Charles Stanley - Doing God's Work God's Way
Why is it that so often we hear about men and women who are in the ministry who are serving the Lord, doing the Lord's work falling by the wayside, sometimes because of moral problems or sometimes because they just get disgusted, disillusioned, and discouraged in the work of the Lord? How could a person serving the living God become so discouraged that they would be willing to walk away from the very calling God has given them? Well, there may be many reasons but the primary reason probably is that we do the work the wrong way. That is, we are not doing God's work God's way. And that's what I want to talk about in this message, "Doing God's Work God's Way".
And I want you to turn, if you will, to the book of Zechariah and, if you will recall in this passage. While you are turning let me give you a little background. That those Israelites who have been in Babylonian captivity for seventy years have now, under Cyrus, been allowed to return to Jerusalem under the leadership of Zerubbabel to rebuild the temple. And so, they have gone back now, some fifty thousand of them. And they laid the foundation of the temple but because of some objections and some harassment and difficulties, great difficulties about fifteen years have gone by and they have not completed, have not begun the temple as such. And so, now the Spirit of God speaks through an angel and He says to the prophet Zechariah, "Tell Zerubbabel this". And he gives us a vision in the fourth chapter.
And there are many visions here. But in this vision, He gives him one and in the process of giving him that vision He lays down for us the principle by which we do God's work God's way. And so, I want to limit our reading to this sixth and seventh verse or the fifth, sixth and seventh verse. And he says in the fifth verse: "So the angel who was speaking with me answered and said to me, 'Do you not know what these are?' Referring to the vision and what they mean. And I said, 'No, my lord.' Then he answered and said to me, 'This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel saying, "Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit", says the Lord of hosts. "What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain; and he will bring forth the top stone and with shouts of Grace, grace to it"!'" Which was his simply say of saying, "Say to Zerubbabel, 'There is a way to complete this work and the work will be completed and there will be shouts of joy that will be glorifying to God".
There are two things I want to say. First of all simply this; that if the Lord's work is to be done in the Lord's way it must be done in this fashion and that is, by relying upon the Holy Spirit. God's work done in God's way requires that we rely upon the Spirit of God to do it through us. Now, all of us know that but I want to talk about some facets of this for just a moment. And the first thing I want to clarify is what we mean by "the Lord's work" because if you're sitting here and you're saying, "Well, I'm a homemaker. You've left me out of this message for sure". No, I haven't. "Well, I work in a secular job over here and I simply work on an assembly line. You've left me out of this message". No, I haven't.
I want to ask you a question. When you were saved the Bible says the Holy Spirit came into your life for a very specific reason. He came in there for a specific reason, to carry out many ministries. So, let's think about it for just a moment. Let me ask you a question. What about the man who goes to his vocation on Monday morning and, oftentimes, he works in very difficult circumstances? Is it not required of the Holy Spirit to also enable him and to work through him on his job? Indeed it is. Does it require any less of the Holy Spirit for a man or a woman who is married to a mate who is out of God's will, disobeying God, creating havoc in the home and havoc with the children? Does it not require just as much of the Holy Spirit to live in a very, very difficult home situation? Yes, it does.
Does it not require just as much of the Holy Spirit for the mom or the dad to train their children to live a godly life in a godless society, living among their peers but to live above and beyond the sin with which they are surrounded day by day? Does it not require just as much of the Holy Spirit in any one of our lives to manage our finances wisely in a day when the financial circumstances of life are so uncertain? Well, we could just go on and on and on because you see, doing the Lord's work in the Lord's way does not exclude all of these facets of life that all of us are involved in every day. And see, the devil has tricked us in the following fashion. He has separated our life into the secular and the spiritual.
Let me remind you of something, there's no such thing in the life of a believer. When you were saved by the grace of God not only were your sins forgiven, you were reconciled, redeemed, and forgiven of your sins, brought into a right fellowship and a right relationship with God. The Holy Spirit came in and sealed you as a child of redemption unto all eternity and the Bible says that you are His purchased possession, purchased by His blood at Calvary. You are no longer your own. And now He is living within you in order to live through you the life of the Lord Jesus Christ and to share the truth of gospel everywhere you are and everywhere you go. There's no such thing as any part of my life being secular. Once you are saved by the Spirit of God you are a spiritual being and our life is a spiritual expression in one form of the other.
