As believers in Christ we love the Lord and desire to serve Him, but we need to realize that our service has to be according to God’s appearing and command, following His instructions according to the pattern He shows us.
Noah didn’t serve God out of his own zeal or opinions; he served God according to God’s command and according to His instructions and determination.
Abraham didn’t serve God or do things for Him because he was so zealous or full of love for God, but he served God, moved where He wanted him to be, and built an altar as God appeared to him again and again.
Moses tried to serve God according to his opinion and zeal but failed; then later God called him and instructed him to deliver the children of Israel and build the tabernacle according to His pattern, and Moses did as God told him to.
Abel, the second generation of mankind, offered God sacrifices by faith according to God’s revelation; in contrast, Cain offered God a sacrifice based on his opinion and zeal, and God disregarded it.
When we are unbelievers, we don’t care for God or His purpose, so we don’t really want to do things for Him. But after we become believers, we may be full of zeal to do things for God, and many times we initiate the work, we carry out the work, and others may even appreciate our work for God.
But it seems that, according to the Bible, God doesn’t appreciate our working for Him or in His name unless He initiates the work, He in us is doing the work, and He gets all the glory. God doesn’t need us to work for Him; He simply needs our cooperation.
He initiates the work and we co-operate to work together with Him. If we do things for God – even good things such as serving God, preaching the gospel, visiting the saints, etc – that He Himself didn’t initiate but rather we out of our good heart for Him or feeling of responsibility initiate, we merely perform religious activities “in God’s name”, without Him being part of it.
It is critical to God – and it should be critical to us – who initiates the work, who carries out the work, and what the result of the work is. There has to be the genuine leading of the Spirit, God’s commandment, and Christ in us doing everything.
Serving God according to God’s Command and Instructions, as Noah did
Noah found favor in the eyes of Jehovah, and he served God according to God’s command (see Gen. 6:14-7:5).
It wasn’t Noah that initiated the building of the ark, and it was not according to Noah’s ideas and opinions that the ark was designed and built; rather, God gave Noah specific instructions concerning the measurements and methods of building the ark.
The ark had to be made of gopher wood, with rooms inside, covered within and without with pitch, having a length of 300 cubits, width of 50 cubits, and height of 30 cubits, with an opening upwards for light and an entrance to the side, and having three floors.
Today the human imagination runs wild when people draw the ark, which many times looks like a huge viking vessel – when God wanted it to be a huge box that floats rather than a vessel for sailing.
The initiation of Noah’s service for God was God Himself; God came to Noah, He gave him the instructions, and Noah followed God’s command to build the ark according to how God wanted him to build. The blueprint, measurements, materials, and methods of building the ark were all of God and not of Noah.
Noah’s service was of God, not of himself; his service was according to God’s command and instructions, not according to his own ideas.
Noah’s work made him righteous in God’s eyes (Heb. 11:7), but many in the day of judgement will be counted as men of lawlessness because they did works in God’s name yet without God initiating them or approving them.
Many will come to the Lord in that day and say, Lord, we cast out demons in Your name, prophesied in Your name, and did many works of power in Your name…. – but the Lord will declare to them, I never knew you. You did all these works in My name, but I never new you, I don’t know what you were doing, I had no part of it, I was not there; these are your works and not Mine, they were initiated and carried out by you, resulting in your glory.
If we serve God without having God’s command and instructions, what we do may be considered by Him as works of lawlessness in that day, and our work will be disqualified before Him. This is a sobering matter.
Lord Jesus, we want to serve You according to Your appearing, Your command, and Your instructions. We don’t want to initiate anything in the work and service for God. May we be those like Noah who find favour in the eyes of God and have God’s appearing, God’s command, and God’s instructions. Oh Lord, may our work for You pass through the fire of Your judgement in that day and be approved by You before the throne!
Serving God according to God’s Appearing, as Abraham did
Abraham, our father in faith, served God according to God’s appearing. It wasn’t that Abraham sought after God but rather, as he was living in a land of idolatry, God appeared to him and called him out (Acts 7:2-4).
The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham to tell him to come out; he had no idea or thought of God but he was rather busy worshipping idols, yet God appeared to him, and he left everything to go where God told him to go.
Whenever God appeared to him, Abraham either built an altar (consecrating himself to God) or moved his tent where God wanted him to move. If God didn’t appear to him, he remained in that place.
