Ex. 16:20-21 π Mt. 24:4 π Mt. 25:40 π Mt. 25:45 π Mk. 7:13 π Jn. 3:8 π Jn. 6:29 π Jn. 16:13 π Gal. 6:8 π 1 Tim. 4:1 π 2 Ths. 2:3 π Jas. 1:27 π 1 Jn. 3:17
Hudson Taylor, founder of China Inland Mission, said, "The Lord's work done in the Lord's way will never fail to have the Lord's provision." This kind of thinking has led some to fail to see a genuine work of the Lord when standing in the middle of it and others to mistake works of mammon and greed to be genuine works of God. Looking at the "bottom line" - the provision - does not necessarily guarantee that we can accurately discern whose work we're looking at.
If we closely examine Hudson Taylor's remark - and I believe it is a valid rendering of God's methods - we must recognize the three elements involved: 1) The Lord's work, 2) the Lord's way, and 3) the Lord's provision.
The first element bears some serious consideration. What is the Lord's work? Jesus said it was to believe in Him! ( Jn. 6:29; top ) Once we have embarked on our own life of faith, any work that would truly be a work of the Lord must bring others into an ever-deepening life of faith or else what we are participating in is only a mere counterfeit delusion - at best some misguided tradition of man (see Mk. 7:13; top ) or at worst some scheme of the devil taught to men by demonic spirits to keep men from being like Christ. (see 1 Tim. 4:1; top )As we move into what most believe to be the end of the age just before Christ's return, we must recognize that spiritual deception is the predominate characteristic we must guard against. ( Mt. 24:4 ; 2 Ths. 2:3; top ) The work of the Lord against this backdrop of deception then is to bring us into all truth. (see Jn. 16:13; top ) Any lie we choose to hold onto and refuse to reject so that we might turn to His truth is a rejection of Christ's Headship and Lordship in our lives. And it is an open invitation to the demonic giving them further influence, power and control over us. The work of the Lord - if His life is genuinely within us - is then to expose and destroy our self-made, independent (from God) paradigms, those preconceived, mis-conceived and only partially recognized mindsets and biases that color, taint and distort how we view the people, events, trends and spiritual realities of our life and the world around us. When our paradigm tells us that a thing is "thus and so" but the Spirit of truth tells us otherwise, this is the work of the Lord. Our only remaining option then is to believe Him or reject Him.
There are many paradigms around today that prevent people who claim to belong to Christ from truly following after Him - and each one is far beyond the scope of a short writing as this. I will merely list three and leave the interested reader to pursue the matter by the leading of the Spirit of God. There is the "church" paradigm that tells us we need a "pastor" to "feed" us as we sit passively in seats inside a comfortable "church" building. There is the "pastor" paradigm that elevates the "pastor" to an un-Scriptural place of pre-eminence and power. And there is the "health and wealth" paradigm that says a true follower of Christ ought to be both healthy and wealthy or else there is something very wrong with his version of Christianity. These deceptive paradigms have a great influence on the majority of people claiming to follow Christ and most don't even recognize that they are even deceived. But the work of the Lord, for any true believer ensnared in these deceptions, is to 1) first expose the "church" and the "pastor" for what they really are and to expose the lies of the "health and wealth" paradigm for what it is, and 2) then to guide that believer into a purer expression of the life of Christ within the milieu of that believer's everyday world. In short, the work of the Lord is to bring the believer away from all darkness, deception and worldliness. And this is not done on outward, superficial, visible levels (though true change toward Christlikeness will become readily apparent) but it is done in the depths of one's soul, that middle ground between the realm of the spirit and the realm of the flesh.
The way of the Lord? Only those born of the Spirit can discern and know which way the Wind (Greek - pneuma, spirit) is blowing. (see Jn. 3:8; top ) What the Lord did 50 or 500 years ago to bring people to a purer expression of the life of Christ is not what He is doing today. Yesterday's manna is rotted and full of worms - we must obtain fresh manna from the Lord for every new day He grants to His people. ( Ex. 16:20-21; top ) The religious hypocrites will always be expert in handling yesterday's manna - as surely as they will oppose those who press on to obtain today's genuine manna. And just as surely, yesterday's manna will not meet today's spiritual needs.
Perhaps one of the most poignant needs of especially American believers today is to recognize the role of the poor in the body of Christ. Most Americans have been wealthy all their lives and most often fail to ever even grasp that fact. They are conditioned - literally brain-washed - to believe they "need" far more material goods than they actually do need - and as a result, work long hours in slavery to the world's financial systems to get "ahead" or to get "more" while they sacrifice the real needs of their families (both physical and spiritual in Christ). Far too many Americans don't know what the real needs of the poor are nor have any real notion of what Christ would have them do with their excess wealth (assuming they ever get to the point where they can recognize that they have excess wealth!).
In the past several years, the Lord has taken many of His people through what can only be called a wilderness experience. In the wilderness is where, as a function of survival, one learns wisdom. And when the Lord's purpose is to restore a right relation between the poor and the wealthy of His people, the poor will be placed right before the eyes of the wealthy. Woe to those who take great care to walk on the far side of the road for the love of God does not dwell in them! ( 1 Jn. 3:17; top ) Whatever we have done - or not done - for the least of Christ's brothers determines whether we are counted as a sheep or a goat. ( Mt. 25:40 , 45; top Apply a theological spin on that passage at your own eternal risk!) The only religion that is pure and undefiled and therefore acceptable to God is to look after the orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. ( Jas. 1:27; top )
If you, the reader, have more than enough food, clothes and stuff for today, take another look at those poor people you routinely pass by. They are your test - and until you discover and do what Jesus would have you do for and with them, you're flunking the test. And the fact that you still consider those poor people to be disobedient to God, under His judgment, possessed of a "spirit of poverty" - whatever theological excuse you've used to see them as beneath your notice and to shirk your own responsibility toward them - only proves that the Lord's work of dismantling the deceptive "health and wealth" paradigm in your life is not yet complete.
So don't be surprised if those poor people - the ones you routinely look down upon and regularly pass by - if their problems never seem to go away. Their problems are the Lord's provision in your life to help you get on with the Lord's work of establishing His life and character in your life.
Until we can see the Lord's work in this way, we will continue to mistake works of mammon and greed as belonging to God (like "church" buildings and empires, for example) and we will completely miss the quiet work of God building up His bride, His body, His people. Until we see that the work of the Lord is to bring His people out of darkness and deception - the realm and work of the demonic - we will not be able to evaluate whether the provision (and maybe even the work) actually comes from God, the world or the devil.
Caveat emptor - let the buyer beware! The man who sows to his flesh will of that flesh reap death, decay and destruction. But the one who sows to the Spirit will of that Spirit reap eternal life. ( Gal. 6:8; top )
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