We so want to do the work; and most of us for very good reasons. Some want to do the work because they believe it will please God. Others believe it is a means of returning the favor for our salvation. Still others do the work to “glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

Is there work to do? Of course; the world is in a terrible state. Are we called to the work? Absolutely! Whatever we do to the least, we are doing to Christ – and this is how He will separate the sheep from the goats. And everyone knows that faith without works is dead – a nauseous smell to God. However, I propose to you that there is a truth (even a mystery) about our work that has been lost on the church of the 21st Century.

The problem is not with the work itself, but our understanding of who is doing it. When men take too much responsibility for doing the work, they tend to resort to their ways and thoughts. And no matter how hard we try, the ways and thoughts of man are not sufficient for work that will lead men to “glorify your Father in heaven”.

We have to understand that the Matthew 5:16 command is not “go do work that will glorify the Father”. Only the work that the Father does will glorify Him. The command is to “let your light so shine before men”. What is this light? John 1:4 tells us that the life that is in Christ is the light of men. Perhaps we will talk more about this in a later post. For now, I want to focus on the work and who is doing it.

Jesus said, “the Son can do nothing of Himself” (John 5:19), and “the Father who dwells in Me does the works” (John 14:10). Why would the truth be any different for us? As Jesus said in John 15:5, “for without Me you can do nothing”, and in John 17:21, “as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us”, it is to be the same for us as it was for Jesus.

Joshua experienced this same mystery in His conquest of the Promised Land. After approximately 14 years of war, this is what God had to say to him:

‘Then you went over the Jordan and came to Jericho. And the men of Jericho fought against you—also the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. But I delivered them into your hand. I sent the hornet before you which drove them out from before you, also the two kings of the Amorites, but not with your sword or with your bow. I have given you a land for which you did not labor, and cities which you did not build, and you dwell in them; you eat of the vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.’    Joshua 24:11-13

How can this be? Either God was not aware of their work, He was trying to take credit for their work, or His work was so much more a part of what had to happen that He could claim it for Himself. Only the latter explanation is possible for an omniscient and loving Father. So, what was God doing that was so much more than the people?

First, there were the battles that were taking place in the Heavens to displace the principalities and powers that were ruling over the Promised Land. Not only that, but in the midst of the war He was changing minds and hearts of the Israelites from nomadic warriors to city dwellers and farmers – a true physiological and metaphysical miracle in the lives of more than one million people. And what about the walls of Jericho? Does anyone believe that shouts and trumpet blast would make that happen?

The lesson of Joshua’s conquest is that we assume that we are responsible for far more of the work than we think. Or better put, He is capable of doing more than we can think or imagine. And that is exactly what He wants to do. No matter how hard our portion of the work might be, we can be assured that He is doing exponentially more.

Admittedly, this is beyond our understanding (and explaining). It clearly exposes the limitations of our minds. That’s okay, because “His thoughts are above our thoughts… as high as the heavens are above the earth”. Instead of getting our minds around it, we need to allow the Word of God to inspire us (faith rising up in us) to believe with our heart that it is true.

If we could get this concept of work that glorifies worked out (no pun intended), it would solve a lot of problems. Here is a couple:

Faith and work. Let’s face it: Many are worried about crossing the hypocrisy line on this – they are either afraid for themselves or they suspect others are trying to get them to work for their salvation. This is a crazy distraction born out of an incomplete understanding of the work I have been created for (Ephesians 2:10). The book of James was almost excluded from the Canon because of the importance it placed on works. The truth is: I can’t be working my way into heaven if it’s not my work.

Baptism as work. I don’t know how many times I’ve watch the tension go up in a meeting the very moment the “B” word is introduced. Christians are either looking for how someone’s understanding differs from their own, or they are afraid of the conflict that will result in the conversation. What was meant to be a point of unity has been used by the enemy to divide us. And it is just not necessary. The work of baptism is not mine to begin with. It is God’s work. Why else did the early church fathers (and most today) call it a sacrament? Instead of recognizing it as such, we call it a symbol. Why? Because we have been deceived to think that it is our work. It is not!! No, it is God’s work. Therefore, I don’t have to get caught up in arguments about it being a work of man that saves me. That is not even an issue if we understand that it is not my work. And once I understand that it is God’s work, I can embrace the truth of what happens when He does the work of baptism (Galatians 2:20, Galatians 3:26-27, Romans 6:1-11, and Colossians 3:9-17).

Let’s face it. We simply take too much responsibility for the work God is doing through us, by His Son and the Holy Spirit. And we minimize the work that He is doing around us to make it all possible. If you are still struggling with this, I encourage you to read 2Chronicles 16:9, Philippians 2:12-13, John 15:4-8, Galatians 2:20, Galatians 3:26-27, Romans 6:1-11, and Colossians 3:9-17.

One closing thought: Don’t be afraid of truth that is not humanly logical. Christ and the Holy Spirit are our Teacher (Matthew 23:10; John 14:26). God has called us to be stewards of His mysteries (1Corinthians 4:1). He has encouraged us to search them out (Proverbs 25:2). If your heart is right toward God in your search for Him and His truth, not only will He be found, but He will protect you from hypocrisy, deception and disobedience.

Your servant and His,

Rob