Doing Great Things for God?

Periodically a fellow abolitionist, or a kind supporter, will speak of doing great things for God. While I appreciate the sentiment behind the words, the picture that comes to mind is of a house I pass often in our Tennessee countryside with a huge sign in the yard reading “House of Righteous Endeavor.” I don’t know what actually goes on in that house, but every time I drive by, my stress level rises a bit as I envision sour faced people grunting and straining under the heavy weight of endeavoring to be ever righteous.

I love the verse in Psalm138:8 that says, in part, depending on the translation:

  • The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me…
  • The LORD will work out his plans for my life…
  • The LORD will accomplish what concerns me…
  • The LORD will do everything for me….

Ahhh. I can feel the tension roll off my shoulders just reading those words. Now I picture an apple tree, soaking in the sun and rain and bearing apples because, well, that is what apple trees do.

No mere matter of semantics, depending on God to carry out his work makes a real day-to-day difference as I pursue a calling to end slavery and aid its victims.

  • Only God is big enough to bear such a load. Victim’s tales of hellish existence, complex causes and seemingly irreparable damage could crush me under their weight. It is a relief to know that this task is God’s to accomplish and that, even as I take my small part in the struggle, it is He who does the heavy lifting.
  • My priorities shift. When I am “doing great things for God,”  I work feverishly and joylessly. The very One I serve too often gets relegated to a dark recess of my life, living primarily in empty words spoken by a barren soul. When I look to God to accomplish his purpose in my life, I spend time sitting at His feet, hungry for His word and for revelation, not just of His will, but of His majesty. I still enter into pain, but with it comes the joy of knowing God’s heart a little better. My eyes more clearly see the lengths to which His vast love will go for one of the least of these, my brothers and sisters.
  • In the “doing things for God” mode, I tend to operate from a place of self-satisfaction. The work feeds my ego or need for significance through all the good things I do for those needy slaves. In truth, much is expected of me, because I have been given so much. But righteous endeavor leading to a sense of self importance is not a fruit of the Spirit. When I sit at God’s feet, I remember when He walked the earth robed in flesh, and how delighted He was to hang out with prostitutes and sinners, and they with Him. He didn’t hold much store with self-satisfied religious do-gooders. Like those people surrounding Jesus long ago, victims of human trafficking and slavery are very likely to recognize how desperately bankrupt they are. There is little room for pride, self-sufficiency or even dogmatism. As He lifts my head, God floods my soul with overwhelming gratitude that I was spared the same fate as these, and I cry out for mercy lest I forget how much I have need of Him.

Any work that remains after passing through the Refiner’s fire comes only when I step away from the striving and the noise and enter into the Holy of Holies. In that place, I do not do anything great for God. But a great God, the master craftsman, accomplishes  lasting works of righteousness