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Words from Friends: Good Work
Words from Friends: Good Work
It was a simple question. A follow-up to a prayer request actually. My friend Jani Ortlund had been given a contract to write a book, which she was eager to do. For some time she had thought about the subject and had been working out the concepts in her life and on paper. She was ready to answer this call of God on her life and she had asked me to pray with her about her writing. Which I did.
So on that day when I inquired of Jani how the book was coming along, her words left a deep impression on me. Jani said, “I have put the book aside, because I have so much other good work to do right now.” So much other GOOD work to do. I had an inkling of what that other “good work” entailed. (And Jani did it well, for by God’s grace this new responsibility bore much fruit in the years to come.)
What impressed me about Jani’s words was her attitude of seeing her new responsibility, one she did not choose, to be GOOD work. Jani was not grumbling and complaining as she set aside her desire to write this book. She looked at her new responsibility and called it good!
Jani’s response was a challenge to my thinking as I considered the tasks God had for me then and has for me now. I immediately thought of Paul’s words to the Ephesians— For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.(Ephesians 2:10.) Jani called this new responsibility good because she saw that it was God-given.
But here’s where I often go astray. At times I do not recognize the “good” in the work I have to do. Nor do I automatically remember that it is God who has prepared the particular tasks that are in front of me at this time in my life, and in this very day. I am His workmanship and He knows the good He desires for me, and the good He desires for me to do, even though it may not seem good to me at the moment. His plans and His perspectives are much wiser, more fitting and more necessary for His kingdom than my plans.
Perhaps you have had to set aside your heart’s desire to do “something for God,” like writing a Bible study, a blog, a sermon, a book or even a note to a friend. Perhaps you have needed to give up your peaceful private and quiet space where you meet with God in order to take on another responsibility. Perhaps you have had your activities curtailed and can no longer reach out in ways you once could. Perhaps your ministry of serving, in your church or elsewhere, has been taken by away or taken by another. Perhaps your family role has changed. So now what?
Whether it is cleaning tables in a rest home after seeing your church fold, caring for a child, a grandchild or another who needs you, waiting with a restful spirit when a door has been closed, mopping up the overflow from the shower when friends are on the way, running errands, running the copy machine, running back for something, sitting calmly in traffic, forgiving someone who hurt or overlooked you, or....you fill in the blank—all of these are GOOD works God has planned at various times for you — and for me.
To remember and acknowledge our responsibilities as GOOD work is to honor our good God and to see ourselves as His workmanship. Even as He gives good work He is working for our good because we are His. This is the beginning then of peace and joy for us in whatever task is at hand. As we let go of what was and see what is as part of the good work God is calling us to, we are becoming more like Jesus in the beauty of holiness.
Of course there can be sorrow and disappointment. Of course we can weep and sometimes we will fail. (I speak from experience!) Our privilege then is to turn in contrition and hope, back to the One who so loves us and who again sets us to the task He has planned for us. And in this turning we will then walk and work in God’s mercy which is ever new, ever available.
God does not need our work but He delights in our decision to call each God-given responsibility GOOD.
Thanking God for good words from good friends like Jani who point me in the right direction. Right back to God.