This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. [2 Timothy 1:6-7 (NLT)]
British mystery author Ruth Rendell often received letters from would-be authors who wanted to know how to get started. Her response was simple: “I tell them to stop writing to me and get on with it.” Author Jodi Picoult said when she can’t write a good page, she simply revises a bad one while pointing out, “You can’t edit a blank page.” If we want a page filled with words, we’ve got to sit down and write them.
Even when working for God, we need more than good intentions or even prayer. Ten years ago, I was part of a Christian women’s ministry that hosted a web site for twelve writers all of whom believed they’d been called by God to expand His kingdom through their writing. We were a diverse multi-generational group and the website offered links to our individual blogs. We regularly shared our prayer concerns with one another and rarely a week went by without a prayer request for divine inspiration for someone’s writing. Sadly, the ministry disbanded within two years because only a few of the writers ever wrote anything. Apparently, good intentions and even prayer were no substitute for actually sitting down and doing the work!
By simply leaving things up to God and giving Him the entire responsibility for our work, we yield to the temptation not to take any initiative. While God is the one who enables us and deserves the glory, we are His hands and feet here on earth and the ones who are called to do His work! Remember, the Israelites had to take the initiative by stepping into the Jordan River before God stopped its flow and they were the ones who marched around Jericho for seven days before God made its walls come tumbling down! I believe in the power of prayer but prayer alone didn’t get the Israelites across the river or defeat Jericho; the people had to do the walking and the wielding of the swords. In the same way, prayer alone doesn’t provide us with the words for a devotion, sobriety, a job, health, good grades, a thriving business, a successful marriage, a college degree, or a speaking ministry. God gives us the power, guidance, inspiration, and even victory, but we still have to do the work!
When we’re called by God, He will provide us with the talent, tools, situation, time, assistance, and spiritual gifts necessary for that task. The one thing He won’t provide is the finished product. He expects us to do the labor and, as powerful as prayer is, it is no substitute for work. When Jesus spoke of moving mountains and promised us, “You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it,” He wasn’t offering us a magic wand to capriciously move mountains into the sea. If God really wants that mountain moved, however, He might just provide the shovel and tell us to start digging!
In Eden, God gave man the gift of work and a sense of purpose. After the fall, however, thistles and thorns appeared and man’s work became difficult. Work was still good; it just wasn’t easy. When faced with a garden full of weeds, we can pray those weeds will disappear and wait for divine intervention or, while praying, we can put on our work gloves and start pulling them out!
I consider it an error to trust and hope in any means or efforts in themselves alone; nor do I consider it a safe path to trust the whole matter to God our Lord without desiring to help myself by what he has given me; so that it seems to me in our Lord that I ought to make use of both parts, desiring in all things his greater praise and glory, and nothing else. [St. Ignatius]
Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct. [Galatians 6:4-5 (NLT)]
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