If Paul the apostle was on a construction site today, we would easily recognize him because he would be wearing the white hard hat. As the wise master builder (1 Cor. 3:10) he took great delight in recruiting others to the project, as those who could be laborers together with God (1 Cor. 3:9). He would then delegate duties to Timothy, Epaphroditus, Titus, Tychicus, and many others, with the purpose being that the church of God would grow into a holy temple in the Lord (Eph. 2:21).
Unfortunately, a lot of work that is done for the Lord, is not really the work of the Lord. What we imagine or prefer may not be harmful, but these activities should be yielded to the revealed will of God as we have recorded in His Word. He will never lead us to do anything that is inconsistent with His character or His Word, giving us a sure means of staying on course.
When Paul met with the elders from the Ephesian assembly at Miletus (Acts 20:17-38), he gave them a pattern for being the type of builder God is looking for; the type of people he desires for us to become. He told them what to expect, how to conduct themselves, and how to align themselves with God’s will and purposes. He emphasized that the assembly belonged to God, and that He had purchased it at an immense cost. This would instill a sense of stewardship in them, to displace any sense of ownership they might have.
Here are some key traits he emphasized, which we can easily see as being needful for any who desire to engage in God’s work. Builders together with God must aspire to embody these, and thus be the skilled workers He looks for in this most enduring construction project.
This is the setting aside of personal ambitions in perfect submission to God’s will, and it is an essential starting point. The assembly is God’s dwelling place; we are to be building not a personal monument nor a self-honoring legacy. Praise or recognition from others should never be sought, but they can be accepted and then redirected to the One who enables us.
To be effective, we cannot hold back anything from our Lord. He deserves and demands the best use of the abilities He gives us, and rewards everything done unto Him, whether noticed by others or not.
The message never changed, and although Paul would change his approach to presenting the gospel to reach those within reach (1 Cor. 9:19-22), the content of the message was always the same, for he knew it to be the gospel of God (Rom.1:1). The church is to be built of saved individuals, not religious spectators.
Paul knew something of what lay ahead for him, and happily submitted himself to the Lordship of Christ in his life. While it is always wise to count the personal cost of our service, it is never wise to place conditions or limitations upon the Lord who has called us. He sets the procedures of the workplace; we simply need to implement them.
It is the responsibility of each builder in God’s temple to understand his own job description. Just as we would expect each member of a construction crew to have obtained the skills to do his work, so we each much invest in ourselves through consistent prayer and a thorough knowledge of His Word. We are only ready for work when we are ready to work. A carpenter may know how to do a job, but the engineer knows why it is done that way.
There must ever be a watchful awareness of what we are doing, and who we are doing it for. Just as Nehemiah encountered constant opposition to the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls, our adversary will oppose anything done for God’s glory. The Jerusalem crew worked with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other, i.e., they were ready for anything.
When troubles do arise—and they most certainly will—God’s builders must be willing to identify and correct what is wrong. It may grieve our hearts at times to do this, but poor workmanship must be pointed out and corrected. Sabotage cannot be allowed to go unchecked, or the whole project will be derailed.
Tears will be shed. Joy will be evident. When we truly care about what we are doing, our full being will be engaged in pursuit of the work. While some have incorrectly made emotional experiences the benchmark of spirituality, being excited about involvement in God’s work should never be looked down upon. Come to think of it, is there really anything in life worth being more excited about?
As members of the body of Christ, and one another in particular, an attitude of respect and cooperation with others should always prevail. Those with less experience must always defer to those with more, as an apprentice would to a journeyman. This principle of mentorship goes throughout the Bible, and has not yet been improved on.
God’s builders must strive to be free from enticement and entrapment, which will only serve self and not Him. The world has more distractions than ever to offer, so focus is difficult yet needful. Builders must ever be asking themselves, “What can I put into this?” and not “What am I getting out of this?” This is completely contrary to the flesh and the world, so must be cultivated by practice and spiritual exercise.
Finally, true and effective builders in God’s edifice must be a people of prayer. We need to pray for the work and with the workers, and look to God for His supply and enablement. The late Hudson Taylor founded his life on the principle that “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply,” and proved it throughout his missionary work in China.
Applications are now being accepted for Christians who wish to work together with God in the most important construction project in human history. Nothing we do in our entire lives will matter as much as this, nor have the far-reaching effects of edifying the house of God.
The time for application is now, and the place of application is within each of our own hearts, at the feet of the One whom we call Lord and Master.
by Rick Morse