Co-Laboriong with God

Last week on Penn State’s campus was the first week of classes. It was crazy hectic as a campus missionary because we’re trying to contact as many people as we possibly can and get them involved before they get involved with too much else and it becomes too difficult for them to fit something else into their schedule; and with a limited staff and 40,000 students to reach, you can imagine it gets a little crazy.  It was an exciting/exhausting week, God’s definitely been moving and doing incredible things but the week was most definitely a sprint while the rest of the semester is going to be a marathon.

The first day of classes, Penn State hosts this event called the involvement fair and it’s a chance for students to come out and get plugged in and experience all the various groups and extra-curricular stuff that Penn State has to offer. I added a new page to the website called “Gallery” and I have some pictures of different things that we have going on posted there throughout the semester, go check out some of the pictures from the involvement fair and see what’s been going on!

Anyways, something really interesting happened to me and one of our other staff pastors while at the involvement fair. A young man from China came walking by and we just said, “Hey man, are you interested in getting involved in a Bible study or church group here on campus and in the community?” And he just looked at us with the most confused look on his face and said with a thick accent said, “Bible study? Is that like a study hall? What is Bible?” And it hit me, this young man had grown up in a culture where the Bible isn’t just scarce, it’s illegal. He had literally never heard of the Bible. And in that moment of realization, I was blasted with so many emotions. And overwhelmed and humbled and my heart broke all over again for the students of this campus. I was reminded why I was called into ministry in the first place.

You may have read a little bit on the site where I mention revival, here and there. And really, we’re all pretty familiar with the concept of revival and what that means in some context, but I want to talk about our method to get there as a ministry. I want to share what we believe is going to bring revival so that we aren’t caught off guard by a young man who grew up in a place where Christianity is outlawed and has never heard of the Bible. This is also the first topic of teachings that we covered with our students within the first week of outreach and Bible studies so you guys can get a taste of what we’re doing real time with the ministry. So here it goes:

Our mechanism for revival, is co-laboring with God. Plain and simple, revival can’t happen aside from God and it doesn’t happen without people. It’s a co-laboring effort between the God of Heaven and the people of this earth that sparks revival into a national or global movement.

The thing that we need to grab onto as a people striving for revival is that God’s work here on earth is not complete unless we are involved. God’s work isn’t complete without us. That almost sounds blasphemous and like it puts God in a box that says that He can’t accomplish things aside from us; but I want to be very clear that I’m not saying that God CAN’T accomplish things aside from us, I’m saying that He WON’T. Not that He can’t but that He chooses not to because we are His prize creation and He chooses us. He longs to get things done with us. We weren’t just created to be carriers of God’s will, we were created as contributors of God’s will and plans.

What is God’s greatest creation? Everything was breathed into existence by God, so what is the greatest? A lot of people will answer that we are, and I don’t disagree, but there’s something deeper and more fundamental about us as humans that makes us God’s greatest creation. There’s something that sets us apart from all other creation that makes us the most prized creation of all and that is a creative nature and the free will to express that creative nature.

I’m not going to get into the argument and what I think about free will and God’s sovereignty here. Maybe another day but as for now we just need to settle on the idea that there is an aspect of being human that sets us apart from other creatures and that is the ability to not operate on pure survival instinct but to actually have a will that dictates our actions.

The thing that we possess as creatures that sets us aside is that we have to ability to create and to freely create. God the creator, created us as creators in His image. So, I would posit that the creative heart and freedom of will expressed through creativity is God’s greatest creation and it only exists in us as humans created in His image. Understanding this creative heart/nature is the key that unlocks the door of co-laboring with God and seeing revival spring forth from that co-laboring.

First off, we need to understand in scripture that Paul describes us, several times, as “co-laborers” or “co-workers” with God. 1 Corinthians 3:9 (ESV) says “For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. The NIV reads the same verse but replaces “fellow workers” with “co-workers in God’s service”. Then later on in 2 Corinthians 6:1 (ESV), Paul again makes the reference where it says, “As God’s co-workers, we urge you…. yada yada” (NIV). Note that the “yada yada” isn’t the actual translation in case you were curious. The point I’m trying to display is that several times Paul calls the people of God “co-workers”.

It’s an interesting descriptor because the phrase “co-worker” doesn’t so much convey a servant mentality so much as it does a peer mentality. To me, a servant has no say. He simply does exactly what is asked, no less no more. That’s it. But a co-worker is somebody who has power to influence the plan. A co-worker is somebody who has contribution to the final product; they bring something to the table to offer an improvement to the system. A co-worker isn’t just somebody who is a pawn in the process and then forgotten.

We see this all through the bible, we see it from the very beginning with Adam. In Genesis 2:19-20 (ESV) we see where God instructed Adam to name the animals. Now in this day and age, a name carried a lot more weight than it does today. In Old Testament Bible a name was actually an identifier of character. That is, you could tell the nature of somebody by their name. The scripture says that when Jacob and Esau were born that Jacob came out of the womb grasping the heal of his brother Esau, and the name ‘Jacob’ literally means, ‘he takes by the heal’. So they assigned names as identifiers of what the nature or character was.

So for God to instruct Adam to name all of the animals, what He was really asking of Adam was to observe the animals and their nature and then name them according to what nature he observed. He was actually telling Adam to assign a nature and characteristic to these creatures.

What we see, in a nutshell is that God brings His creation before Adam, His precious creation; and then He opens that creation up to Adam’s influence and says, whatever character you see in these things, whether that was the nature I designed them with or not, that’s what they’ll be identified as. God co-labored with Adam not because He needed Adam’s input, but because He wanted to work alongside him.

