1. Always at his work.
In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.”
John 5: 17, NIV
It gave us a chuckle back in the day, a picture of a child in some sort of deplorable mess. Like the above image, a dirty little girl playing in a box. The caption, or perhaps lettering on an article of clothing read, "He's still working on me". And, isn't it the truth. If you're breathing right this moment, he's working in, around, and through your life too. And, mine. Thank the Lord.
One day Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath. Two sins were noted by the religious elite in John's text: the healing of the lame man on their Holy day, and Jesus' instruction for the man to take up his bed and walk. Evidently both were violations of their strict Sabbath laws. The text reminds us further that this was why the religious authorities persecuted Jesus and began a concerted effort to kill him. That the man, who had been lame for thirty-eight years, was miraculously healed was noted by the opponents but not commended. Jesus wasn't playing by their rules!
His response to them is one of those defining biblical moments for me. He told them his Father was always working. Always. Past, present, and future. Then, now, and in the time to come. I remember hearing a devotional thought by Dr. Avery Willis many years ago on this particular verse. It altered my entire concept of time, the reality that God was about His glorious work at every moment in history, my life as well. Meaning, in the economy of heaven, there's really no waste of time. Sure, my human measuring systems may devalue some events and moments, setting them aside as meaningless, pointless, or frivolous. My poor mind can certainly wander and drift. But, Jesus refuted such an idea. God uses it all. He is the creator God who never slumbers or sleeps (Psalm 121: 1), who promises to abide with us in every life circumstance (Deuteronomy 31: 6, and many others), and whose presence gives us courage and comfort (Psalm 23:4) regardless of our circumstances. Always.
An example? Harriet and I had wrestled with God's call to pastoral ministry for nearly ten years. When we finally submitted I was thirty-years old, had been in the business world, banking and hospital financial administration since college. We sold our house, made application to Southeastern Seminary, and began the rigorous 84 hour Master of Divinity with Languages curriculum. Soon I experienced an emotional low. As an older seminary student, with no formal religious education, I struggled to keep up with the younger students and their religion degrees. So, I escaped one day to Binkley Chapel for a pity party. Overriding those dark moments was anger that I had wasted ten years of our lives. We could have been down the road of ministry experience if God had clarified my calling earlier or if I had listened more carefully. After a time of confession, prayer, and whining I went on about the day, low spirited and down. Several days later a 20 year old student approached me reluctantly and asked for a moment. He had just taken a position as Youth Minister in a nearby church. The Pastor had instructed him to prepare a budget and strategic plan for the youth ministry. He said he had heard on the grape vine that I had administrative experience and wondered if I would give him a hand. You reckon God got my attention that day? That actually became a norm of our three years of study, especially when I was called to Pastor a congregation close to the campus. Those years had not been wasted.
Years later, while leading a MasterLife training event Dr. Willis gave the devotional on today's focus verse. It took me back to that day in 1979 and the reminder that God was always working in my life. It is a promise that produces security and certainty. And, I for one, am very thankful.
Struggling a little? Tentative and uncertain? Stay the course. He is always working. What a blessing!