So, these things we cannot divide and separate. So, we think about, and we talk about the work of the Lord we are talking about every facet of our life. Listen to what he says in this passage. He says there are two ways to do the Lord's work and this is what he's referring to in verse 6 when he says: "Then he answered and said to me, 'This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel saying, 'Not by might nor by power". That's one way to do the Lord's work, by might and by power. Now, to Zerubbabel to do it by might would probably have meant, to him, to do it by having enough military might and strength to protect him in the process of doing what he's doing. For you and for me that may imply or refer to depending upon our influence and depending upon our resources and our great influence to get it done. When he says, "Not by power," what he would say to you and to me today is that we're not to depend upon our personality, we're not to depend upon our abilities and our gifts and our talents and our education, our past experience and past successes. Listen carefully.
Do you know what usually causes us to drift from doing God's work God's way? The most subtle thing. The one thing that usually causes us to drift from doing God's work God's way is success which is a subtle way that Satan trips us up. If he can get you successful enough you begin to believe, "I can handle it". And friend, any servant of God who says, "I can handle it" just made a confession. Because the work of the Lord is to be done by relying upon the Spirit of God to do it. And what happens is God does not bless what we do in the flesh, in our own sense of self-effort and determination. And what happens is, oftentimes, He withdraws His hand, He confuses the circumstances, He withholds the resources, and He frustrates the efforts. Why? Here's the reason. Because to do God's work any other way than God's way is to violate a basic principle of God.
Now when He saved us, He came into our life to indwell us. When He called you into whatever you are doing, whether the world may call it a secular job and somebody else may call it something else. Whatever you are doing God has called us to serve Him in complete, total reliance upon the Spirit of God who is living within us to do that through us. He will use our body. He will use our gifts. He will use our talents. He will use our mind but He's the one who is to do it. You say, "But now, wait a minute". I want you to wait and let's talk about how you can discern whether you are or not. But you see, God isn't going to bless it when I'm doing it out of my personality. I could come out here every Sunday and preach just like you do in your church or wherever you may be serving God and because you were a success last week if you're not careful you'll depend on last week's successes to get you through this week. And I'm here to tell you, God is never in that. Because what that does.
And you see, the reason God can't bless that is because it borders on idolatry. "I can handle it. I'll make it". That's what the whole world system is about. "You can do it without God". And we oftentimes drift into that form of subtle idolatry. "I am sufficient for this because I was sufficient last time". Now you and I can do things in the flesh and God will take His word and His word is not going to return void, but we lose, many other people lose and the work loses because God is not going to bless flesh. It is a total violation of who He is. Now, when you think about that and you think about what He said here. He said, "'Not by might nor by power," but what? He says, "This is the way you do it". He says, "Zerubbabel, you tell him to that it will be done by the Spirit of the living God".
Now here's the question. Are you doing God's work God's way, in total reliance upon the Holy Spirit? If I should ask you that most of you would probably say, "Why sure I am". Well, let me think for just a moment on two things. First of all, what that does not mean, and secondly, how can you and I really tell whether we are truly relying upon the Holy Spirit or not. Well, it does not mean, "Well I've prayed about it". That doesn't mean I'm relying upon the Holy Spirit. Neither does it mean that I am relying upon the Holy Spirit if I say, "Well you know, just let go and let God". What in the world does that mean? And secondly, neither does it mean that I'm relying upon the Holy Spirit when I have absolutely exhausted myself and lying prostrate thinking, "Okay, now God, please take over".
That's not relying upon the Holy Spirit. That's desperation crying out for God to get me out of a mess. That is not relying upon the Holy Spirit. When you and I are doing God's work in the power of the Holy Spirit relying upon Him there are certain things that are going to be evident. And here's one of them. I am going to be fully and absolutely persuaded, "God, if You don't do this it is going to fail". Now I don't mean some little prayer, "Now Lord, please bless what I'm going to do because if You don't it won't work out right". No. I'm talking about a deep abiding conviction. "God, if You don't do it it's not going to work".
