|LIFE IN JESUS-MINISTRIES
|GOD IS AT WORK AROUND YOU
Henry & Richard Blackaby and Claude King
I AM REVEALED
Mar 17 2013
My Father is still working, and I am working…I assure: The Son is not able to do anything on His own, but only what He
sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son also does these things in the same way. For the Father
loves the Son and shows Him everything He is doing. (John 5:17, 19-20)
AN INNER CITY CHURCH
A California inner city church had suffered years of decline as its neighborhood went through a transition and church
members moved to the suburbs. When only a remnant was left, they determined to disband their congregation. As a
final activity, the members decided to study Experiencing God. At the conclusion of the course, they would close their
doors for the last time. As they studied the first units, the people learned that God is always at work around them. They
chuckled at the thought, since nothing unusual had happened in their church for many years. Nevertheless, they
decided to watch and pray during the week to see where God might be working.
That week an apartment manager approached one of the church members and asked if her congregation could do
anything about the children in the apartment block nearby. Most were latchkey kids with nothing to do when they were
out of school. The apartment manager offered free use of the apartment building’s common room if the church would
provide some activities. The church decided to offer a children’s program during the final few months of its existence.
This soon brought several unwed mothers to their attention. Through their new relationships with the children’s families,
church members began to meet drug addicts as well as gang members who were living in the community. Before long,
this little group had launched several new ministries and were seeing people come to faith in Christ almost every week.
At the close of the thirteen-week study, instead of disbanding, the church, now revitalized, began to minister
powerfully to its community. Rather than remaining discouraged, the people realized they were in the center of God’s
activity. He had been working in their neighborhood all along.
When you want to learn how to know and do the will of God, you should always look to Jesus. We can find no better
model than the way He conducted His earthly life. Although Jesus was God, He was also completely human. During His
life on earth, Jesus perfectly fulfilled every assignment the Father gave Him. He never failed to do His Father’s will. He
never sinned. He demonstrated what absolute surrender to God and obedience to His will looks like. Possibly the
clearest statement Jesus made about carrying out His Father’s will is found in John 5, quoted at the beginning of this
chapter. Let’s take a closer look at the relationship between Jesus and the Father.
Although we may have difficulty understanding it, God the Father, Christ the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are all three
persons of one Godhead. They are not three separate gods. They are all one God. Our finite minds may struggle to
comprehend such a majestic and infinite existence.
The Scriptures reveal that whenever God encountered people, He did it in one of three ways: in the person of
the Father, the Son, or the Spirit. Whenever God is working, all three persons of the Trinity are involved.
This is a profound truth that Jesus’ twelve disciples had difficulty grasping. After three years with Jesus, Philip asked,
“Show us the Father,” and Jesus responded, “Have I been among you all this time without your knowing Me, Philip? The
one who has seen Me has seen the Father…Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The
words I speak to you I do not speak on My own. The Father who lives in Me does His works” (John 14:9-10).
GOD INVOLVES US
Jesus recognized that His Father is always working on earth to accomplish His divine purposes. God did not create the
world and then abandon it to run itself. He is not sitting in a heavenly throne room passively observing the activity on
earth. God is orchestrating history. He is present and in the middle of human activity. God is actively at
work redeeming a lost world, and He chooses to involve His servants in carrying out His redemptive plans.
Paul explored this truth in a letter to the church at Corinth:
come. Now everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of
reconciliation: that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against
them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ;
certain that God is appealing through us. (II Corinthians 5:17-20)
Therefore, since the Father is at work reconciling the world to Himself and since He has chosen to carry out that
reconciliation through His people, what are we to do? How are we to respond to that commission? If we go back to
Christ’s words in John 5, we find a clear model in the way the Lord Jesus approached knowing and doing the Father’
s will. We could outline Jesus’ example like this:
THE FATHER’S WORK THROUGH JESUS
Jesus often spoke about His relationship with the Father and His dependence on the Father to show Him what to do.
