THE GOOD WORKS DILEMMA

BY: JAN A. ANTONSSON

NOVEMBER 20, 2015

 

good_works

 

The Glory Road Blog, A Kingdom Highway

 

“For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall never enter my rest,’” although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. (Heb. 4:3, RSV)

 

Though I’ve written countless words about self effort, i.e., the futility of trying to work our way to heaven, I find myself of late still pondering the seeming conundrum between depending on God to do the work, and doing it myself. Oh, I’m not talking about big things like creating the universe or saving people from sin, or bringing world peace.  It’s more about the daily trivia of what’s my part and what is His part?  Since the Hebrew writer declares that God’s works were finished from the foundation of the world, it’s tempting to think that he’s not working anymore. However those of us who have been dragged through cactus patches, pulled through knotholes, and put in situations where only God could deliver us, absolutely know that God is still working in our lives continuously and progressively. I shudder to think how I could even live or survive if He weren’t.

 

What brought all this to the forefront is the colossal struggle I have had with trying to manage the data usage of my cell phone. The farm I live on is technically within the city limits of Neosho; however it is located about 6/10 of a mile South of where the DSL lines are. For those of you who may not know, a DSL line is a special kind of phone line installed in order for the users to get high-speed Internet at a reasonable rate.  People who have access to it probably don’t really know what a blessing it is.

 

AT&T first promised me they were going to install a DSL line in our area in 2000. It’s not there and it never will be at this point. The solution I have used is the “Personal Hotspot” on my iPhone. That allows me to get on the Internet and do what God has called me to do which is to write and share and encourage and pray for people or whatever else he has for me at the time, but I have to be very careful not to over use it because of the expense of overages. Therefore, I don’t watch movies or TV shows online or utilize Skype or Face Time to communicate because both gobble up prodigious amounts of data.

 

I upgraded my iPhone in August and was very pleased at the improvements that were made in its functionality. However I quickly realized that it gobbles Data like a hungry dog on a meat wagon. Countless calls to AT&T tech support did nothing to improve the situation. In October, I made a 92 mile round trip to Rogers, Arkansas, where the nearest Apple store is, to have them check out the phone, because phone conversations with AT&T and Apple had led me to believe that the phone might be defective. Diagnostic tests showed it is not.

 

Back when we first began The Glory Road, I accessed the Internet by dial-up, which is akin to driving a horse and buggy to town instead of a car. It was so slow that I could never spend the time to receive photos that someone might want to send me, and could never watch even a short video. I could go on but you get the drift here.

 

I really thought that God had worked in me at a total cellular level that He is in control of absolutely everything in everyone all the time.  People who do not believe that are in for a bumpy ride.  I do believe that, and I also understand what Paul said that sometimes our own works are wood, hay, and stubble which shall be made manifest, when “the refiner’s fire” (Heb. 12:29), “will test what sort of work each one has done” (I Cor. 3:12-13). Only His works of gold and silver shall stand. So in this dilemma that I found myself in, I wondered, is He trying to tell me that the ministry is over?  Is He giving me a slap on the wrist because I upgraded my phone or couldn’t manage data overages? From the very first time we began publishing on the Internet, when I had an equipment failure or anything else went wrong, I would just say to the Lord, “This is Your ministry and if you don’t help me to do it, it won’t get done because I can’t do it without you.”  That still stands.

 

The answer to both those questions, by the way, is “NO!” The ministry is not over and he is not punishing me. I know that, but frustration and anxiety and feeling used and abused by a mega corporation like AT&T do not lead to wholesome spiritual thoughts. 

 

Nevertheless, even when we know that God does the work in us and through us and has done it from the foundation of the world, there are things we still have to do. When we were losing our house in California, Lenny and I had to weed whack the property up to 300 feet from the perimeter of the house or the county would send somebody in to do it and add the cost to our taxes. I did a lot of the weed whacking which I found to be a good way to alleviate my frustrations and stress, and of course, I had time to think. I remember asking the angels if they would like to do this for me because I was tired and my back hurt. They declined.

 

All of us in our daily lives have to do things we wish we didn’t have to do, things that still make our back hurt.  For instance, my kitties can’t feed themselves or scoop their own poop. The birds need water. This week I saw a squirrel licking the driveway trying to get some moisture from the recent rain. When I hurried out there with 2 gallons of water to put in the bird bath, where he normally drinks, I realized the reason he was trying to lick water off the driveway was because the birdbath was nearly empty.  I didn’t bother to ask the angels to help me.

 

My dear friend and mentor Harry Fox and I visit every Saturday morning.  He is currently in what I call “God’s waiting room.” He’s totally incapacitated, bedfast in a senior care facility, unable to do anything to help himself. He would give a lot if he could do things for himself that he used to do, but even in his weakened state, God is sending people into his room to hear what he has to say about the Gospel on a daily basis. 

 

I can scarcely bear to think of him like that but as I told him a couple of weeks ago, for as much as I know he longs to be released from the prison of his failed body, wanting to go and be with the Lord, when he goes, I will miss him terribly because he has been a continual source of light, love, encouragement, sound counsel, and Gospel Good News for me for the past 45 years or so. Harry told me when he asked the Lord why can’t he go on, he was told, “I still have work for you to do.”

 

So there it is again. Harry and I both know that God is doing the work, but He is using Harry’s incapacitated state, his feeble body, to share the good news with the Mormon caregivers of that facility, Hospice workers, and many others who come to his room for the same kind of light, love, and encouragement that he has been giving me all these years.

 

For some of these people who think they have the be-all and end-all of religious truth, a thunderclap from heaven with a blinding light would be spectacular, but someone like Harry delivering the divine message to them in his weakened state is even more compelling, if that is possible.  To me Harry’s situation is the personification of Paul’s statement about our works: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph. 2:10, RSV) Notice that God is the subject of that sentence.

 

In the ninth chapter of John’s Gospel, there is the compelling story of the man born blind that Jesus healed. The disciples asked Jesus who had sinned, the man or his parents. Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him. (John 9:3, RSV)  I conclude that the incarnation of Christ indicates that the works of God are to be a cooperative effort between Christ and those He indwells.  He gives us the strength to do the work we must to live our daily lives, as well as what He bids us do for the kingdom.  If He says, “Say into that mountain be moved into the sea,” it will be moved into the sea.  If I say it on my own steam, and by my own volition, it will remain right where It is.

 

In my life for the past few weeks, AT&T has been that mountain. It has remained unmoved and unresponsive to my pleas, and yes, my rants. Yet in spite of my frustration with their lack of response to my need, the data usage situation finally seems to be better. By taking on this behemoth on my own steam, I got nowhere, leading me to finally see what I already knew: well, duh Jan, what do you think trusting the Lord means anyway?  Lesson learned.  How many more times will I have to trek around Sinai?  Only God knows and He’s not telling.

 

Father, you are all sufficient, all-knowing, all-powerful, Wisdom incarnate. Thank You for working Your will and Your plan into us at a cellular level no matter what it feels like at the time. Make us light bearers and truth bringers, a city set on a hill, shedding Your light, so that the people who walk in darkness shall see a great light and feel Your great love. For unto us a child is born, and He shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, everlasting Father, The Prince of peace.  The Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.  So, say we all.  Amen.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE GOOD WORKS DILEMMA [Jan A. Antonsson] 11-20-15          3

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