“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 15:58
“Is my living in vain? Is my giving in vain? Is my praying in vain? Is my fasting in vain? No! Of course not.” These are the questions at the beginning of a song called “Is My Living in Vain” by one of my favorite gospel groups the fabulous Clark Sisters. I found myself singing this one day after a moment of doubt and disappointment.
God has placed on my heart in this season to pray for the lost and backslidden. This urgent call of prayer is because as we can see from all the catastrophes, wars and rumors of wars and chaos in the world that Jesus’ imminent return is very soon. The cry of my heart has been that God will touch the hearts of people and draw them by His Spirit before the door is closed. My supplication is that those who don’t know Him will respond to His call out of darkness into His marvelous light with a resounding “Yes” and those in a backslidden state will have responsive hearts and come back and return to their own borders in Christ Jesus. In my season of praying I have run into some frustration and disappointment because I haven’t “seen” answers to my prayers. This leads me to a conversation that I recently had with my brother.
So, in conversation with my brother he expressed to me that I am not Iyanla, and that I can’t fix everybody’s life. Iyanla Vanzant as you may know is a best- selling author and life coach who has a television show called “Iyanla Fix My Life” where she attempts to fix problems in people’s lives. When my brother told me that I was not her I was taken aback a little but I began to ponder on it and I realized that is me. Although nobody can fix anybody’s life. We can give people the tools in which to do so and I must say that if those tools are not rooted and grounded in Jesus it’s just a temporary fix. I must admit at times I’ve gone far and beyond “helping” or should I say enabling others. This leaves little room for people to do their own work which is conducive to their spiritual growth and it leaves little room for God to do a full work in their lives. This sobering truth that my brother shared with me compelled me to take a good look at myself, and eventually led me to repentance and on my knees before Lord asking for forgiveness.
I realized that my attempts to lead people to the saving grace of Jesus and helping them with their problems began to be a weight. In my desperation for others to know the love of Christ and receive Him I had begun to get out of balance and my labor spiraled into a weight; a weight that only Jesus was meant to carry. That is why it is imperative that we labor IN the Lord. Although my heart was in the right place my labor was not IN the Lord, my labor was in my own strength. When we labor in our own strength we labor in the flesh and we get frustrated, disappointed and even start to doubt. We begin to over exert ourselves because we are laboring in our emotions and we are not being led by the Spirit of God.
Jesus said in John 6:44 that, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him”. Only God can draw, our responsibility is to serve as God has gifted us, spread the gospel, pray, plant seeds, and water. (1 Corinthians 3:7) Our responsibility is to prepare the ground, however God is responsible for the increase, spiritual growth and maturity of those we disciple. This frees us from having feelings of guilt and total accountability for other people. What will happen is, believe me I know, is that you’ll eventually get overwhelmed with people’s problem’s and that is not God’s will. We must allow people the freedom to grow and make mistakes. It can be hard to watch but trust God that He is working out His plan for their lives and that your prayers are activated. Keep the faith and believe that God is growing them and working out His plan for their lives.
God also showed me that I needed to release people to Him. Not give up praying for them, or doing as He leads me to do but to turn people over to Him. As bad as I want people to live the abundant life God has for them and to be saved God wants their lives submitted to Him even more. We all must work out our own salvation. (Philippians 2:12) We cannot work out someone else’s salvation. We can lead them to the Living Water but we can’t make them drink. No amount of encouragement, orchestration, daily texts, meeting needs, phone calls, seemingly endless conversations, etc. will work unless God draws them and they decide to submit to His Lordship in their lives.
I had to really get a true understanding and revelation of God doing the drawing because I began to doubt God. I asked God, “Are you hearing my prayers of deliverance for so and so?’ “God I’ve been praying for salvation for so and so for a long time and nothing seems to be happening, do You hear me?’ It seemed as if my prayers had no effect. God answered me and laid on my heart this question, “Are the people you’re praying for responding to My call?” “Are they responding to my promptings?’ He also impressed upon me that He may be doing an internal work in a person’s heart that I know nothing about. Just because I don’t “see” it now does not mean He is not working and that my prayers are not on assignment in someone’s life.
This was a very humbling experience for me. I also came to the realization that if I’m trying to fix somebody else’s life, my own life needs a lot of fixing, and the Holy Spirit continues to do just that. I’m thankful to God that He showed me through my brother the error of my ways. I must not think too highly of myself to think that I can fix people’s lives. That is the work of the Lord. My work for the Lord must be in His power, and be led by His Spirit.
I released everyone to God and that weight has been lifted. When I let go I became free. God has them in His hands where they’ve been the whole time. I’ll never give up praying and contributing to the work of the Lord as He would have me to but I’ve voided myself of the responsibility for the outcome. From now on I’ll leave that up to the Creator. I relinquish my false sense of control and false expectations. I step back and let God be God in people’s lives and He gets the glory. We are to take up our own cross and follow Jesus, not everybody else’s. (Matthew 16:24) Jesus already carried and bore the cross for the world and it is a finished work. “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give every one according to his work.” (Revelation 22:12) By this we know our labor is not in vain, cause up the road is eternal gain!