Reluctant Workers, by PH

Reluctant Workers, by Paul Hayden

We’ve become a Christian. We’ve repented of our sin, and turned to Jesus Christ as our only hope of salvation from the wrath to come. And He has heard our cry, come in to our hearts and fundamentally changed us from the inside. We’re no longer what we used to be. We’re altogether new creatures. And we’re sure of it.

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

We now have many new desires that we never used to have. We now hate evil:

Proverbs 8:13

The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.

We now love righteousness:

Psalm 119:97

O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.

And we now hate ourselves for always falling short of what we ought to be:

Psalm 119:5

O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes

One of the new desires that we’re given, is that we want to obey the Lord. The Lord has put an earnest desire in our hearts to please Him. We’ll want to do anything for Him. Isaiah had this desire when the Lord called him:

Isaiah 6:8

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.

It’s good to have this desire in our hearts to go wherever the Lord sends us. We ought to be ready and willing to go anywhere. Although Isaiah’s job of calling people to return to the Lord wouldn’t quite go the way he thought it would, because at that time it was the Lord’s plan to close the people’s eyes and ears by his preaching, not open them:

Isaiah 6:9-12

And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, And the Lord have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.

The Bible tells us:

Ephesians 2:8-10

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Our salvation is all of grace, we do nothing to deserve it. But we aren’t saved to sit back and do nothing. All of us have work to do that the Lord has already ordained for us. So first of all, we need to know what our individual calling is. And we find that out through providence and prayer. Then we need to do it. That’s where it gets tricky.

As we read our Bibles, we see that we’re not the only ones with a problem here.

In Genesis 11, we read that Terah, Abram’s father, left Ur of the Chaldees to take the whole family to Canaan. But they only got halfway and settled down in Haran instead:

Genesis 11:31

And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son's son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram's wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there.

They all stayed in Haran until Terah died. Then the Lord came to Abram to tell him to leave his extended family and go to a land He would show him:

Genesis 12:1-3

Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

But notice it says “the Lord had said unto Abram....” In other words, the Lord had told him all this before, way back in Ur of the Chaldees, where they’d started from. This was the second occasion God spoke to him, now in Haran. I suggest that the reason the family decided to go to Canaan in the first place was because God had already told Abram to go there, but he’d disobeyed, he’d delayed. So Terah, his father, took things into his own hands and uprooted the whole family with the intention of going to Canaan all together, thinking he was obeying the Lord’s call to Abram, but he wasn’t. God specifically told Abram to go to Canaan without his family, and he hadn’t obeyed. His whole family was now coming with him instead.

After Terah died in Haran, the Lord appeared a second time to Abram, and told him again to leave his family and go. Even then he didn’t obey fully, because he took his nephew Lot with him, as well as a load of worldly possessions:

Genesis 12:5

And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.

And if we read the story further, the amount of possessions they took with them became a cause of dissension and separation from Lot, who ended up dwelling in Sodom.

Simple obedience to the Lord’s calling is more difficult for us than we think, because, like Abram, we all have baggage. In Abram’s case, and many of our own cases, separation from family and possessions is the most difficult problem. But the Lord wouldn’t let Abram obey on his own terms, it had to be on the Lord’s terms. And eventually, the Lord Himself separated Abram from both his extended family and at least half of his possessions, so he could fulfil his calling.

We find the same with Moses. He was a shepherd in the back side of the desert, when he came across the strange sight of a bush burning without being consumed. As he went to look closer, the Lord spoke to him:

Exodus 3:7,8,10

And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians.... Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.

But Moses immediately reacted against this calling and started making excuse after excuse to try to get out of it. And the Lord gave him plenty of signs to prove this was indeed what he was being called to do:

Exodus 3:11-12

And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt? And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain. 

Exodus 3:13-14

And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I Am that I Am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you.

Exodus 4:1-5

And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The Lord hath not appeared unto thee. And the Lord said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod. And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it. And the Lord said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand: That they may believe that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee.

Exodus 4:6-8

And the Lord said furthermore unto him, Put now thine hand into thy bosom. And he put his hand into his bosom: and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous as snow. And he said, Put thine hand into thy bosom again. And he put his hand into his bosom again; and plucked it out of his bosom, and, behold, it was turned again as his other flesh. And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe thee, neither hearken to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe the voice of the latter sign.

Exodus 4:9

And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe also these two signs, neither hearken unto thy voice, that thou shalt take of the water of the river, and pour it upon the dry land: and the water which thou takest out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land.

How many more signs did Moses need? Finally, he just told the Lord to send somebody else:

Exodus 4:10,13

And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.... And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send.

This was probably the truth. He was slow of speech and of a slow tongue. His elder brother Aaron was naturally a lot better at public speaking than he was. The Lord said so Himself:

Exodus 4:14

....Is not Aaron the Levite your brother? I know that he can speak well....

The Lord was so gracious to Moses in that, although He was angry with him for not obeying, He allowed Aaron to be his mouthpiece, but only to the people, not to Pharaoh:

Exodus 4:16

And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God.

