Through the centuries, Christians have been encouraged and mystified by the concept of God’s work in relation to our work as humans who bear His image. An extreme example is the mindset that William Carey encountered when he shared with a group of ministers the need to take the Gospel to the heathen. One minister told him, "Young man, sit down! You are an enthusiast. When God pleases to convert the heathen, he'll do it without consulting you or me."
Exodus 14 gives us insight on the issue of God’s part in relation to our part. The Israelites were trapped, with the Red Sea before them and the army of the world's superpower behind. Then God told Moses something quite intriguing:
“As for you, lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it…
“As for Me, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh...
“Then the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD, when I am honored through Pharaoh, through his chariots and his horsemen.”
Exodus 14:16-18 (NASU, emphasis added)
Moses was made in God’s likeness, so of course he had a job to do–and a God-sized job at that–to divide the Red Sea! Moses was so powerless to accomplish that but he had already learned the lesson of doing things God’s way with His tools (ie. a staff).
And what job did God specify only for Himself? The job of working in the heart of humans. Who, in their right mind–after those ten terrible plagues–would dare go into a sea with walls of water on the left and right (v. 22)? Yet God did an amazing miracle in their hearts.
God did two types of miracles here. He worked a miracle in the natural realm of creation–the dividing of the sea was Moses’ work. And yet we know that even this could only be done by God’s presence and power, symbolized by the staff.
God also worked a miracle in the spiritual, unseen realm, and this was done directly by the hand of God. He did the work of changing hearts (this time a hardening). This work in the unseen realm of the human heart was actually the greater work and, I feel, brings most glory to Him.
How does this apply to us in DNI today? We have a part to do. We must rely on the Lord’s presence and power. But like Moses' staff, our tools look very ordinary. Two of our tools are prayer (includes abiding in His presence) and sharing the truth about Jesus with people.
As we use these tools, the Lord will work miracles in the natural realm. He may heal sickness, give special confirmations through circumstances, and even deliver from demonic powers. But these are “lesser” miracles. Do not set your heart on them. As for the Lord, His special part is to change the hearts of humans. And in the New Covenant we find amazing stories of how He softens and opens hearts in repentance. This is the greater work. Set your heart and soul to see hearts changed into Jesus’ likeness!
As we do our part with God’s seemingly ordinary tools, like prayer and speaking, God does His special work in the heart, and He will bring lasting honor to His name as He did at the Red Sea. People will know and experience in their heart that Jesus is Lord.
--Written by: B.S.
“We have obeyed the voice of Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, in all that he commanded us, to drink no wine all our days, ourselves, our wives, our sons, or our daughters, and not to build houses to dwell in. We have no vineyard or field or seed, but we have lived in tents and have obeyed and done all that Jonadab our father commanded us.
“But when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up against the land, we said, ‘Come, and let us go to Jerusalem for fear of the army of the Chaldeans and the army of the Syrians.’ So we are living in Jerusalem” (Jeremiah 35:8-11).
Last fall, a concerned friend came to me, telling me to be careful. Apparently, the leader of a local place of prayer said that people are leaving their religion and it's “D’s fault.” How I wish there were more frequent reasons for their accusations!
My friend was afraid for us. I understand God’s protection and was not affected by my friend’s fear. However, sometimes I experience fear so strong that it drives me trembling to my knees.
The Rechabites had been faithful to the commands of their ancestor Rechab. However, this snippet of their story shows them hiding behind walls, even though they had been commanded to be nomads.
God instructed Jeremiah to go to the Rechabites and offer them wine to drink. Even though the prophet was a man of God, the men appealed to him because the offer required them to do something they had committed never to do. The Recabites had retreated behind the security of city walls because of their fear. Now living in fear behind walls, were they more susceptible to sin? Had they already fallen into sin? I’m not looking for a theological debate; rather, I’m examining how my own fears make me vulnerable to the same temptations that a life of obedience protects me from.
When Jesus sends out His twelve disciples as sheep among wolves, He tells them in Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Jesus goes on to say that He numbers the hairs on our heads and cares for the sparrows (Matthew 10:29-31). Yes, we need to avoid those who will destroy our faith. But if Jesus cares about sparrows, I wonder how many wolves He cares about as well.