Jesus made it clear that the Father initiated the relationship and invited the Son to be involved in His activity.
The Father revealed His plan and the Son joined the Father where He was at work. Jesus spoke several times about
Later, Peter affirmed that the heavenly Father worked through His Son. He described the Son: “This Jesus
the Nazarene was a man pointed out to you by God with miracles, wonders, and signs that God did among you through
Him” (Acts 2:22). God the Father accomplished His work through Jesus the Son.
Jesus realized that He could do nothing by Himself. Yet with the Father at work in Him, He could do anything. This is
particularly significant for you and me because Jesus was the Son of God. Yet He never took the initiative to dream a
dream or launch a new ministry. He lived His life in absolute dependence upon His Father. If Jesus was that dependent
on the Father, then you and I should realize how ludicrous it is for us to set out on our own without any direction or
guidance from the Father.
WATCHING FOR GOD AT WORK ON THE CAMPUS
While I was a pastor, my congregation began to sense God leading us to reach out to the city’s college campus. I had
never done student ministry before, nor had our church. We were advised by experts in collegiate ministry that to reach
the campus we needed to begin Bible studies in the dormitories. So for almost two years we tried to start a Bible study in
the dorms on campus, but very little came of that. Yet we were convinced that the university campus with its thousands
of young people was a field “ripe unto harvest.”
One Sunday, I pulled our students together and said, “This week I want you to go to the campus and watch to see where
God is working. If God shows you where He is working, immediately join Him!” They asked me to explain. God had
impressed on my heart two Scriptures: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who
understands, there is no one who seeks God” (Romans 3:10-11) and “No one can come to Me unless the Father who
sent Me draws him” (John 6:44).
I explained, “According to these passages, people do not seek God on their own initiative. People don’t ask questions
about spiritual matters unless God is at work in their lives. When you see someone seeking God or asking questions
about Christianity, you are witnessing God at work. That is something only God does in people’s lives.”
An obvious biblical example of this truth is found in the book of Luke. When Jesus passed through a crowd, He always
looked for where the Father was at work. The crowd was not the harvest field. The harvest field was within the crowd.
As Jesus walked through the busy streets of Jericho, He was intent on reaching Jerusalem where He knew the cross
awaited Him. Although Jesus was only passing by, He noticed Zacchaeus in a tree. It must have been evident to Jesus
that for a man to seek Him so earnestly, the Father must be at work in his heart. So Jesus turned aside and said,
“Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, because today I must stay at your house” (Luke 19:5). Salvation came to that
household that day. Jesus always looked for the activity of the Father and joined Him. Salvation came as a result of
Jesus adjusting His life to the work of His Father. Jesus was so in tune with His Father’s activity that He could spot
it even in the midst of crowded city streets.
That Sunday, I told the student, “If during the course of your day attending class, someone starts asking you spiritual
questions, whatever else you may have planned, don’t do it. Cancel what you had planned and spend time with that
individual to discover what God is doing.” That week our students went onto the campus, watching to see where God
was at work so they could join Him.
On Wednesday, one of our female students excitedly reported, “Pastor, a girl who has been in classes with me for two
years approached me after class today. She said, ‘I think you might be a Christian. I need to talk to you.’ I remembered
what you said. I had a class in a few minutes, but I skipped it. We went to the cafeteria to talk. She said, ‘Eleven of us
girls in the dorm have been studying the Bible, and none of us are Christians. Do you know someone who can lead
us in a Bible study?’”
As a result of that contact, we started three Bible study groups in the women’s dorms and two in the men’s. For almost
two years we had tried to do something for God and failed. Then for three days we looked to see where God was
working, and what a difference that made! Over the following years, hundreds of students trusted Christ as Savior and
Lord through that student ministry. Many of those surrendered to full-time ministry and are now serving as pastors and
missionaries all over the world.
