Things are going well in the church at the moment, and I praise God for the growth he is bringing in people’s lives. I am encouraged by what I see and, I am fairly confident, that growth in maturity is being brought about by the Lord. So long as we remember that, there is nothing to worry about. The work is the Lord’s and he will give the increase (whatever that might mean in practice). The danger is when we subtly shift away from knowing that to be true and begin to believe that the work is ours.
I know I am in danger of making myself look particularly foolish writing this. But here goes nothing: everything at church is going pretty well at the minute. Even saying it immediately makes me wonder whether I am like that cartoon dog, oblivious to what is really going on, in that meme where the house is on fire:
Either that, or not oblivious to what is currently going on, just unaware of what is round the corner. No sooner than you voice these things, the rug is pulled from underneath you as if Satan was just standing there waiting, ‘he’s said it! Quick, do the thing now!’ But, whatever, I’m in it now. Everything seems fine and/or actually pretty good, as far as these things go.
The problem, when everything seems fine, is that it is dangerous. In fact, when everything is going brilliantly, it is even more dangerous still. Satan, I am convinced, has no interest in attacking people who are both ineffective nor making inroads for the kingdom. Why bother targeting them? But when people seem to be growing, unbelievers are being saved, if you hate Jesus, you’re going to want to have a go at stopping that, surely.
Then, without putting too fine a point on it, whatever Satan might decide to get up to, we have to contend with ourselves. When everything hard and difficult, it’s pretty easy to rely on the Lord. If you have no money, ministry is difficult, people don’t seem to be growing, you’ve no idea how anyone is going to be saved, nothing seems to be working – but you’re nevertheless committed to this ministry in this area – what else have you got but prayer? Trusting in the Lord is easy then. If we definitely can’t fix it or make it happen, and there’s no pretending otherwise, trusting in the Lord to build the house is nice and easy.
But when you happen to have the money to buy bricks, and employ builders, it looks a bit different. When the house is going up, apparently through various things you’re doing, and people are even coming along and wanting to make that house their home, the Lord can easily take a back seat. Of course, we know – because we have good theology innit – that all this only really happened because God is sovereign and determined it would be so. But it is hard to shake the feeling that if we weren’t doing what we were doing, it wouldn’t have happened. It is hard to think that it wasn’t really us wot did it. It is easy to begin thinking our work, our personality, our efforts did the building. Of course, we pay lip service to the Lord working through means. But the means are so often the thing that attracts our attention and reliance on the Lord seems less important. As long as we keep doing A, B and C, these results will continue to happen.