And even when the Lord also graciously allowed Aaron to go in with Moses to meet with Pharaoh himself, we read nothing of Aaron actually saying anything to him. He goes in with Moses and waves his rod a few times, but that’s about it. As plague after plague comes along, Moses gets bolder and bolder before Pharaoh, as Aaron, in the narrative, disappears more and more into the background.

The calling of Moses teaches us that we shouldn’t look to any natural talents we have when we’re trying to discern the Lord’s will. We must rely on spiritual gifts alone, gifts given by the Holy Spirit individually to the Lord’s people for the specific purpose of doing what He has called them to do. The Lord rebuked Moses for still seeing things from a human perspective:

Exodus 4:11-12

And the Lord said unto him, Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.

And then we’ve got Gideon. 

Judges 6:11,12,14

And there came an angel of the Lord , and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, and said unto him, The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.... And the Lord looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee? 

He was a farmer, threshing wheat to hide it from the Midianites. Yet the Lord calls him a “mighty man of valour.” He tells him to “Go in this thy might” and save Israel. But what might? Who was he?

Judges 6:15

And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house

Another reluctant worker who didn’t want to go, because he saw that naturally he really couldn’t do what was being asked of him. But this was the Lord’s calling:

Judges 6:16

And the Lord said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.

Then Gideon started asking for signs. The Lord gave him one straight away by consuming his offering by fire. That should’ve been enough. But he wanted a sign of his own. He put a fleece on the ground. If it was wet with dew in the morning and the ground dry, he’d accept the Lord’s calling. It was, but still trying to get out of it, he asked for another sign, this time for the fleece to be dry and the ground wet. It was. Gideon too couldn’t get away from the Lord’s calling, even though he knew he hadn’t naturally got the gifts required.

And then there was Jonah. How reluctant can you get? 

Jonah 1:1-2

Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me

Immediately, without hesitation, Jonah’s off in the opposite direction:

Jonah 1:3

But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.

We know the story. The ship hits a storm, the lot falls on him as the cause of it, and the mariners reluctantly throw him overboard to calm the storm. He subsequently gets swallowed by a great fish which vomited him out three days later onto dry land. And if you don’t believe that, you’ll believe anything. Then the Lord comes to him again:

Jonah 3:1

And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.

We can never get away from the Lord’s calling. In the whole of the book of Jonah, we see some marvellous revivals. The mariners repent, the Ninevites repent. But the one person who never repents in the whole book is Jonah himself. He quotes Scripture in the belly of the fish, and he’s genuinely grateful for being vomited out, but he never actually repents of anything. I suggest he repented later, some time after the events described in the book, because he was a true prophet of the Lord and his story ends up in Scripture. But his repentance is not in the text.

And then we’ve got the apostles. Just before Christ’s ascension, He told them to go into all the world to be His witnesses:

Matthew 28:18-20

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Mark 16:15

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

Acts 1:8

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

They had to wait a few days for the Holy Spirit to come upon them, which they did, but after that they still stayed in Jerusalem. There appears to have been a reluctance to move out. So the Lord arranged some persecution to try to shift them, beginning with Stephen being stoned to death. And then He raised up a great persecutor, Saul:

Acts 8:1

And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.

Whereas the other Christians in Jerusalem were moved to flee, the apostles still stayed put in Jerusalem. And the Lord blessed this movement of Christians, because by these means the gospel spread abroad throughout Judea and Samaria:

Acts 8:4

Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.

 

But where were the apostles? Still hiding in Jerusalem. So the Lord did something else to try to move them, something even more remarkable. He converted Saul. This brought peace:

Acts 9:31

Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.

And finally, the apostles began to get going:

Acts 9:32

And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda....

We don’t really know much about what the apostles got up to after this. Tradition tells us they went all over the place, but the Biblical record is fairly silent, the Lord preferring to concentrate on Saul, now Paul’s, missionary journeys.

And we see this reluctance to do the Lord’s will throughout Scripture. I’m sure you can find many other examples of biblical characters being reluctant to obey the Lord. 

God’s people often have a reluctance to do His will, but it’s not necessarily because they’re lazy. Rather it’s because they feel so inadequate for the task. And that’s exactly how we should feel. We shouldn’t think that we’re capable of doing anything for the Lord, because we’re not. Whatever we do for the Lord, He works it in us anyway. All we have to contribute to anything is our sin. And that just gets in the way. Of course we should feel totally inadequate in doing anything for Him.

2 Corinthians 3:5

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.

That’s what spiritual gifts are for. They’re not natural gifts. We all have some natural gifts we’re born with. Maybe a gift of being creative, or logical, or athletic or something. Not even natural gifts such as those of being good with languages, or being an eloquent speaker, like Aaron, are necessarily used by the Lord to fulfil His purposes, although they can be. The Lord gives spiritual gifts for spiritual purposes, quite often to people who never had any similar natural gift at all, like Moses. 

 Our job is to not depend on ourselves, or any natural gift we may have, to do the Lord’s work.  We are to depend solely on God to give us all the spiritual gifts we require to do what He wants us to do. And if we know His calling, we know we will receive everything necessary for it.

 Romans 11:29

For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.

 1 Corinthians 1:26-29

For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.