GOD IS ALWAYS ACTIVE
Right now, God is working all around you. One of the greatest tragedies among God’s people is that even though they
long to experience Him, they do not know how to recognize Him at work in their midst. If this has been true of your
Christian experience, I pray that this book will help you learn how to clearly recognize God’s activity in and around your
life. These are extremely exciting days to be walking with the Lord! You don’t want to miss out on what He is doing. The
Holy Spirit will instruct you and help you know when and where God is working. Once you know where He is working, you
can adjust your life to join Him and His divine purposes.
I’ve heard stories from people all around the world who suddenly discover God had been present and active in their
workplace or church or family or neighborhood all along, but they had not recognized it. When God revealed where He
was at work, suddenly they were able to start a noon hour Bible study at their job site, see revival come to their church,
help a spouse draw closer to the Lord, or lead a neighbor to faith in Christ. Before, these Christians had assumed God
was not doing anything significant around them. After God revealed to them what He was doing, they realized they had
been missing out on God’s great work.
A LOVE RELATIONSHIP
Many people long for God to do a significant work in their life. However, they try to bypass the love relationship. The
love relationship is why God created you. That is far more important to Him than what you do for Him. Anticipate
that the first thing God will do in your life is to draw you into an intimate love relationship with Himself. When your
relationship with God is as it should be, He will begin giving you assignments at His initiative. Whenever it seems that
God is not doing anything fresh in your life, focus on the love relationship and stay there until God gives you a new
FOCUS ON THE CALL, NOT THE GIFT
I believe many people today are taking an unbiblical approach to spiritual gifts. A common teaching is that
people should “discover” their spiritual gifts and then find a ministry or activity that specifically utilizes their gifting. But
this assumes Christians will always keep the same gift, and that once they discern their gifts, they should accept ministry
opportunities that match the gift and decline any ministry that is not supported by their particular gift. This teaching has
been frustrating to some who have attempted to find their gift. At times they will be asked to perform a ministry they do
not feel gifted to do, or they may not be able to find a ministry that makes adequate use of their gifts.
It is important to understand that a spiritual gift is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit working in people’s lives to enable
them to obey what God asks them to do. Biblically, God always gives the assignment first. Then God equips the person
by the Holy Spirit to accomplish what He assigns. We must remember that when we became Christians, God placed His
Holy Spirit within us. We did not merely receive a spiritual gift; we received the Spirit Himself. When the Spirit resides in
us, we have all the power of God and the resources of heaven at our disposal. When God gives us a task and we obey,
God will carry out what He intended through our lives. The evidence of God’s activity in our lives is what we usually
identify as a spiritual gift. But a person who has never accepted an assignment from God does not need to be spiritually
equipped because that individual is not undertaking a divine task.
Focusing on identifying gifts instead of determining what God’s assignment is can also be severely limiting for believers
who base their future usefulness for God only on their past effectiveness. The way many people teach about spiritual
gifts is that God will always use your life in similar ways, according to whatever gift He has built into you. For example, if
God previously equipped someone to teach His word, then he will assume his spiritual gift is teaching and will decline
opportunities later that involve different gifts such as administration or mercy. Consequently, some people receive a
fresh invitation from God, but they assume, “That couldn’t possibly be from God since it is not in the area of my
giftedness.” Or “This can’t be of God because He has never asked me to do that in my entire life!” However, when you
recognize that God is inviting you to join Him, and you respond obediently – even when it is to do something you believe
is outside your giftedness – you will experience God working in and through your life in an entirely new dimension than
you imagined possible.
The common approach to spiritual gifts can easily become self-centered rather than God-centered if you are the one
who is taking the initiative to decide on a ministry that you think suits you. God does not ask us to find ministries
we think match our giftedness. Often when people focus solely on what they perceive to be their spiritual gifts, they
assume that any ministry in their church or life that matches their gifting is something they should undertake. Yet only
God can tell us what He wants to do through our lives. We can’t figure that out on our own. We can’t discover God’s
activity; God must reveal it to us. We don’t choose what we will do for God; He invites us to join Him where He wants to
Since this perspective on spiritual gifts is contrary to much that is taught today, if you are uncertain at this point, pause
and pray right now that the Holy Spirit will be your teacher. Ask God to help you understand the relationship between a
God-given assignment and a spiritual gift. It will be helpful to consider some biblical examples in which the Lord
called His servants and then equipped them to do what He commanded.
