Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Build Right By Not Serving God?

Well, not exactly. However, Acts 17:24-25 should make us pause when we think about doing any kind of work as service to God. Paul addressed the gathering at the Areopagus with these words.

"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else..."

Most of us see service to God as commendable but there is a kind of service that doesn't bring pleasure to God. It's when we serve Him "as if he needed anything".

Of course, we'd never intentionally "serve" God in this way. Yet, if you've ever been tempted to think that your gifts and contributions are important or vital to His work, you may be falling prey to this faulty thinking. And let's face it, from time to time, we're all tempted in this way. We're particularly vulnerable to this thinking whenever we're involved in noble and right causes. We may be tempted to assign importance to our participation and anchor our righteousness in our own work.

So what's the alternative? How about taking a different view? Perhaps we should view our work not so much as service to God, but as a means of being served by Him. Mind you, not by reducing God to a "vending machine" for our whims and desires as the prosperity gospel adherents have done. Instead, see a Sovereign God who calls us, directs us and provides all that we need to accomplish His will.

Whether we're building a business, a family or a ministry, it's our privilege to do so. God is not pleased when we do so grudgingly or with an inflated view of our importance. The reality is this - no matter what you're building or how gifted you may be, God doesn't need you to accomplish his will. He can use anyone. The fact that He employs us for His work is a gift to us, allowing us to work alongside Him.

Building right means the emphasis isn't on our service to God, but on God who graciously serves us by permitting us to participate in His work.

16 comments:

HALFMOM said...

Thank you for this reminder. It was much needed.

It's been a hard week away at a conference, so it is good to be reminded again before I return to the lab tomorrow why I am really there.

Jedidiah said...

ESI, thank you for your posts on this topic. They have been very insightful. I have run into this issue on a few key occasions in my own life where God has brought me to the brutal reality that he doesn't need me for a single thing. The reason I exist, at least as far as I understand it in Scripture is to greatfully exist as a recipient of His grace in Christ.

My biggest struggle in "building things" is that there have been a great many endeavors that I have undertaken in vain...God has not "built the house". Many of these undertakings seemed good and well intentioned, however my efforts seemed about as useful as squeezing a wet bar of soap.

I am curious, how do we build things and undertake what we sense God calling us to when we live in a world subject to futility? How to we go about our business in Solomon's world where "all is vanity"?

Every Square Inch said...

halfmom

You're welcome! Hope the conference was at least in a nice place.

Every Square Inch said...

jedidiah

Thanks for your words of encouragement. Yes, we're not needed by God to accomplish His purposes, yet He does use us. Pure grace, isn't it?

Your question is an interesting one - "how do we build in a world subject to futility?"

I understand why you might consider the world subject to futility. However, I'm not sure that we should see things that way - as believers, shouldn't we see the world not leading to futility but to redemption ("new heavens, new earth")? My limited understanding of "all is vanity" is that it refers to everything in the natural world ("under the sun")apart from God's redemptive plan. Would it be helpful to think about engaging our business with a view that while we live in a fallen, sinful world, there is the hope of a better day?

In the meantime, we are heralds and instruments of His redemption.

Grace to you

Craver Vii said...

I found it very motivating when I first thought seriously about not being needed by God. The Lord will accomplish His purposes with or without me. If God wants "Joe" to be saved, Joe WILL be saved. And if I drop the ball and neglect to share the good news with Joe, God can just as easily anoint another mouthpiece to deliver the message. How sad to squander such an opportunity. God's Word shows many examples of how He chose to work with people not primarily because of their skill, but because of their obedience. God doesn't need me, but he does provide opportunities for me to be a part of the great things He is doing.

Every Square Inch said...

Craver

Thanks for your thoughts - you're right, it is actually motivating and encouraging to know that God doesn't need us.

L.L. Barkat said...

Hmmm... I'm going to think in a different direction for a moment. Is it true that God will accomplish his purposes with or without me? (Understanding of course that he doesn't need me.)