Now there are some things you and I can do in the flesh that look good, but I can tell you one thing that's not. Preaching the gospel and people being convicted of their sin and being born again in the kingdom of God and growing a strong church can't be done in the flesh. Oh I can build a, listen, we could build an elaborate building in the flesh but so what? Buildings come and go but not people. So, first of all, I've got to be persuaded that I can't. Did you know one of the sweetest things God ever hears from us? "Oh God, I can't". That's sweet music to His ears because what we're about to do is rely upon Him. You see, doing the work of God should be done in this fashion; relying upon the Holy Spirit all day, every day for everything, the simple little things.
You see, that's the difference between, oftentimes, how God will use us and how He will not use us. If we just rely upon Him just for the big things that we think we can't handle, listen, there are a lot of little things in life that I can't handle. Many things I can't handle. And you see, the most precious and the safest place to be is at the end of ourselves, all day, every day. "God, when I wake up in the morning, this is Your day and if You don't do it I'm going to make a mess of it. And Lord, we both can prove it because I've got years and years and years of making a mess. God, if You don't do it it's not going to work". And so, how do we know whether we are doing it in the work of the Spirit, in the power of the Spirit or not?
Well, first of all, fully convinced I can't. Secondly, I see God only as my source. I see God only as my source. Now listen to me carefully. When you look around in your church and you think, "Well, I can depend on him, him, him and him you're going to get disappointed". Listen, I believe that God wants His work done in His way by reliance upon the Holy Spirit only because if you start relying upon people then you have to watch yourself lest you compromise your deepest, deepest convictions to please somebody in order to get the work done. And what you've just done you've crossed the line where God will take away His power. When you compromise deep, basic convictions to please people you step into trouble. And so, therefore I must see God only as my source. If I'm relying upon the Holy Spirit only, I'm going to be talking about Him or I'm going to be talking to Him all the time. Talking to Him about this facet of it and that facet of it and listening and I'm going to be in a constant conversation with Him about what's going on.
Another reason I'll know that I am relying upon the Holy Spirit is because I'm going to be looking, listen, I'm going to be looking for the evidences of the work of the Spirit, things that I know He had to do. "If He hadn't done that it wouldn't have gotten done. If He hadn't have done that it wouldn't have happened. Only He could have worked this out. Thank God, thank God for this miraculous work of the Spirit". If I'm relying upon Him, I'm not only going to be talking to Him. I'm going to be looking for the evidences of His presence in the midst of the ministry or whatever I've got going. Then you know, one of the reasons I'll know that I am relying upon the Holy Spirit is because I'm going to spend more time thanking God and praising Him and less time asking Him. If I'm relying upon the Holy Spirit, I don't have to get up every morning and beg and plead and beg and plead and beg and plead like a slave coming before a task master. I am a son of the living God. I come to Him as a son. I can thank Him and praise Him that He is more interested in what I'm doing than even I have the capacity to be. And He will make it work.
Now I want to tell you why and how I really know when I'm relying upon the Holy Spirit or not. When the tension and the stress and the fretting and the worry have disappeared. You say, "Aw, but now wait a minute now. Hold it. Hold it. Hold it". You see, here's the way we operate. Sometimes we think, "Well, listen, if I have a little work, I should have a very little tension and stress and a little bit of worry. If I have a larger work, I would have more and a greater work I would have more". When you really and truly rely upon the Holy Spirit it doesn't make any difference how many and how much and how big and how large and what the need is. The same Spirit of God that can handle a nickel can handle fifty million dollars. The same Holy Spirit that can handle a little worry over something insignificant can take care of a big problem. He's not taxed by any of it. And you see, God wants His work done in His way. And I will know that I am doing it in His way when I am relying upon the Holy Spirit.
Now listen. To rely totally upon the Holy Spirit, worry, fret, fume, and be all uptight and tense and full of stress, those two things don't even go together. Now, first of all, doing God's work God's way requires that I rely upon the Holy Spirit. The second thing I want you to notice in this passage is this; that doing God's work God's way will result in the completion of the work to the glory of God. It will result in the completion of the work to the glory of God. Now you say, "But now what about all those obstacles we have to deal with"? Well, that's a good question. What about the obstacles? Well, we're going to have them. Listen, Jesus had them. Paul had them. The churches always had them. And if you're one of those persons who is looking for things to get better you've got a long look, brother, because it's not going to get any better.
