Throughout the Bible believers had to make major adjustment when invited to join God at His work. Once these adjustments were made, God accomplished His purposes through the ones who listened to His voice. Examples:
– Noah could not continue to lead a normal life while building an ark at the same time (see Genesis 6)
– Abram could not continue to stay in Ur of the Chaldeans and birth a nation in Canaan at the same time (See Genesis 12: 1-8)
– Moses could certainly not continue to herd sheep in Midian and represent God in front of the pharaoh at the same time (See Ex. 3)
– To become a king David had to leave his sheep behind (See 1 Samuel 16: 1-13)
– All of Jesus’ disciples had to leave their jobs behind in order to follow Jesus (See the Gospels)
– Saul who later became the apostle Paul, had to leave his belief system, his ambitions and his prejudices to become an advocate for Christianity (See Acts 9: 1-19)
It is impossible for us to continue to live life as usual and accept God’s invitation to join Him in His work. Even Jesus had to make some major adjustments!
2 Cor 8:9 “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”
Jesus left His place of prominence in heaven where He was worshipped by angels to become a human without status and wealth. His purpose: John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
Jesus was well aware of His purpose and proclaimed many times: Luke 9:22 “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
He was willing to make those huge adjustments so that we could enjoy eternal life and develop a close relationship with Him. This is real love! Salvation would not have been possible if Jesus had decided to remain in heaven! Adjustments had to be made!
Until we are ready to make adjustments for God, we will be of little use to Him and will not be able to fully experience Him in our life.
Question 20: Both Elisha and the rich young ruler were invited to join God at work. What adjustments had each to make? What was their response?
Elisha: 1 Kings 19:16, 19-21 “The LORD said to him, “… anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet…”
So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother good-by,” he said, “and then I will come with you.”
“Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?”
So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant.”
The rich young ruler: Luke 18:18-27 “A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good-except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'”
“All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”
Adjustments Elisha had to make:
Adjustments the young ruler had to make:
The rich ruler’s response:
Elisha willingly made the necessary adjustments to join God at work. Not until he made those was God able to work through him and accomplish a multitude of miracles.
The young rich ruler however was unwilling to make the necessary adjustments. He was too attached to his lifestyle and to his wealth. He missed getting to know God personally and trust in God.
Question 21: What exactly is “eternal life”?
John 17:3 “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
We will discover that once we adjust our life to God, the more we depend on God the more we will experience Him in our life. We will have found our purpose.
Question 22: Why should we depend completely on God to work through us? Explore the following texts to find out:
– John 15:4-5 “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
– Gal 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Isa 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Without depending on God it will be impossible to bear any kind of fruit. He is the One who makes anything possible. Being our guide in all things will avoid painful mistakes and will lead to worthwhile and purposeful lives.
Consider the following couple of stories and ask yourself if it is worth the effort to trust in God.
a. All on a one-pound note?
(This story is taken from a fantastic biography about Brother Andrew, called The Narrow Road)
The weeks passed so fast that soon it came time for me to head out on the first of several training trips in evangelism. “You’re going to like this, Andy,” said Mr. Dinnen. “It’s an exercise in trust. The rules are simple. Each student on your team is given a onepound banknote. With that you go on a missionary tour through Scotland. You’re expected to pay your own transportation, your own lodging, your food, any advertising you want to do, the renting of halls, providing refreshments.”
“All on a one-pound note?” “Worse than that. When you get back to school after four weeks, you’re expected to pay back the pound!”
I laughed. “Sounds like we’ll be passing the hat all the time.” “Oh, you’re not allowed to take up collections! Never. You’re not to mention money at your meetings. All of your needs have got to be provided without any manipulation on your part-or the experiment is a failure.”
I was a member of a team of five boys. Later when I tried to reconstruct where our funds came from during those four weeks, it was hard to. It seemed that what we needed was always just there. Sometimes a letter would arrive from one of the boys’ parents with a little money. Sometimes we would get a check in the mail from a church we had visited days or weeks earlier. The notes that came with these gifts were always interesting. “I know you don’t need money or you would have mentioned it,” someone would write. “But God just wouldn’t let me get to sleep tonight until I had put this in an envelope for you.”
Contributions frequently came in the form of produce. In one little town in the highlands of Scotland we were given six hundred eggs. We had eggs for breakfast, eggs for lunch, eggs as hors d’oeuvres before a dinner of eggs with an egg-white meringue dessert. It was weeks before we could look a chicken in the eye.
But money or produce, we stuck fast to two rules: we never mentioned a need aloud, and we gave away a tithe of whatever came to us as soon as we got it-within twenty-four hours if possible.