THE OLD TESTAMENT PATTERN
The Old Testament lays the foundation for our understanding of the Holy Spirit’s work in the New Testament. In the Old
Testament, the Holy Spirit did not continually reside within believers. Rather, the Spirit would come upon individuals to
enable them to achieve a specific assignment God had given them. Moses had an assignment as an administrator and
national religious leader. Moses, however, was quite certain he was unqualified for this assignment, so he argued at
length with God (see Exodus 3:11-4:17).
But God knew exactly what He was doing when He called Moses. Moses’ success did not depend on his skills, abilities,
likes, preferences, or past successes. First, God gave Moses an assignment, and then God equipped him with His Holy
Spirit to administer and to lead. When Moses obeyed God, God enabled Moses to do what He had commanded. The
results revealed that God was working through Moses doing things Moses could never have done in his own strength.
When David was a young shepherd boy, God called him to be a king. How could he possibly govern Israel in a
tumultuous and dangerous time when he was only an inexperienced young shepherd? Even David’s father thought
David was the least likely of his sons to shoulder this enormous responsibility. However, the Holy Spirit came upon David
and equipped him to be his nation’s greatest king.
In the book of Judges, God gave each judge a specific assignment. Then the Spirit of God rested upon him or her and
equipped that judge to accomplish the divine task. Deborah could never have liberated her people from the harsh
oppression of their enemies. Yet God spoke through her to encourage Barak and the army to utterly defeat their foes
(see Judges 4-5). Ezekiel was called to be a prophet. How could he prophesy in such a discouraging and confusing
time? The Scripture says the Spirit of God came upon him and caused him to do everything God asked of him (see
Here is the pattern we see in the Old Testament:
The workmen constructing the tabernacle in the wilderness are a clear example of how the Holy Spirit equipped people.
God gave Moses specific details about how to build the tabernacle (see Exodus 25-30), and God wanted it done exactly
as He had instructed. Then God said, “Look, I have appointed by name Bezalel son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of
Judah. I have filled him with God’s Spirit, with wisdom, understanding, and ability in every craft…I have also selected
Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, to be with him. I have placed wisdom within every skilled craftsman in
order to make all that I have commanded you” (Exodus 31:2-3, 6).
How could Moses confirm that the Spirit of God was upon those men? He would watch them at work. If they
were divinely enabled to carry out God’s assignment, Moses would recognize the Holy Spirit’s presence in their lives and
The Old Testament bears witness that the Spirit of God was always present to equip individuals to carry out His
assignments. God didn’t give a person a thing, such as a permanent skill at administration. Rather, He placed His Holy
Spirit within people so they had access to the Spirit’s ability to administer. The Holy Spirit was the gift. The Spirit
manifested His presence by equipping people to function where God had assigned them.
SINCERE BUT NOT EQUIPPED
When I was a pastor, I had a sincere church member who longed to serve the Lord in her church. She had a tender
heart for those who were suffering illness, so she volunteered to be the church’s official hospital visitor. Every time
someone from our congregation entered the hospital, the church secretary would call this woman, and she would
immediately go and visit. I would often arrive at the hospital after this woman had already been there. Inevitably, I would
find the patients distressed and even weeping because of something she had said. Although she meant well, she would
inevitably upset the one she was there to encourage. She would mention someone she knew who had a
similar condition and how the poor soul ultimately died. Or she would warn them of the dire symptoms that were sure to
come as a result of their condition.
