L. God works to bring forth fruit in order to glorify Jesus.
In 2 Thessalonians 1:11,12 Paul wrote,
“Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul prayed that God bring results from all the goodness and the work of faith of the brethren in Thessalonica (See 1 Co 3:5,6; 1 Th 1:2-8). We would assume, therefore, that God works in the lives of Christians in order to bring forth fruit from their labors. Paul also prayed that the name of Jesus be glorified in the work of the Thessalonians. Therefore, God works in order to glorify the name of Jesus through the fruits of the labors of Christians (See 1 Co 1:31; 1 Th 2:20).
We must emphasize again the fact that God works in answering prayer in the areas where the inspired writers prayed, and instructed that we should pray. God may not answer a prayer in the manner we think He should. He may not answer a prayer when we think He should. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit inspired the New Testament writers to record the preceding requests and examples of prayer in this chapter in order to reassure the saints that God works in the lives of the saints. It is reasonable to conclude, therefore, that God works in these areas in order to work for the Christian. To say that God does not so work is to accuse the Spirit of misguiding the inspired writers into making futile prayers and asking for futile prayers to be made on the part of the saints.
We would also add as a practical application of God’s work in answering the prayers of the saints that we cannot keep a ledger of the Holy Spirit’s activities in answer to our prayers. His work cannot be computerized. Christians cannot produce a balance sheet on the work of the Spirit in their lives. The mystery of how God brings about all things to work together for our good is His department. He simply reassures us that He does work and that He works on our behalf. Paul reasurred us with these words: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rm 8:28).
Sometimes we seek to do the work of God by carrying out our own plans and programs. We try to work through well-organized plans and programs in order to produce results over which we can take glory. Efforts are often held in check by detailed shepherding and lording over the flock. In all our planning, there is often no space left for God to work in our plans and programs simply because we have calculated every detail that is to be accomplished. Everything is neatly directed by supervisors who are designated to carry out a certain agenda that we have planned. In our structured organizations, God sometimes has a hard time getting on our agendas in order to work all things together for good. We plan, and then we ask God to bless our plans. Maybe this is in reverse order.
It is good that we plan and organize what we feel we want and can do in evangelism and benevolence. This is certainly what the early disciples did in Acts 6 in reference to administering to the needs of widows. However, we must not organize God out of our efforts to do His will. If we work simply to carry out a plan on paper, then something is wrong. Organization is meant to channel God’s work on our specific needs. Organization is not for the purpose of stimulating or mustering recruits into file in order to march according to the orders of those who are seeking to lord over the flock. We must never order God out of His work by ordering the saints into conformity of the wishes of man. If we do, then we become institutional in our thinking and behavior. The body ceases to be a Spirit-lead organic body. We can plan our work, but we must be cautious about planning the Spirit out of our work.
There is a mystery about God’s work that we do not pretend to understand. We worship a God whose ways are past finding out. We are not so logical and analytical as to submit God to “systematic theology,” or reduce His work in our lives to a corporate spread sheet. All His work cannot be reduced to human intellect and planning. The reality of His work in our lives must be allowed to be perceived by faith. The work the of Holy Spirit in the Christian life cannot always be determined through simple empirical evaluations. This is why it is so difficult for institutionalized or legalized disciples to allow room for the work of the Holy Spirit among the members.
God the Spirit who is here is a God whose workings cannot be reduced to all that we can understand on the agenda of a business meeting. Therefore, we dare not create a god in our own image of human logic and deduction. A god whose workings can be calculated through human reasoning is a god who is not worth following. Such a god is of human invention and certainly made impotent by the extent to which the human mind can conceive how he works. We serve no such god.
We can understand God’s work by understanding His own explanation of how He works. And the parimeters of how He works are revealed in the Bible.
We dare not affirm that God works beyond the limits that He places on Himself in the Bible. We dare not affirm that God would do for man those things that He has not promised or declared He will do. Neither would we assume that God will do less for us than what He has promised to do.
Therefore, we would not create a god after our own desires who would relieve us of our spiritual responsibility to trust n Him. A god that would condone the theology, “we-should-sin-that-grace-may-abound,” is as dangerous to our eternal salvation, as the god we believe cannot work beyond our power of human reason and perceptions. Both are false gods. Both will lead one astray from the one true God who is revealed through the Scriptures. Though our understanding of His marvelous revelation always leaves something to be desired, we must put our trust in this God and the mystery of His wondrous workings. While He works on our behalf, we would not presume to understand all His working.
[End of series. Download Book 17, chapter 13 & 14, Biblical Research Library, www.africainternational.org]