Dear fellow-workers, beloved colleagues in gospel ministry, I had a refreshing and productive summer, and am gearing up for another year of ministry. In fact, I will do fewer hours ministry this year, as I over-stretched myself last year. One advantage of cutting the hours you work is that you are more determined that you will do the most strategic ministries, as much as you can discern what God thinks they are! –
Peter Adam | February 2018 |
I suspect we over-dosed on the Reformation last year [!], and so my theme this month is good works!
I chose the theme, because it fits this time of year, when we look back over 2017, and look forward to our ministries in 2018.
Created to do good works!
- Work is not God’s curse! As he made us in his image, he created us to be workers [Gen 2:15]. Our daily work is part of our God-given dignity, responsibility and glory. This of course, includes unpaid work and paid work!
- At the same time our daily work is made harder and more frustrating by God’s judgment on sin [Gen 3:19]. The ‘sweat of our brow’ includes all the difficulties and challenges and labour of work. Ecclesiastes emphases the frustrations of work [Eccles 2:18-23].
- We have been created in Christ Jesus to do good works, and God has prepared the good works he wants us to do [Ephes 2:8-10].
- The creative and enabling power to do good works comes from God in Christ. The power to do these works comes from our union with Christ. God has prepared the good works he wants us to do, so they are suited to us in his eyes.
- We should do those good works, not fewer than those good works, and not more than those good works!
- The use of the word ‘work’, or ‘labour’ for gospel ministry is significant. It is heavy work, hard work, the work of a labourer. We are members of the working-class! Have you heard one translation of John 5:17? Jesus says, ‘My father is a working-man to this day, and I am a working-man myself’! Paul struggles in his ministry of writing to the Colossians, as Epaphras struggles in his prayers for them [Col 2:1, 4:12]. And Paul writes: ‘I worked harder than any of them’! ‘Mary has worked hard for you … those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa … Persis has worked hard in the Lord’ [1 Cor 15:10, Rom 16:6,12].
- Good works spring from faith, and they spring from love. If our faith and love are in good shape, then good works will flow from them: ‘faith working through love’ [Gal 5:6]; ‘Faith … without works is dead … faith is completed in works’ [Jas 2:17, 22]; ‘Your work of faith and your labour of love’ [1 Thess 1: 3]. If you want to increase and enrich your good works, increase and enrich your faith in Christ and your love for people!
- Good works without love are worth nothing, and are of no benefit to us [1 Cor 13:1-3].
- Jesus know our works, even if no one else sees them! [Rev 2:2, 19, 3:1, 8, 15]. He knows or good works, but he also knows our bad works!
- God remembers our human frailty and fragility, even if we don’t, and even if others don’t. ‘He knows of what we are made; he remembers that we are but dust’ [Ps 103:14]. Know your capacity, as God does, and don’t exceed it!
- Many of the good works we do, we do not know we have done. This is because God’s deep work in us changes us, so that we do good works instinctively, not recognising what we are doing. There are some humble Christians who are entirely unaware of the good they do. And I hear many stories of good works that Christians have done which have greatly influenced others, but which they do not remember doing. Praise our gracious God!
- God is such a good house-keeper that nothing is wasted in his economy. See the way in which he has constructed the world. Nothing is wasted, everything is productive and purposeful. So too, in his economy, no prayer is wasted, no self-denial is wasted, no self-sacrifice is wasted, no good intention is wasted, and no good work is wasted, because all of these serve the glory of God. ‘the prayers of the saints rose before God’ … ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord … for their deeds follow them’ [Rev 8:4, 14:13]. Love’s labour is never lost.
- As gospel workers, we have the immense privilege of being both fellow-workers with God, and fellow-workers with each other. ‘We are God’s fellow-workers’ … ‘our dear friend and fellow-worker’ [1 Cor 3: 9, Rom 16:9,21, Philemon 1]. There are no solo-workers in God’s kingdom!
- Those who pray for gospel work and gospel workers share in that work. [2 Cor 1:11, Phil 1:19, and Col 2:1, 4:12 again].
- The great hindrance to our usefulness to God is not our lack of gifts or our lack of opportunities, but our sin. That is why we must cleanse ourselves, set ourselves apart as holy, so we can be ready for every good work: we must flee evil passions, and pursue righteousness, faith love and peace [2 Tim 2:21,22].
- It is the Bible that God uses to prepare us to do good works: ‘All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work’ [2 Tim 3:16,17]. Ask God to keep in training you for ministry as you read the Bible, and train others for ministry by the Bible!
- Though our good works are tainted by sin, God still accepts them, because they are covered by the atoning blood of Christ. We are made holy, our lives are made holy, and are good works our made holy and pleasing to God. ‘Do not neglect to do good and share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God’ [Heb 13:16]. ‘Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, which is your spiritual worship’ [Rom 12:1].
- While we can do our best to offer our lives and our good works to God, we will not truly know their worth until we appear before the judgement-seat of Christ. ‘We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive what is due for what he has done in the body whether good or evil’ [2 Cor 5:10]. ‘Each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done’ [1 Cor 3:13, and see Rev 20:12].
- Our work is not in vain, because of the resurrection of Christ. ‘Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain’ [1 Cor 15:58].
- Remember Titus 2:13, 14.
Our great God and saviour Jesus Christ … gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
With all good wishes for your ministry in 2018.
You may be interested in this article I wrote recently:
And my article on 50 years of preaching is now on TGC website:
You may find the following interesting. The first is a remarkable response to a sexual predator!