When I was young, I was one of those LLBW’s (Little League Bench Warmers). Sure, I was on the team, but I played so rarely that even my baseball glove would atrophy. It was the same in church; I was in the building, but as a spectator rather than an active participant. Now I am honored and humbled to know that God loves us and wants us to be active players on His team.
God’s game plan for Christians begins with our spiritual resume:
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,
Now there’s something to write home about; we were dead. Not even on the roster, let alone in the game. Thankfully, the plan didn’t end there.
Ephesians 2:4 and 5
(4) But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,
(5) made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
God loved us and saved us by grace, but not to sit on the bench.
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
We are His workmanship, created with a grand purpose: to do good works. Now admittedly, when I first heard this, I thought, “We are saved so we can WORK? Send me back to the bench!” Thankfully, I’ve matured since then.
For many years of my Christian walk, I had this sense that these good works were somewhat optional. They would be nice, but only when my own desires were met. But the verse says that God “prepared for us to do” them. There are many other verses in the Bible that tell each of us to do various good works to and for “one another.” It is not just the job of full-time ministers.
Ephesians 4:11 and 12
(11) It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,
(12) to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up
These ministers are not to do all of the work themselves. Rather, they are to prepare, or equip, all of us “for works of service,” so we can each help build the Body of Christ. Jesus Christ needs all of us in the game.
From him (Christ) the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Jesus Christ is the Head of the Body, of which we are all vital members. We all get to be directly involved with him to build up the Body. What a privilege to work with the greatest coach of all time! And, as if the myriad of commands in the Bible were not enough evidence that God wants us to do good works, look at how He has equipped us to do them:
Hebrews 13:20a and 21a
(20a) May the God of peace…
(21a) equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ…
God equips us to do His will. If He didn’t, we would be out in left field without a glove.
God also equips us through each other.
Hebrews 10:24 and 25a (KJV)
(24) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
(25a) Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another…
Again, it’s not just the minister’s job to encourage us to love and good works, but we are to help each other to do the same. God wants us to work together as a team.
To further equip us, God inspired His Word, which is “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16 and 17). We should learn and study God’s Word so that we can be equipped to do what God wants us to do: good works.
God has also “clothed us with power from on high” (Luke 24:49) through His gift of holy spirit. He equipped us with spiritual power to love people like our Lord Jesus did.
God has gone to great lengths to call us and to equip us for good works. Notice that God says “good works,” not vexing labor What are they? Let’s start with the foundation of all that we do for God.
(36) “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
(37) Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
(38) This is the first and greatest commandment.
(39) And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
What is important and pleasing to God is not always going to be the “works” themselves, but rather the heart of love behind the works. The Bible addresses doing works without love:
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
(1) If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
(2) If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
(3) If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
The works mentioned in the passage above are good, but they are only pleasing to God if they’re done in love. And love, in this context, is pretty simple: love is thinking and doing what the other needs. God needs His people loved; that’s where we get to play. Matthew 22:37 says to love “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” And really, doesn’t God deserve this response of love, after the love He has bestowed on us?
1 John 4:9-11
(9) This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.
(10) This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
(11) Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
God deserves our whole allegiance and response of love toward Him and others. God so loved the world that He gave His Son (John 3:16); if He loves people that much, so should we.
Ephesians 5:1 and 2a
(1) Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children
(2a) and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…
We are to imitate God and love our neighbors, which is exactly what Jesus did when he gave himself for us. Love is the hallmark of all that Jesus did toward both God (John 8:28 and 29) and people. Jesus’ good works were varied (teaching, preaching, reproving, healing, etc.), but his love for God and for people was his motivation.
Similarly, our good works will vary, but love should be behind all that we say and do. The Apostle Paul’s love for the Thessalonian believers was displayed through many different works.
1 Thessalonians 2:8a and 9, 11 and 12a
(8a) We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well…
(9) Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.
(11) For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children,
(12a) encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God…
Paul’s love is clear; it is shown by:
- sharing not only the good news, but also his life
- working “night and day” not to be a burden to them financially
- working with “each” of them as a father, with specific, personal attention to each believer
- “encouraging, comforting, or urging” them to be their best for God.
Paul’s good works varied according to the person and situation, but his love was the motivation throughout. In Acts 16, Paul heals a woman with a demon, and he gets beaten and thrown in jail for his efforts. I’m guessing that Paul scratched Philippi off his “Coolest Vacation Spots” list.
God delivers him through an earthquake, and the jailer is going to kill himself, thinking that the prisoners have escaped. Had Paul simply shut his mouth and left, the jailer would have died that night. But Paul loved even the jailer who had put him in stocks; he loved him enough to stay at the prison and shout to him not to kill himself. The jailer and his whole family got saved and have eternal life because Paul was in the game, and not just keeping the bench warm.
Now it’s our turn to play. God has called us and fully equipped us unto love and good works. The Bible commands us to do many good works, but our motivation for them all should be our love for God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
God has saved us by giving us eternal life with Him and Jesus Christ. And if that isn’t great enough, He will also reward us for all the good works we do for Him.
God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.
God has called us to be intimately involved with Him, but He doesn’t need bench warmers. He has lovingly equipped us to love and help others, and then He’ll reward us for all we do for Him. So let’s get in the game!