Our culture is continually changing. Everything around us is changing. The only thing that's not changing is Jesus. All of us are changing. We have Christ to anchor us in the midst of all kinds of change. Things aren't going to get better. They're going to get worse. In fact, they are getting worse. But that is no sign for doom and gloom. That is a sign for fantastic thanksgiving to God to see what God is going to do in the midst of all of this. Now listen. If I'm doing God's work God's way the work is going to be done and God is going to be glorified and here's one of the reasons. If I'm doing God's work God's way, which is relying upon the Holy Spirit, one of the works of the Holy Spirit is to give me the right perspective on these obstacles. So, how do I see them? Do I see them as barriers to accomplishing? That is, do I back off and say, "It won't work. This is not going to happen. There's no way. It's impossible"?
Now, here's the way we see obstacles when we're relying upon the Holy Spirit. "Hallelujah, thank God". You say, "But you don't know my obstacle". Wait a minute now. "Thank God, hallelujah. Praise God". How in the world can I praise God over something that appears to be impossible? Because I begin to look at it through the eyes of the Spirit. And what do I see? I see not so much the obstacle but I see a tremendous, fantastic opportunity for God to demonstrate His awesome power right in front of me. And that changes my whole attitude about the obstacle. The obstacle becomes an opportunity for God to do something. The second thing about it, when I'm doing the Lord's work the Lord's way and I'm relying upon the Holy Spirit one of the things I'm going to ask is, "Lord, what are You trying to teach me in this"?
Listen, there is always a lesson for the servants and the children of God in every barrier and every obstacle they face. This is not a time to weep and moan and groan and get down in the dumps and want to quit and run out. This is a time to be thanking and praising God and saying, "Lord, what do You want to teach me in this"? Because all of us would say that our, listen, our priority goal in life should be what? To know the living God through His Son Jesus Christ. How am I going to know Him? How am I going to ever discover the faithfulness of God unless God puts me out on the end of the limb and puts the buzz saw back here next to the trunk. I'll never understand the faithfulness of God until I am willing to get out there on the end of the limb and trust Him.
So, what happens? When you and I are doing the Lord's work in the Lord's way and relying upon the Holy Spirit, we get a whole different perspective to these obstacles. Here are opportunities for us to grow. Here are opportunities for us to understand the ways of God. Now, I say this to our people about every other week, sometimes more often than that. And you remember what God says in Psalm 103? "That God showed Moses His ways," listen, that's what I want to know. I'm not interested in just a lot of things going on. I want to know the ways of God. I won't know God until I know His ways. How does Jesus operate? How does God operate? What does He think? Why does He think what He thinks when He thinks it and how He thinks it? Who is this God I'm living for? Who is this God on the inside of me? Who is this God I'm serving?
That's what makes life exciting. That's why the obstacles become like molehills and anthills and grains of sand when you and I begin to look at it through the eyes of the Spirit of God. What am I going to learn? But you see, if my focus in life is on myself what I'm concerned about is not what I'm going to learn but what am I going to lose. If I'm concerned about what I'm going to lose rather than what I'm going to learn then friend I, listen, I'll hit some obstacles that will slay me. But if I am committed to knowing the Lord God and relying upon the Holy Spirit. Here's what He says. He says, "Zechariah, you tell Zerubbabel the Spirit of God is going to flatten the mountain of opposition. Move on". And that's what, sometimes, we need to hear. And we need to hear it from God. "Lord, what are You saying"? And God is saying, "Trust Me with the obstacle. Leave the obstacle to me".
You see, when I see obstacles in the light of the living God, they are His responsibility, not mine. And sometimes, in the ministry, we take the burden of the ministry upon ourselves as if we had to carry it. Listen, first of all, I want to tell you something. That's not your work. That is not your church. That is not your burden. That is not your responsibility. That is God's. Proof of that is He could remove you and somebody step in your place and it go on. And in about six months they'll say, "What was his name"? God knows how to get the work done without us but He's just chosen to work through us. And you see, when I'm doing the Lord's work in the Lord's way I'm not going to fret and fume over those things. I'm not going to be up tense and uptight. There was a time in my life when I didn't know that, and it cost me three months out of this fellowship. And the whole problem was my own. Nobody could I blame but me. Uptight, tense, full of stress until I got so worn out and tired doing the Lord's work, carrying on the Lord's work, and preaching the gospel six times a week, which was foolish, stupid, and sinful.