I finally had to have a talk with her. I thanked her for her willingness to encourage those in the hospital, but I added
that it did not seem God was equipping her to be effective in that ministry. Then I mentioned that what I had witnessed in
her life was an unusual effectiveness to pray. It seemed that God had given her a passion for intercession and that God
regularly answered her prayers. I told her that the church was seeking someone who would intercede for those
connected to the church who were not yet believers in Christ, and I asked her to pray about whether God was
leading her to serve in this new position. She contacted me several days later and told me she sensed this was, indeed,
what God was asking her to do. I gave her a list of seventy-five names of people connected to our church who were not
yet believers. She began to pray fervently, and soon we began to see these people come to faith in Christ.
Later, when her health declined and she could not attend church services, she would call me and ask if certain people
had made public professions of faith that Sunday. Inevitably, they had. As she had been praying that morning, God had
given her a sense of peace for particular people for whom she was praying and, sure enough, I would later report that
they had received Christ as their Savior that day.
Even after I left that church and began doing mission work in Canada, I would call and enlist her to pray for
serious needs that I and my church were facing. When my wife, Marilynn, almost died from complications in childbirth, I
instinctively called this faithful intercessor from my former church. Here was a wonderful woman who wanted to serve her
Lord. She had seen a need and had attempted to meet it in her own strength, but the results were disastrous! When
she recognized how God was equipping her, however, and placed her life into the corresponding ministry, the Holy Spirit
enabled her to have one of the most important ministries in the church. I believe one of the most significant roles of a
church staff is to help people understand where God is assigning them to serve in the body so they can experience the
joy of God working powerfully through them to accomplish what only He can do.
THE EQUIPPING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
First Corinthians 12:7 says: “A manifestation of the Spirit is given to each person to produce what is beneficial.”
The Holy Spirit does not give believers a gift. The Holy Spirit is the gift! (see Acts 2:38). The Spirit reveals Himself to
each member for the common good of the body.
The church is the body of Christ. Christ adds members to local churches. Each member has the Holy Spirit’s active
presence in his or her life. The Holy Spirit does not work in people’s lives merely for their own personal edification but so
the body of Christ can be built up and strengthened. That is why we need each other. Without a healthy
and functioning body, a church will miss much of what God intends for it. When members refuse to serve or they leave
the church because of broken relationships, church members suffer because part of God’s provision for them is now
Jesus said: “The Father who lives in Me does His works” (John 14:10). Throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry, the Father
manifested Himself through His Son. The Father was in Jesus, and He worked through Jesus to accomplish His
purposes. When you concentrate on a particular gift you receive in order to do something for God, your attention is
usually on self rather than on God.
Many Christians have made use of what is called a “spiritual gifts inventory.” They will answer a series of questions and
then determine what their spiritual gift is. Those who advocate such instruments suggest Christians use them to
determine what their spiritual gifts are so they can find a ministry that matches their gifts.
When a person takes a spiritual gifts inventory and it identifies a particular gift in his or her life, the reason may well be
because God previously equipped this person in that area to accomplish a divine assignment. This does not mean,
however, that this is the only means by which God expects the person to serve in the future. If God gives a different
assignment, He will provide an equipping to match the new task. That is why there are people who, over the years, have
discovered that their “spiritual gift” seemed to change. The reason? Their assignment shifted, so the Holy Spirit
equipped them to accomplish their new task.
If God merely provided us with a gift, we would tend to place our confidence in the gift rather than in Him. But since the
Holy Spirit does the work through us, we must continually rely upon our relationship with Him if we are to be effective in
the ministry He gives us. Conversely, if we refuse to obey what God asks us to do, the Holy Spirit will not equip us. We
don’t need to be equipped for something we refuse to do. Our divine enabling always comes as we obey what God tells
us to do – never before our obedience.
Focus your attention on hearing God’s call to an assignment which is His invitation for you to join Him. When you adjust
your life to Him and obey Him, the Holy Spirit will work in you, enabling you to accomplish what God desires.
EXPERIENCING GOD, by Henry & Richard Blackaby and Claude King, Copyright 2008, B&H Publishing Group.