Another team that set out from school at the same time we did, was not so strict about tithing. They set aside their ten percent all right, but they didn’t give it away immediately, “in case we run into an emergency.” Of course they had emergencies! So did we, every day. But they ended their month owing money to hotels, lecture halls, and markets all over Scotland, while we came back to school almost ten pounds ahead. Fast as we could give money away, God was always swifter, and we ended with money to send to the WEC work overseas.
Open Doors, Brother Andrew with John & Elizabeth Sherrill, The Narrow Road, Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 2001, p. 102-103.
b. GEORGE MULLER, Trusting the Provider
“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ Or ‘What shall we drink?’ Or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6: 31-33 )
George Muller has to be one of the most fascinating Christians of the 19th century. Why? Because on ALL occasions, he followed God’s Word, the Bible above any human organizations, even above the denominational teachings of his church. One of the things, however, that really served to set him apart as a memorable man of faith was his convictions concerning finances.
Very early in his career, George Muller became convicted that, as a man of God, a modern day disciple, he should not be receiving a fixed salary from anyone. Citing the apostles of the early church for his example, who didn’t draw a regular salary but simply put their trust in the Lord to provide for all their needs, George Muller made a two-fold resolution: 1) To put his trust solely on the Lord Jesus Christ for all of his financial needs; and 2) To tell no one of his needs but God Himself.
He was the pastor of a Teignmouth congregation in England at the time, and on October 30, 1830, he made the memorable announcement to his church that he would no longer accept regular wages from them. He listed the following reasons:
1. To receive a salary at that time, one had to generally collect pew rents. George Muller stated that this was contrary to the very essence of James 2:1-6.
2. A pew rent, or any requested offering, could easily become a burden to a follower of Christ. A pastor should at no time “lay the smallest straw” in the way of a member’s spiritual progress.
3. A fixed salary could easily become a snare to a minister, in that he works for his salary instead of doing God’s will.
George Muller then requested that a special box be placed in the chapel, and he told his congregation that anyone who felt compelled to contribute to his ministry could do so, according to his own personal convictions. He then repeated his resolve to never again ask, “not even my beloved brethren and sisters, to help me…For unconsciously I had been led to trust in an arm of flesh, going to man instead of going to the Lord at once.”
This seems pretty rash, doesn’t it? I mean, unless someone tells us their needs, how can we know they even have any? Never once, however, did George Muller regret his decision. At the end of his first year of living on faith, this twenty-six year old preacher wrote: “Now the truth is whilst…we have not had even as much as a single penny left, or so as to have the last bread on the table, and not as much money as was needed to buy another loaf, yet never have we had to sit down to a meal without our good Lord having provided nourishing food for us. I am bound to state this, and I do it with pleasure…If I had to choose this day again as to the way of living, the Lord giving me grace, I would not choose differently.”
George Muller told the following story as an example of how God never failed to come through for them on time:
There was one morning when he discovered that he barely had eight shillings (about two US dollars) left. How could he support his orphanages? Pay his bills? Put food on his table? As was his habit, he shared his concerns with God, claiming the promises found in the following three Bible Texts:
Matthew 7:7: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” ;
John 14:13,14 “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” ; and
Matthew 6:25-26 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”
Then he and his wife literally sat and waited upon the Lord.
There was a sudden knock at the door, and George Muller opened it to find a lady, a total stranger, standing there. “Do you want money?” She blurted out.
George hesitated. Then he told her that he couldn’t answer her question, for this was something between him and God alone.
“But God told me to give you this money,” she insisted, and she handed him two guineas!
Pretty amazing, isn’t it? But it gets better:
Three years after his decision, George reported receiving $3700. This was $2800 more than if he had received a regular salary. He concluded: “I never have asked anyone for anything; but, by the help of the Lord, I have been enabled at all times to bring my wants to Him, and he graciously supplied them all.”
What a lesson for us all! Why aren’t we all following George Muller’s example today? Why do so many of us share our financial concerns with others when our Provider is willing and able to answer? Why do pastors and churches continue to depend on their members for finances, sometimes even begging for offerings, instead of depending on God? Do we have faith? Or are we seeking profit? Is it any wonder that so many go to church without really knowing the Lord?
And what about you, friend? Do you have any unfulfilled financial needs? Are you depending on yourself to fulfill them? Or on others? Or, like George Muller, do you depend on God alone? Depending on yourself and on others often leads to frustration. However, when you depend solely on God, ever believing that He will answer your prayers, He will come through for you. Guaranteed!
In summary when God invites us to join Him, it will always involve tasks that will be impossible to accomplish by ourselves. God always invites us to God-sized assignments that will only be accomplished it we truly believe in Him and depend on Him. We will at first face a crisis of belief. If we decide to join Him it will require action-based faith and major adjustments. Once these adjustments are made we will experience God working personally through us and we will develop a closer relationship with Him. We will love Him more than ever before and His love will be more meaningful to us than any human relationship we have ever experienced. We will be able to say with the apostle Paul:
Phil 3:8-9 “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him…”
James 2:17 “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
I didn’t have a burning bush experience, and I didn’t receive a vision in the night. I simply heard God quietly convincing me through the Holy Spirit that this is what I should do.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t overly impressed with my assignment. After all, I knew nothing about ministry, and I was no prayer warrior! In fact, I felt very inadequate when praying for others. And my excuses poured forth: “My English isn’t very good, Lord! And remember that little detail of my full-time job? And the two boys at home that need to spend time with their dad???”
