15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15
For a very long time, and sometimes still, I have felt that the work I’ve done for the Lord was insignificant. I longed to be known for my good works. I longed to be recognized for my “accomplishments” for the Kingdom of God. Embarrassing, right?
I’ve come so far over the years, though, and that is something only God could do. Is my ministry more famous or more recognized now? Nope. Is my work for God more relevant now? Nope. My work is generally the same. It’s only me that’s changed.
So, Paul’s advice to Timothy was to be unashamed, approved, and to rightly handle the word of truth. Hmm. So working for God means being the perfect pastor, right? Or maybe the perfect evangelist? We know a lot of their names. The ones on tv must be pretty good. They are surely unashamed and approved or God wouldn’t let them be on TV, right?
Obedient submission to God is what grants us the ability to be unashamed. To have the faith to accept that God’s answer for my salvation is from Him and not from me. The righteousness of God, given as a free gift, unearned, undeserved, that’s what lets us approach the throne of grace with confidence. Having Jesus as our high priest, Jesus as our righteousness, Jesus as our savior, Jesus as our King. That’s what gives us the right to be unashamed.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
2 Corinthians 4:7-11
So how do we know we are approved? “We are afflicted and not crushed, perplexed but not driven to despair, persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed, always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”
And look at what Paul says in Romans:
What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”
Approval doesn’t come from anything we’ve done or are doing! It comes from faith. Abraham believed God. That’s approval. When I believe God and what He says, that’s approval. That’s it. Nothing more. Faith brings God’s approval.
So, when I act according to God’s will for me. When I trust that He is going to use me as He sees fit, that He will give me opportunities to trust Him and serve Him, and revere and worship Him, that’s when I’m working for God. He’s given me gifts and tasks to use for His glory and not my own.
Did He ask you to hug that lady at the grocery store, and you obeyed? That’s God’s work. Did He ask you to give up your career and serve refugees in the Middle East and you said, “ok”? That’s God’s work. Buy someone’s groceries because you felt stirred? God’s work. Preach a sermon because the Lord has burned it in your heart to share what He has taught with His people? Yep, God’s work.
But here’s what’s not God’s work: quitting your job to become a missionary because that sounds like a great adventure. Or, going on a mission trip to Nicaragua every year because the church body will know how holy you are. Or, teaching a Bible Study because you want people to think your smart. Or being the front man of the church band so that you can maybe get a record deal or you love the attention. The list can go on forever.
So many things in this world sound good to us. King David thought building a temple for God was a great idea, but did God ask him to build it? Nope. Did God let David’s son Solomon build the temple? Yes.
God will partner with us even when we’re wrong. He’ll partner with us in folly just to teach us how to hear His voice better. Was building the temple folly? Of course not. But did it last? Nope. God will let us “work” for Him in a million different ways, just to teach us, just to show us that it all comes down to Him in the end. Nothing else.
Have faith in Him, the One who made you, the One who calls you. To work for God is to submit to His rule. You must stop obeying your own heart and the picture the world has offered you of what ministry is supposed to look like. You’re never going to find it that way. And you’re not going to accomplish much for the Kingdom, either.
Instead, keep your eyes on Jesus. Trust Him. That’s it. Only trust Him and do what He says. That’s how I’ve changed the most over the years. I’m much quicker now to want to glorify Jesus, instead of myself. If God asks nothing more of me than to point my silent smiling face to the King of Kings, then that’s what I’ll do. That is being a workman approved.
Jesus, give me the faith to trust You. Help me to stop looking at myself. Help me to hear Your voice and obey Your commands. Thank you for how far You’ve brought me. Teach me and help me to go further for You and for You alone.
7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”