As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. 2 Corinthians 6:1
Three particular spiritual disciplines help us in our role as co-workers with God in the work of new creation—the work of reconciling the world through Christ and extending the boundaries of His Kingdom. They are: Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving (giving to the poor).
These three take up a significant portion of our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount. Traditionally, they have been called the Notable Duties of the Christian Life, or sometimes the Three Pillars of Lent.
I think we typically struggle with these disciplines because they reduce the very things we believe are already lacking and in short supply, namely: time, energy and money. For prayer is a sacrifice of time, fasting is a sacrifice of energy and almsgiving is a sacrifice of money.
But such sacrifices should not be seen as a waste of precious resources that could have otherwise been used to do the Lord’s work. The Lord already has an unlimited supply of time, energy and resources. He does not need ours. God doesn’t call us into partnership because of what we are able to contribute to the work. In fact, He supplies out of His infinite riches everything that is needed.
This is something we are prone to forget time and again. We see the impossibility of the work God has called us into as partners, and we are regularly overwhelmed by it, both as we look around at the sheer volume and nature of the work, and as we recognize the limitations of our resources. We end up clinging to our own meager resources, determined to stretch them as far as we can.
But Scripture is full of reminders that God is not confined by human lack and limitations. Indeed, regularly we see God calling upon His servants to trust and watch what He will do in impossible situations, even asking them to reduce their resources in order that they might better trust.
This is what the Lord is asking us to do as we pray, fast and give to the poor: to trust fully in Him by giving up the things we think we need.
Our role as God’s co-workers is to carry His reconciling grace into the world as jars of clay. It is in our weakness and emptiness as vessels that grace is clearly grace, and the surpassing glory of the ministry of the Gospel clearly God’s. We receive His grace in vain if we then try to achieve the work of the Kingdom by our own resources and determination. Rather may we as faithful vessels trust the Lord to fill us and to accomplish His work through the infinite riches of His Spirit.
Friends, I believe that as we put the notable duties into practice—not just for a few weeks in Lent, but as we make them a regular part of our life routine and thereby learn to live in the unlimited measure of God’s Spirit—that we will see the work of God’s Kingdom flourish in our small corners of the world.
For it is not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD Almighty! All praise and glory belong to Him!