No Good Deed… When God Puts a Limit on "Good Works" - Purity 934
Purity 934 01/06/2023 Purity 934 Podcast
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Today’s photo of a thriving corn field underneath an exquisitely blue sky with idyllic cumulus cloud formations comes to us from yours truly as I captured this peaceful scene on Waite Rd in Easton back on August 13th of 2022.
Well, It’s Friday and while I pulled the short straw and have to work tomorrow, I know that for most today is greeted with joy or at least relief as the first work week of 2023 will draw to a close at “quitting time” later today and I am choosing to rejoice with those who will be rejoicing and pray that all who read or hear this message have an easy day at work and a wonderful weekend.
One sign of a healthy, growing, mature Christian is seen by one’s ability to share in the joy of others. Rather than giving into feelings of envy or coveting someone else’s good fortunes, our hearts thrive when we can share in someone else joy rather than lament over our perceived lack.
One of the prayers from Dr. Neil Anderson’s “Overcomer’s Covenant in Christ” is to “choose to adopt the attitude of Christ, which was to do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind” to “regard others as more important than” ourselves, “and not merely to look out for” our “own personal interests but also the interests of others”, knowing it is more blessed to receive.
So as Christians who seek to do the Lord’s will, we try to adopt an attitude that considers the needs of others and to look for opportunities to “do good works”, to help others when we can.
When we walk in the Spirit where we are drawing close to God and listening for His guidance, occasionally we will receive intuitions or promptings to step out and do good works. Some of these promptings or opportunities are pretty easy to recognize. If your local church is organizing an event where you can serve the church or the community in some way, that’s a wide open invitation to step out in faith and lend a helping hand. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to say “Yes” to everything, nor does it mean that you should exercise “your freedom from legalism” by saying “No” to everything!
We have to be discerning in doing “good works” and be sure that we are doing them for the right reasons and with the right spirit. If you are signing up to do “good works” because you think it will make God love you more or that He will accept you more, I would invite you to review the teaching from Dr. Anderson’s “Victory over the Darkness” to gain the understanding of who you are in Christ and to accept the fact that God’s love and acceptance are not impacted by your efforts. God loves and accepts us according to His grace, not our works.
If you become frustrated or angry or feel you are doing “good works” out of obligation, you should probably take a break from them because you are probably burned out or operating from a self-focused attitude that has forgotten all that you have received in Christ and that it is a blessing to be able to represent His kingdom and to do the good works He has prepared for you to walk into. We don’t “have to” do good works, we are blessed to “get to” do good works and to give God glory. If you don’t feel “blessed” by the ”good work” you do for God, you may need to remind yourself of who you are in Christ and what that means.
Without Christ, we are eternally lost. We are dead. Did you forget that? We don’t operate by obligation. We could never pay back God for what He did for us. It’s not about that.
But if we truly grasp and meditate on all that we have in Christ, we should have a well spring of joy in our lives that never runs out. When we focus on the world or ourselves instead of focusing on what God has done for us, that joy can dry up. So abide in Christ, in prayer, worship, praise, and meditation, to keep your joy flowing, so you can have an abiding peace and joy that will naturally lead you to step out into good works.
I will keep it real and admit that sometimes frustrating things or circumstances can arise and the outcomes of our good works can be less than we expected, but when your motivation is to surrender to the service of the Lord for His glory and out of the joy of your salvation, you will be able to endure the negative and accept the results for what they are or as another lesson for growth on the path to sanctification.
I often share the story of organizing “bell ringing” for the salvation Army during Christmas time at my former church and how a colleague was less then joyful to be standing outside in the cold in the early morning hours as we partnered to do the first shift on the opening weekend of that Christmas drive a couple of years ago. Although he was enthusiastic to sign up, he wasn’t “feeling it” early that morning. But I showed him how it was done and impressed upon him that we were blessed to be out there collecting funds for a good cause and greeting people with a hearty “Good morning!” and “Merry Christmas”. It was awesome to his grumpiness disappear, as his frown turned upside down and he gave into the “joy set before us.”
We later went to lunch and were talking about our recovery ministry and a woman in the restaurant overheard us and came over to tell us her testimony of how the Lord had led her out of the darkness years ago and how she was over 30 years sober because she trusted God to bring her out of her addiction. We were blessed by her testimony and encouraged her to keep on walking and talking with God and she seemed to appreciate it because even though she had the victory she seemed to need to get her “joy” back and so she tapped into ours because we were openly rejoicing over what we had done and by what God was doing in our recovery ministry and the good works of the day.
