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by Jacob Ninan
“I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge” (Rom.10:2). This is what the apostle Paul had to say about the people of Israel in his days who were doing many things in the belief that they were doing them for God, but who were missing the point altogether. They did not understand the ways of God or His plans, and they were hurrying and scurrying to do many things for God in their misplaced zeal, just like many Christians today. Haven’t you come across people for whom church planting means building a church hall at every kilometre distance or for every thousand people in a locality? Or you may have seen leaders who make up ‘dreams’ for fantastic accomplishments and then call on God to fulfil them? How much of planning, brainstorming and scheming go on in the name of Christian work without a moment’s consideration about what exactly Christ wants them to do!
Actually, God is the origin of all things, and the source of all things. It is He who plans, and it is our privilege to have a small part, according to His choice, in carrying them out (Rom.11:33-36). He is the Potter, and we are only the clay. Our strength is in relying on His wisdom and power, our wisdom in submitting to Him, and our safety in asking Him what He wants us to do. But from the day Satan tempted Adam and Eve to want to become like God and they ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, we have this tendency to think we know enough to make the decisions ourselves. Of course, now and then we ask God to help us do what we think up, especially when we come to realise that we have bitten off more than we can chew. Human beings are trying to act like God, and bringing God down to be our servant to do our bidding.
This has affected different aspects of our life. One of the most common things is how we look at faith. Instead of recognising faith as trusting in God, relying on Him and yielding to Him, people think of faith as something we have to muster up in order to claim things from God in return. People talk of ‘releasing’ their faith in order to ‘activate’ the promises of God, indicating clearly who is pushing the buttons and making things happen! Then they wonder if they have ‘enough faith’ for bargaining with God for particular answers to prayer, as if it is their faith that makes things work instead of God working through His power showing unmerited favour towards us. In this way, it is as if we earn the right to claim things from God by gathering faith inside us instead of asking Him in humility to do things for us and depending on His love, mercy and grace towards us. It is an altogether different paradigm compared to what we are taught in the Bible.
In the early days of the church, the apostles proclaimed the Gospel and the Lord added to the church those who were being saved (Acts.2:47). What we see now is people setting up a target number for people to be added to the church by a certain time, using all kinds of scheming and planning to achieve this goal. In the meantime they convert the Gospel to make it seeker friendly, eliminating offensive concepts such as sin, judgment and hell from the message. When people come in, they are introduced to different activities that are suitable for their natural abilities and interests, and they can now experience a club membership with the additional halo of being a ‘Christian’ thrown in! Are we building the kingdom of God or our own enterprises? Isn’t God going to hold us responsible for deceiving many into thinking they have become children of God, when all they have embraced is a new form?
How do we preach? Do we ‘borrow’ ideas and outlines from others and dish them out as if they were our own? Not only that, are we telling others to do things that we ourselves have not done in our lives or we are not even thinking seriously of doing? Do we share with people what God wants to tell them, or what they would like to hear? Are we trying to impress them with our oratorical skills, knowledge of the Bible, our ‘accomplishments’ in terms of years of experience, number of people who have attended our meetings, number of books written, number of places visited, etc., or seeking to bless them with the words of God? Have we become experts at delivering messages that will neither convict a sinner nor stir up a backslider, but will be acceptable to believer and unbeliever alike?
Management techniques are highly developed in this age, and people who want to do well in the business world cannot do well without sufficient expertise in this area. Organising the management structure within a company, planning the sales approach and advertisement campaigns, and managing the financial outlay to maximise the profit are all standard operations in the corporate world. When evangelism, church planting, church management and hierarchy are all carried out with the same approach, where is God in all this, except in the opening and closing prayers?
I don’t mean to say that only Bible reading and prayer are necessary and that all planning, brainstorming and implementation are unnecessary! There is a lot for us to do from our side, but the point is that everything should originate from God, be done in His strength and for His glory. “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1Pet.4:10,11). Doing something in our own wisdom and strength may not differ in external form from doing it under the leading and strength that comes from God, especially if we take care to have our opening and closing prayers! The difference is in the heart. The poor in spirit will build God’s kingdom (Matt.5:3), and the high and mighty ones will end up building Babylon.
Someone has said that one of the first revelations we need to receive is that we are not God. “Every soul belongs to God and exists by His pleasure. God being who and what He is, and we being who and what we are, the only thinkable relation between us is one of full lordship on His part and complete submission on ours. We owe Him every honour that is in our power to give Him” (A. W. Tozer). We are only created beings, and our entire sustenance depends on God’s grace. Isn’t it good to recognise this as we try to serve God and build His kingdom? It is His work, He knows best how it is to be done, and He has power beyond our imagination to get things done if we do things according to His leading. How foolish to imagine that we know how to manage things with our knowledge, expertise, influence, contacts and resources!
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt.5:3).
-- Editorial in the Light of Life magazine, November 2014
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