Greater Works and the Ordinary Christian Life

As a much younger Christian, I had grand thoughts of doing big things for God. I dreaded an ordinary life. I desired a life full of so much faith and power. I longed for a life that was beyond the ordinary. I wanted to be a Paul, or a Peter, or (brace up for this one) a Smith Wigglesworth. Reading books like Robert Liardon’s God’s Generals had no small impact in my life. I would often pray for the grace that those generals had. One verse from Scripture–which is frequently misunderstood–stood out as an anchor for my soul in those moments of spiritual longing: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12).

Greater works. I knew that portion of Scripture was a promise from the very lips of our Lord, who never lied throughout his earthly sojourn. If he promised greater works, then I wanted greater works. If Jesus healed a man after laying his hands on him, I wanted to do the same by simply saying, “Good morning,” to him. If he turned water to wine, I wanted to make wine out of thin air. I longed to do greater works.

I read and listened to men who made big claims–they said they could heal the sick and cast out devils; they claimed to have had supernatural encounters, the kind that would make your hair rise. These, in my mind, were greater works. There was one problem though: I didn’t have greater works in my life, at least not in the same dimension as recorded in the lives of the many heroes of faith that I had studied. And despite my long hours of praying and dedicated seasons of fasting, I was still ordinary.

I was taught that whenever God’s promises in Scripture weren’t being fulfilled in my life, I was to blame. God is never at fault; man often is. This erroneous belief led me through many seasons of doubt and confusion. I wondered what I was doing wrong, even after using all the keys and following all the steps prescribed by my spiritual fathers to achieving certian results. I often had cases of extraordinary things happen in (and through) my life. But they weren’t frequent, and that troubled me.

A few years down the line, I began to ask really hard questions: What exactly does greater works mean? Why am I so averse to being an ordinary man? Is something wrong with my understanding of Scripture and the Christian life? Today, I’m glad I asked such questions. I’m glad because those questions led me to seeking answers and searching for the truth.

I learnt that the Christian life was meant to be ordinary–we are to get educated, get jobs, get married, raise families, stay committed to our local churches, live God-glorifying lives, and die serving our Lord. In other words, God calls his people to live like other humans, experiencing the joys and sorrows of life on earth. But then the Christian life is also not ordinary–we are saved through the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, we have the very Spirit of God indwelling us, we are being transformed by the Word of God, we are members of Christ’s body. In the ordinary Christian life, in the daily activities of work and toil and rest, we have fellowship with the Father through the Son.

I began to read the lives of the really “ordinary” guys–the
missionaries who were so sick they died, the reformers who were killed for their convictions, the pastors who labored with little results, the men and women who gave up much in this life to follow Christ and had little (if any) reward for their labors in this life. They led ordinary lives, but their lives was anything if not full of God’s power.

I came to understand that the term greater could mean a lot of things when applied to a particular subject. And in our case, Jesus most probably meant the church would exceed his works in extent, but not in power. While Jesus couldn’t be everywhere at the same time during his earthly ministry, the Holy Spirit now works in men and women all over the world, bringing them to faith in Christ and working in them to bring forth fruits that glorify God. The works of Christ–and indeed greater works–is continued through our lives by the Holy Spirit.

I learnt that faithfulness in the ordinary business of life matters. The Christian who understands (and never forgets) that his entire life is to glorify God will find it easier to be faithful at work, at home, and in his everyday life. God expects us to do the little things well because they matter. How we work matters. How we talk matters. Our entire lives matter to God.

Today, when I think of doing great things for God, I think of being faithful to the call of God on my life and in the place where he has put me. I know the small things matter, and I have every intention of doing them well.

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