May 22, 2019
After becoming a Christian, it is common to see an intense zeal and excitement to serve the Lord. Often times people are so enthralled by the revelation that God provides, and seek to do anything and everything they can to serve His purposes. This is a good desire. It is a good thing to serve the Lord. It is good to be zealous for good works. However, the Bible also teaches that we need to be careful about our attitudes concerning our service. While it might appear that our efforts to serve the Lord’s purposes are helpful, we must always remember that God doesn’t need our help. This might seem discouraging to any zeal and excitement to serve God, but our continued understanding of this truth produces the required humility that makes our service to God pleasing to Him. It is one thing to perform a task that seems good for the Gospel. It is another thing to perform that task with the right attitude. God does not need us to do anything for Him. God is not pleased by the things we do. Instead, God is pleased with our attitudes when He engages us in His work and purposes.
When we serve the Lord, it is important to remember the true nature of our “helpfulness” to God because it is reflective of our acknowledgment of who God is. If we think that our works are actually helpful to His purposes as if He needs us or depends on us, then we are showing that we forget about the exalted and sovereign position of God. The Bible teaches that God is supremely exalted above all things in heaven and on earth. He is seated above all creatures in heaven above the firmament that divides the throne of God above His creation. His glory is unapproachable light. When the Apostle John saw the glory of the throne of the Father, he saw that the Father held a scroll in His right hand. John wept because he recognized that no one was able to take the scroll or even look at it – that is, no one except for Jesus! Clearly, we as people cannot engage at God’s level. We cannot do what He does. He is the cause of all things. Without the gracious provision of God, we wouldn’t even exist. We need to remember this critical part of God’s nature if we are to serve Him with the humility that pleases Him.
The testimony of Job teaches this same principle. In Job 35:4-8, Elihu reminded Job of this fundamental truth. Job had boasted about the good works that he did prior to his suffering. God provided Job with great wealth, resources, and influence. Job used those things to serve his family and the people around him. Job didn’t keep that which God gave for himself. Job didn’t live selfishly. Job had the gift of giving, and gave of his increase to address the physical and spiritual needs of others. It was true that Job did good works that glorified God. However, when Job spoke of those things during his time of suffering, he spoke as if those works made him worthy of better treatment from God. Job figured the good works he did entitled him to different circumstances. Job felt like he had earned more favor from God by the volume of good things that he did in God’s name. Elihu reminded Job about the nature of those works that he did.
Elihu told Job to do a simple thing – look up. It is interesting to note the manner in which God created human beings. We are creatures that walk upright, having the unique ability to look up as well as bow down. This is by design. Elihu asked Job to look up so as to notice “the heavens” and the clouds in the sky. Elihu wanted to remind Job that, while he could see the clouds in the sky, he couldn’t reach them. The clouds of the sky are far above people on the earth. Who can jump up to touch the clouds by their own efforts and power? Yet, God is the Creator of those clouds, the Administrator of those clouds, and sits high above them! When Elihu referred to the heavens, he was talking about space – the sun, moon, and stars. Throughout history, mankind has marveled so much over the sun, moon, and stars, that people have worshiped them as gods. Many gods in ancient history have been modeled after the things we see in space. When we look up to see the sun, moon, and stars, we are looking at things that we cannot grasp, touch, or draw near. With all the technological advancements, we cannot visit the closest star next to our sun. We cannot walk on the surface of the sun. We cannot readily walk on the moon, and the times mankind have visited the moon are scrutinized and controversial. Yet, like the clouds, God is the Creator, Sustainer, and Administrator of the sun, moon, and stars. They are like His army, and He, the General. They obey His command, and God is so intimately controlling of these things that He knows each star by name!
Elihu sought to correct Job’s perspective. Were Job’s works really so good for God if the magnitude of God’s works pale Job’s efforts in comparison? What is it to help a person in need with a cup of water compared to God’s creation of the water that is served? What is it to help the poor with money compared to God’s creation of the sun? If God is able to create and sustain to that magnitude, He obviously doesn’t need our help to meet the needs of the people on this planet. In Job 35:4-8 Elihu reminded Job that God is so far exalted above us that our good works and efforts don’t compare to the glory that naturally comes from God’s essence. Seeking to correct Job’s perspective, Elihu brought up some compelling points.
