Sometimes working for a church scares me.
I will always be inadequate at serving such a large and diverse group of people, there are some things I’m just not good at, opportunities that I miss, and my own sin gets in the way, distorting my desire to do good.
Last week I had a conversation at church with someone I’d not met before, my intention was to confidently welcome them, but I walked away feeling like a failure. I hadn’t said things I should, I didn’t come across as I wanted too, and I felt stupid and discouraged.
But I remembered a quote I’d seen and mentioned to a friend earlier that day, and it gave me the perspective I needed in the moment: “You’ll never take pleasure in your work until you realize that the ‘work under your work’ has all been done by Jesus Christ.” Tim Keller
This is something I’ve continued to think about this week, as several of my ‘best laid plans’ have fallen apart, and I’ve grappled with rising stress (and potentially spiritual opposition too). I think that this simple fact is vital for a Christian to remember, whatever kind of work you do, and whether it’s going badly or really well.
The Vital Work Is Done
The important things can’t be threatened because Christ’s salvation work on the cross is complete. Our identity as loved, forgiven, children of God is established. He is at work to bring everything under the Lordship of Jesus Christ forever!
Look at how the Apostle Paul sums things up in the verses below:
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:4-10
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20
Paul makes the link for us – we live our lives now in the light of all that has already been done for us, and what God continues to do on our behalf.
His work goes before our work
His work directs our work
His work enables our work.
His work under-girds our work
His work completes our work.
So we rely on God’s work for us because: Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain. Psalm 127:1
10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 4:10-11
A Lightened Burden
We all experience failure, disappointment, and times of worry about our work or responsibilities. But because of this knowledge we can go about our work and service with humble confidence, joy, peace, purpose, and resolve.
When things crumble, we don’t have to!
The pressure dissipates when we recall that Jesus has already done all that is needed, he wants us to remain in his presence with a yoke and burden that are easy and light (because he shoulders the weight!): ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”‘ Matthew 11:28-29
When we’re not up to the task we can go on, looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
P.S If you want to think more about this topic, John Piper writes about why it’s a great thing that God works for us here.