To Every Man His Work
By F. B. Meyer
The Christian life is sure to manifest itself in holy activity as certainly as the life of a plant manifests itself in flower and fruit. It is perfectly true to speak of such activities as work – “to every man his work” (Mark 13:34). But to describe them as fruit brings out another shade of meaning and indicates our entire dependence for all successful work on our living connection with our glorious Lord.
The Lord Jesus is Himself the great Worker. He came to finish the work which His Father gave Him to do. Mark fitly describes Him during His earthly career as the swift and incessant worker, whose days were crowded with incident from early dawn far on into the night. “I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day...” (John 9:4).
It is a great mistake to suppose that His work has ceased. The Gospels tell us only of what He began to do and teach. But the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, which might be better called the Book of the Acts of the living and ascended Lord, takes up the wondrous story and tells us of what He continued to do and teach after He had passed through the heavens to the right hand of God. He is still the great Worker throughout all the ages, both in the universe and in the church.
But is it not true that the ascended Lord requires organs and instruments for the expression and working out of His mighty thoughts and purposes? He is the Head of the body, the church, and He needs members as the instruments through which He may convey His purposes of grace and power towards the world. As of old He passed the blessings that throbbed in His heart through the hands, and lips, and presence of His mortal body, so now He must employ His own beloved ones to be His hands, His lips, His feet, His body – by which men may receive healing virtue. Paul was therefore consistent with the deepest truth, when he declared particularly what things “God had wrought” among the Gentiles by his ministry (Acts 15:12). And we shall work effectively when we understand that we are not required to originate or execute work for Christ so much as to work out His schemes in His own strength.
Who amongst the readers of these lines does not long to be as useful as possible in this brief life, to fulfill all the possibilities of usefulness, and to apprehend that for which Christ has apprehended him? But this can never be until all the powers of nature which Christ has redeemed, are placed absolutely at His disposal with this prayer, “Do with me, in me, to me, by me, as Thou wilt; only make as much of me as can be made on this side of the gates of pearl. Work out Thine own ideal. Fulfill in me all the good pleasure of Thy will. Perfect that which concerneth me.”
The maker of the organ can best develop the sweet and mighty tones which sleep within its compass. The inventor of an ingenious machine can best unfold its varied appliances. And surely it stands to reason that He who knows what is in us can best call forth our faculties, and use them and manipulate them for His glory, and to our joy. Oh, what could not the Lord Jesus do by us if only we were wholly yielded to Him!
Let us note a few hints which may be of assistance to Christian workers:
Work from Pure Motives
Alas! how much of our work vanishes without note in heaven because it springs from no motive that can pass muster there. With what shame do many of us review the ignoble and worthless motives by which we have been prompted. To gain a livelihood; to win a name; to excite applause; to out vie some neighbor; to win a victory; to accomplish a difficult and almost impossible task; these have inspired us in many deeds of Christian service, which have received the commendation of those who judge by appearance, and not by heart. How could our God be pleased with us or accept our service! Our most splendid deeds have been irreparably spoilt by the meanness of the motives that prompted them.
Our motives must be pure. The root will affect all the fruit. The stream cannot rise higher than its source. We must get rid of the constant thought of self. We must become oblivious to the praise or blame of man. We must let the sun of divine love burn out the fire of selfish ambition and personal aims. We must bring our weak and weary hearts to the Heart-physician, asking Him to cleanse them by the inspiration of His Holy Spirit, disentwining the clinging evil of self and filling us with His own sweet, ingenuous, and perfect love. May our hearts burn with the pure flame of devotion that trembles in the hearts of seraphs! This our cry in life and death: “Glory to God in the Highest!”
Work According to God’s Plan
One of the most suggestive texts in the Bible, far-reaching in its many applications, is that in which God says to Moses, “...See…that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount” (Heb. 8:5). Not a stake or a curtain or an atom of fragrant spice was left to the genius of the artificer or the fancy of the lawgiver. All was unfolded to Moses in elaborate detail, and all he had to do was to produce that plan in careful and exact obedience until at last it stood complete before the wondering host of Israel. And God provided the material in abundance out of which the plan was to be elaborated. If we will execute His plans, we need have no anxiety about the stuff; He will make Himself responsible for that.
Does not this touch the secret of much of our failure? We reason thus: “This seems a feasible thing; it promises well; other men are doing it; success seems within grasp and would be very sweet; I shall certainly go in for it.” We do not stay to ask whether it is one of those good works which God has before prepared for us to walk in (Eph. 2:10). We do not seek to know, by prayer and waiting whether it is in God’s plan for us. We do not humbly wait to be taught if God wants our help in this special direction.