Joy is infectious. Its is the fruit of the Spirit and it grows when we praise the Lord and follow where He leads us.
Now I have to ease back on the joy meter a little here. I definitely want to encourage you to operate in joy and seek good works to give God glory but we also have to be discerning and realize that some of the “ideas” we get to do good works are not necessarily “God breathed” and we have to be open to His guidance when He calls us to ease back or to walk away from situations that we thought were a “good work” but either prove to be our own ideas or that our “work here is done”.
I have two examples of this.
Years ago I saw on social media that a Facebook friend was having difficulties with the new housing that they were blessed with. They needed furniture and a few things around the apartment needed fixing. Feeling that this was a great opportunity to do good works, I offered up to bring over some old furniture right away and to try to see if I could possibly help with some other things. I was encouraged to help this “friend” because they had made some posts about going to church and turning over a new leaf from their previous broken existence. So I rushed over and delivered the furniture but after I talked to them for a few minutes “my spirit” told me to “ease back” and walk away because their faith was surface level and disingenuous and perhaps a “scam” because they were obviously still living a sinful lifestyle and their requests for additional help seemed opportunistic. They didn’t seem to be working towards righting their situation but seemed to have their hands out to take whatever they could get. When we discussed their “new found faith” I got the impression they had found a local church that was giving to them and they were gladly accepting their help but they were only in it for what they could get. So I felt foolish, I gladly gave what I did without regrets but pulled the plug on that “good work” project and encouraged them to stay connected to that local church to receive the help and guidance they needed.
Was that mean? No, I don’t think so. Is this a good testimony, where this friend went on to be strong in the Lord and to be transformed. No unfortunately it is not. It appears that my spirit was right because as far as I know they quickly gave up their new faith.
I’m sure there are some who would say that I should have done more and that I could have turned things around, but I don’t think that is the case. That was years ago, and I have continued to be “out there” encouraging and inviting people to the ministries I have done and to follow the Lord, but I still haven’t heard from this person.
The other example was similar. I recently decided to bless a person with Christmas card and very small and modest gift, a $5.00, gift card because I felt lead to bless them. This person is on public assistance I believe, is distant family, and has special needs. We have been chatting on FB messenger and they asked about a Christmas card and asked for gift, a $30 dollar gift card to a restaurant. I decided to be kind and send them a Christmas card and obviously a more modest gift. I had considered giving the full amount but something in “my spirit” told me that what I sent was “enough”.
I felt good about it. “Look at me, sending a gift to one of the “least of these”, right?
Well, now I know why my spirit told me that my meager gift was “enough?’ Just like my previous experience, this “friend” seemed energized by my giving and quickly told me about the fact that their birthday is this month and they asked for 2 – or 3 gifts cards ($30 or $40 dollars each, please) and a “small handheld computer”.
I didn’t really consider sending the money but offered to send them my old laptop and actually started to prepare to ship it to them.
But before I got a chance to send it out, they contacted me again asking for the gift cards. When I made it clear that I wasn’t going to send them any, I realized that maybe that the fact that my spirit told me “$5 was enough” meant that I wasn’t necessarily “called” to bend over backwards to “bless” this person. Maybe my idea to do this “good work” was more about stroking my ego than answering the Lord’s call.
So I asked if my old lap top, from 2014 with windows 7, was something that they wanted. They quickly replied that they wanted a “hand held” computer – indicating that what I wanted wouldn’t be welcome and that they basically wanted a “new” computer.
It was at that point that I realized that “I was done”, this wasn’t necessarily something I was “supposed to do” and if anything it was either a lesson for me to be discerning or possibly a lesson to this person to pursue work to obtain what they desired. They admitted that they wanted a “paying job”.
So I don’t know if this interaction will light a spark and move them seek employment or if it was just a lesson for me to be discerning in offering help. My offer of an old lap top seemed to be a good idea but could be seen to be an insult. We have to be careful when we seek to help the “least of these” not to give “less than” what they desire or need. I think that our “benevolent ideas” are so benevolent when we give people our junk. This why some charities refuse to take used toys or items. It isn’t really a blessing to receive junk.
