Are you Working Hard For God? Or Working Well With God?
Here's another great article by C. Anderson, originally published February 4, 2022. Article reposted with permission from https://www.dmmsfrontiermissions.com.
Sabbath is a day for rest and intake. I try to do things that will refresh and renew my soul. One of these for me is listening to audiobooks. Recently, I’ve been listening to a book called More of God by R.T.Kendall. Something struck me as I read yesterday. He spoke about how many of us want more from God instead of more of God. I’ve been rolling that around in my mind the last few days.
In a similar way, when it comes to ministry, we need to shift from working for God to working with God.
Are You a Doer?
I’ll admit it. I’m a doer. I like to work hard and get things done. It’s my personality and the way God designed me. Satisfaction comes when tasks get completed and I can tick things off my to-do list. Not everyone is like that. My husband is completely different in this regard.
It’s good to know yourself and how your unique personality works. Then you can develop your strengths and compensate for your weak areas. Those who are doers like me, need to be careful about some things. We can become too task-oriented and not pay attention to the people around us, focusing only on getting things done. But another key thing, and what I want to focus on today is the danger of working for God instead of working with God. The first can lead to exhaustion. The second leads to fruit and life.
How Our Upbringing Impacts Us
Much of our personality is formed by how we were raised. Other factors contribute, like our parent’s personalities and the genes we inherited. Both of my parents are doers. I grew up with lists of my childhood chores tacked onto the refrigerator. When I completed all I was supposed to do, I’d get a gold star or sticker on my list.
We made our list and ticked it off! It made me feel good to finish everything!
My mom used this to motivate and teach discipline. Nothing wrong with that. I did the same (though to a lesser degree) with my kids.
“Get your work done, then you can go outside and play,” was the mantra at our house.
As a missionary kid in Liberia, going outside to play was pretty appealing! I had an amazing treehouse, a monkey, rabbits, parrots, and even a pangolin to play with if I got my chores finished. But work came first. And work was what I was rewarded for.
The impact of this on my adult life has been positive in many ways. I know how to press through my own laziness or emotional weakness and get things done. It’s served me well.
Where I run into trouble is when I work to finish my list, pushing forward in my own strength rather than checking in with the Holy Spirit. I need to know if my list is even what He has in mind for me that day! It’s easy to get busy working hard on my own projects, instead of prioritizing what is most on God’s heart that day. Or month. Or even year.
Many years ago the Lord spoke to me about asking for His assignments each day. There is nothing wrong with having a list and being productive. But we need to check in with the Holy Spirit often. His priorities need to be ours….every…single…day. What does God want you to do today?
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” - Mattew 11:28-30
Five Signs You Are Working For God, Not With God:
1. When Stress Levels Rise and Refuse to Fall
Nothing angers a goal-oriented person more than an obstacle in the way of accomplishing their goal. Frustration mounts. Anger towards the person or barrier rises within. Sometimes anger turns inward. We get mad at ourselves for not being able to complete the tasks at hand. All these things lead to stress and burnout.
We are carrying the tasks wrongly. God may be in them. He may even have asked you to do those things. But when you strive and struggle to do them apart from Him, anxiety will go through the roof! The temperature gauge on your soul rises, as on a thermometer, someone left in the hot sun.
Stress is normal. If we live life, we will encounter some levels of stress. Ongoing stress that never drops to normalcy is not God’s plan for us. It’s a sign that we are carrying tasks wrongly. We are not letting God carry the load but are striving in our own strength.
2. When Identity Gets Tied to Our Accomplishments
We must remember that the work we do as missionaries is His, not ours! He gets the glory and He is in charge of the outcomes. Our job is to listen and obey. We are to be faithful, to steward the resources, talents, and guidance He gives.
Sometimes people ask me what it takes to launch a movement of disciples. It takes a sovereign move of God, I always answer. Though there are best practices, and many things we can do, it is up to Him. God must move.
When we start to claim the glory for results, or when we feel ashamed at our lack of them, we know we’re in the wrong place. Shame tells us something as does pride. Remember, it’s God’s work, not ours!
3. When We Are Unable to Change Course
Sometimes God changes direction. Are we able to follow Him when He does? This can happen with long-range things or in the course of a day. Someone shows up at your door needing help. Can you respond? Or are you already scheduled so tight you don’t have time to even ask God what He wants you to do?
Many of the most fruitful people I’ve observed are those who are extremely receptive to the leading of the Holy Spirit each and every moment. They have schedules, but those timetables are flexible. God is free to interrupt them any time!
4. When Joy Disappears and Drudgery Surfaces
Ever feel like you are on a treadmill and can’t get off? The pad you are walking on is moving and if you stop, you’ll fall off. So you keep going, and going, and going…unable to take a break. It feels like you never quite catch up. The machine of life only accelerates, no matter how weary you become.
You preach and you teach. You prepare messages, but the life is gone. It’s not much fun anymore.
Oh, believe me, I’ve been there. No condemnation from me! But it can’t stay that way. Recognize what is happening and take action. That leads to the next point.
5. When Time Off Feels Like a Waste of Time
Many Global South Christian leaders and missionaries don’t know how to stop working. Sabbath is a concept they think is only for Westerners. Don’t fall into that trap. God designed it, it’s for you!
Do you find it hard to rest, to relax? This may be a sign that you are working for God more than with Him. God took rest. He wants us to do the same. It’s His design.
A Prayer to Offer
If you saw any of the above signs in yourself, would you pray this prayer with me today?
Lord Jesus, thank you that your yoke is easy and your burden light. I love to work for you, God. But even more than that, I want to work with you. Lead me today. Show me what your priorities are, and how to go about the tasks before me. I want to do things in your way, in your time and with your strength and anointing. Forgive me for getting off course and striving to do things apart from you. Lead me today and restore to me the amazing joy of working with you on your Kingdom tasks. For your glory and for your praise. Amen.
- C. Anderson