1 Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
2 It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.
When I think of Psalm 127, I think of the last 3 verses about children being a blessing from God. However, there is more here, and it is challenging, especially so for those in ministry.
The Lord reminds us through the poetry of Solomon that, unless God builds the house, the builders do useless work. Unless God does the work, it simply does not matter how much effort we put into the project.
Now, let’s think ministry. How do you grow your church? How do you help someone come to Jesus? How do you bring students into your student ministry? If you read much of the material that is out there today, the answer involves steps of you putting in the blood and sweat needed to draw people in. You have to have a slick presentation, a comfortable environment, and a clever ad. Or, perhaps you will draw them in by ditching all the gimmicks and just “being real” (the newest of gimmicks). Perhaps you should show them that you are just like them, dressing like them, talking like them, and publicly declaring your love of “The Office” or “Lost.” Certainly you need to make your music high-quality and relevant, don’t you?
Here’s the problem: we have a dramatic temptation to try to come up with a way to grow the church that does not require the Holy Spirit. We want to be able to say the right thing, sing the right way, or put together the right kind of program that will just bring people in. We acknowledge that we need the power of God to really see the church grow, and then we go about trying to grow the church without him. We, by our actions, tell God that we will come up with the methods and the effort, then, when we submit the package, we want him to give it that little extra something that will make it work.
Folks, when we try to grow the church or bring our lost friends to Christ through our own power and cleverness, we will fail. We will fail. And, if somehow they come to Christ, it is not because of our methods or hard work; it is because and only because God chose to do his work (perhaps even in spite of our worldly thinking).
So, what am I saying? Am I saying that we need not work or strive to accomplish the will of God? God forbid! God calls us to work hard in his service. He calls us to give our all to his glory. He calls us to show love for others, and that takes effort. But he also tells us that, if he does not accomplish the work, the work is not accomplished.
So, how do you grow a church. You cry out to God and yield to him completely and totally. Sure you love others by trying to make the music something that will both touch their emotions and lead them to worship the Lord in a way that is consistent with his word. Sure you try to do everything you can do to invite others to come to know Jesus. But you do not ever think that you, through your effort, will somehow be the one who accomplishes God’s plan. Only God building the house will make it stand. Only God doing the work will make the work not in vain.
So, is this discouraging? If you are killing yourself to accomplish the building of your own kingdom with your own effort it most certainly will be discouraging. But, if you truly understand the frustration of trying to build God’s church without God’s Spirit, perhaps you will find it encouraging that God tells you to trust him, work hard, and get some sleep. HE does the work. He builds the house. He give sleep to his beloved. Actually trust God and do things his way. It’s not your job to come up with a gimmick; it’s your job to be God’s tool in his hand to be a part of him building the house.