Ready for Good Works (4)
Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work… Titus 3.1
The question arises as to how we may be “ready” for good works when the opportunities arise.
You’ve probably seen the commercial in which a woman is working at her desk, with a soft drink close at hand. A colleague walks by with a healthy, vegetable drink and greets her. She looks up, smacks her forehead and says, “Agh! I could have had a V8!”
Well, why didn’t she? Why, when the opportunity arose to make a choice of refreshment, did she choose the sugar-packed soft drink over the nutritious vegetable drink? We can only speculate, of course, and that’s not my purpose here.
My purpose is to help us think about what is involved in being “ready for every good work” that we may have opportunity to do throughout the course of our day. If we are zealous for good works, good works are what we’ll want to do. If we are equipped to do good works, doing good works will not be beyond our capacity. And if we are filled with the Holy Spirit, Who is at work within us to will and do of God’s good pleasure, we should have everything we need when the opportunity for doing good arises.
Let me make a few suggestions to help you maintain a state of readiness in doing the good works which God has before ordained for us who have come to faith in Jesus Christ.
Meditate on God’s good works
We will be more likely to do good works at every opportunity if our souls are basking in the good works God does for us. The exhortations of Scripture to remember the good works of God are many. Psalm 145 is typical of many other passages. There we are instructed to praise the works of God to others (v. 4). As we think of His works of creation, redemption, provision, providence, and glorification, we are overwhelmed with His greatness, and we praise Him abundantly (vv. 1-3) Meditating on the specific ways God has done good for us will equip us to speak of His works and declare His greatness, goodness, and righteousness (vv. 5-8). Meditating on the good works of God provides substance for praise and conversation (vv. 10-12), and a way to explain the Good News of Christ and His Kingdom (v. 13).
As we meditate on God, we can see Him upholding those who fall, raising those who are burdened and bowed down, providing for the daily bread of all people, and bringing satisfaction and goodness into our lives (vv. 14-16). His works remind us that He is near to us at all times, and ready to respond to our appeals for help (vv. 17-20). God’s works provide the template for ours. As we contemplate Him doing good throughout all the earth (Ps. 33.5), we will begin to see ways that we can fit into God’s works with good works of our own.
Review in prayer all the many good works Jesus did while He was on earth, and for which He became well known (Acts 10.36-38). Wait on the Lord to teach you how His good works can come to expression through you with the people in your Personal Mission Field. Then pray about the people you will see in the day ahead, and ask God to prepare you with good works that will touch them with the grace of Jesus Christ.
Having our soul inclined to and disposed for doing good begins in meditating on the good works of our God. Do this every day, with praise and rejoicing, and you will be ready for every opportunity for doing good that may arise.
Bonhoeffer, Life Together
In his book, Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer teaches us how to be ready for opportunities to do good to others. We need to work hard at sharpening our focus on God, by reading His Word, meditating on Him and His works, and spending time alone with God, so that we learn to know His Presence with us always. This will help to prepare us for those works of ministry for which we have become equipped.
In his chapter on “Ministry”, Bonhoeffer explains in simple and practical terms how we can become more consistent in doing the good works for which we have been redeemed. First, he writes, we must learn the art of holding our tongues. This is a way to keep evil thoughts from spoiling any opportunities for doing good. He reminds us that the person “who holds his tongue in check controls both mind and body”, and those are key components of a lifestyle of doing good.
Next, Bonhoeffer counsels us to adopt a posture of meekness in every situation: “He who would learn to serve must first learn to think little of himself.” That is, we need to always be focusing on others, listening and observing, and, at the same time, listening to the Lord to lead or prompt us to some good work.
Third, become a good listener: “The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them. Just as love to God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them.” This is true for all our relationships. Listening shows we care. It can alert us to needs or concerns. And it allows us time to think about the best way to serve.
Improving our skills of listening and observing will allow us to employ the ministry of helpfulness: “This means, initially, simple assistance in trifling, external matters.” Looking for ways to be helpful to others will allow us to bear their burdens: “To bear the burden of another person means involvement with the created reality of the other, to accept and affirm it, in bearing with it, to break through to the point where we take joy in it.” We come alongside people, get to know them better, and let them know that we are available in any way they might need help.
Being ready at all times with these good works will earn us the right to talk about the Lord and His love. We must be ready to share a word from the Lord to address people at their point of need: “We are thinking of that unique situation in which one person bears witness in human words to another person, bespeaking the whole consolation of God, the admonition, the kindness, and the severity of God.”
By practicing these disciplines, Bonhoeffer explains, we will be ready at all times to serve others with good works of love. From this will grow a kind of authority which lends weight to all we are, do, and believe in: “Genuine spiritual authority is found only where the ministry of hearing, helping, bearing, and proclaiming is carried out.”
Look to the Lord, then learn to look and listen to the people to whom the Lord sends you. He will guide and empower to be ready for every good work, whenever opportunities for doing good appear.
1. How does meditating on the good works of God help us to be ready for every good work?
2. What’s involved in becoming a good listener? How does being a good listener help us in being ready for good works?
3. What are some ways you might like someone to help you today? Make a list, then go forth into your Personal Mission Field and do those good works for others?
Next steps – Preparation: How will you prepare for doing good works today?
Check out our three new audio resources at the Ailbe website: Our bi-weekly podcast, our weekly Personal Mission Field Workshop, and our newest weekly podcast, The InVerse Theology Project.
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All the studies in this series, “Which Works?”, can be downloaded by clicking here.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.