When we sin, does it affect God? What does sin accomplish against God? Do our faults and failures cripple God or confuse His purposes and works? The great cherubim called Lucifer rebelled against God, taking one third of heaven’s angels with him, and yet it is the testimony of Job that shows God still has total control over them. What has their rebellion accomplished? The devil has already been judged with his sentencing date coming soon. The manner and extent of his judgment has already been declared and God has already fulfilled many of the promises that needed to be done to render His judgments completely. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, was God confused and foiled in His plans for people? Genesis 3:15 shows that God was already prepared to judge the devil, administrate consequences for sin, and also provide mercy, grace, and hope in salvation by His own right hand. When the world rebelled against God during the days of Noah, was God foiled, confused, or affected by the magnitude of sin? God had a plan in place to judge and to use that judgment as a prophetic picture of His salvation. When mankind sought to rebel against God again during the days of Nimrod by building the Tower of Babel, was God affected then? The Bible testifies that during those days, mankind was able to do almost anything they wanted with advancements in wisdom and ability. Still, God confused their language and spread the people out according to His original purposes.
No matter how much sin and rebellion God has to deal with, He is constant. The Bible repeatedly shows that God is the same yesterday, today, and forevermore. This is true regardless of the amount of sin that comes across His eyes. He is not weakened by sin. He is not tricked by sin. He is not hindered by sin in any way, shape, or form. The ultimate proof of this is the testimony of Jesus. Jesus was tempted in every way, yet didn’t sin. Though the sins of the people provoked Jesus’ crucifixion, Jesus’ crucifixion was part of the Father’s plans, and the resurrection proved that sin and its consequences don’t weaken Him. Sin is a terrible thing that has devastating consequences in this life, but God is so highly exalted by His glory, holiness, and righteousness, that it has no effect on Him at all. Does a God such as this “need” our help?
Elihu brought up the same point from the other side of the coin. What about our righteousness and good works? If we do something good, what are we giving to God? Can we produce something good of ourselves that God doesn’t have? The Bible teaches that God is the source of goodness. The Bible teaches that God alone is good. The Bible teaches that God alone is righteous. On the other hand, the Bible teaches that we as sinners can only produce thorns and thistles. Is this what God wants? The Bible teaches that none are righteous, and that everything reproduces of its own kind. In other words, we multiply unrighteousness, just like history proves. Is this what God wants? So then, who is really producing the “good” that comes from us when we do good? God doesn’t need us – we need God!
Can we add anything to God when we submit to His purposes? Can we improve the quality and nature of God when we serve His will? Can we lend to the value of God, making Him more profitable and treasured by siding with His purposes? According to the Bible, we can’t even look upon God and live because of the extent of His glory! How can our corrupted nature add to a God such as this?
It is true that God rewards both the righteous and the unrighteous. God judges fairly so that the wicked are punished and the faithful are rewarded. However, it is not because of the goodness we bring to the table; and the punishment is not because of the challenges we create for God. God’s rewards are true, but they are not based on our natural merits. God’s judgments are true too, but they are not based on some form of “payback” because God was so hindered by our offenses. Our good works indeed have an effect on others in this life, and if that effect is done by the Spirit of God through us, resulting in the glory of God, then we will be rewarded for it. However, the nature of that work is motivated by God, manufactured by God, and is good to make God known as the God Most High. It is true that our wickedness has consequences that affect others in this world, but not God. He is too highly exalted. Still, when we corrupt the revelation of His righteousness by our sin, there is consequences for that. God’s nature doesn’t change, but He will judge those who seek to corrupt His name and nature.
This truth shouldn’t discourage service to the Lord. Understanding this truth should excite service to the Lord. How is it possible that we, as corrupted and sinful and small as we are, can actually be filled by God’s Spirit to do good according to His holy and righteous standards? That means that any genuinely good thing that comes out of our lives is a miracle of God! Why should we be discouraged through the humility that produces miracles? Job was used to many great miracles by the good things God did in his life. However, Job’s suffering caused him to forget the real cause of that goodness. Job was not entitled to a better life in this world because he was not the cause of the goodness that was made manifest in his life. It is the Lord who sits highly exalted above all people, working miracles to display His goodness through the lives of His people. When we have zeal to serve God’s purposes, we just need to make sure that we also have humility to remember how the service we desire to do is actually made good and fruitful.