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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « Prayer and Action | Main | Calvinism and Evangelism »

    No Substitute for Hard Work

    People who are without the gospel around you live in great vexation and torment. Sin has caused brokenness, alienation and mass personal and social problems in our world. But having been mercifully delivered from the bondage to corruption, God has granted you a sphere of influence, a ‘plot of land’ to cultivate (so to speak) and until you become an instrument of redemption for Christ in the workplace, the persons in your life will continue to look for solutions to problems in all the wrong places. God has prepared good works for you and because the gospel is the only hope for the world, God has made you indispensable to the well being of the people around you.

    The kingdom of the age to come has broken into the current age in Jesus Christ. All those who are now united to Christ, the true Israel, are made partakers of kingdom of the age to come and are called in Christ to exhibit the resurrected kingdom life. Although weak in ourselves, God has made us ambassadors and granted us power to demonstrate to those in our midst a foretaste of life of the age to come. Christ commands us to go and promote the kingdom in every sphere, not to sit idly in our sanctuaries. In fact, God has given each of us specific gifts and a calling and we are to use the gifts and position God has given us to wield influence by redeeming the people and the institutions in our sphere for his kingdom. The gospel is our 'weapon' to take every thought captive for Christ advancing God’s kingdom and force darkness to retreat.

    But how do we know our calling? Whenever you are burdened by the injustice and unrighteousness in your midst it may be God’s way of showing you your calling. Many persons find their calling through the hobbies they feel passionate about. It may be there that God wishes to use you to boldly strike at the heart of everything that raises itself up against the knowledge of God that some fallen institution or person might be redeemed for his kingdom. How do we do this? How can we best make ourselves useful to God in our callings? This question is of primary importance to us if we wish to use our time in this age wisely.

    Discovering how God would use us to redeem you spheres for the advancement of His kingdom rule is crucial to aligning yourself with God’s will for you. Evangelism to your friends and family is good but is even more effective for God’s purposes if you do so by gaining respect in the area of your calling.

    We are utterly dependent on God for all of our success so we must first diligently seek him in prayer. Prayer is the place where humility is adopted, pride is abandoned, needs are admitted, and dependence acknowledged upon Christ. We must preface all endeavors with dependent prayer since too often we ignore prayer and seek to accomplish in the strength of our own wills those things God has placed on our hearts to do. But, on the other hand, prayer without action is foolish. Many pray and then do nothing. Consider the farmer: He does not merely pray and hope that crops will come forth. Rather, he plows up the fallow ground, sows his seed and labors until harvest. But he also knows that without the blessing of rain and good climate, his harvest will never come, no matter how hard he works. So both the farmers' work and God's blessing is necessary for fruitful results. Likewise when we pray earnestly for God to redeem someone or something broken, we should not merely sit back with folded hands and hope something will happen. When we see God's will not being done on earth we must pray for God’s grace and then work in that grace to see change take place. This prayer driven work is the most likely to bring success. Like the planting of crops, the results are still ultimately dependent on God blessing the endeavor. So this teaches us that we 1) cannot work independently of God and 2) should not put our hands to rest only trusting in a miracle. Rather we should work hard as if the outcome depended on ourselves, while we rest in faith upon the glorious fact that everything depends on the sovereign Lord. This is the biblical model.

    When you discover your passion or hobby and long to improve upon the situation around you in the world this is often a good way to determine where God intends on using you. God calls some to pulpit ministry, but the majority of us will find our calling outside of the local church in either business, the arts, government, media or the sports world. In those spheres God has called you to be useful so you can serve and bless others, not so you can simply gain a fortune for yourself. Whatever places of influence God has called you He intends for you that you would bless others in those places for the kingdom of God with a life with exhibits the gospel. The pulpit is meant to equip you to go out each week in the strength and wisdom Christ provides through that ministry. But since the vast majority of your time is spent in your calling, God would have you use it as your ministry for his glory. Whatever you do, do it with all you heart as serving Christ. Like Israel moving into the Promised Land the Lord may not change things all at once but rather, he usually does so incrementally. So everyone who is a member of a local church should seek to know their God given redemptive purpose in life.

    But how can I be most useful? It means that once you have discovered your calling from God, you must diligently educate yourself. You must exhaust the known literature on our area of interest and continue learning and improving upon that skill for the rest of your life. If you become the best and hardest working in your area of calling then you will be respected and recognized by those around you. When you gain the respect of outsiders you demonstrate that the gospel has taken hold of you and these people will be more open to hear what you have to say. Be the hardest working, most knowledgeable person in you field and then join that knowledge together with your integrity, love, and embodiment of the gospel. Because if people around you see that you live in mediocrity, as many indeed do, then how are they going to respect what you say? Demonstrate the reality of the gospel in your life by learning and hard work. Let no one have the opportunity to accuse you of laziness and hypocrisy but do you calling with excellence. Indeed, God can and does persuade people to the gospel in spite of ourselves, but when you do not strive to be the most excellent in your field of endeavor, you become an obstacle rather than a useful tool.

    Unfortunately many feel that the work of God can only be done in the local church. Critical as this is, it is not where you spend most of your time. IN fact if your pastor is doing his job he and the church leadership should be encouraging laypersons to get educated in their sphere and even a degree if they have the opportunity. Members of our local churches will be working in all areas of society in both towns and cities. They should be actively involved in the community, in the universities, in businesses and social organizations. Only then through laboring in prayer and by diligent efforts, they will occupy places of leadership, honor and influence in their communities. This will not happen, however, if we simply sit back and pray God will change our cities. While we fully rest on God for the result but we must courageously move out of our hermitages and exercise the gospel with out lives in our callings. If you are living in mediocrity don’t hand someone a tract or tell them about Jesus. Your life does not demonstrate the gospel. First, gain the wise respect of those around you. Then, God will open more opportunities than you ever dreamed of. We must thoroughly know the Bible and have expertise in our field. No one owes us anything. There is no substitute for hard work. Though we must never trust in the strength of our worldly knowledge and abilities, yet God will use our places of influence to help those around us and awaken them to the reality of our human condition and provide their only hope, which God has mercifully entrusted us with.

    I am preaching to myself here folks.

    "We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." (2 Cor 10:5)
    Posted by John on July 3, 2008 11:48 AM

    Comments

    I think this is an excellent, motivating post. I'm a layperson, in a field I think I'm called to, God has granted some success and recognition in it. But your comments about learning more in my field, gaing additional expertise are something I've resisted, as I've felt I should study the Bible more in depth or read more theology. It's a struggle as the father of two young children, husband and holder of a demanding job recruiting medical sales reps. I started a bible study at work, which was decently attended...My challenge is the balance between learning in the field in which I'm working and learning in knowledge of God and his word. I have not found any good guidelines from pastors I respect on what the balance is...takes prayer and grace I know. But if there's anything you're aware of I'd appreciate it.

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