Our son’s family has a beautiful dog, an Australian Shepherd. I do not know if you have any experience with Australian Shepherds, but let me tell you: they always need something to do. They need work. They need to be active. And that is not only true of Australian Shepherds; we humans need something to do! Whatever our age or stage in life, we need something to do that counts, something that makes a difference. As God’s people we are hardwired to want to do something for God’s kingdom. We want to do good works.
In the apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesian Christians, he says some encouraging things as we want to serve God and make a difference: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:8-10).
Note here that the apostle Paul writes about doing good works, at the same time saying that we are not saved by doing good works. Rather, we are saved by grace through faith in Christ. While good works are never the means of salvation, they are the consequence, the outcome of our salvation. A saving faith is never alone: good works follow.
That takes us next to something Paul says which is so encouraging, so uplifting: “For we are God’s handiwork.” That means that God has been doing His special work in you and me, creating us in Christ Jesus “to do good works”. Add to that the wondrous truth that these good works “God prepared in advance for us to do.” Here behind the scenes is divine pre-arrangement of good works for you and me. God prepares the opportunities for us and prepares us for those opportunities. The good works prepared for you are tailor-made just for you, different from those good works God has prepared for others. So, we want to follow Jesus closely, getting our signals from Him as He leads us.
Here are a few lines from the poem “Doe Ye Nexte Thynge” by Eleanor Sutphen that can encourage us as we seek to be used by God in doing His good works:
Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from heaven,
Time, opportunity, and guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrow, child of the King:
Trust them with Jesus. Do the next thing.
Do it immediately, do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand
Who hath placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,
Leave all results, do the next thing.
Name and reflect on the thoughts and feelings today’s reading stirs in you. Take a few moments to talk with God about them.