We were created to work. It’s in our nature. Down deep in our bones we feel the compulsion to create and produce and make and do. It’s there because God put it there. Way back at the beginning of time, when God created the heavens and the earth and then people, he put them in the garden “to cultivate it and keep it” (Gen. 2:15). God put it there because He was making us in his image, and his image is one of creating, producing, making, and doing. Work honors God.
But this design to work can sometimes lead us into territory that is not ours to work in. There is work that is given to us to do, but there is work that is reserved for God alone to do. Our trouble comes when we venture into the realm of God’s work by trying to help out where we can’t help out. Our compulsion to contribute can actually be devastating to our own spiritual growth.
We see this compulsion in an apt representative for us as believers—Peter. The scene is a high mountain. The cast of characters includes Jesus, Peter, James, and John, along with cameos by Moses and Elijah. Our main characters ascend the mountain, and Jesus becomes transfigured before them. His clothes become “radiant and exceedingly white” and Moses and Elijah show up to talk with Jesus. This is when we see our beloved Peter try to help.
Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to answer; for they became terrified. (Mark 9:5-6)
Don’t get me wrong—I like Peter. I like him a lot. I like him because he was often decisive and led out in word or action even when he wasn’t sure what he was saying or what was about to happen next. I like him because I think he represents many of us—the only difference being that he actually said or acted out what we are afraid or unwilling to do or admit.
Here Peter represents our impulse to help. This was a good situation. It was good for them to be there. He wanted to do something to help keep it going. Maybe he wanted to prolong the meeting by having a place for them to rest in between conversations. Maybe he wanted to help protect them because he sensed the weather would change soon. He just knew that he wanted to help. But what happened next was a reminder of how misguided our compulsion to help can be.
Then a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!” (Mark 9:7)
This is not a give and take relationship that God makes with us. God doesn’t give us Jesus and expect us to spring to action making a tabernacle for him. God doesn’t save us by grace and then leave it up to us to stay saved by works (Gal. 3:3). The gospel is a gift, not a loan (John 3:16; Rom. 6:23). We have been set free, not to be enslaved again (Gal. 5:1). We must be careful to fight against the impulse to help God. His desire for us is not to live with a “do for” mentality but a “listen to” mentality. We grow as we glory in the God of our salvation, not by helping, since He is not served by human hands, as though he needed anything (Acts 17:25), but by hearing his word. So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (Rom. 10:17) Be a man or woman who is quick to listen and lean in to the words of Christ.