We also see this picture of co-laboring with King David (one of my favorites) in 1 Kings 8:15-17 (ESV) Solomon writes: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who with his hand has fulfilled what he promised with his mouth to David my father, saying, ‘Since the day that I brought my people Israel out of Egypt, I chose no city out of all the tribes of Israel in which to build a house, that my name might be there. But I chose David to be over my people Israel.Now it was at the heart of David my father to build a house for the name of the Lord, the God of Israel.”

Now, naturally we think that if something ended up in the Bible, it’s because it was God’s will. I mean, after all, it is the living word of God. But we see something interesting in this passage. We see that in the case of the temple that David started, Solomon completed, that it wasn’t God’s exact desire to have a temple built for himself. It didn’t go against his desires, but it certainly wasn’t what He had in mind when He chose David. God chose a man to lead His people, and at the heart of that man was a temple. And because God had chosen that man, what was at that man’s heart became important to God and God opened his plan to the influence that David brought to the table. And because of that co-laboring effort, David did something and created something, from his heart, alongside with God. That creative nature paired with the authority of the Almighty resulted in something that changed history for millennia to follow.

The relationship of Christ with His people is often compared to marriage, but the best analogy I can give to this idea of co-laboring is this: I’m engaged, soon to be married. I don’t need my wife in order to survive through life and make it to the other side (don’t tell her I said that). I could never be married and still make it through life. But I don’t want to. The process of doing life alongside the woman that I’ve chosen to be with is so much more enjoyable than if I were to just do it on my own. Even the frustrating parts of being in a relationship, the growth and intimacy that comes out of that place is so much better than just doing life on my own. This is why God chooses to co-labor with us. He chooses to because it’s so much more enjoyable to do it alongside us and to have us contribute. He doesn’t need us to contribute He just likes working alongside us. And really, isn’t that the beauty of it? That God doesn’t so much need us but He still chooses us. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather be wanted than needed.

God is looking to us a contributors, not just carriers of his will. God gave us one big open ended idea in Matthew 6: 10 (ESV) “your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” In this context, the comma that separates the two phrases of that scripture is used to separate two ideas that mean the same thing. It’s like saying, “I have a burning desire to see revival happen at Penn State, God is really stirring my heart for revival in my community.” Those two statements mean the same thing for me. If God is stirring my heart for revival in my community (my community being state college), then I have a burning desire for revival at Penn State. The same thing for this scripture, the comma separates two things that mean the same thing. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven really means God’s will is this: on earth as it is in heaven.

I’m going to leave with this: God gave us this one, big, open-ended idea to run with and He has instructed us, “Go forth and create in light of this; bring heaven to earth and make it on earth as it is in heaven.” We have to create from that place, we have to see God’s heart and character as the principles that the Kingdom of heaven were created upon and then create things in this world that reflect that nature and character of God. God is waiting for us to co-labor along side of Him and release this idea of ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’ David changed history because he co-labored and created with God. We can too.

Creativity often gets bottlenecked into the arts or music or acting or whatever but if you’re an engineer, or a lawyer, or an architect you’re not real creative type; but that’s a load of crap. If you’re an architect and can see Kingdom beauty in buildings, then create heavenly structures here on earth. That’s what David did. If you’re an engineer build a bridge that is worthy of the Kingdom of heaven. Create things, use your creative nature that you possess as a creation of the creator and make something that makes on earth as it is in heaven.

That’s all I’ve got this week guys, sorry again for the post being a little long, but this is one of my favorite topics ever so I figured that I would take a little longer on it. As always, if this blessed or encouraged you in any way, be sure to comment right below and share it on social media! Thanks guys

8 thoughts

  1. We just talked about a similar subject last night at prayer meeting. Used Ecc 3:14-15 and 2pt 1:2-13. Not trying to put an end to the age old debate of free will vs. God’s soverignty either; but the fact is that the Bible does teach both.
    Personally, I find incredible comfort in the fact that my God has every intimate detail of my life under control. Whether I see a situation as good or bad, He either causes it, or allows it all and works it for good. And it’s also a beautiful thing that our relationship is alive! For some reason the Great God of Heaven has given me His very life and breath and allows me to interact with Him and enjoy communion with Him.
    As for where the line between God’s soverignty and human free will is; I don’t think that’s for us to know. Soon after discussing it Paul says, “O the depth of riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!”
    Bottom line: God is in control when I’m not, and He’s invited me to live an intimate and interactive life with Him. It’s a beautiful thing, and a privileged relationship not to be taken lightly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The concept of free will and our choices will never catch God off guard, obviously. Whatever decision we make, God is powerful enough to orchestrate every decision we make for good.

      As for free will vs. God’s sovereignty, I truly believe that free will is reserved exclusively for believers who have reached a point of the sanctification process where obedience is no longer the primary issue.

      People living in sin definitely don’t have free will, they are slaves to sin; no freedom exists in sin. Freedom and free will isn’t the ability to do whatever you want, it’s the ability to do what’s right (according to Galatians 5:13). That is, free will is the ability to be able to make your choices and still sleep at night without being overcome with guilt. Choices that bring guilt and shame have a cost. That’s not ‘free’ will.

      Then, we have to acknowledge that there’s a point in the process of sanctification where obedience no longer is the primary issue. Our hearts have been transformed to the point where we’re not simply denying our flesh to follow Jesus. But after denying our flesh, denying our flesh, denying our flesh, it becomes first nature to follow Christ. It becomes joy to follow Christ. So when we’ve reached that point, free will comes into play because our free actions are going to reflect the heart of God because we’ve been transformed to reflect the heart of God.

      This point in sanctification where our free will lines up with the heart of God is where creativity and co-laboring with God becomes really beautiful; because it’s natural and organic.

      Like

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