At times, my physical/earthly fears drive me away from the wolves. Sometimes, my fears paralyze my ability to serve. But if I am honest, my greatest fear is me. I find myself hiding behind the walls of my dreams, my desires, my own wisdom, etc. Do I stand in the way of the Spirit drawing someone to Himself? Do I hinder what God wants to do through me? Will those who seek walk away without hearing the Good News because I am hiding behind my walls?
Rather than being willing to live in a vulnerable place that is susceptible to attack, I hide behind walls where I become even more susceptible to destruction through temptation.
In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
The Rechabites looked for safety in Jerusalem; soon afterwards, the city was destroyed. Likewise, I often take my fears to some destructible form of manmade fortification.
In the end of their story, the Rechabites remained faithful, despite their fear. God received glory, and they received God’s blessing.
Amid my fears, Jesus’ promise of rest remains. Behind this promise is the One who understands the danger He has called me to and yet beckons me to find refuge and rest for my soul.
Written by: D.T.
I had figured out approximately how much support we needed to meet next month’s expenses and wrote it down in my prayer journal. “God,” I prayed almost every morning, “would you please provide the following amount for us?” The 18th of the month came and I eagerly opened my emails to see if God had answered my prayers. I slowly opened the paycheck records email. “God,” I breathed, “I trust you no matter what our support is this month.”
My heart sank. It wasn’t the amount I had prayed for. In fact, it wasn’t even close. “Father, how are you going to provide for us this month? How are we going to pay the bills?” This was literally seconds after I had told God I would trust Him.
Perhaps my favorite part of the annual DNI’s workers retreat is the faith stories evening. Workers share how God has answered their prayers in many small and big ways. The annual booklet “Stories to Encourage Your Faith” documents many of those stories. Surely DNI workers would never doubt His ability to provide after reading through one of those booklets. Not so for me.
When I look back, I wonder why I doubted God’s ability to provide. Perhaps I wasn’t doubting God’s ability as much as I was questioning how He would provide for our situation. I mean, where would the money come from? Our support check had already come and it was far less than our budgeted expenses.
That month, God didn’t provide enough finances to meet our budget. He didn’t even provide enough support to meet our recorded expenses. But somehow, He stretched what He provided to meet our every need. It was truly a miracle!
My wife pointed out the similarities between our situation and the widow that Elijah stayed with during the three-year drought. As the story goes, Elijah came upon a widow and her son in Zarephath, a Sidonian town where Baal was worshipped. When Elijah asked her for some bread and water, she told the prophet that they only had enough for one more meal before they would starve to death. Elijah assured her that God would provide for her and her son throughout the drought, and that she should use the last bit of flour to make him a cake. She willingly made him the last cake and God started a three-year miracle. Every day, there was enough in her flour bin and oil jar for another meal. “The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah” (1 Kings 17:16, NKJV).
That miracle is quite different from the miracle that Elisha performed nine chapters later. Another widow lady—a widow of one of the prophets—had a huge debt to pay. The creditor was going to take her sons as slaves if she couldn’t pay off the debt. She cried out to Elisha for help.
“So Elisha said to her, ‘What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?’ And she said, ‘Your maidservant has nothing in the house but a jar of oil’” (2 Kings 4:2, NKJV). Elisha told her to gather as many jars and pots as she could find and to pour her oil into those vessels. And she did. God miraculously multiplied the oil in that very moment and she found herself with more oil than she could ever use. Elisha told her to sell the oil, pay off her debt, and live on the rest.
Both of these widows stepped out in faith. Both trusted God to provide, and He did. The Sidonian widow saw God provide just enough food for each day. The prophet’s widow saw God provide once in great abundance for many years to come.
Next time I face a faith-stretching experience, I want to count it all joy. I want to stand strong and trust that God will provide. And I want to encourage you to do the same. Reading about miracles is always encouraging. Telling faith stories is exciting. Living out those faith stories is rarely glamorous. Perhaps that is why James started his epistle with a timely reminder, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1:2-3, NKJV).
--Written by I.M.