The Lord’s Work Done in the Lord’s Way
Founded by God
All that brings glory to God and lasts in eternity must have its origin with God, not with ourselves. Ministry is something given to us by God. Jesus called the disciples to follow Him; they did not call themselves. Jesus called Paul. John the Baptist was a man “sent from God” (John 1:6, emphasis mine).
Along with this, there is another principle present all throughout the lives of people mentioned in the Bible. Over and over again we see that waiting upon God precedes the unfolding of His plan or purpose.
One example is seen in the life of Isaiah. It was as he waited in God’s presence that he received the call to be a messenger to the children of Israel (see Isaiah 6:1–9).
This is also how it happened with the disciples’ ministry after the ascension of Christ. Scripture says, “[Jesus] commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4). It was as they waited upon God that they received His call for their lives, and then they went out proclaiming His resurrection and salvation.
The calling of Saul and Barnabas happened in a similar manner. Acts 13:2–3 tells us, “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.”
Notice especially verse two—it was “as they ministered to the Lord” that they heard Him and found out His plan.
It was not when they had a committee meeting (although there is nothing wrong with committee meetings). It was not when they met to discuss the tremendous needs (although that is a good thing to do). It did not happen because somebody challenged them and said, “You had better get out there and do something about all those lost people.” It was not when they did something that was a nice, wholesome, well-planned and thought-out thing to do. It was as they waited upon the Lord.
Before the world began, God knew Barnabas and Saul would be the ones serving Him in this manner. We see this same principle at work in the life of the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”
It is encouraging to know that before the world began, God knew the purpose and plan that He has for each one of us (see Acts 17:26). Whether our human mind and our logic can grasp it or not, it is true. ‘‘ ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope’” (Jeremiah 29:11, NASB).
However, like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Saul and Barnabas, we only learn of the plans He already has prepared for us as we take the time to come into His presence and hear from Him.
Of Greater Importance
There is also another principle we see all throughout Scripture, one that I am much more concerned about. That is, we must remain in the attitude of waiting upon the Lord. One incident in David’s life perfectly illustrates the importance of this.
In 2 Samuel 5:19, we are told, “David inquired of the LORD, saying, ‘Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will You deliver them into my hand?’ And the LORD said to David, ‘Go up, for I will doubtless deliver the Philistines into your hand.’”
And so, after hearing from the Lord,David did what He said, and he was victorious.
A few verses later, David is faced with an almost identical circumstance. Once more the Philistines had stationed themselves in the same valley, and once more, they were waiting to attack Israel.
It would have been natural for David to respond to this battle as he did the one before. After all, the previous plan had been a success, and the enemy and the location were exactly the same. David could have easily said, “Well, it’s the same situation so let’s just forget about another prayer meeting. We know how to get the job done. Let’s go and put these Philistines to flight.”
But David didn’t do that. Instead, he took the time to once again seek the Lord. Second Samuel 5:23 says, “Therefore David inquired of the LORD, and He said, ‘You shall not go up; circle around behind them, and come upon them in front of the mulberry trees.’”
“You shall not go up.” Do you see that? God had a different plan this time, and David only learned of it because he lived in the atmosphere of waiting upon God, to hear from Him and obey. By this, his ministry was done in connection with Him and unto Him.
There is the requirement that as we continue in the journey the Lord has us on, we must stop often along the way and find out what He is saying. By doing this, our love for the Lord stays strong, the ministry that began out of that love for Him remains in Him and the work done is accomplished in His way.
There are hundreds of Christian organizations, churches, groups and ministries that began so well. But somewhere along the way, somehow, a lot of them stopped waiting upon the Lord, causing their love for Him to grow cold. As a result, their ministry ended up in the flesh, and once again the Scripture is fulfilled—“Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3, NASB).
God addresses this same issue with His prophets in Isaiah 29:13 (NIV), saying, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” They may look real and authentic; they may have started well; their service may appear genuine, but it is not. It cannot be because their hearts are now far from Him.
When we stay in the attitude of continuous dependence upon God, what has begun in the Spirit remains in the Spirit and bears lasting fruit.
Doing the Lord’s work in His way is of paramount importance. If we continue the work without His direction, leading and strength, it won’t be His work at all. It will be only a hollow shell that might look all right but in reality has no life and bears no lasting fruit.
We must come into His presence and wait upon Him, to hear from Him and know His ways.
© 2004 by KP Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.