So my magnanimous attempt to “be nice” ended up opening my eyes to this and have humbled me. Causing me to warn all of you to be discerning in “answering the call to “do good works” and to be sure that our attempts to offer help or meet needs will meet the expectations of and actually bless the people we want to help. And so I join with the Apostle Paul who prayed:
9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment,
10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ,
11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
As representatives to the King, we want to do right things for the right reasons, using our knowledge and discernment to be filled with the fruits of righteousness and to do “good works” that will actually give glory to God.
So I encourage you to do good works but to be led the Spirit and to know when “enough is enough” or when to say “No.” and when to “turn and walk away.” When we do things in our own strength or to stroke our egos, they usually result in a mess and cause us to think that “no good deed goes unpunished” but in truth these “failures” should humble us and cause us to see that we may have misread our signals or have been given the opportunity to learn patience and wisdom from our mistakes.
We learn as we go, right? So keep walking and talking with God and try to listen every once in a while. Sometimes He may tell you back off, rather than press in.
As always, I invite all to go to mt4christ.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian theologians and counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk.
Today we continue sharing from A.W. Pink’s “The Sovereignty of God”
As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase Bonhoeffer’s books for your own private study and to support his work. This resource is available on many websites for less than $20.00.
THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD
By ARTHUR W. PINK
THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD IN CREATION
“Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honor, and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created” (Rev. 4:11).
Having shown that sovereignty characterizes the whole Being of God, let us now observe how it marks all His ways and dealings.
In the great expanse of eternity which stretches behind Genesis 1:1, the universe was unborn and creation existed only in the mind of the great Creator. In His sovereign majesty God dwelt all alone. We refer to that far distant period before the heavens and the earth were created. There were then no angels to hymn God’s praises, no creatures to occupy His notice, no rebels to be brought into subjection. The great God was all alone amid the awful silence of His own vast universe. But even at that time, if time it could be called, God was sovereign. He might create or not create according to His own good pleasure. He might create this way or that way; He might create one world or one million worlds, and who was there to resist His will? He might call into existence a million different creatures and place them on absolute equality, endowing them with the same faculties and placing them in the same environment; or, He might create a million creatures each differing from the others, and possessing nothing in common save their creaturehood, and who was there to challenge His right? If He so pleased, He might call into existence a world so immense that its dimensions were utterly beyond finite computation; and were He so disposed, He might create an organism so small that nothing but the most powerful microscope could reveal its existence to human eyes. It was His sovereign right to create, on the one hand, the exalted seraphim to burn around His throne, and on the other hand, the tiny insect which dies the same hour that it is born. If the mighty God chose to have one vast gradation in His universe, from loftiest seraph to creeping reptile, from revolving worlds to floating atoms, from macrocosm to microcosm, instead of making everything uniform, who was there to question His sovereign pleasure?
Behold then the exercise of Divine sovereignty long before man ever saw the light. With whom took God counsel in the creation and disposition of His creatures? See the birds as they fly through the air, the beasts as they roam the earth, the fishes as they swim in the sea, and then ask, Who was is that made them to differ? Was it not their Creator who sovereignly assigned their various locations and adaptations to them!
Turn your eye to the heavens and observe the mysteries of Divine sovereignty which there confront the thoughtful beholder: “There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory” (1 Cor. 15:41). But why should they? Why should the sun be more glorious than all the other planets? Why should there be stars of the first magnitude and others of the tenth? Why such amazing inequalities? Why should some of the heavenly bodies be more favorably placed than others in their relation to the sun? And why should there be “shooting stars,” falling stars, “wandering stars” (Jude 13), in a word, ruined stars? And the only possible answer is, “For Thy pleasure they are and were created” (Rev. 4:11).
Come now to our own planet. Why should two thirds of its surface be covered with water, and why should so much of its remaining third be unfit for human cultivation or habitation? Why should there be vast stretches of marshes, deserts and ice-fields? Why should one country be so inferior, topographically, from another? Why should one be fertile, and another almost barren? Why should one be rich in minerals and another own none? Why should the climate of one be congenial and healthy, and another uncongenial and unhealthy? Why should one abound in rivers and lakes, and another be almost devoid of them? Why should one be constantly troubled with earthquakes, and another be almost entirely free from then? Why? Because thus it pleased the Creator and Upholder of all things.
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