Does Working Hard Mean Following the Will of the Heavenly Father?
Cheng Jie was standing in front of the window thinking deeply about a problem that had been perplexing her recently. The Lord Jesus said, “Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:21–23). Only those that obey the heavenly Father’s decrees will be able to enter the kingdom of heaven. Now, I cast aside everything, spend for God and work hard every day; am I someone that obeys the heavenly Father’s decrees? If this is not obeying the heavenly Father’s decrees, would I be cast aside and eliminated by God in the very end?
During a gathering, Cheng Jie brought up her confusion.
Zheng Qiuhua said, “Sister Cheng, we work passionately for the Lord spreading the gospel, casting aside things and spending for Him. Aren’t we fulfilling the heavenly Father’s decrees? When the Lord comes, He will definitely take us into the heavenly kingdom. We must have this kind of faith!”
Another two Christians at the gathering also agreed with what Zheng Qiuhua had to say. They believed that hard work would get one into the kingdom of heaven.
After hearing what they had to say, Cheng Jie replied, “There are some things I do not understand. If this really is the case, why did Jesus say that those who spread the gospel, exorcised demons and performed many miracles in the name of the Lord were evil people? There must be a truth here that we must seek. It can’t be as simple as we imagine it to be.”
Li Mo, who was thinking to the side of Cheng Jie, nodded her head and agreed with Cheng Jie’s perspective. She said, “I think, in regard to everyone’s issue, the key is just what it means to obey God’s decrees …”
Before Li Mo could finish, Zheng Qiuhua interrupted and said, “I remember Brother Paul said, ‘I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: From now on there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day’” (2 Timothy 4:7–8).
Li Mo said, “Sister Zheng, however, Jesus did not say that hard work was the same as obeying God’s decrees. In fact, it was the opposite. He defined those who worked hard but didn’t obey His decrees as evil people. How can this be explained? Paul said that crowns of righteousness had been set aside for him. This was just his own individual thoughts. Is there any evidence in the Bible for what he said? Does Jesus approve of what he said? Paul’s words are still man’s words and they do not represent God’s words. If we are to adhere to God’s way, we must take God’s words as the standard.”
Qiu Yulin, who had gone away to listen to sermons and come back, said, “The majority of us Christians adhere to the perspective that ‘passionately working hard is equivalent to adhering to God’s decrees.’ I have also frequently reflected about whether this perspective is in accordance with the truth and God’s intentions. I recalled how the Jewish Pharisees traveled across land and sea to do the gospel work, and would frequently pray at crossroads and even fast. From man’s perspective, they did a lot of good deeds and were very pious. However, why is it that in the very end, they faced God’s conviction and curse? God inspects the bottom of man’s heart. Even though the Pharisees suffered much, however, all they did was perform religious ceremonies and talk about biblical knowledge and theories. They did not put God’s words into practice at all, nor did they adhere to God’s commandments. Everything they did was for the sake of receiving blessings and getting rewards as well as for their own status and livelihoods. Their hearts basically did not love God and they did not have hearts that revered God at all. When Jesus came to do work, He brought the gospel of the kingdom of heaven, told people to confess and repent and performed many miracles. Jesus’ work and words had authority and power. Nobody else could say or do these things. However, in the face of Jesus’ work, the Pharisees did not have hearts that sought the truth. They even crazily resisted and convicted Jesus, and eventually crucified Him. This completely exposed their natures that hated the truth as well as their substance of hypocrisy. This fact allows us to see that hard work basically is not equivalent to obeying God’s decrees. If we do not put God’s words into practice and adhere to God’s commandments, even if we work hard, we will not be able to obtain God’s praise.
“Afterward, I tried to figure out just what it means to obey God’s decrees. What are the manifestations and living out of obeying God’s decrees? When I consulted the Bible, I came across the following words that Jesus said: ‘If a man love me, he will keep my words: … He that loves me not keeps not my sayings’ (John 14:23–24). ‘If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed’ (John 8:31). ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like to it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ (Matthew 22:37–39). Obeying God’s decrees means that we must obey God’s way and God’s commandments and fulfill our duties in accordance with God’s demands. If we do not comply with Jesus’ words but instead comply with man’s words from the Bible in serving the Lord, this would not be considered obeying the heavenly Father’s decrees.”
Li Mo said, “Yes, there are many people who, after believing in the Lord, indeed have suffered a lot, paid a big price and even encountered tribulations yet have not left the Lord. However, everything they did was for the sake of receiving blessings and getting rewards. Their objective was to get into the kingdom of heaven and obtain crowns of righteousness. This sort of investing and spending is totally the same as conducting a business deal with God. It is full of deception and individual intentions and goals. These people basically do not love God, nor do they submit to God. How can they be called people who obey God’s decrees? This is similar to Pastor Zhu from Liu Village. What he says in his sermons and what he does at home are two different things. He tells his brothers and sisters to be tolerant and patient, yet, when he is at home, he beats his wife. He doesn’t practice God’s words at all. When preaching, he always witnesses himself instead of exalting and bearing witness to the Lord. He is always saying how he casts aside and spends for the Lord and that he has even worn out several pairs of shoes for God. It is all so that his brothers and sisters worship and admire him. Would you say that someone who pretends to work and spend for the Lord yet never lifts up the Lord and bears witness to the Lord but instead shows off himself in all respects so that others look up to him is following God’s decrees? Is their hard work after God’s heart? Aren’t they doing evil and resisting God just like the Pharisees?”
Qiu Yulin said, “It’s like this. When I was out listening to sermons, I got a book. It is really good. Let me read a passage from it for everybody. ‘I decide the destination of each person not on the basis of age, seniority, amount of suffering, and least of all, the degree to which they invite pity, but according to whether they possess the truth. There is no other choice but this. You must realize that all those who do not follow the will of God shall also be punished. This is an immutable fact. Therefore, all those who are punished are so punished for the righteousness of God and as retribution for their numerous evil acts’ (“Prepare Sufficient Good Deeds for Your Destination”). From this passage, we can see that God determines whether we are good or evil based on whether we obey God’s decrees. He determines our final destination on the basis of whether or not we live out the reality of the truth. These things are not determined by our external behavior, nor are they determined by how much hard work we do. From this, we can see God’s righteousness.”
Suddenly, it all became clear to Cheng Jie. She happily said, “Thank God! I think of how we are able to work hard for God yet it is all so that we can receive blessings and so that we can enter into the heavenly kingdom in the future and not out of submission to God and love for God. So, what we do is indeed unrelated to obeying God’s decrees. Performing positive actions externally yet not submitting to God and loving God internally is all in vain! We should focus on obeying God’s words and we should believe and follow God in accordance with God’s demands. The fundamentals involve adhering to God’s commandments and not betraying God.”
Li Mo said, “Yes. We do not obey God’s way but rely on our own imagination and perspective to believe in God. In the end, we will be exactly the same as the Pharisees who believed in God but did not recognize God. All we do is deviate from the Lord’s way and oppose the Lord. Even though externally we suffer a lot, no matter how much we work, we are still people that resist God.”
Cheng Jie said, “Now we have understood that hard work is not equivalent to obeying God’s decrees and even more so is not the criterion for entering into the kingdom of heaven. Obeying God’s decrees means one can submit to God and obey God’s way regardless of what work He does, what He says and what His requirements are, spend for God in order to satisfy and bear witness to Him, be completely devoted to God, and not make a deal with God. And only this kind of person can enter into the kingdom of heaven. This is similar to people such as Abraham and Peter. Regardless of what God demanded of them, they were able to seek God’s intentions and obey God. They were people that obeyed God’s words, revered God and kept their distance from evil.”