The Lord’s Work in the Lord’s Way

This is a guest article from our Ethics Tutor at the Pastors’ Academy: Matthew Mason.

What does it mean to do the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way? It is sadly all too easy to conduct our ministries in the power of the flesh rather than in the power of the Holy Spirit. The following quotations from Francis Schaeffer challenge and help us to a greater reliance on the Lord as we seek to serve him.1

There is no source of power for God’s people—for preaching or teaching or anything else—except Christ Himself. Apart from Christ, anything which seems to be spiritual power is actually the power of the flesh.

The power of Christ is the power of his Spirit, poured out upon us. Therefore:

Doing the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way is not a matter of being saved and then simply working hard. After Jesus ascended, the disciples waited quietly in prayer for the coming of His Spirit. Their first motion was not toward activism—Christ has risen, now let us be busy…If we who are Christians and therefore indwelt by the Spirit are to preach to our generation with tongues of fire…we must have something more than an activism which men can easily duplicate. We must know something of the power of the Holy Spirit….

We must comprehend something of our need for spiritual power. If we think we can operate on our own, if we do not comprehend the need for a power beyond our own, we will never get started. If we think the power of our own cleverness is enough, we will be at a standstill…

Teaching about the Holy Spirit and His indwelling must never be solely a theological concept. Having the proper concept—that we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit when we are saved—we must press on, so that the Spirit’s indwelling can bring forth results in our lives. If we want tongues of fire [to preach God’s Word], our first step is not only to stand by, complacently thinking the right theological thoughts. We must have a genuine feeling of need…

The central problem of our age…is the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, individually or corporately, tending to do the Lord’s work in the power of the flesh rather than of the Spirit…

Are we, when we accept Christ as our Savior, indwelt by the Holy Spirit? Then we are meant to know something of both His leading and His power…While we talk about humility and the power of the Holy Spirit, we spend too much of our lives in the stance of Napoleon…

We are not greater than those over whom we have authority. If we have the world’s mentality of wanting the foremost place, we are not qualified for Christian leadership. This mentality can lift us into ecclesiastical leadership or fit us for being a big name among men, but it unfits us for real spiritual leadership. To the extent that we want power we are in the flesh, and the Holy Spirit has no part in us…

Scripture is clear that we must either humble ourselves now [to wash others’ feet] or be humbled in the future…

We know all this is true. But do we act on it? Do we trust God’s methods?

Is it not amazing: though we know the power of the Holy Spirit can be ours, we still ape the world’s wisdom, trust its forms of publicity, its noise, and imitate its ways of manipulating men! If we try to influence the world by using its methods, we are doing the Lord’s work in the flesh. If we put activity, even good activity at the center rather than trusting God, then there may be the power of the world, but we will lack the power of the Holy Spirit.

The key question is this: as we work for God in this fallen world, what are we trusting in? To trust in particular methods is to copy the world & remove ourselves from the tremendous promise that we have something different—the power of the Holy Spirit rather than the power of human technique…

Tongues of fire are not for us if we are so busy doing the clever thing that we never wait quietly to find out whether the ark of the Lord has gone ahead or stayed.2

Schaeffer observes that our real battle is a spiritual battle in the heavenly places (Eph 6:10-18).

In this war [against the world and devil] if Christians win a battle by using worldly means, they have really lost. On the other hand, when we seem to lose a battle while waiting on God, in reality we have won.

But this does not mean we will achieve less. Nor will it mean we can relax and do less.

Let us not think that waiting on the Lord will mean getting less done. The truth is that by doing the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way we will accomplish more, not less…After all, who can do the most, you or the God of Heaven and earth?…

The more the Holy Spirit works, the more Christians will be used in battle, and the more they are used, the more there will be personal cost and tiredness. It is quite the opposite of what we might first think. People often cry out for the work of the Holy Spirit and yet forget that when the Holy Spirit works, there is always tremendous cost to the people of God—weariness and tears and battles…

If we do not want to waste our lives after we have become Christians, then we must understand the importance of having a humble, quiet heart and the power of the Holy Spirit…

Is not the central problem of our generation that the world looks upon the church and sees it trying to do the Lord’s work in the flesh?…do we really believe God exists, and do we really believe God?

Schaeffer concludes with the words of a hymn. May these words be our prayer also.

O Son of man, O Son of God!

Whose love bought all men by His blood,

Give us Thy mind, Thy soul’s desire,

Thy heart of love, Thy tongue of fire

That we Thy gospel may proclaim

To every man in Thy great Name!

O crucified and risen Lord,

Give tongues of fire to preach Thy Word.

[1] ‘The Lord’s Work in the Lord’s Way’, Chapter 4 of No Little People, in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview. Volume Three: A Christian View of Spirituality, 41-52.

[2] Schaeffer is referring here to the way, under Moses and Joshua, Israel was led by the ark of the covenant and moved forward only when the ark moved.