In 1989, while working as a Campus Minister at Kansas University, I attended a National Campus Ministers’ Seminar in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Two and a half decades later, I retain a vivid memory of one moment during that seminar in which a man shared an event from his own life that changed my worldview.
God Has a Great Work for You to Do
On the morning that Cameron Corr, our keynote speaker, was scheduled to speak, he arrived at his car to find that it had been broken into. His wallet had been stolen, the speakers ripped out – the thieves pretty much trashed Cameron’s little Daihatsu automobile. He believed it was a move of Satan to discourage him, and possibly even prevent him from sharing what God had put on his heart to share with us that morning.
Several other cars had been broken into as well. The police were in the parking lot, taking reports from the cars’ respective owners, and they wanted Cameron to stay on-scene so that they could take his report as well, but Cameron was on a mission, and he was focused on that mission. He assured the police officers that he would come to the station later to make a report, but that right now, he had a great work to do, and he could not be distracted from that work.
Cameron’s response was drawn from Nehemiah, chapter six.
Now when it was reported to Sanballat, Tobiah, to Geshem the Arab and to the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall, and that no breach remained in it, although at that time I had not set up the doors in the gates, then Sanballat and Geshem sent a message to me, saying, “Come, let us meet together at Chephirim in the plain of Ono.” But they were planning to harm me. So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?”
– Nehemiah 6:1-3, NASB
That is the message our keynote speaker respectfully conveyed to the police officer. “I am doing a great work here, and I cannot stop the work of God to fill out a report.” That is an excellent response to any potential diversion, large or small, and it should be my response to every distraction that attempts to draw my concentration away from the purposes God has for my life, even for this specific day, this specific moment.
But I’m Untrained or Unqualified
Continuing with the example above, it is worth noting that Ezra was a scribe, and Nehemiah was something along the lines of a personal attendant, or a butler. What possible qualifications could Ezra and Nehemiah have that prepared them to rebuild God’s temple and the wall around Jerusalem? They were as qualified for that work as I am for building a bridge across the Columbia River. When God calls us to kingdom work, God also prepares us and enables us to complete that work. We need not rely on education or prior experience. Remember, when Jesus called his disciples to follow him, he said not, “You’re fishers of men. Come with me.” Rather, he said, “…I will make you fishers of men…”1
When we respond to God’s call, and we are fruitful in the work to which he calls us, it is important to be clear where the credit belongs. Ezra and Nehemiah constantly pointed back to God as the one who enabled the people to perform their tasks. Repeatedly, each said that God’s hand was upon them as they superintended the rebuilding of Jerusalem.2 The apostle Paul was careful to make the same proclamation, “But by the grace of God I am what I am.”3 Following the healing of a lame man by the Beautiful Gate of the temple, the apostle Peter cautioned the people who seemed inclined to credit him more than was his due, “Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk?”4 The glory belongs to God, not to Ezra, Nehemiah, Paul, Peter, you, or me.
If you do not see that you are called to be doing a great work for the kingdom of God then I urge you to look more closely. Ask God to show you, in an unmistakably clear fashion, what it is that he has prepared for you.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
– Ephesians 1:10, RSV
For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and work for His good pleasure.”
– Philippians 2:13, NASB
You can rest assured that God does have a great work for you to do, perhaps many works. And remember, this greatness is by God’s standard, not by man’s standard. God’s view of greatness is often 180 degrees out from our view of greatness.
1. Matthew 4:19
2. Ezra 7:6, 9, 28, 8:18, 22, Nehemiah 2:8, 18
3. 1 Corinthians 15:10
4. Acts 3:12b