Just sharing a lesson or two that Shannon and I have have picked up – or rather have begun to slowly apply – via “on the job training” from our Life Teacher and Perfect Father Jesus.
This is the first in a four part series of straight-from-our-heart thoughts and experiences:
Psalm 127:1 NLT A psalm of Solomon:
“Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted.”
In the adventure of living life fully dependent on God, many “building projects” – whether physical or allegorical – come our way. You could even say our whole life in following Christ is a construction project – He works to shape/build our hearts and we learn to trust Him through active work. God’s Word says, however, that there is a type of work that is in vain. We can construct a solid, beautiful house but still build in vain. My long, careful efforts to deliver great results (when I value only the temporal results) can be wasted. In the Lord’s economy, hours and hours of work – even with good intentions – does not automatically yield His blessing nor the ultimate spiritual and physical results He desires.
So how do I ensure that the Lord builds the house and my work is not in vain?
Walk (and work) by the direction/power of the Holy Spirit and not by the formula of quick success. Don’t cut short God’s agenda in order to accomplish mine. Do what He says according to His ways. Value the people and qualities He values in work.
Easier said than done.
When I launch out towards any goal, do I ignore Him and trade spiritual blessings for rewards that come from doing only what mere men can do? Do I put my heart on autopilot and start work with an “I got this” attitude? Sometimes when the work is mundane or even undesirable, do I just grit my teeth and plow through it in my own strength or do I pause to thank the Lord and take His easy yoke on my shoulders? Do I slow down – yes, really s-l-o-w down – to let my spiritual ears receive instruction for my work? Shortcuts are easy. But shortcuts lead to vain building.
Let me give you an example from my current “world.” Shannon and I are pursuing a significant and much needed increase in monthly financial support. For the last 4 months, this has been our full time work.
Our paycheck comes from the Lord but through channels that engage generous people. We depend on Him to provide through individuals who deeply want to give – people who see it as an opportunity to give to the Lord and share in His work. But this also means that I must seek and ask many, many people to partner with us. Seeking and asking new people is hard work. Sometimes it is disappointing, but often very rewarding.
Honestly, my first temptation is to entirely shortcut the process of God providing people who want to give. Why can’t I be like “normal” people who seek a paycheck from more “normal” sources? But, the Lord is my employer, my construction foreman and the One who gave me this job. This is the house He is building. He wants it funded through His means – whether it seems normal or not. No shortcuts.
Solomon, the same wise man who wrote Psalms 127, also said “trust in the Lord with all your heart, and don’t lean on your own understanding.” So, yes, it is beyond my understanding how God provides my paycheck. But He does. And He challenges me to work hard to ask more people to join with us in giving to our ministry to demonstrate radical trust in Him. Shortcuts never lead to radical trust.
The Work of Prayer
But after 21 years of serving with Cru and radically trusting God to provide every paycheck, I can still get comfortable in my tactics. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that my polished and well rehearsed “sales pitch” to new potential partners is not what moves peoples’ hearts to give. Only the Lord can do that. So why don’t I spend 3X more time praying and asking Him to do what only He can do? In this situation, I can do none of the spiritual building – the stirring of hearts – myself. At best, I am just a tool in the Lord’s hands to move people closer to Him.
Simply put: Prayer is not supplemental to my work. Prayer IS the work.
The shortcut of vain building without prayer and without radical trust is so tempting. Yet, He is patient to keep building in my life. He brings physical results, but also works an architectural masterpiece in my heart as I wait on Him in prayer.
How is the Lord building in your life and where do you find it easy to take construction shortcuts?
- Ask God to deeply encourage us as we stay away from shortcuts.
- Pray that the Holy Spirit will stir our hearts and the hearts of the people He wants to join with us as partners. Without joy in Him and radical trust in Him, our building is in vain.
- Our long term need is for new relationships with people who stand shoulder to shoulder with us in prayer and financial support. Our financial need is at least 15 individuals who will commit $100 per month. There’s no shortcut to establishing long term relationships (we need relationships, not just donors), but please ask the God of miracles to lead us to these people before the end of April.