According to what the Bible tells us concerning our service to God, God’s work needs man’s cooperation, but it doesn’t require man’s initiation; God wants us to serve Him and love Him, but He doesn’t need us to initiate things in God’s work.
Both in the Old and in the New Testament we see many examples of people who loved God, sought after Him, and served Him; in each case, the principle is the same: God’s work needs man’s cooperation but not man’s initiation.
Actually, many times God Himself comes to man, appears to man, draws man, calls man, and commissions man with His service, for He wants man to work together with Him and for Him, to accomplish God’s purpose.
But all too many times man does something for God out of his own zeal and desire to serve God, but God Himself does not initiate or command what man does; the result is religious activity and many times a damage to God’s work.
David was a good example of a man after God’s heart, with a desire to build a house for God; if we would have such a desire and heart, we probably would not even enquired of God but went ahead to build God’s house.
But David stopped when God told him to stop, and this established a twofold principle in the universe: all work must originate from God, and what’s more important is what God does for man and not what man does for God.
We need to love God, seek His will, and wait for His revelation, and then according to His revelation and in His time, we need to do what He tells us to do. Desiring to work for God is commendable, but initiating things in God’s work is rejected by God and brings in discord and frustration in the work.
As those learning to serve God, we all need to know that, if we can’t stop working for the sake of God, we can’t work for the sake of God.
Even our failures, as great and bad as they may be, may be used by God to bring forth something for the building up of the church, if we have a heart for God, pursue Him, repent, confess, humble ourselves, and follow God’s leading in His word – as David did.
It is crucial to see that God’s work needs only man’s cooperation and not man’s initiation; this will keep us focused on God and not on work.
Serving God according to the Vision and Asking Him, What Shall I Do, Lord?
In the New Testament we have the case of the apostle Paul who, when he was Saul (before his conversion), served God to the best of his ability in the religion of his fathers; the result of his service was the ravaging of the church and persecution of God’s people.
When the Lord Jesus met him on the way to Damascus, Paul had a vanquishing conversion; he realized that all this time he has been persecuting the Lord Jesus, who is God Himself.
Therefore, Paul asked, Who are You, Lord? – he wanted to know who this Person was, and actually, his whole life was a quest to know Christ, gain Christ, live Christ, be found in Christ, and even become Christ (Acts 22:8; Phil. 3:10).
Paul’s second question to the Lord was, What shall I do, Lord? (Acts 22:10); this question is related to Paul’s service, which was purely initiated by God.
Paul was initially trying to serve God in his own natural zeal and strength, but He had mercy on him and came in to initiate his service. Paul served God according to the vision he saw at his vanquishing conversion; this vision stayed with him, and he testified of it quite a few times.
His whole life from that point onward was to know Christ (Who are You, Lord?) and to serve Him according to His way (What shall I do, Lord?).
We need to be those who ask such questions, in particular, What shall I do, Lord? We should ask the Lord, What shall I do, Lord, rather than telling Him, This is what I will do (for You).
We were saved by God to both enjoy the divine life and life, and to serve God; these are two aspects of our salvation. God saved us and regenerated us that we may live Christ and serve God.
On the one hand, we need to know Christ, enjoy Christ, pursue Christ, experience Christ, and live Christ; this is the answer to the question, Who are You, Lord? On the other hand, we need to serve God according to the vision, asking Him, What shall I do, Lord? What do You want me to do?
This involves the denial of the self and renouncing to initiate anything, realizing that God needs man’s cooperation and not man’s initiation in the work. It is good to have much personal time with the Lord and open to Him concerning these matters, asking Him,
Lord Jesus, unveil us that we may see who You are. We want to experience You, know You, and enjoy You in what You are to us for the building up of the church. Lord, what do You want us to do? What shall we do, Lord? We open to You, we put ourselves aside, and we simply want to give You our cooperation. We don’t want to initiate anything: we simply want to cooperate with what You want to do. Save us from telling You what we want to do; bring us into what You are doing. Oh Lord, who are You? Oh Lord, what shall we do?