Or, is it possible that some things might fail to be done if I don't do them? (think "servant who buried his talents in the ground", thus not bringing any proceeds) Just a small musing here.

Every Square Inch said...

LL

Thanks - I have come to count on you to come up with a great question or challenging,in a positive way, preconceived premises.

Is the idea "that God will accomplish his purposes with or without me" correct? Is it even a biblically supported concept? Here's why I think it is -

Underlying my reasoning is that God purposes will be accomplished and it cannot be thwarted by our lack of faithfulness or our ineffectiveness.

I actually think it's a theme that runs throughout the Bible. Like the following -

"...the plans of the LORD stand firm forever,the purposes of his heart through all generations" Psalm 33

"I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please."
Isaiah 46

We may not always know the purposes of God but God always accomplishes His purpose.

"Our God is in heaven;
he does whatever pleases him."
Psalm 115

He's the only person that can say that because fulfillment of His purposes are not dependent on my response.

HALFMOM said...

I particularly like, "He's the only person that can say that because fulfillment of His purposes are not dependent on my response." in response to LL. Such a good reminder that, while He enjoys and desires my cooperation and adoration, He is in no way dependent on anything from me nor can anything I do wrong or fail to do right thwart His purposes.

Portland to the coast and then back across to the beautiful Willamette Valley of Oregon for meetings at Oregon State. The scenery is breathtaking.

L.L. Barkat said...

Yes, I can see that. Now, I am musing again... what if part of His purposes includes subjecting some outcomes to our frailties? Not all outcomes, I think. We know, for instance, that He will eventually bring complete justice to the earth, and no one can stop that from happening. But some outcomes. Otherwise, what use would there be for judgment? If there is nothing to judge? If it all happened exactly this or that way because He made it happen this or that way?

L.L. Barkat said...

(Oh, I hope that comment didn't sound unfriendly. I surely didn't mean it to be. I just love thinking out loud with other Christians.)

Every Square Inch said...

LL,

Not unfriendly at all - we're all trying to share.

I think I understand what you're suggesting or musing about here... but I don't know if the Bible actually teaches that God subjects the outcome of His will to our responses or actions. (I may be wrong)

I think that predominantly the Bible seems to position man's responsibility and will within the framework of God's sovereignty. Yet, the Bible is also clear that we are responsible for our actions - to reap what we sow and our sins will be judged. For instance, when Jesus was crucified. In Acts, Peter's discourse notes that Jesus was handed over by "God's set purpose and foreknowledge..." but also holds them responsible for crucifying Jesus.

It's clearly a mystery. When the mysteries of God are involved, I may not always be able to explain the mystery but I've taken a view that I will affirm what the Bible says.

Ted Gossard said...

ESI, Good thoughts and stimulating.

I see it at this time that God will work out all of his will completely. But that doesn't mean that I will completely participate in the working out of his will. God will get done what he has decided and purposed. But to what extent I choose to be a part of that fulfillment is up to me. If I acquiesce to God and his will for me, then in his plan and work I will be a participant somewhere in seeing his good will extended to his creation.

Too much philosophy, I think, has been read into Scripture and into our theology, though I'm sure we all do it without realizing.

Ted Gossard said...

One other point. I believe God's grace underlies all. our free will is limited and grace is key here. But how that works out theologically is another matter.

I don't see the Scriptures you quoted to L.L. as proving your counterpoint.

Just a friendly little thought here. :)

Every Square Inch said...

Ted

Thanks - here's the verse I had in mind in Acts 2.

"This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,put him to death by nailing him to the cross."

Ted Gossard said...

ESI, Very true.

God can control the wills of people and he does at times as we see in Scripture, turning the hearts of kings wherever he wills.

And God will perfectly get his way. And in the case you stated God used and brought about his great salvation through the great sin and crime done to Jesus.

But God delights in us; he has made us very special as humans in his image, and has stamped this by the Incarnation of his Son. God wants us to love him freely and to freely choose his way. Yes, grace underlies that. But we still have to choose, a thought that some theologies really don't do justice to, is my current thought on it.