost.” Those works that contribute to the kingdom of God will pass the test but those works that have no such purpose will fail the test.
When we read Matthew 28:18- commonly known as the Great Commission- who do we believe that it has been given to if not to us individually as well as collectively? Was it just to the disciples? It was to them and they carried it out to such a degree that the gospel was proclaimed throughout the world in their day. Is it no longer valid for us or has it somehow changed and is now only given to a few individuals such as vocational ministers?
Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority (all power of absolute rule) in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations [help the people to learn of Me, believe in Me, and obey My words], baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always [remaining with you perpetually—regardless of circumstance, and on every occasion], even to the end of the age.”
If you will notice the part in bold, you will see that this commission was not just to the disciples of that day but to the disciples of every generation until we come to the end of the world. This means that in 2021, we have been commissioned as believers to carry out the work of Christ.
We hear those who will say that the lack of church growth is due to the lack of interest by the community in spiritual things. At the risk of being offensive, let me say that their lack of interest in our programs and rituals is not the same as their lack of spiritual interest. The common people of Jesus’ day were disinterested in the rituals with no life and no meaning and yet both He and the apostles recaptured their interest. Perhaps, rather than trying to get the community to conform to our rituals, we ought to seek to connect them to Christ. Our goal is not to get them to join our fellowship group but to become born again into the family of God. Could it be that we are so involved in what satisfies us that we are too busy to become engaged in the work of Christ? When the disciples were with Christ, He instructed them to pray not for the harvest but for laborers. The lack of growth of any church usually is in the lack of laborers and not in a lack of harvest. Every church in every community is surrounded by those who need Christ but only those churches who see the plentiful harvest and who recruit Christ laborers will effectively reap such a harvest. Is it difficult? Are there challenges beyond our abilities? Are we at a loss to know how to touch the community and reap the harvest? Yes, yes, and yes! But it is no more difficult than what the disciples faced.
They began with prayer, they waited until they were given the power of the Spirit, and as they went, they reaped. This is an unfailing pattern. If we desire to do the work of God, then we must fit ourselves into this pattern. We first become people of prayer. We pray that God would raise up laborers and the first one He raises is us. “Father, make me a laborer in your harvest.” Second, we ask for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. “Father, I cannot do this work in my own strength, please give me the gift of the Holy Spirit and His power so I may be bold and strong in proclaiming the gospel.”
We then go to the field- the world and reap. “Father, show me who to speak to, who to share Christ with and give me the words You wish them to hear today.” An then we expect to “come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.”
“When He saw the crowds, He was moved with compassion and pity for them, because they were dispirited and distressed, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is [indeed] plentiful, but the workers are few. 38 So pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”
16 “Listen carefully: I am sending you out like sheep among wolves; so be wise as serpents, and innocent as doves [have no self-serving agenda]. 17 Beware of men [whose nature is to act in opposition to God], for they will hand you over to the courts and flog you in their synagogues; 18 and you will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given you within that [very] hour; 20 for it is not you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
40 “He who receives and welcomes you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.
So then, those who accepted his message were baptized; and on that day about 3,000 souls were added [to the body of believers]. They were continually and faithfully devoting themselves to the instruction of the apostles, and to fellowship, to eating meals together and to prayers. Day after day they met in the temple [area] continuing with one mind, and breaking bread in various private homes. They were eating their meals together with joy and generous hearts, praising God continually, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord kept adding to their number daily those who were being saved. But many of those who heard the message [of salvation] believed [in Jesus and accepted Him as the Christ]. And the number of the men came to be about 5,000. And now, Lord, observe their threats [take them into account] and grant that Your bond-servants may declare Your message [of salvation] with great confidence, while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders (attesting miracles) take place through the name [and the authority and power] of Your holy Servant and Son Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place where they were meeting together was shaken [a sign of God’s presence]; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness and courage.
May God grant that we His church become fully engaged in the work of God through Christ in us.
Dr. John Thompson