I am a person who likes to work. I love ministry. I don’t work for validation; I work because I truly enjoy it. Indeed, we find that hard work is commended by the Bible.
- Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might. Eccl 9:10
- Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance. Col 3:23-24
- Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 1 Cor 15:58
But there is a danger with this temperament as a Christian. That danger is to make myself the center of the story, to believe that it all depends on me.
If this is true in the Christian life, how much more is it true in Christian parenting? There is alway more we can do. So over our head, we can see this sign: “Do More.” We can hear a voice. And it can haunt us.
This is not a biblical understanding of the gospel. Let me try and correct my own thinking and yours with two simple mathematical equations as a bedrock of our Christian life.
Done > Do
I am thankful for Dr. David Murray bringing this saying to my attention. Although the Bible does give us things to do, the focus of Scripture is on what God has done in Christ. The cross and the resurrection are the central events in history. God has taken the initiative to send his own Son into the world to reconcile men and women to himself. As part of his plan, he raised Jesus from the dead, inaugurating a new era, and poured out his Spirit upon us.
Success in the Christian life depends in great part on comprehending and applying what God has already done. Think of receiving a smartphone as a gift. You didn’t do anything to earn it. And the device comes with an almost endless list of features. This is already done for you. Now you can spend the rest of your time comprehending and apprehending (making your own) all the benefits. Yes, there are some things to do, but they all flow out of what has been done.
This is why we can spend the rest of our lives seeking to understand the glories of the cross and resurrection. They are endless and depthless.
We see this concept laid out in literary form in the book of Ephesians. Chapters 1-3 are all about what God in Christ has done. There are no commands in these chapters. Paul’s desire is simply that they would comprehend and apprehend what God has done before he moves to the ethical implications in Chapters 4-6.
But there is still room for me to get in trouble.
“Great,” I think, “God has done all this for us but now I need to get to work. He has set me up in the great business of influencing others and gone off to rest.” And that brings us to the second statement that is a bedrock of right living.
Doing > Do
Doing is greater than do. What I mean by this mathematical statement is that what God is actively doing right now is greater than what I can do. He is not a disengaged God who has delivered certain benefits and then gone off. He is actively working. Can I see it?
Here is just a sampling of Jesus words.
- My Father is working until now, and I am working. John 5:17
- But when the Helper comes…he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness. John 15:26-27
- Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Matt 6:25
- Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Matt 6:8
- But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Matt 11:30
- I will build my church. Matt 16:18
In other words, our Father is active in the world. Yes, he includes us in his work. But he, not we, is the main initiator in the world.
So even as I strive and work hard, I am also convinced that the weight of the kingdom does not rest on my shoulders but his. The weight of “perfect parenting” does not rest on my shoulders but his.
He not only sees the suffering in the world but is concerned about it. He may use me or may call someone else. But I can sleep knowing that he is the one who never sleeps (Psalm 121). I build my house knowing that he has to build the house. I can rest knowing he stands watch over my house (Psalm 127). I can leave things undone because I know he sees them.
Done > do. Doing is greater than do. God has done great things. He is doing great things. He invites me in to join him in his work.
I work from his past work and because of his current work. And that gives great peace.
So silence the voice that sinfully says, “Do more.” Jesus said, “It is finished.”