One danger that a person faces in the course of working hard for the Lord and pressing on to accomplish the call of God in his life, is that he could easily turn his eyes off the Lord as he concentrates on the work.
The result of this will be that he will remove the Lord (sometimes unconsciously) from the centre of the work and deify himself. This is tragic beyond telling; for he will begin to labour, not for the glory of the Lord, but for his own glory. He will receive the glory for the work and his speech will increasingly abound with “I, I, my, me, me” etc.
There are some things to bear in mind so as to avoid this tragedy from occurring. There are some things to do so as to prevent it.
The first thing to bear in mind is that God is the Author of the work. You cannot bring anything into existence. The apostle Paul said, “Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle because I persecuted the Church of God. But by the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God which is in me.” (I Corinthians 15:8-10).
Let us look at the phrases that the apostle Paul used in these three verses:
- Last of all.
- As to one untimely born He appeared to me.
- I am the least of the apostles.
- Unfit to be called an apostle.
- I persecuted the Church of God.
- By the grace of God, I am what I am.
- His grace toward me was not in vain.
- I worked harder than any of them though it was not I.
- But the grace of God which is in me.
There is no question that Paul put the Lord Jesus and His grace at the centre. He showed his own failure and gave credit for his hard work, not to himself, but to Another–the Lord Jesus and His grace.
Decide that you will never give credit for the product of the work you have done to yourself. If you see any tendency towards this, fight it vehemently through repentance and heart-cry to God. Plead with God daily that He should deliver you and your work for Him from your worst enemy–yourself, that is, the self in you that wants to show off.
Decide that you will not woo, expect and receive the praise from men for the work you have done for the Lord. Refuse to be praised. Constantly do these things:
- Show your own failures that have hindered the work from reaching higher heights than have been attained or from going faster than it has gone.
- Tell people plainly that God did it and that you were a mere instrument in His hands and that if He had chosen to use another, the work would possibly have been better and moved faster.
- Move away from those who want to praise you. If you cannot move away, rebuke them sharply so that the story will soon go around that any one who praises you will have a bad time.
- Exalt others who worked with you whom people do not know about.
- Run away to a lonely place and pray.
The second thing to bear in mind is that even though you have worked hard, things have succeeded because of the grace of God. There are people who have worked harder than you and failed to produce the same results. Had God not stepped in, it could have been said of you, “Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider how you have fared. You have sown much and harvested little; you eat, but you never have enough, you drink, but you never have your fill; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages earns them to put them in a bag with holes.” (Haggai 1:5-6). “You have looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away.” (Haggai 1:9). “Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. And I called for a drought upon the land and the hills, upon the grain, the new wine and the oil, upon what the ground brings forth, upon men and cattle and upon all their labours.” (Haggai 1:10-11) However, the Lord stepped in and blessed you and your efforts and He should be given the credit and the glory for it. I dare say that He should be given all the credit for it. God was at work in you both to will and to do His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13). Without Him you would have been nothing and you would have done nothing. You do not have anything which you did not receive from Him.
We are not saying that you did not work. We are only saying that you worked because He was at work in you both to will and to do His good pleasure. We are insisting that the glory, all the glory, should go to Him without whom you are nothing. We are only saying that all you are and did fits well with the apostle’s proclamation, “So it depends not upon man’s will or exertion but upon God’s mercy.” (Romans 9:16).
You will receive your reward when He comes. You are even now being rewarded by being granted the privilege to be used. Rejoice in the fact that you have been used. Rejoice and give the glory to Him. Some day, you will wear a crown and reign with Him. For now, let Him have all the honour. As you honour Him, giving Him all the honour and glory for your accomplishments, He will in turn exalt you and give you more opportunities to serve Him.
The third thing to bear in mind is that, if you allow pride to come into your heart, it will be to your undoing. The Scriptures say, “Those who walk in pride, He is able to abase.” (Daniel 4:37). He brings down the proud of heart and exalts the humble. I pray that your attitude be like that of Daniel who told King Nebuchadnezzar, “But as for me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, has this mystery been revealed to me, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the King, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind.” (Daniel 2:20).
You are a co-worker with God. The apostle Paul said, “Working together with him, then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain.” (II Corinthians 6:1). He again said, “For we are God’s fellow workers.” (I Corinthians 3:9). As a co-worker then, it is obvious that God is the Senior Partner.
The work is His.
The plan of it is His.
He called you to it.
He gave you all the enabling.
He enabled you to work hard.
He enabled you to press on to the end.
He deserves all the praise.
Keep giving Him all the praise; keep allowing Him to have the first place and you will soon find that as you exalt Him, He carries you with Him into great heights of honour and eternal glory, heights that you could never attain on your own.
That is the pathway to permanent greatness.
Glory be to Him!