A person walks to my office with a frustrated face and said, I read Bible regularly, I pray, fast, attend worship services, meetings, do good to others and live to the best of my understanding but I am very dissatisfied and disappointed the way things are going in my life. It seems God is not listening to my prayers. I have waited for long. What else God want from me?
This could be the cry in the heart of many Christians. What does God require from me? How can I please Him and get His attention?
At the first place I need to say that we can never please God with our works no matter how much ever it may look spiritual. This is a big lie Satan plays in the mind of many believers that our performance is the measure God uses to bless us or to show favor upon us. The truth is God is pleased in His Son Jesus Christ who has fulfilled all man required to do. Our works do not please God. Therefore, the only way now we can please God is to believe in the work Jesus finished on the cross and to abide in Him (John 6:29, 15:5). Believe that Jesus did all that I was supposed to do to be accepted by God (Eph.1:6). This faith gives us access into the presence of God and not our performance.
When we fail to understand this truth the temptation is always to perform and please God with works. I am not advocating that those who have faith in Jesus do not have to do any work at all. But when a person lives a life of faith in Jesus lives a life of obedience that pleases God. Then obedience or works will not be an effort to please God or to get his attention but it will be a response to our faith in Jesus. Paul told the Corinthians “We make it our aim to please God” (II Cor. 5:9). He says in the context that pleasing God is a walk of faith and not of sight (II Cor. 5:7). Faith that produces works is what pleases God and not just any works (Heb. 11:6, I Thess. 1:3).
In every step of obedience we will trust in His grace and not in our own strength or ability. All the work we do we serve by His strength (I Peter 4:11). The more we serve the Lord in faith we will abound in His grace to do more good works (II Cor. 9:8). Good works do not pay back grace, they borrow more grace. Then the works that we do will not be a burden or doing with expectations from God rather it will be an outflow of our love and gratitude to God. We will have a greater urge to work for Him no matter what the conditions of life are. This kind of works will bring joy and contentment in the place of frustration and anxiety.
The failure to understand this truth is because the failure to understand who our God is. God is not seeking for employers but worshippers or lovers and in these lovers He wants to employ Himself for His glory (Ephesians 2:10). God is not looking for assistants or helpers for His work but He is willing to assist and help those who are in need and willing to receive His help. Therefore, we should not dare to try to work for Him but present ourselves into His hands as a living sacrifice everyday. This is what is holy and acceptable to the Lord (Rom. 12:1).
God will receive all our works that we render to Him that shows our total dependence upon God and in His all-sufficiency. Jesus said, “He came not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
When a person’s work does not reflect this attitude our works will be man-driven and man-centered and driven by wrong motives such as:
• Impressing others
• Scoring brownie points with God
• Selfish ambition
• Gaining recognition
• Pay God back
• Compelled, coaxed or coerced by others
Another trap we can get into is thinking that works appreciated by people and followed by many is an indication of God being pleased in us, especially when we seem to get results. We can appear to do good works whilst our hearts and minds are far away from Him (Isaiah 29:13). It’s like having a form of godliness but not experiencing the real power (I Tim. 3:5). We should be careful of this attitude.
William Tyndale argued backward the effects of salvation to the cause of salvation.
“My works make not my love,
nor my love my faith,
nor my faith God’s mercy.
On the contrary,
God’s mercy makes my faith;
and my faith, my love,
and my love, my works.”
God wants us to serve Him out of love and gratitude that is inspired by faith in Him and depending completely on His grace. When we flow like this it will bring great joy in all that we are engaged in life and glory to His name.
This new year let us serve the Lord with joy and gratitude empowered by His grace and Spirit overflowing with the love of God.