I once heard a former missionary speak passionately about the importance of relying completely on God’s Spirit to accomplish the work He has called us to do. He gave numerous personal illustrations demonstrating the futility of trying to do spiritual work through mere human ingenuity. He closed with this lamentation, “God wants His job back.”
No one would ever admit to wanting God’s job, much less taking it! But every time we make decisions that marginalize His involvement; every time we allow political considerations to silence the voice of biblical principle; every time we let self-interest edge out kingdom priorities; every time we turn to secular institutions to change what can only be changed by Divine intervention, we are in effect telling God that we can run things more effectively than He. We are assuming a role that is His and His alone!
This is not to say that human involvement is not important to God’s work. On the contrary, God has chosen to save the world through the foolishness of preaching—man’s involvement is not only crucial but also central to the spread of the gospel. Yet the proper balance between human energy and divine grace is sometimes difficult to find. One of the reasons for having the book of Acts in Holy Scripture is to provide a vivid illustration of what this tension looks like. It actually gives a front row seat to witness how this cooperation between the human and the divine plays out. The opening verses of the book tell the reader that what unfolds in the following pages is the continued work of Jesus through the Holy Spirit. However, what one witnesses is an amazing group of very human yet remarkable characters whose personality strengths, human gifts and personal intelligence are utilized completely by the Holy Spirit for the advancement of God’s Church. Peter, the one time denier, holds the Church together by his unshakable testimony and leadership. An unlearned, unlettered deacon named Stephen mystifies the doctors of the law in a spellbinding sermon that precipitates his being stoned to death. The remainder of the book highlights the ministry of the Apostle Paul—a ministry that entails the most amazing missionary journeys the world has ever witnessed. On every page it is evident that God is using human hands and feet to accomplish His work. But it is also equally clear that those same hands and feet are filled and directed by the Holy Spirit.
How is this Balance lost?
I believe this loss of balance happens when in our zeal to see God’s work advance we become willing to rely on human wisdom, secular institutions, religious denominations, or political activism as the catalyst for change or advancement. These are shortcuts that may give the appearance of success, but, in the long run, they will fail to bring about lasting change. Christians and churches alike often turn to everything from marketing strategies to politics for the cultural and spiritual changes that actually can only come by grace. How often have you heard a pastor or a politician make the statement that the only way to effect cultural change is to send the right man to Washington? This is the false notion that change comes from the top down. The truth is that there must be a change in the spiritual culture at the grassroots level before anything can happen on the national level. The Wesleyan Revival plowed the ground and planted the seed for social reform in England at the grassroots level long before William Wilberforce (who was transformed by that same revival) was able to pass legislation changing the slavery laws of the nation. Churches that have an effect on lasting change are churches that are joining hands with God’s Spirit to effect spiritual and cultural change at the grassroots level of life—one man, one woman, one family at a time!
How does God get His job back?
God gets His job back when the Church recognizes that it is God alone who can effect deep and lasting change in both the hearts of men and the moral fabric of a culture. His divine management is re-established when we surrender to His full control and learn how to faithfully walk under the direction of His Spirit; when we honor His Word through prompt and careful obedience; when we pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” and really mean it. God has His job back when we finally grasp that spiritual success is finding out what He is doing and then linking our hands with His to make it happen!