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Is Hard Work Equivalent to Following the Will of God
It was a summer afternoon. The blazing sun beat down on the ground, and the heat made people feel somewhat suffocated. Cicadas were shrilling tirelessly, causing the people taking their lunch break to be more fretful. Mu Yang came to Zhen Yan’s house to visit him. As soon as he walked into the yard, he turned to speak to Zhen Yan behind him, “Zhen Yan, I come here today to discuss an urgent issue with you!”
Zhen Yan shut the gate of the yard, and then walked toward the room. Seeing Mu Yang’s anxious look, he said with a smile, “Mu Yang, don’t fret. No matter what has come up, let’s first go into the living room and then talk.”
After entering the living room, they sat on the sofa. Mu Yang took up a fan beside him, and said as he kept fanning himself, “Zhen Yan, we started to believe in the Lord Jesus together when we were in junior high school. It has been over thirty years. In these years we have worked hard for the Lord and preached everywhere. I even gave up my marriage in order to serve the Lord wholeheartedly and resolved to expend for Him my whole life. I think doing so is exactly being loyal to the Lord and following the will of God, and believe that when the Lord returns and sees my contributions, He will surelyme into the kingdom of heaven. However, unexpectedly, this morning when we were about to finish our Bible study, Co-worker Li mentioned that we would not necessarily be able to gain the Lord’s approval by dedicating ourselves to Him and making sacrifices in this way. He also said that we only sought to labor hard outwardly, and this was not doing the will of God. At his words, I got so annoyed and had a long debate with him about this. Though I tried my best to refute his viewpoint at that time, after pondering it carefully, I felt what he said made some sense. However, when I think about how we have always considered and practiced in this way for so many years, I still feel there can’t be anything wrong with it!”
At this point, Mu Yang paused for a moment, and then he continued to say, “Well, Zhen Yan, do you think that this problem is very serious? If it is truly like what Co-worker Li said, and practicing in this way isn’t doing the will of God, then will not our decades of efforts be in vain? If so, how can we enter into the kingdom of heaven? The Lord, ‘but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven’ (Matthew 7:21). The Lord’s words are very clear. Only people doing the will of God can enter into the kingdom of heaven. Then, are we really doing the will of God by sacrificing for the Lord like this? I need to quickly make this problem clear, or I will not be able to eat or sleep. Zhen Yan, what do you think about this problem?”
After hearing that, Zhen Yan thought for a while, and then steadily said, “Mu Yang, we all think as long as we work hard for the Lord and forsake everything else, then we are following the will of God, and can enter into the heavenly kingdom. In fact, not only we but most believers in the Lord have such a viewpoint. But is this viewpoint really in accordance with God’s will? Does it conform to the truth? In this period of time, I have always pondered this problem. One day when I was studying the Bible, I saw the words of the Lord Jesus, ‘Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity’ (Matthew 7:21-23). Then I wondered: Why did the Lord say those who preached and sacrificed for Him were evildoers? The words of the Lord Jesus made me reflect on myself: I labored and expended for the Lord all these years. In order to make the church prosperous, I worked among the brothers and sisters, visiting and supporting them when they were negative and weak. However, will I also become the evildoer? To be honest, I really felt worried. In retrospect, I worked, expended, and supported brothers and sisters in the name of the Lord Jesus, but I did not seek the Lord’s intentions before doing these things. Were my words and actions following the will of the Father in heaven? Could I be approved by the Lord? With these questions, many times I prayed to the Lord and studied the scriptures in the Bible. I didn’t get any answer until several days ago when I went away to visit Brother Liu and seek fellowship with him about this. Only then did I come to understand …”
Mu Yang’s eyes lit up at these words, and he hurried to ask, “What did you know? Tell me quickly.”
Zhen Yan said seriously, “We have been blinded by our own notions all these years.” Mu Yang looked at Zhen Yan with bewilderment, waiting for him to go on.
Zhen Yan continued, “We all know of the Pharisees. On the outside they sacrificed, expended, and worked hard for God, compassing land and sea to spread the gospel of God, and often reading the scriptures and preaching to the Jewish people. But all their actions contained their own motives and intentions. When they were preaching, they taught people to hold the tradition of men and abandon the commandments of God. And their spreading the gospel of God was for the sake of their own status and income. In the end, when the Lord Jesus came to work, they not only didn’t lead the Jewish people to keep up with God’s new work, but did their utmost to resist and condemn God’s work. From this, we can see that although the Pharisees outwardly expended for God, they never followed God’s way or put God’s words into practice. They were not at all the people who followed the will of God.
