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By His Power, For His Glory

Andre Cook Photo - Glorious Light

[these are the notes from the devotional given at Redeemer's quarterly member's meeting on November 10th, 2023]

Recently I wrote on 1 Corinthians 15:58 about always abounding in the work of the Lord.

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.

And in this I challenged us as a church to really go for it and serve the Lord with zeal. I want to continue this same charge, but in a different way. I want to reflect on how we go about the work of the Lord, and what's behind our work. I'm asking, what's behind the steadfastness, the immovability, the zeal, the abundant labour for the Lord? And the answer is simple: God is behind it. It is labour done in the Lord and for the Lord. We saw this in 1 Corinthians 15:58 – it is the work of the Lord and it is in the Lord that our labour is not in vain.

But let's look at a different letter of Paul's to see this truth more clearly laid out.

Beginning his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul says:

11 To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)

There's a lot that can be said here. But here are two points about the church's ministry that I see clearly in this simple prayer. The church is to carry on her ministry By His Power and For His Glory. This is Paul's prayer for them. He prays for God to make them worthy, to fulfill their desires for goodness, and to give power for their every work of faith. And this is all so that Christ would be glorified.

First, note that the prayer is for God to empower and work within His church. Paul is praying that God would bankroll the entire ministry of the church. That all the energy, all the power would be coming from Him. That every good thing that the church does would be done through Him – by His power. That He would bring it about. Now, what's the alternative? The alternative is that we would go our own way, and try to labour in our own strength. Paul is praying against that – and for the power of the Spirit of God to animate and empower everything we do.

Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. (Zechariah 4:6)

And the truth is – that on our own we can't do much. If we try to be a faithful and fruitful church without moment-by-moment dependence on the Lord, we will fail. But with God on our side, we can attempt great things. We can make resolves for good. We can step out in faith and do great works. That is what we want to be all about as the church. Always abounding in the work of the Lord – and seeing the Lord fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power.

There is a confidence in the people of God. We walk with faith, ever trusting in our God.

When Hezekiah and all of Judah were under attack from Assyria, Hezekiah said:

7 "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are more with us than with him. 8 With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles. (2 Chronicles 32:7-8)

We do not lean on the arm of the flesh – but we trust in the Lord. Works of faith done by His power. That is what we want.

Do you know what that looks like? It looks like bathing everything in prayer – real, desperate prayers for God's help.

There are two prayers in the Christian's vocabulary that are to be daily if not hourly on our lips. And they are "help!", And "thank you!". These two prayers reflect the fact that we are not deists. We are Christians who believe in the real presence of God and our need of Him. God is not far off and uninterested in our daily events. No, we believe in our God who is our ever-present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1). We believe the promise, that when Christ said, "I am with you always, to the end of the age", that indeed, he meant it. The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives changes everything. We are not on our own. We are not winging it. We are not merely living by biblical principles and trusting the machinery of it all to work out. No, we are living by faith in the God of heaven, who has all authority in heaven and on earth.

And so, what does this mean for the church? It means that we do not build the way the world builds. We do not carry on the way the world carries on. We do not lean on our own strength. Instead, we carry-on moment by moment, day by day, week by week, and year by year, trusting in God and working in His strength.

So why do we want this? Why do we want to be a church abounding in the work of the Lord? Why do we want to be a church where our goals and dreams for ministry are fulfilled? Why do we want God to work powerfully in us and through us?

12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ."

We want His power because we want Him to be glorified. It is all for Him. This is important. We are not asking God to help us make ourselves great – we are asking God to help us make His name great in all the earth. With any successful endeavour there is a temptation towards pride. Oh, look at what we've done. But the answer to that temptation isn't to bury our talent. To settle for small things. No. We are called to labour with all our strength – and to do the great work of advancing the kingdom of God. But we are to do this always and forever for the glory of Christ and for His glory alone. The glory of God sanctifies ambition. We resolve many good things – we step out in faith on big adventures – all for the glory of our great Saviour.

And we do this because this is what He has left us on earth to do. What a privilege to be called to serve God in this world. May He give us the strength to do great things in His name. Let us believe that He will.

Like William Carey said – "Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God." We attempt great things because we expect great things. We believe that Christ is in the business of spreading His gospel far and wide. We believe that Christ is in the business of making disciples of all nations, baptizing them, teaching them, and dwelling with them always. And so, we labour for Him and with Him in this great endeavour.

And as we do, we do all things By His Power and For His Glory. 

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Wednesday, 24 April 2024