He remembered all right, but He was still adamant: I had to start an on-line prayer ministry!
I continued to argue anyway: “There’s no way I can do this, God! No way at all! I’m not knowledgeable enough on the computer!”
I realize now that I was going through a crisis of belief, and God, in His love and wisdom, never contradicted me. His only response was: “Trust me.” And He continued patiently working on my heart.
After several weeks of futile argument, I set out to prove my point that an online prayer ministry was not feasible. I found several Christian webmasters who insisted that online prayer ministries were a waste of time, and a pastor friend agreed that there was absolutely no need for an online prayer ministry. I was convinced, and I was sure God should be too. “You see, Lord,” I urged, “everyone agrees that this is a pure waste of time. This urging must not be coming from You, but from my imagination!”
In December 1998, tragedy struck. My father-in-law passed away, leaving my mother-in-law, who had lost her own mother just a few months earlier, alone and in despair. I was brought face to face with the fact that there are many desperate people out there, people needing a catalyst to bring them to the One who could make a difference in their suffering. I repented and asked God’s forgiveness for doubting Him.
I still had a dilemma, though. I still didn’t know the first thing about starting up such a ministry, and Christian webmasters continued to try and discourage me. My faith was under fire. Could I rely solely on God for divine direction? I decided to put Him to the test, and His advice proved to be excellent: Start small!
That’s when the newsletter, Answers2Prayer, got started. Its initial subscriber base was about 20, and it didn’t grow much in the first few months. I did, though! God was taking me through a number of major adjustments. All of a sudden, I could wake up an hour earlier in the mornings without feeling tired during the day, and in the evenings, God always provided me with the time to help those in need. I found myself praying as I had never done before. I didn’t have to search for what and how to pray. The Holy Spirit simply provided me with the words. It was an astounding experience.
About six months later, God tried to persuade me to publish the newsletter on a daily basis. I resisted. He kept bugging me about it until I finally asked Him for confirmation. I received it that weekend, when two members at my church independently came to me suggesting that the newsletter be published daily instead of weekly. Bingo! I didn’t need a Mac truck to run me over to realize God was really serious about making Answers2prayer into a daily newsletter!
By June 2000, the work was getting too heavy for me. The ministry was spreading so fast that I couldn’t keep up. God had been trying to convince me that I needed to branch out and have volunteers help me, but I was very resistant. I couldn’t see how this would work, but my biggest problem was that I didn’t want to let go! It took weeks for the Holy Spirit to finally bring me to the point that I could hand the entire ministry back to Him. I am ashamed to say that I was my own worst enemy!
As of now, April 10, 2005, Answers2Prayer has 17 dedicated volunteers. Though all of us are from different church affiliations, we all have something in common: We were all called by Jesus! He is the one uniting us so that we can reach out to those who need help! Our goal is not to push anyone into any church denomination, but to guide each one into a deeper, more personal relationship with Jesus.
In order to accomplish our goal, the volunteers personally respond to, pray for and follow up on prayer requests, working under the direction of the Holy Spirit to provide encouragement, guidance and support. In addition, Answers2Prayer now hosts three different newsletters and two Bible Study series. We are also providing Bibles, and, to a small degree, basic necessities, for the needy. Only God knows what the next step will be, but one thing is sure: He is our guide! He provides us with all our needs so that we can go forward in joining Him in His work. He knows where He wants us to go, and He has a way of “pushing” us down that path, even when we drag our feet!
I have learned many important truths through this experience, but perhaps one of the most important is that a ministry cannot be blessed if it is solely man’s efforts. We need to look to Jesus for our example. Even He looked to see where God was working and joined Him, instead of doing His own thing! John 5:17 “Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I, too, am working.”
You have not read this experience by chance. God wants to have a closer relationship with you. What better experience can you have than in joining Him where He is at work? Consider the Answers2Prayer ministries. Ask God if this is where He would like you to join Him in His outreach towards others. If you feel so called, don’t hesitate to contact us. Don’t resist Him, for in doing so, you would miss out-of-this-world blessings. He loves you and wants to be part of your life. Will you let Him?
Assignment: Reflect what it means to join God at work. Are you willing to make major adjustments in order to getting to know God more personally? What about depending on Jesus in all things? Have you tapped into the faith made available in you? What can you do to make the following text a reality in your life?
John 15:4-5 “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”