And it is only when we have plunged deeply into our course and have met with all manner of discouragement that we begin to question whether we should have adopted it at all. Then we run to ask God to extricate us, to help us out, and to forgive us for having built and launched and chartered our ships without asking Him if we were acting in accordance with His will. The fact is, we start an enterprise and presently ask God to help us, instead of first asking what He was doing and whether we could help Him.
Do not think that this mode of life will lead to listless dreaming. None are so energetic, so swift, so mighty in their holy activities as those who know that they are on God’s lines, doing their little bit in the mighty scheme of His choosing, sure that His accomplished plan will amply justify them, and casting all responsibilities on His perfect wisdom.
Do not run hither and thither asking for work. How can anyone tell you what the Master wants you to do? We can but guess at the best. Go straight to the Lord Jesus for yourselves. Tell Him you cannot bear to be shut out of His glorious fellowship. Entreat Him to indicate your place. And never rest content until, like Peter, you turn from the vision to the task and, in the knock of the far-travelled messengers, you are summoned to the work which needs you.
Work as Those Freshly Cleansed
The priests must wash in the laver before they perform the service of the Sanctuary. They must be clean who bear the vessels of the Lord. A man must purge himself from iniquity if he shall be “a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the Master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (2 Tim. 2:21).
If in haste we would give a draught of refreshing water to a traveler, we take from our shelf the first vessel which is clean. We pass over the elegant and richly chased cup for the earthenware mug if the latter has a cleanliness which the former lacks. And our Lord Jesus will gladly use us for His service though we be of but common ware, if only we are clean and ready for use.
Work in God’s Strength
No man is sent to the warfare on his own charges, and yet many Christians argue as if that were one of heaven’s standing orders. None, however, are ever called to a work which God does not know is within the limits of the strength which He has given, or which He is ready to give to the opened, upturned heart. He does not want our strength – it is often a hindrance to Him because we are so apt to rely on it to the exclusion of Himself. He wants our weakness, our infirmities, our nothingness – “that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us” (2 Cor. 4:7).
Far from your consciousness of powerlessness being a barrier to your efficient work, it will be one of the strongest elements in your success – if only you are driven to lay hold on His strength and be at peace. “And He said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:9).
When asking Christians to undertake certain branches of Christian work, one is so often met with the excuse, “I cannot do it; I am not fitted for it. I have no power to speak.” Such have much need to get back to the desert and learn the significant lesson of the rod which Moses held in his hand. He was questioning his sufficiency to take up the work which was being thrust upon him, but he learned that if only a rod is cast down before God, it becomes endowed with new powers. It can be and do what would be impossible by nature, and through the power of God it may become invested with such might as to carve a way through the waves, roll back the hosts of Amalek, and bring water from the flinty rock.
Why should not we be as that rod in the hands of Christ? Without Him we cannot be other than broken reeds, but in and with Him we become pillars in the temple from which we shall go no more out. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13).
And there is no way so good of getting God’s strength as being diligent students of His precious Word. This is the medium of conveying strength to our inmost souls; as the grain conveys the strength of the earth to the nutriment of our natural life. Read your Bibles, Christian workers, if you would be strong. And it also stands to reason that the Holy Spirit is much more likely to use marvelously the man whose mind is steeped and saturated with the thoughts and phraseology of Scripture, which has been indicted by Him as the medium of eternal truths to human hearts.
Work in Believing Expectancy
How often and how truly it has been said that God never uses a discouraged man. No great measure of success will ever come to him who does not believe in it and expect it. In this, as in all other spiritual work, we are governed by one unchanging law: According to your faith be it done unto you. “Only be thou strong and very courageous...” (Josh. 1:7).
And why should we not go forth with the certainty of those who know that they shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing with them their sheaves? We go on God’s errands; we are provided with His seed; we are directed by His unerring wisdom to our plot in the field; we are sure of His cooperation in giving sun and shower, dew and rain. We may have to wait, as all true husbandmen must, but there can be no doubt as to the ultimate issue.
Oh, what a glorious work is ours – to give effect to the yearnings of divine love; to be the organs and instruments of the redemptive purpose of God; to be associated with Christ in the salvation of the lost; to pluck men as brands from the burning, and to hold them aloft as torches for the progress of the King; to hasten the glad day of His Second Coming; to be His heralds and ambassadors!
Well is it to have been summoned to do it; and a thousand times better to know that it is to be the employment of eternal ages, of which it is written, “...His servants shall serve Him” (Rev. 22:3).