Unashamed Workman

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HOW GOD PREPARES THE UNASHAMED WORKMAN

unashamed workman

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

Before Paul discusses the requirements of the unashamed workman, he touches upon two fundamental situations which, under no circumstances, can be neglected. He spoke of the need to “be diligent” (1) to present oneself to God and (2) as a workman approved of God.  I plan to discuss how God prepares the unashamed workman in the next few posts.

The primary objective of being diligent as an approved workman is simply to satisfy the conditions necessary for approval. The truth is that some things are a lot harder to accomplish that they appear and the process often takes longer than expected. As we will see, it took all of 20 years in the desert for Jacob to fulfill the requirements necessary to restore his relationships and redeem his identity as a worker that no longer had to be ashamed.

Without exception, the truth is that before the Christian worker does anything for God he must recognize these realities. This process works deep into the recesses of the soul to eliminate the shame and other impurities that block the flow of the Holy Spirit.

Once this happens, the man or woman of God gains the divine ability to rightly divide the Word of truth which causes them to express a lifestyle that overcomes every chronic state of reproof or disapproval. According to this perspective, the Word of God is not the “sword of the worker”, but as Paul taught concerning the armor of God, is the “sword of the Holy Spirit”, that only can be used by us to cut in to others to the extent that it has cut into us:

“For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

UNDERSTANDING GOD’S JUDGMENT

“Look among the nations and watch – be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you.” (Habakkuk 1:5)

How many of God’s people are prepared to embrace this tremendous prophetic message? How many believe in this unbelievable work of God? Perhaps it is about to be fulfilled in your own life or in your church or denomination? This is an admirable and surprising message of such magnitude that its fulfillment would be perceived throughout the whole world! What could God do that would make us unable to believe that such a thing could happen if it were told us? To what kind of miracle, promise or divine intervention was the prophet referring?

At first glance, this all seems very desirable. The expectations provoked here make this verse an even more frightening reality. This is God’s great surprise for people, ministries, cities and nations. The truth is that few people are able to understand this passage. Or in other words most Christians believe this verse, however in a completely mistaken way that does not line up with its original context. The truth is that this is one of the most abused prophecies in the Bible among believers. Therefore it is of extreme relevance that we better understand what is happening backstage while this promise is in the spotlight.

After a time of much excellence and prosperity that culminated in the kingdom of David and Solomon, the nation, little by little, from generation to generation, began to enter into an expressive state of apostasy being warned in many ways by many prophets. As a result, a terrible period in the history of Israel is ushered in where it appears that idolatry and ungodliness permanently triumph.

Therefore this was the answer that God gave to the desperate prayer of the prophet Habakkuk, when he cried out and complained about God’s silence and his apparent indifference to so much sin and injustice practiced without impunity by the “holy nation” (Hebrews 1:1-4).

Only those who see sin through God’s eyes can really understand this passage. The truth is that what is happening in this passage is a strong, divine intervention occasioned by a great and surprising judgment, which was fulfilled when Jerusalem was destroyed and the people were taken captive to Babylon.

Normally, sin brings not only slavery, but also a terrible moral insensibility and hardness of heart, followed by a searing of the conscience. This would make the prophetic office even more difficult, radical and challenging.

TWO CHALLENGES OF THE UNASHAMED WORKMAN

First the unashamed workman must lead the people to believe in the work of God’s judgment

He does this by destroying false convictions. Invariably, religious people seek prophecies of blessing. They are not interested in hearing and understanding the heart of God and for this reason they don’t tolerate the prophetic word when they are warned. Too often God’s people program themselves against hearing anything that contradicts their selfish interests and desires. The more that we insist on tolerating this attitude, the more we accelerate and intensify of God’s judgment, and worse, the less we believe in this coming judgment and the more we will be surprised by it.

What could be so astounding and so surprising and unbelievable about this word prophesied by Habakkuk? The answer is nothing other than a terrible time of divine judgment. The nation would be destroyed and exiled! A difficult process designed to deal with the deepest roots of apostasy and idolatry. This principle also teaches and warns us that we have a strong tendency towards unbelief when we question God’s judgment!

Miracles do not transform our character, but the judgment of God does! Judgment always begins with the house of God. This is a principle of action in the moral kingdom. In the first chapter of Habakkuk Israel is judged, in the second, Babylon is judged and in the third the nations are judged. It began with Israel and spread to the whole world.

Before the worldwide revivals caused by the testimonies of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the furnace of fire, and by Daniel when he revealed Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and when he deciphered the message written on the wall for Belshazzar and afterwards when he escaped the Lion’s den, Israel experienced the greatest judgment of its history. It was in the context of the judgment of God and his purification of Israel that he was glorified and made known. On several occasions this happened in the arena of all of the nations of the world!

The time has arrived when God will severely deal with our pride, our stubbornness, our traditions and our habitual sins, no matter how spiritually “healthy” we appear to be. Any type of security that dispenses with brokenness and humility is a trap that we set for ourselves.

God was calling the people to purification, however they ignored his call. Time after time the prophets tried to warn this deaf and stubborn people. The religious class was so sure of itself that any prophecy along these lines was considered totally absurd. They despised the true prophets. They were so comfortable with their sinful and religious lifestyle that it was inevitable that they would be caught by surprise!

This always happens when a “spirituality” that tolerates immorality and corruption is practiced. Judgment may indeed be delayed, but it will not fail, as God told Habakkuk:

“For the vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” (Habakkuk 2:3)

Upon thorough examination, this marvelous work of God was in reality a marvelously horribly work. The judgment that it brought shocked everyone. The people were sacked, the temple, seen as an amulet that guaranteed the divine protection of God was ruined. The children were taken captive and the walls and the gates of the city were burned and destroyed.

