Working with God (Pt. 1)
We have talked a lot so far about your inner walk with God, and how your level of engaged intimacy with Him will determine the fruitfulness of your life. Now we look at the fruitfulness itself, a topic best covered after that discussion on the inner core.
We as human beings will always be driven to do and create things, whether that is a family, a career, or a project. It is possible to do things with or without a good motive, and with or without God’s obvious help. It is the way we are wired. However, if the form and function of our inner core is not set right, our labour will be fruitless from a kingdom viewpoint.
When Jesus said that without Him, we could do nothing, He was relating it to bearing fruit for God.1
You can do lots of things without God’s help! You can choose a life of sin and selfishness; you can burn up your own strength in activities that aren’t God’s will; you can even set all sorts of godly-looking goals. But they will bear no lasting fruit unless you are in partnership with Jesus, combining your dust with His breath.
The only way to have a fruitful life is to do God’s will God’s way. Listen again to Jesus’ heart and method:
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. (Matthew 11:28-29 MSG)
You cannot work for God as you should unless you can first walk with God – and walking with God as you should will always compel you to get to work! If either walking or working are held in isolation, your fruitfulness will end.
Incessant walkers can become enamoured with introversion. They inevitably get stuck in their growth because the river of God’s power simply must have an outlet, otherwise the bearer becomes stale.
Obsessive workers will by necessity be running on their own strength and limitations. They too often do work without bearing fruit. They become frustrated and stale as they wonder why God or His people don’t seem to back their cause.
It is better to throttle back any obsession for either walking or working, and intentionally settle in to the even pace Jesus promotes.
Working in Partnership
The idea of restful work sounds like a paradox. How do you exert effort and not become drained by it? In truth, you do still become drained, but only to the extent that you have been required to contribute.
In other words, God’s strength is always involved in bearing His fruit, but so is a degree of yours. You are a co-worker, so when you are fulfilling His calling or assignment, you are also playing your part.
Jesus said that without Him we could do nothing. But that wasn’t permission for us to stand back and watch! God never calls us to do nothing, nor will He call us to do anything without His help. Paul explained this dynamic in Colossians 1:29, saying, “To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.”
Having experienced seasons where I have done well at this partnership, and seasons where I have not done so well, I have come to recognise the difference more readily. The evidence of God’s involvement in our efforts is that there is always fruit that could only come from His hand. Further, the effort expended by me in that process is far less than if I had attempted the same work alone. And the actual fruit that results is quite supernatural in itself.
Made to Do
When we walk closely with God in faith, hope, and love – the abundance flows from the inside out. Our heart naturally longs for the world to experience what we have.
Or at least it should. The reality can be somewhat more complicated. Our fears, our brokenness, our latent family and church culture, or our introversion can conspire to keep our eyes focussed inward.
Walking with God is addictive – the peace and joy we find in His presence will always leave us hungering for more. However, that desire to remain quietly in His presence can become the very throttle to experiencing Him fully.
Allow me to illustrate. Very occasionally I have been invited by friends to try out their new sports car. I grew up around race tracks and learned to drive at racing speeds before I had a road license so I appreciate a vehicle with those capacities.
Sports cars look and feel incredible! Some owners sit gazing at their machine for hours; a few even have pictures of them on their office wall. When I sit in a thoroughbred car that is obviously built for high speeds, however, I get a little frustrated. The leather seats are nice and the electronics are impressive, but I don’t want to drive it on the public road; it would almost seem a waste. To dawdle around in traffic with people admiring from a distance is not for me. I want to get on a racing track and drive the car to fulfil its design. I want to test the limits, race against others, and enjoy being close to the edge.
But that’s just me … or is it?
God’s plan for us is that we grow and bear fruit. The process for this is called sanctification. Before that word became identified with the Judeo-Christian faith, it meant to “restore or set apart to fulfil the original design.” It essentially still means that. God works in us to make us holy and conformed to His image, because that is what we were created for in the first place.
In a sense, we are like that sports car. Unless we are fulfilling our design, we are going to grow stale and our potential will be wasted!
We are designed to not only be. Our being is made for doing.
But what should we do?
A common confusion, and subsequent stagnation, comes from the fact that there is more than one green light put before us. God has given us several green lights in scripture that we have permission to pursue.
Understanding these are key, and will give you permission to be fruitful in every season of life while also being free to be you. We will discuss these in next week’s blog. If you’ve ever wondered about your calling, this blog is for you.
- John 15:1-5
- Matthew 11:28-30 – The Message