The Disease Called “Doing Great Things for God”
God was Serious
When God said he chose what the world sees as foolish…weak…lowly…and despised (1 Cor.1) he was not joking. He meant it. He had declared it even before the universe was created (the Word is eternal). And He did this to specifically shame the wise, the strong, and nullify things that are.
And ironically, modern day believers have been doing it that way—wise and strong—to be at par with how things are in the world. And it has become a spiritual viral disease, spreading like wildfire.
Power Perfected in Weakness
Since the beginning, God has been particular about sending guys who tended to cave in at the slightest pressure. Abraham used his wife as bait to save his own neck from Pharaoh and Abimelech. Then he tried doing God’s will though Hagar. Moses was too wise with Egyptian culture, so God sent him to the wilderness to de-learn everything and study goat and sheep language for forty years. When he was foolish, weak, lowly, and despised enough, he was sent to demolish a world super power.
Old Testament prophets were often despised and sacked, if not murdered. Priests had no land to inherit. Joseph was treated cruelly by everyone. King David was a mere shepherd boy, despised by his brothers. Solomon was yet a boy when he reigned, and so did other kings of Israel. And the rest did a lot of funny things the world can hardly call awesome. Just look at how Ezekiel was made to cook his meals using manure. Jeremiah was made to buy land when real estate was demolished by war.
No Vision of Greatness
And they often had no vision of self grandeur or greatness. Esther, an orphan who was a total nobody, had no plan of winning a pageant or being queen. She was literally dragged to it. Solomon, as a boy, didn’t seem too excited about kingship, while everyone—like David, Nathan the prophet, Bathsheba, and Adonijah—was. He had God’s wisdom while remaining simple, but it was when Solomon tinkered with Egyptian wisdom, after marrying Pharaoh’s daughter, that he started having some vision of greatness that started his downfall. Gideon would rather be hiding from his enemies than doing great things for God.
It was in their moments of quiet simplicity, desiring nothing for themselves—not even considering doing great things for God—that God powerfully made use of them. This quality made them so susceptible to utter dependence on God.
Well anyway, Old Testament characters are never our models; Jesus is. We learn from their mistakes and successes, but Christ is formed in us. And he came here in total weakness, emptying himself, taking the form of a slave, born of poor parents. Worse, he opted to be born in a messy, grimy, and smelly manger. These should be formed in us.
Mad Scramble for Greatness
However, we have been trained in church to accomplish things, mostly great things, for God. Our minds have been molded for religious greatness, climbing up the ladder of human success standards. We see the mad race for the mega-est church, the grandest church building, the most peopled and moneyed congregation, and the most titled and degreed pastor. I’m amazed by how church choirs practice hard Saturday nights to present a good number the next Sunday morning “for God.” And how they have to have uniform gowns and the best sound systems the world applauds. For God? Don’t they know that God chose the despised things?
Oh, and not to mention during church anniversaries and Christmas programs and concerts. They have to do their very best for God. I’ve even seen how they make a church district competition out of their choir specials. And because some are city churches, they have to produce a city-worthy choir number. And how about the praise and worship teams? They have to have the best band equipments for God.
Reading Brother Yun’s account of the church in China—how their simple out-of-tune singing inside a dilapidated house (without any musical instrument) brought God’s very Throne in their midst, only to be persecuted later—gives me an idea of how the Acts church worshiped God and governed in the spirit realms, while under persecution.
Doing Our Best for God?
You see, when churches talk about doing their best for God, they really mean something material. Something seen by the physical eyes and appreciated in the world. Something that brings them greatness and grandeur.
But the fact is, our best for God doesn’t mean anything to Him. He knows that the flesh counts for nothing (Jn.6.63). Zero. Trash. Pfft. What counts alone is the LIFE. “It is the Spirit who gives LIFE; the flesh is zilch.” And that LIFE is foolish, despised, and weak in the eyes of the world, but it has devastating power to nullify things that are.