If we read Gen. 12:1-4, 7-8; 13:14-18; 15:1 we will see that, again and again, God appeared to Abraham and he took action to either move or build an altar.
All the moves in Abraham’s life reveal the particular characteristic of Jehovah’s appearing; except for his going down to Egypt and having a failure (Gen. 12:9-13:1), all of Abraham’s actions were accepted by God because they were of God as a result of His appearing.
Every time the Lord appears to us, that is the time for us to move. Our moving for the Lord and consecrating to Him is a result of His appearing.
We need to have God’s appearing every day, and as He appears to us, we live a life of the altar and the tent, living as sojourners on earth who are consecrated to God for His purpose.
We don’t initiate the move – it is God who appears to us, calls us, gives us the instructions, and we move as a result of His appearing. However, if we do something hasty or rashly in God’s work or move without the Lord’s commandment, we may run the risk of frustrating God’s work and His people, just as Abraham tried to help God by having a child with Hagar, and Ishmael has been a big problem to God’s people until today.
Our life of service should be to obey the Lord’s appearing and speaking; we need to let Him initiate, and we merely cooperate with the Lord as He appears to us.
Lord Jesus, we want to serve You according to Your appearing and calling. Thank You for appearing to us and calling us out of the world and out of any idolatry. Lord, appear to us again and again. Without Your appearing we cannot move or do anything. We don’t want to rush and do things for You, neither do we want to initiate any move. Lord, we depend on Your appearing. You are, and we are not. You have, and w edo not have. You can, but we cannot. Lord, we depend on You, Your appearing, and Your instructions.
Serving God according to His Instructions and in His time, as Moses did
Moses thought he was ready to serve God when he was forty, and out of his zeal to help God’s people killed an Egyptian and had to run from Egypt into the wilderness (Exo. 2:7-12). There, in the wilderness, God dealt with him to the extent that all his zeal, capability, and desire to do something for God were stripped from him.
When he was eighty years old, he had no more intention to do anything for God or His people, and he probably thought he couldn’t do anything else but shepherd the flock. When he felt that everything was over, God came to him and called him, sending him to deliver His people out of Egypt (Exo. 3:10).
Moses served God according to God’s instruction and in His timing for the deliverance of the people of Israel and the building of the tabernacle in the wilderness. God initiated Moses’ service; He came to call him, strengthen him, and send him to Pharaoh to deliver God’s people and bring them to His mountain.
Everything that Moses did was according to God’s specific instructions, including what he spoke to Pharaoh and when he went to him, the Passover and all the details, and all the details and specifications of the tabernacle.
God didn’t leave any detail up to Moses’ imagination or suggestion; He had an exact pattern in mind for the tabernacle, and He brought His people station by station and experience by experience all the way to His holy mountain.
Moses simply cooperated with God in his service to Him according to God’s instructions. God never checks with us how to build – He doesn’t need consultants for His building; He has a pattern, a blueprint, with all the details and dimensions, and nothing is left out.
We need to serve God according to His instructions, and we can never graduate from doing this; there’s no point in our life in which we can’t depend on the Lord or check with Him in our service to Him.
Whenever we start doing things for the Lord “as we have always did”, without fearing God or waiting on Him, we may commit the iniquity of the sanctuary.
As we are learning to serve God, carelessness may sneak in, we may lose the vigilance and the exercise, thinking we have done something many times so we know how to do it….but the Lord wants us to still depend on Him, seek His face, wait upon Him, and look to Him for His instructions concerning all the services that pertain to His church.
Lord Jesus, may we be those who learn to serve You in Your time according to Your instructions. Save us from serving You in our natural zeal, with our natural power, and in our own way. We give ourselves to You, Lord, that in Your time and in Your way You may appear to us, give us the instructions, empower us, work in us, and work through us to carry out what You desire. Give us the experiences we need to be those who constantly depend on You, wait upon You, and look to You for everything in our service to You in the church.
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. 16 (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:
# Keep us living and walking as did old Abraham; / In Your holy appearing to be transfused like him. / As did Isaac and Jacob, Moses lived this way— / So dependent upon Your presence with him each day. (Hymns #1194)
# Now we’re living in the Body, / Every day we’re overcoming, / Striving for the peak of Zion, / Watching for our Lord’s appearing. (Song on God’s calling)
# God’s service in this dispensation / Requires that man should work with Him; / Thus God and man in close relation / And joint dependence work therein. (Hymns #740)
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