God only needs Man’s Cooperation; we need to Stop our Speaking and Opinions and Let God Speak
The basic principle in our service to God is that everything must be initiated by God. If we look at the service offered to God by Abel, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Jesus, and Paul – all these cooperated with God for the fulfillment of His purpose.
All those who serve God must see a principle from these examples: God’s work needs man’s cooperation, but it doesn’t require man’s initiation. We need to listen to the Lord unreservedly, even stop our speaking and opinions, and let God speak to us.
God is the One who initiates, He calls, He commands, He charges, and He commissions; we need to simply cooperate with Him.
In the book of Job we see a God-fearing person, Job, a self-righteous man who had a lot to say concerning how God dealt with him and how he felt about it. Most of the book of Job is filled with Job’s speaking and the speaking of his three friends; when they were speaking, God was silent, but when they finished speaking, God came in to speak.
If we still have opinions, suggestions, and things to say in working for God, God will hide Himself; when we stop our speaking and opinions, He will come in to speak and lead.
Our problem is that we still have a lot to say, suggest, and offer as an opinion; our God is quite able to remain silent and patient as we speak, waiting for us to finish and come to an end. The unique prerequisite to receiving God’s revelation is to stop our speaking, our opinion, our view, and our self.
However, it is not easy to stop; it is easy to say the word “stop”, but it is not easy to stop – for us to stop is for us to die, for when we die, we stop. Our opinions and suggestions darken God’s counsel; we are not God’s counsellor, and He doesn’t need our suggestion and opinion.
Man wants to be God’s advocate and counsellor, but God doesn’t need such ones; He needs man’s cooperation and not man’s suggestion, opinion, and initiation.
In Matt. 16 the Father revealed to Peter that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God; this was Peter’s cooperation. However, moments later, Peter became a mouthpiece of Satan when he offered his own suggestion and opinion concerning the Lord going to die; therefore, the Lord said, If anyone wants to come after Me, let him deny himself (Matt. 16:24).
Job said, “I abhor myself” (Job 42:6) he was referring to abhorring his opinions, views, and ideas, for he saw God, received His revelation and speaking, and therefore denied himself.
The greatest problem in serving God is our opinions; we may have something to say concerning how to do this or that, what to do, and how things should happen. Once someone has a heart to serve the Lord and becomes zealous, his opinions come out; at such a time, God will hide Himself and withdraw His will.
Everything we initiate will be interrupted by God, for He doesn’t want our initiation – He merely wants man’s cooperation. In serving God, we need to learn to stop ourselves to give God the absolute opportunity to speak; this requires our exercise.
We need to exercise our spirit, turn our heart to the Lord, and learn to stop our natural being; when we stop our opinions and speaking, the Lord can come in and speak.
Lord Jesus, we want to learn to stop our opinions, speaking, and suggestions in God’s work so that You can come in and speak, command, and lead us. Save us from darkening Your counsel and losing Your presence because of our opinions and speaking. Lord Jesus, we humble ourselves before You, and we just stop ourselves. We abhor ourselves, and we want to let You speak, lead, and command. Lord, we want to follow You by denying the self and forgetting about our opinions and suggestion. What shall we do, Lord? What do You want us to do?
References and Hymns on this Topic
- Inspiration: the Word of God, my enjoyment in the ministry, the message by Minoru Chen for this week, and portions from, Knowing Life and the Church, ch. 17 (by Witness Lee), as quoted in the Holy Word for Morning Revival on, Knowing Life and the Church, msg. 3 (week 3), The Need for All Our Service to Be Initiated by God.
- Hymns on this topic:
# Not the gift we proudly lay / On His altar will He heed, / If our hearts have said Him, “Nay,” / When He whispered, “I have need.” / Thus we die, and dying live / In the heavenlies with the Lord; / Thus we serve, and pray, and give, / Christ Himself our great Reward. (Hymns #907)
# It is not God Himself to labor, / Nor man to try to serve alone, / But God and man to work together / Each moment that His plan be shown. (Hymns #740)
# Our plans, our aims, our energy / We must abandon wholly, / That He may work His plan thru us, / His aim and object solely. / Ourselves, with all we are and have, / To death we must surrender, / That Christ may live Himself thru us / With riches and with splendor. (Hymns #910)
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