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Building in Vain - or Not

I’ve noticed that in the past 2 weeks I have written a lot.

I remember talking to a professional writer once and he told me that he was emulating Hemmingway in that he would wake up early every day just like Hemingway did and would write for 3 hours or so.

For years that was the standard of a “good writer” for me. It kept me from even trying for a long time because I couldn’t measure up to that in my own eyes.

To this day I don’t consider myself a “writer”, per se. I’m a child of the Most High God… and I write.

Having said all that, I personally would love to wake up every day and sit down and produce a wonderful, insightful, Biblically sound article or work on a book. That’s not how this happens for me, though.

I could make that happen, you know. I have some skill at writing and a good bit of experience studying life, the Word of God and teaching the Word of God. It is possible for me to pound out some good looking articles every day.

Or I could rely on some formula to do it. Go to any Christian or secular bookstore (as long as those exist, anyway) and you can find books on all sorts of tried and true formulas for doing virtually anything from cooking food to building houses. You can even read books that are formulas on how to write articles or books or build a large ministry or church organization.

These books are well written. Early on in my ministry I read some on how to construct sermons, do funerals, teach a Bible study.

I don’t read those anymore. I’m not being critical of those who do; I simply don’t do it myself and I’d like to share my logic because we can apply this logic to anything: running a business, practicing marriage, parenthood, writing…..being a spiritual leader on behalf of Christ.

“Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it....” (Psalm 127:1a)

It seems to me that, ultimately, there HAS to be someone who actually exerts power whenever anything is done. We can work in partnership with that person but whoever leads sets the tone and flavors everything that happens in the work.

In the long run, there are just two choices as to who will be in charge of the building. It will either be the Lord or some mere human person.

I can sit down and write all on my own or I can do what I am learning to do and trying to practice: I can wait until the Lord wants to write something through me and then write that….and only that.

We could live this way in anything we do. Unfortunately, even in Christian circles it seems that this is rarely taught and even more infrequently practiced. Yet, its right there in the Bible! This is how the Apostle Paul lived:

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

This speaks of allowing Jesus to literally live through us by exercising faith in (utter dependency upon) Him. Paul did this to “apostle”. Why can’t we do this to write, work our jobs, raise our kids, build works for Jesus and practice our marriage? (We CAN!)

Paul wrote that, in context, in a section of that letter that was speaking about how living according to law was inferior to living by the Spirit of Christ. In fact, the entire letter is about that.

When we apply this to what I am discussing in this article I would like us to consider how much of our lives are lived in obedience to a script of some sort. This is the “law” Paul speaks about in Galatians.

How often do we think, say or hear something like this: “But, that’s the way we have always done it.”? What is that? Its allowing some earthly pattern or system determine what we will do today.

What will happen if I read a book on how to write lots of articles or books and then practice the 10 things I need to do to make that happen? Well, in essence, I will be practicing the “law” of book writing. There is a good chance that a LOT of words will appear on pieces of paper or on computer monitors.

That’s a good thing, right?

Generally speaking, it’s not a bad thing. But what will those words contain due to their origin? Will they be from my flesh and, therefore, contain death (Romans 8:6) or will they be from the Holy Spirit of God and broadcast life?

“For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:13)

I am tired of spreading death wherever I go – especially in the name of Jesus.

I’m grieved at how much of this I perceive in the Body of Christ.

“Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death.” (Romans 6:21 - NASB)

What genuine good comes out of it if we write a lot of words or build big things for Jesus when the outcome is, ultimately, death and not His life in it?

I said earlier that it seems to me that there HAS to be someone who actually exerts the power whenever anything is done. We can work in partnership with that person but whoever leads sets the tone and flavors everything that happens in the work.

Let’s make a commitment starting right now to call on Jesus to live HIS life through us in everything we do, even if we think what we do doesn’t matter that much. (It DOES matter.)

“God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:9)

That word “fellowship” in that verse is a Greek word that literally means “in partnership” with Jesus Christ our Lord (Owner.)

We never were called to do things “for Jesus.”

From the very beginning God’s plan has been for us to do things “with Jesus” and with Him being the senior partner. Jesus is the CEO of “my” ministry, “my” writing, “my” pastoring, etc. If I am to experience His life in all the things I touch I must allow Him to rule in everything I do by letting Him do it through me.

“Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it....” (Psalm 127:1a)

There is a lot of building going on in the Body of Christ.

I wonder sometimes how much of what I have built has just been me doing what seemed right to do just because I couldn’t find Bible verses telling me not to do it.

I wonder how much of that being done “for Jesus” is really Him at work at all – or is just people doing things so they can present some big thing to Jesus like some gift that He neither needs nor wants.

Psalm 127:1 says that unless it is the LORD building it….we who work labor in vain in our building.

The term “labor in vain” means to “toil severely and with irksomeness (with irritation, anxiety, exasperation, exhaustion)” and “yielding devastation, ruin and destruction.”

Unless it is the LORD doing all this work we see in the Body of Christ, it will only exhaust, irritate, exasperate and the end result will be destruction. That doesn’t sound like a fitting gift to lay at the feet of our Jesus, does it?

Let’s choose to not let that be our legacy.

Perhaps you would like to join me in this prayer. If so, please pray it aloud, so the devil can hear his plans for our works crumble and so he will know that his investment in us has been in vain.

“Father God, I confess that I have fallen prey to the temptations to trust the things of the earth, including myself and my plans, to work the law of doing things to make myself valuable in Your eyes. I acknowledge that these things can only lead to death. I ask for and receive Your forgiveness. Holy Spirit, please guide my steps. I invite You to reveal every time I choose to go my own way and not let you lead me. I commit to repenting as I go and dropping my plans to follow You instead. Lord Jesus, I commit to letting You be my Leader. I want to walk in fellowship with You….in partnership with You. You be in charge. I’ll do what You lead me to do. I want to see LIFE and that more abundantly. I pray this in Your holy name….on Your behalf and for Your sake. Amen.”

Now, let’s go live today with Him!

I’m excited to see what He has planned for this day.

Pastor Mike McInerney

Mike McInerney Ministries, Inc.

Decatur, TX 76234

© January 6, 2016

©2018 by Mike McInerney Ministries