Somebody says, "Well, I believe you ought to preach every time you get a chance". That's not scriptural. God hasn't promised to bless everything we do just because there's an opportunity. God has promised to bless what He chooses we do in His way. And one of the reasons we get ourselves messed up in the ministry is because we think we've got to do everything when there is only so much God has allotted for you and me to do. And we're to do that in His energy and strength and not our own. But then there's something else. You see, if I do the Lord's work in the Lord's way not only am I going to have the right perspective on the obstacles; I'm going to have the right perspective on myself. And what is that? I'm not just a sinner saved by grace. Thank God, I'm a saint. You know why I know I am? Not because I act like it all the time but because God said I am. And I would rather believe what He said than how I feel about myself.
I know that you and I who are saved by the grace of God are saints. We are the blood bought children of God, indwelt by the Holy Spirit who came there in order to live through us the Christian life. We can't do it. All of us are, listen, we've got a whole lifetime of failures that somebody could put in our biography is they were writing about us. A lifetime of failures and sinning against God, in the flesh, doing it in our own strength. That's not what God called us to do. He called us to allow the Holy Spirit to live through us. Now, when I am doing the Lord's work in the in the Lord's way the Spirit of God upon whom I rely is going to keep me reminded of who I am in Christ Jesus, my identity with Him. You see, it's very important that I keep those two together; who Christ is, who I am. And that is, my identity is in Him.
Now listen carefully. If I'm going to do the Lord's work the Lord's way and I'm relying upon the Holy Spirit, He is going to keep reminding me of my true identity. If you ask me who I am or if somebody were to ask you who I am most people would say, "Well, he's the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Atlanta". That's not who I am. That's what I do. That's not who I am. I am a child of the living God, sealed by the Holy Spirit unto the day of promise, indwelt by the Spirit, controlled by the Spirit of God. I am a child of God. That's who I am. You see, if I'm relying upon the Holy Spirit to continually keep me reminded of what my identity is in Christ and Him alone. And when my identity is wrapped up in Jesus Christ it doesn't make any difference what in this world goes on around me, nothing can mess with that relationship. And you see, listen, if your identity is wrapped up in Christ, so you get fired. So what? Does that make you any less a person than you are? Does that make you any less successful? Listen, if you in your deepest conviction, obey the living God and it costs you deeply?
You see, I believe one of the tragedies in the ministry is we get our identity wrapped up in our ministry. And the work is not you. That's not the work. You happen to be, listen, there's not anybody in the whole world like you. Now I'm going to tell you. If God thought that much of you, brother, He thinks a lot of you. I'll tell you how much He thinks of you. It's real simple. When He nailed His Son to the cross, He said, "That's how much I love you". And so you see, knowing that He loves me that way. Not going to always do exactly what I ought to do and I will fail in my own mind and heart at times but, listen, the key is, is it my heart's desire, in my daily walk, to do the Lord's work in the Lord's way?
You see, all of us have seen meteors at night. The sky brighten up with a flash and all of a sudden, it's dark again. There are a lot of men and they come on the scene and they, whoosh, and it's all over. Listen, carefully if you don't hear anything else. When you and I do God's work in God's way we will end well. We won't be like a meteor but like a star that keeps on shining. Even after we are gone the ripples of your life in your children, your wife, the people you've shared your faith with, the people you've won to Christ, the people you've passed down through the years. Your goal and mine should be not to make a splash but to do the Lord's work the Lord's way and to be sure that we end well. Listen, and if I end well the work will have been done to the glory of God and He will receive the praise and not we ourselves.
Father, we thank You for Your wonderful, wonderful grace and loving kindness and tender mercy toward us. And you look down upon us and you see how frail we are. You said we are like dust. The wind blows over us and we're gone. We just want to thank You this morning that we're not ever, really, forever gone. And we thank you for the wonderful privilege of serving You. We want to do Your work Your way and know in our heart that it will be completed to Your glory, Your praise, and Your honor and not ours. If You have spoken to anyone of us this morning and You have pointed out that maybe there is more self than we thought, would You grant us the wisdom and the courage to make correction by confession and a commitment to rely upon the Holy Spirit? You are a faithful God, and we bless Your holy name and praise You and honor You today. Thank You for this time to share Your word together. In Jesus's name, amen.