Feel Ineffective? Why That Might Not Be So Bad!
Devotions for our day:
1 Hallelujah! How good it is to sing to our God, for praise is pleasant and lovely. 2 The Lord rebuilds Jerusalem; he gathers Israel’s exiled people. 3 He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. Psalm 147:1-3 (CSBBible)
“God makes fools of both theologians and princes, for he commits to us an impossible task which nobody would undertake if he knew about it beforehand but which he is not allowed to relinquish once it has been committed and undertaken. So it is with the rest of our work. We demand many things, but they aren’t done except to a limited degree. We teach many things, but they are learned only to a modest extent. ‘Nothing is successful,’ as the preacher of Solomon says [Eccles. 1:1, 2].
“Why does God act so? Because he alone is wise and powerful. Because if our suggestions and ideas were carried out we would become presumptuous and would claim wisdom and power for ourselves. Because we surround the glory of wisdom and power with the defects which belong to our nature. We want to set things straight and make everything right. To this God says, ‘Well, then, go ahead! Be clever and do a good job! Be a preacher and make the people godly! Be a lord and mend the people’s ways! Get to it at once!’
“What a retrogression would occur! And the conclusion would be: ‘Vanity of vanities’ and ‘Let wisdom be attributed to God alone’ [Eccles: 1:2; 2:26]. We are fools and wretched bunglers in all we do and attempt.”
As I began to read Luther’s thoughts this morning, I wondered if he had been projecting himself 500 years forward, and was observing me. You see, I resonate to the frustration of things not getting done, and often wonder whether I am helping anyone learn anything, especialy when I wonder if they are learning to depend on Jesus more.
The battle seems to never end, and so I question the efficiency of my work. The experts all talk about being more effective in ministry, how to get better results. ( Note: It is always good to look at their track record and see how they did! If they were truly successul, why did they leave?) But the weight is burdensome, it can even seem to crush you.
But I ask this question – the one that Luther alludes to, why are you expecting you are the one to get it done?
Why do we expect our work to be as successul as the One who was crucified? Why do we spend more time planning and trying to find the ways we need to manipulate life?
I am not saying do not put effort into what we do, but what we do has to originate in what God is doing. The ancients in the church talked about our reaction of praising God for HIs work and promises being what forms our beliefs (our doctrine – what we teach). Those beliefs in turn should cause our actions.
It starts with God, and what He is doing, as we see God renuild His community, as we see God gather and heal His people. It relies on Him for our efficacy, for it is His work, and we follow. WIth HIm we find that we are loving the unlovable, brining healing to the broken, sharing His mercy with those around us that neither deserve the mercy, nor know it exists.
I need to remember this, I need God to remind me of it often, so that life isn’t managed by the fool and bungler that I am, but the God that works within you and I.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 98.