“That is to say, God’s measure of whether man obeys the will of God is mainly based on whether man follows His way and practices His words. Just like the Lord Jesus required of us, ‘If a man love me, he will keep my words.… He that loves me not keeps not my sayings’ (John 14:23-24). ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment’ (Matthew 22:37-38). From these words of the Lord, we can see that God requires us to love Him with all our heart, soul and mind, that is, to seek to satisfy and love Him in everything without our own intentions. Only by behaving like this are we following the will of God, and only in this way can we obtain the Lord’s acceptance. Take Abraham in the Bible for example. When God asked him to offer up his only son, in spite of some reluctance in his heart, Abraham still obeyed and acted completely according to God’s demand without his own choice. Another example is Job. He had been pursuing to fear God and shun evil all his life. When all of his property was taken away by robbers and he lost all his children, Job still extolled the holy name of God, without any complaint. And he never thought that only if he obeyed would God double His blessings upon him. Peter is yet another example. He followed the Lord Jesus all his life and eventually managed to achieve an ultimate love for God and obedience unto death. These former saints practiced God’s words not for the sake of making a deal with God, but in order to satisfy the will of God and love and obey God. People like them are precisely the ones who love God with all their heart, soul and mind as required by God, that is, the ones who follow the will of God.
Comparing ourselves with these former saints and measuring ourselves, we indeed haven’t been able to love God with all our heart, soul and mind, and we are not at all the people who obey the will of God. Thinking back, the reason why I chose to give up my job and expend for the Lord was to receive more of God’s grace and use my sacrifice in exchange for the blessings of the heavenly kingdom. My expenditure and toil are adulterated. Plainly speaking, I have been trying to make a deal with God. The Lord observes deep into the hearts of men, so how can He praise my devotion which is adulterated?”
Mu Yang felt Zhen Yan’s fellowship made a lot of sense, and he slowly calmed down. However, he could not fully accept it inside. Zhen Yan read Mu Yang’s mind, and then he took out a book, opened it, and began to read, “Many of those who follow God are only concerned with how to gain blessings or avoid disaster. At the mention of the work and management of God, they fall silent and lose all interest. They believe that knowing such tedious questions will not grow their lives or be of any benefit, and so although they have heard messages about the management of God, they treat them casually. And they do not see them as something precious to be accepted, much less do they receive them as part of their lives. Such people have one very simple aim in following God: to gain blessing, and they are too lazy to attend to anything that doesn’t involve this aim. For them, believing in God to gain blessings is the most legitimate of goals and the very value of their faith. They are unaffected by anything that cannot achieve this objective. … Apart from the benefits that are so closely associated with them, could there be any other reason for these people who never understand God to give so much to Him? In this, we discover a previously unidentified problem: Man’s relationship with God is merely one of naked self-interest. It is the relationship between the receiver and giver of blessings. To put it plainly, it is like the relationship between employee and employer. The employee works only to receive the rewards bestowed by the employer. In a relationship like this, there is no affection, only a deal; there is no loving and being loved, only charity and mercy; there is no understanding, only resignation and deception; there is no intimacy, only a gulf that cannot be bridged.”
Finishing reading these words, Zhen Yan raised his head, and looked at Mu Yang, saying, “This passage of words hits the nail on the head. It reveals our purpose of spending for the Lord. We have believed in God and sacrificed for Him with the intention to receive blessings all the time. Then how can such pursuit satisfy God’s will? And how can our toil which is adulterated be doing God’s will?”
At this moment, Mu Yang couldn’t help thinking of the words he himself had just said and came to realize: Haven’t my words already shown my purpose in abandoning everything and believing God these years? I always claimed to wholeheartedly serve God, yet in fact, myis not for the sake of satisfying God, but is to have a good future and destination. Although on the outside I have preached and done much work in the Lord’s name, all that I have done is for the sake of my personal desire. … Thinking of this, Mu Yang shook his head and said, “Alas, seen in this way, we all have our own purposes in believing in the Lord, and even if we can sacrifice for Him, we do so with the intention to receive blessings and to make a deal with the Lord. What we do has nothing to do with doing the will of God at all! Today, after listening to what you have said, I feel it’s really despicable of me to use my toil in exchange for being raptured by the Lord into the heavenly kingdom!”
Zhen Yan agreed with a nod, “So am I!”
At this moment, the sun was setting, and the scorching sunshine became much softer. Now and then, there was a cool wind blowing, taking away the dry and hot sensation. Mu Yang and Zhen Yan continued their conversation …
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