If we are intent at doing our best or doing great things for God, it should all be in the spirit realms. God is spirit and only in the spirit can we please him—like having a despised, foolish, and weak life the world hates. Thus, Jesus urges us to deny the self and pick up our crosses daily. If we do this, we’re genuinely doing great things for God. And this alone is what we should master through life until we get our assignment from God.
But you see, it is something most churches today hate doing. The church cannot stand being out of the limelight. I’ve actually seen Michael Jacksons and Lady Gagas in church doing special numbers “for God,” and the congregation loving it. Second rate, trying hard, copy cats. When the world announces a Fathers or Mothers or Grandparents Day, the church dutifully follows suit and cannot be left behind in the revelry. When I say this, people think I don’t love parents. I do, and we must. But we must not love as the world loves. We’re led to believe that we should outdo the world in whatever it does.
Parents are obsessed with having their kids always on top of their classes. I’ve seen how they prioritized excellent grades to excellent lives and characters. Never mind if their kids behave like the world does, as long as they get to be valedictorian or salutatorian or at least bag the top honors. And they’re even proud of how cute their kids’ wrong attitudes are. Ever noticed how they’re ashamed if all their kids got was a Most Well Behaved ribbon?
I wonder how Mary felt about her boy Jesus missing out on school. He was an out-of-school youth while all the others pursued their schooling and careers and brought home the top honors and trophies. Jesus would just go out to the hillsides and remote places daily and be in awe of the Father. “He grew up before Him” (Isa.53.2). To the Father, Jesus was doing great things for God. That was enough to be King of kings and Lord of lords.
And his kingship? He knew he was King. He didn’t need the world to acknowledge the fact. He didn’t need to win contests, be given honors, or achieve great things “for God.” It was enough that the Father declared him so. He refused being crowned (or being applauded or recognized) king by the people (Jn.6).
It’s amazing what lengths believers today are willing to go through to be doing great things for God. One teenager aimed at winning a beauty contest “for God.” Another wanted to bring home the basketball tournament trophy “for Jesus.” A young lady wanted to be best actress in showbiz “for God.” They claim these successes that put them in the spotlight glorify God. I wonder why Jesus didn’t think of just winning in the Olympics instead of dying on the cross.
Whatever happened to foolish, weak, and despised by the world?
It’s the LIFE, Not Our Great Things for God
The Jesus LIFE, that’s what God is looking for. Paul urged the Roman believers to present their bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God. This in fact is genuine spiritual worship. It’s the highest and up-to-date worship.
Many today have it: “to present your successes and great things for God as sacrifices” which is their kind of worship.
The 5 wise virgins were able to join the Bridegroom merely because they had oil to keep their lamps burning. A burning lamp of a life; this is all that matters. Jesus came that we may have LIFE, and abundantly.
Desire nothing for yourself except to live the Jesus LIFE daily. Jesus said live (the LIFE) one day at a time. Let tomorrow worry about itself. The world and the worldly church taught us to plan for greatness for the next 5 or 10 years. “How do you see yourself or your church in the next 5 years?” We were asked that annually when I used to be denominational.
Why would I wanna see myself thus? All I need to see is my Jesus, so He gets formed in me, day after day. I say with Mary, “Be it unto me according to God’s Word.”
“How do you plan to grow the church?” is another silly question asked us. It is the Father who draws people to Jesus (Jn.6.44). We can never interfere with that. What people we manage to drag into our churches by our own efforts only become doers of great things “for God.” And often they end up biting each other in the contest of who does better. Our only job is to share the Gospel and disciple people drawn to us. Growing churches is the Holy Spirit’s forte alone.
I desire nothing for my children except that God raise them up to be his genuine holy and anointed servants. And I know that God uses weakness to perfect His power.
“I will give him greatness…because he poured out his life unto death,” (Isa.53.12). Real greatness is God-given; it’s never worked out by self effort. Just live the Jesus LIFE and cross, then learn to catch greatness.
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