So many of my prayers are spent asking God to use me. Sometimes He has to remind me that He isn’t calling me to go out and “create a work” with my name on it. Rather He is showing me that He is the one doing the work and He just wants me to hold fast to Him in prayer, in His word and in close fellowship with Him so I can hear His voice directing me each day: wisdom in teaching a child, an idea for how to minister to a friend or neighbor, direction on the timing of going to the store or the library so I meet up with someone God wants me to see that day, the right words to share with a friend seeking advice, a gentle nudge towards diligence, whatever it is. . .It is God’s work that He graciously allows me to be a part of. It is not my place to try to take it all on my shoulders and figure out how it all fits together. The Lord simply wants me to listen like Samuel did and follow His instructions; somehow He weaves my small, daily obedience into the overall masterpiece He is weaving.
This quote from Margaret Paton’s Letters From the South Seas sums it up so well:
“It was a blessing the Natives were so kind, and oh, how truly we experienced that ‘God stayeth His rough wind in the day of His east wind’; for except for the trouble with Mungaw (an insane man who caused a lot of harm to people and property on the island), we had no other serious ones to contend with, and He gave us to realize, as I at least never did in the same way, how entirely the work was His.
It looked so mysterious, that we had come down at such a sacrifice to health and family ties to devote our whole time to the work, that it should be so retarded by one individual; for often, at his worst, only eight or ten had courage to come to school, and we could as well have taught fifty.
But we could leave it trustingly to the Lord, feeling that all we had to do was the work He laid to our hands from day to day. What a restful feeling it gives one to be ‘only an instrument in His hand’!”
Another reminder He gives is that the first and most important work of each day is prayer.
“If you abide in Me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” John 15:7-8. Read here for more context.
We produce fruit or good works in our lives only when we abide in the Lord (apart from Him we can do absolutely nothing of lasting value), when His words dwell in our hearts and minds, and when we ask the Father for the good things His word leads us to pray for–God is the one who bears the fruit in us as we ask Him to, and by this He is glorified!
It is not enough to simply get out there being busy for God. That is not to say that God doesn’t call us to make sacrifices or work hard–He does–but He first wants us to sit at His feet. Jesus made this clear in Luke 10:38-42:
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to His teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.’
Martha looks so good doesn’t she? She certainly has good intentions. She is doing great things for Jesus, right? The problem is that for any of us to think that we have anything good to offer the Lord out of our own resources is actually very arrogant (deep down inside if we are really honest with ourselves). It takes a great amount of self-denial to say no to busyness and yes to being still at Jesus’ feet and learning from Him. Our natural selves either are very lazy and we refuse to serve at all, or we jump right into our day and start doing good things with the misconception that we can make it through the day without the Lord’s help. Again, if we are really honest with ourselves we will see it.
Even Jesus, who is God in the flesh, fully God and fully man, did not do anything without first spending time with His Father.
“And rising very early in the morning while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there He prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for Him, and they found Him and said to Him, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’ And He said to them, ‘Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.’ And He went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons” Mark 1:35-39.
I imagine Jesus practiced “praying without ceasing” perfectly, but He laid the foundation for each day by spending undistracted time with His Father before the work of the day began. As He prayed, the Spirit strengthened Him and the Father instructed Him as to what He should do that day–that is why He was able to ignore the demands of the people who were looking for Him and move on to others who also needed Him. Beyond that I am sure they had wonderful time together just enjoying their relationship as Father and Son.
If Jesus needed this time, surely we do. More than that, God loves us and wants to have a close relationship with us. He invites us to love Him and be loved by Him. “Jesus answered him, If anyone loves me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. . . .As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” John 14:23; 15:9-11.
God has created us for good works, but these must me born out of a love relationship with God. Jesus commended the church in Ephesus for their good works but adds, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen ; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent” Revelation 2:4-5. Just as human love is nurtured through time spent together, so our love for God and experience of His love for us is strengthened as we spend time with Him.
“Because he holds fast to Me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows My name. When he calls to Me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation” Psalm 91:14-16.