“I used to ask God to help me. Then I asked if I might help Him. I ended up by asking Him to do His work through me.”
Hudson Taylor (1832-1905) is one of the greats of Christian missions history. He left a tremendous legacy in China, his home and mission field for 51 years. In a time when it was virtually unheard-of, Taylor adopted many of the cultural customs of the Chinese people he so longed to reach with the gospel. Speaking passionately to the Western churches of his time, he persuaded scores of missionaries to join him in his work. The perseverance and faithfulness he demonstrated are enough to inspire disciples of all places and times toward serving the Master wholeheartedly.
I share this particular quote of Taylor’s with you today because I believe it is a tremendously insightful description of the maturing process through which we’re all meant to go. He framed it in terms of his attitude in prayer, and prayer truly is one of our clearest indicators of spiritual health and maturity.
Notice where he began: primarily asking God to help him. We really should call on God for His help as we live our lives, and He is kind and gracious to provide the help we need. Yet, if our prayers are primarily focused on our own needs and desires, we are immature in our vision. This is where many begin, and that’s okay. Where else can we start but in immaturity?
Jesus taught us to focus first and foremost on the Father: His name, His kingdom, and His will (Matthew 6:9-10). As we embrace this greater vision, our zeal to serve God grows and we move on to the next step Taylor mentioned: we ask God how we can help Him. Relying on our own energy, skills, talents, etc., we seek ways we can accomplish things for our God. This is good in its aim, but there is still an immaturity about it. Relying on ourselves to do things for God is a reversal of the true order of things. Does God really need our help (see Acts 17:25)?
The mature disciple continues to grow in vision to begin praying in this third way: “Father, will you please do a great work through me!” Here is the sweet spot of partnership. As we become like Jesus, we’ll understand more clearly that God is the One who has always been on mission and is accomplishing eternally significant things. At the same time, we’ll recognize the wonderful truth that, for His own reasons, He prefers to work with and through us to accomplish many of those things. And so, I am not simply asking God to do for me, nor am I simply seeking to do for God. Rather, in trust and submission, I come to seek a loving partnership with my Father who is pleased to empower and equip me. Consider another truth Taylor learned by experience: “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supplies.” Amen! We have the greatest partner in all the cosmos, and may we give ourselves fully to the work He wants to do with and through us.
Maturing in vision, prayer, and service with you,