For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10
I have been reading The Heavenly Man, which is the story of Brother Yun, a leader of the house church movement in China. There is a huge amount in this book. Yun has suffered greatly for the cause of Christ, more than we in the West can really imagine ever experiencing. But in addition to the stories of imprisonment and torture, there are a number of lessons to be drawn from this book that are directly applicable to our lives and walk with Christ, even though we are very unlikely to experience anything like what this Brother has gone through.
In 1994 God called Yun to bring unity to the various house church movements in China. This was a very hard thing to be able to do. It meant rejection and ridicule from people who Yun had known and worked with for many years. Satan had managed to drive some deep wedges between the groups. Yun was deeply discouraged in the strong opposition he got from the church leaders, and didn’t want to do it. God told him to continue on. “The vision for unity seemed impossible, but the Holy Spirit told me, ‘Don’t cry. You’re not my first choice to bring unity among my people. Several others were called but did not persevere in the vision.'” In the end, God did use Yun to bring unity, and out of that came increased cooperation and fellowship and a stronger Church.
Years ago I used to listen to a preacher on the radio in California. A few times he told the story about a time when he was in a place where he shouldn’t have been. God prompted him to go and talk to someone across the room about God. He was embarrassed that he was even there, and embarrassed to be talking about God in a place that he assumed would not welcome the message. So he didn’t go. Instead, he sat there arguing with God. Immediately the door opened and someone else walked into the room, directly over to that same person, and started witnessing to them.
God has prepared things for us to do each day. If we are attuned at all to his voice, he prompts us to do them. Sometimes they are obvious, the loving things we know we should do for the people around us anyway. Sometimes they are out of our comfort zone, outside of what we would normally do even when we are walking with God. Sometimes they are in the normal course of our “ministry” work, sometimes they are tangential or outside of that normal activity. In any case, God prepares them and he calls us to them. However, he does not force us to do anything. He calls, he prompts, and he allows us to choose.
Sometimes God is gracious enough to prod harder when we aren’t listening. I’ve had the experience in which he put the same person in my path until I listened. I’m pretty dense, especially when it means really paying attention to people around me that I am not already in relationship with, and sometimes God has to go to significant lengths to get my attention. Other times we get one shot. When we miss it, God’s plan for that other person isn’t thwarted. Like Brother Yun and the Chinese church, God will call another leader to bring unity, or like the pastor who balked when God prompted, God will bring another to deliver his word where it is needed. Our refusal doesn’t thwart God’s plans, it just removes us from what God is doing.
We all miss these opportunities sometimes. God isn’t mad at us or going to punish us when we miss them. He doesn’t love us more when we get it right and do the things we should. It isn’t about that. What its about is being a part of what God is doing. God prepares things for us to do because he wants to include us in his work. It’s for our benefit, for our growth in our relationship with God, for our transformation, and for the blessing of being a part of the only work that is worthwhile.
God doesn’t always give us the tasks that are easiest for us. In fact, if we are following him and are growing, he is going to give us work that is stretching, and that helps us grow more and brings about our transformation. He does not intend it to be easy. Part of the most obvious conclusion from Brother Yun’s experience is that sometimes the things that God calls us to are brutally hard. But God is good, and all that he does is good. All that he brings us through and all that he calls us to is for our good. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials…” (James 1:2)
If we love God, we will obey him. That’s not a prescription, its a description. Brother Yun says “You will never really know the Scriptures until you’re willing to be changed by them.” If you are his child, God has prepared works for you to do. If you love him, you will obey and do them. If you do them, you will be transformed. Be transformed!