Nobody believed that such destruction and slavery could have come to pass. All the people were exiled to a strange land, with a strange language and even stranger gods. This was the only way that Israel learned to hate the idolatry that they had practiced for so long.

The first type of unbelief that God wants to break in our lives is with respect to his judgment. That optimistic and romantic vision motivated by our religiosity that makes us insensitive to our own sin must fall. Our concept of prosperity is normally faulty, involving shortcuts that many times cause us to lose the direction of God.

We like quick, microwaved solutions and miracles, but this goes against our own nature which demands a process in order to develop. The more people concentrate on these momentary solutions to solve their difficult problems and alleviate the pain, the more this attitude contributes to worsening the chronic character of the situation.

The more we think that everything must happen the way we want, the more we will be surprised by God’s dealings in our lives. It is not easy to break that false conviction that God is with us when the truth is that we are lost and alone in our stubbornness. Nobody believed that Jerusalem would be lost to the enemy and taken to a “land of confusion”: Babylon. No one tolerated the idea that the temple could be profaned and destroyed, and its treasuries stolen. Nobody believed that the holy city could be humbled, wounded and taken captive.

When Jeremiah prophesied against Jerusalem, his words were interpreted by the leaders of the nation as a sacrilege and terribly absurd. However to everyone’s surprise that is exactly what happened! Only unashamed workmen men like Jeremiah, Habakkuk and Ezekiel believed that such a prophecy could come to pass. The whole nation had been deceived! The leaders of the nation were distracted! The priests were mistaken! It’s terrible to think that God is with us in one way, when he is with us in a completely opposite way!

Being exiled to a foreign land, having to remain in a place that is not the place where God’s promises would be fulfilled is the greatest trauma that anyone could suffer. It’s not easy to learn how to be a fish out of water.

The process by which God changes certain wrong convictions that we have is extremely painful, but it is necessary. The process involves many disappointments. The problem is that many disappointments not only kill false convictions, but also true convictions.

Even after the prescribed time of captivity came to an end, the exiles continue to remain in the inertia caused by so much disappointment and suffering. This is where the second prophetic challenge enters in.

The second job of the unashamed workman is to convince the people to believe in restoration!

Now the prophet of God has a new challenge: to convince the people to believe in God’s restoration. This was just as difficult a task as having to convince the people of God’s judgment.

One has to read the books of Nehemiah, Haggai and Zechariah, to understand the effort necessary to restore the faith of a dejected and disappointed people who have experienced divine judgment.

Every person in ministry has their moment of trouble, disappointment and unbelief. Many times this is a very long time. A good example of this reality happened in the ministry of John the Baptist, the apostle of revival. He was so depressed and downcast inside his prison cell that all of his convictions were shaken.

Even after having seen the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus in corporal form as a dove, confirming his messianic identity, and having openly declared to everyone that they were before the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, having fulfilled that which God had spoken (John 1:33), even after all of this, he had lost his faith in his greatest mission as the precursor of the Messiah. His life seemed empty and meaningless in that prison cell. Maybe that is how you are feeling right now!

The truth is that all of us go through situations and tests like these. However, these provide us with the greatest opportunities for growing in faith, for learning to fly with eagles and for rising to even higher planes of spiritual power and effectiveness. The problem is that few people are able to perceive these opportunities that throw us into dependence on God.

LESSONS CONCERNING DIVINE JUDGMENT

God always has a rescue plan ready before delivering us to captivity. Before the destruction of Solomon’s Temple, in chapter 40 of the prophet Ezekiel, God had already drawn up the plans for the new Temple to be restored.

Here we understand the principle where the Lamb of God was slain before the foundation of the world. God never acts irresponsibly. He is prepared to deal with the detours of the human race. The final objective of judgment is not to destroy, but to rebuild according to the original purpose.

Any and all judgment that we experience is a testimony to God’s investment. After God judges someone, the next step is that he will use this person. Identity, consciousness and purpose are made clear through our dependence and then we will be able to build upon an adequate foundation. This process enables us to better understand who we are in God and where we need to be.

We have to understand that tribulations are important in the development of our mission. That romantic optimism based on selfishness is a substitute to a non-negotiable motivation of glorifying God alone, whether through life or through death, abundance or want, success or “failure”. The cross involves these types of paradoxes.

To rebuild is more difficult than to begin a new construction, however another principle exists in this regard. Whatever you rebuild is always better than what you built at first. Experience is the teacher of wisdom. The glory of the second Temple is greater than that of the first. Everything that you learned through destruction will be used in rebuilding.

Habakkuk declared that “The just shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4). This is perhaps the principal lesson that we learn when we are plowed through God’s judgment. We learn fear and trembling before the word that proceeds from the mouth of God. We learn that the only source of direction and security is the Word of God. The Word is above all circumstances, pressures, oppression and situations.

Concerning destruction the psalmist declared: “A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand. But it shall not come near you.” (Psalm 91:7)

How many of us trust in this truth in spite of the fact that we live in a time when so many have been shaken and contaminated by unbelief and surrender? There is a place of protection. Some people have already found this place. They are the ones that faithfully submit to God’s dealings. Unashamed workmen like Daniel, Nehemiah, Ezekiel, Shadrach Mishak and Abednego and many others, that even in captivity remained faithful and experienced the manifest power of God.

These workmen prevailed in the most unfavorable circumstances. They understood divine judgment, confessed the sins of the nation and the iniquities of the fathers. They had compassion on that generation and interceded for the restoration of the people who found themselves in total ruins. Their courage to stand firm as unashamed workmen made all the difference!

 




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